The Semi-Serious Cyclist likes to roll with a camera. In a back pocket, in a handle-bar bag, around his neck, mounted on his helmet—anywhere handy and ready to point and click in a flash, from the roadside, or even, dare I say, from the saddle on the fly.
No matter where he is riding—be it on a tour in an exotic land or on a well-worn loop in his own backyard—interesting, weird, beautiful, tacky, bizarre, photo-worthy shit abounds. There’s something magical about the perspective from the saddle: the lovely and strange details of the world around us are just so noticeable when cycling. So why not take a moment to capture these sights?
Of course, the most obvious subjects to photograph are wildlife and landscapes, the usual fare of calendars and coffee tables. But while I take my share of those shots, I find myself drawn more to the peculiar, the tacky, the absurd: the not-so-wild pot-bellied pig at Happy Acres or the gigantic, sad piñatas of East Austin.
Here in Alberta we are blessed with an abundance of oversize roadside attractions, often the pride of small towns, which emit an all-powerful siren song to anyone with a camera. Vegreville has its big old Ukranian Easter egg (pysanka, to those in the know); Glendon boasts a monster perogy, complete with impaled cutlery; and Mundare is known for its massive coiled sausage. I find it impossible to cycle past any of these without stopping to take a photo, preferably of one of my fellow wheelman posed beside, for scale as much as anything. Here’s a shot of young Gil with Wabamun’s famous jumbo dragonfly towering over him.
This SSC has a particular thing for signs and graffiti, odd little notices and proclamations sent out into the world. Whether they be for Jewish waterskiing facilities, religious propaganda, or of the more existential persuasion, I find a certain joy in these curious markers, a form of found or accidental art.
Outhouses are another favorite subject of mine. I find almost all of them eminently photographable. Over the years, I’ve taken enough pictures of craphouses to make a thick and fabulous toilet table book. (A term I just made up for the kind of picture book one leaves in the actual bathroom/outhouse to thumb through.)
Some Uber-Serious cyclists might argue that stopping mid-ride to take photos is goofy, that it interrupts the rhythm or flow of a good ride. Flow, schmo, I say. Who knows when, if ever, you’ll get the opportunity to capture the precise pose of that llama or the way the sunlight is hitting that canola field.
In days of yore, self-respecting gentle cyclists wouldn’t think of heading out for a weekend ride without a sketchpad and pencil, or later, a camera and tripod, with a plan to stop at opportune moments and capture picturesque scenes. That hasn’t really changed for some of us. Cycling still offers these moments. The SSC knows they must be seized. Carpe bikem jpegem!