I bring my motorbike to a halt by a crooked road sign where the rest of the group are waiting. A Moroccan man leans against a pillar with a bag at his feet – the symmetry appeals – I take my Ricoh GR from my jacket pocket – click. As I glance at the image on the back of the camera, the group takes off down the road. I hastily pocket the camera and follow.
I’m on a motorcycle tour of the Moroccan Sahara. The group ride fast and don’t stop that often. Without my trusty GR I would:
A: Have missed some great photo opportunities
B: Be lost in the desert
This trip was about riding motorcycles, not photography – a mantra I repeated to myself as I mulled over which camera to bring. I had three cameras at the time – Leica Q, Ricoh GR and Leica M4-p. My luggage consisted of a rucksack and a small bag strapped onto the seat of my motorbike. My motorcycle gear was heavy, so I would have to pack light. I knew I would probably strap a Berber carpet onto the bike too.
The Ricoh GR digital (16 megapixel version) is my default option when it comes to a pocketable camera. It has a slim profile, good image quality and has never let me down. But I hesitated to take the GR as my only camera – the lack of a built-in viewfinder being too much of a sacrifice. I was having a love affair with a Leica Q at the time (since cast aside for a Nikon Z7) so I decided to take both. The Leica Q would be a pleasure to shoot when I had time to compose my shots. The GR would sit in my jacket for those ‘motorcycle moments’, when I would have to grab a quick shot.
My only reservation was that neither camera had weather sealing. My water bladder leaked onto the Leica Q while riding in the Atlas Mountains. Luckily it came through unscathed after emergency attention by the side of the road. Weather sealing is now essential for me when it comes to choosing a camera for travel.
The image above was taken from the seat of my bike using the Ricoh GR. I had the Leica Q in my rucksack. But in the time it would have taken to get it out, both the child the rest of the group would be long gone.
One of the delights of motorcycling in remote areas is that you get catapulted into a scene. A man on a donkey suddenly crosses the road – children come running up – a camel appears – having an accessible camera is invaluable in these situations.
The rest of the group were obviously more into riding than photography – so we would only stop at obvious scenic spots. I could afford only a few ‘unofficial’ photo-stops en route for risk of holding up the group.
I wanted to use the Leica for landscapes, but taking my helmet and rucksack off every time I wanted to shoot became tiresome. Often I would turn the corner, see another stunning vista and the process would start again. Using the Leica Q while on the bike became such a hassle that I would often take landscape shots on the GR.
The Leica Q came into use when we stopped for lunch or mint tea in the afternoon. Usually in dusty desert towns that see little tourist traffic. Interesting places to photograph, although most of the locals were camera shy. For me, the Leica Q is a near perfect ‘wandering around camera’ for these more relaxed situations. I appreciate its size, simplicity, ergonomics and clear viewfinder. It’s a satisfying camera to shoot with. The GR would seem cramped after spending some time with the Leica.
The camera geeks amongst you (most of us!) will have noticed that both of these cameras have a fixed 28mm lens. This focal length works well for me as a prime lens for travel. It’s wide enough for landscapes and provides enough context for street photography. The 28mm focal length forces you to get close – perfect when I was in amongst the action during this trip.
Reviewing the images – I can tell which camera I used by the feeling of the photograph. The quieter images were taken on the Leica Q. The more ‘decisive moments’ on the Ricoh GR.
Ricoh GR / BMW GS – a great combination
If I had to take just one camera on such a trip again, I would choose the Ricoh GR. It fits in a motorcycle jacket pocket and is instantly accessible. The shots on this page would not have happened without it.
You can find my other contributions to 35mmc here – thanks for reading