Rider’s Lens #001: The Self Portraits of Marc McShane

Rider’s Lens #001: the transportive self portraits of Marc McShane, taken during his coast to coast ride across the US.

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To preface, this is the first issue of a new series, Rider’s Lens. Within this series we aim to highlight talented photographers, artists, and storytellers who use bike travel as a means to their craft. In Rider’s Lens #001, we present the self portraits of Marc McShane from his trip across the US.

Words and photos by Marc McShane

I think anyone that has ever strapped a tent to their bike has had the fantasy of riding coast-to-coast. For me, this idea had its start back when I owned and operated a bike shop on the Connecticut shoreline. I had decided that whenever I eventually got out of the business I’d set out on the tour. When the time finally came I would photograph the tour as well, not just for my own documentation, but to try to capture the essence of a long-distance tour.

Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country

Touring solo poses a very obvious aesthetic and technical problem. As a photographer, I find action adds interest to photographs, especially if they are about cycling. We have all made cliché bike-against-a-wall photos. But for me, ultimately all they say is that I rode a bike somewhere with a cool background, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A human element in a photograph can really help project ourselves into the scene, to imagine ourselves out on that epic ride to truly capture the feeling of being on tour. If I were to make photos that try to capture a solo tour in an interesting way, I’d have to be the model. Plain and simple.

  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country

For weight and volume reasons I have to keep my gear fairly minimal. I brought one camera and one lens, a Canon 6D with a 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. For remote shooting I use a set of Yongnuo RF603C-II radio triggers, which have fantastic range and even more fantastic battery life. I use a MeFoto tripod, which packs nice and small but is sturdy enough that I trust it when I ride away for a shot. On this tour I’m using an Asus Transformer tablet running Adobe Lightroom for editing and two external HDD’s provide redundant copies in case of failure.

Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country

  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country
  • Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country

Photo Break Down

As we will do in each Rider’s Lens, for this last photograph, we’ve asked Marc to break down the shot, and explain how and why he took it in the way he did. Here’s what he had to say:

Marc McShane Self Portraits, Nutmeg Country

This photo was shot near Toadstool Geological Park in the Ogalala National Grasslands in northwest Nebraska. Many of my photos contain an element in the extreme foreground to add some depth and ambiance and to give them more of a hand-held feel. I had thought of the idea the night before of using a moving train as the foreground element, which would add action and interest to an otherwise more straightforward photo.

To accomplish this I had set up and composed the shot with me and the railroad crossing sign, set the focus and dialed in a shutter of 1/45th to ensure that the motion of the train would be captured but not smeared. I used f/16 and an ISO of 125 to keep things sharp and to keep the cool hills in the background in focus. Otherwise it’s just a matter of timing the shots with the breaks in the cars. I shot close to fifty frames with the first train. I wasn’t happy with the composition so I recomposed the frame and waited for another train. Of those perhaps only three were acceptable, but ultimately this one made the final cut because of the position of the sign and me framed within the moving cars. Do not try this with a selfie-stick.

Follow Marc’s trip at nutmegcountry.tumblr.com, or follow him on Instagram.

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