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.

  • Nice bike!

  • I really LOVE this new series… AWESOME work Marc, felicitaciones!!!

  • Marc has set the bar for bike-self portraits. And it’s WAY up there.

  • Great!

  • ansis maleckis

    why can’t hipsters ride a bike without constantly taking selfies and posting on social media? why this unsatisfiable need for attention and approval?

  • I wouldn’t consider these selfies; they are self-portraits. Big difference.

  • RobE

    Nice shots! They really take me there! Brave cyclist not to wear a helmet though.

  • I agree; on my first international trip I went helmetless for a good part of it. Not anymore… too many horror stories.

  • Paul LaBerge

    Marc’s self portraits are awesome! I look forward to seeing more in this new series.

  • Thanks for the encouragement, Paul.

  • bingo.

  • I’m not going to try to justify not wearing one… it’s stupid, I know. I actually started with one but I sent it home along with some other things. next time, though…

  • MattG

    This is ART fella. Now pedal yo’ sourpussass back whence you came

  • mikeetheviking

    Looks like a lot of effort went into producing these photos. Thanks for sharing Marc!

  • It’s art and documentation of adventures with a great eye and lots of technical planning. I don’t think there is necessarily any desire for attention, it’s sharing the amazing experience and inspiring others.

  • Thomas Snow

    Why the need to criticize? Logan this is my sunday morning goto sight and pics are always inspiring.

  • I think that on a solo trip making the effort to capture yourself really adds to the photography and helps communicate the essence of the trip far more than *just* photographing what you see. It’s easier when there are more than one of you and avoids any suggestion of narcissism, but getting past that and making the effort on your own really adds something. These are awesome.

  • Robert Kerner

    Nice post and wonderful photos. The images are so nice, it’s hard to believe they are self portraits and not shot by a second person. It takes time and imagination to accomplish this sort of shot. Well done!

  • Sophia

    Marc McShane is a joke.

  • Sophia

    I completely agree.

  • Sophia

    A sorry excuse for call photography.

  • That’s big of you. Do explain.

  • Sophia

    Marc McShane is just another hipster on his bike filling a void with his “self portraits” which lets be honest….looking at them as a portfolio all really look the same.

  • Christophe Noel

    Eesh. Those ugly comments below are nothing but sour grapes. Bitter people who need to go for a bike ride.

    I take a lot of super-selfies because I travel solo much of the time and they are necessary for the visual stories I tell through editorials. It’s actually kind of fun.

  • Christophe Noel

    As a professional shooter and magazine editor, I’d say they look pretty good to me. Maybe you should remove the hate-phase filter from your lens and take another look. :)

  • Jjajjajack

    Based on the composition and technical aspects, I don’t care if the photographer shot himself. He documented what he rode through and how it spoke to him. If this was a travel article one could expect images like this focusing on a traveling partner. No partner, no problem, this is posted to highlight the man’s craft. Must have been a wonderful ride as well.

  • Rob Grey

    i disagree, his compositions are varied and the content is compelling. he definitely has a style, which is a good thing, and he’s telling a story with his work, which is nice compared to the rest of our “best of” photo feeds. where’s your portfolio? what do you shoot?

  • Appreciating the comfortable style and leisurely approach of old school bike touring charm. Nice work building up a solid touring bike providing excellent posture for riding long distances. That having been said, would still prefer to see Mark wearing his helmet. Good Stuff.

  • effing awesome.

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