Biker-photographers speak about their tech recommendations and how the pandemic has changed the way they travel
Harsh Man Rai, 59, Mumbai / Gurgaon
Who: Photographer and co-founder of magazines Helmet Stories, Garage52, MW and Rolling Stone India
Bikes: 2020 BMW 310GS
Camera/gear: iPhone 11 Pro Max, GoPro action cameras, Sony A6300
I always wanted to ride to Arunachal Pradesh, over the Sela Pass. This is where my father Maj Hasta Bahadur Rai along with his battalion 4 Garhwal Rifles fought a tragically valiant, but ultimately a losing rear-guard battle against the PLA at Nuranang in the bitter winter of 1962. I haven’t been able to close this circle in the past and I got another opportunity last month to go on a ride with friends aboard the 2020 BMW 310GS. Even though our journey didn’t end at Dong, where the rays of the sun first kiss the Indian soil, it was a fitting symbolic end to our quest. The bike lived up to its vaunted GS moniker and the ‘spirit of GS’ in conditions that would have stopped other bikes dead in their tracks. In honour of this ride and my father’s memory, I named my motorcycle ‘Nura’ (after the brave and beautiful Mnpa lady of legend). Given the pandemic, when we travel again, I think we will make better use of our time ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind. I certainly will, for I want to go further, not faster.
Arun Thakur, 34, Haryana
Who: Former photojournalist and founder, Highway Players
Bikes: Four Royal Enfield motorcycles
Camera/gear: Canon 5d- Mark 3, Canon 6d and two GoPros 4 & 7
Lockdown buy: Godox AD-200 flashlight to shoot in extremely low light conditions
This photograph is special as it was taken on my first lockdown group trip to Rohru, Himachal Pradesh, in October. Riding on the hills has always been unpredictable, accessible, and an ally to many of my adventures. This time around, I was finally out for an expedition with my Himalayan and I took this picture of the bike all geared up to remember the adventure that lay ahead. Prior to this trip with friends, I took off on a five-day impromptu solo ride to Himachal via Uttarakhand. Borders were finally opening up and allowing tourists to visit, but of course, with precaution. The pandemic isn’t over yet but it’s also a time when we get to experience Nature at its undisturbed best. What I have realised during my lockdown rides is that one doesn’t have to travel far for stunning sights, they are right in our backyard. I have been going on weekend ‘breakfast’ rides – to Murthal, Agra, Mathura, Meerut, Neemrana Fort, etc – with fellow club members since June.
As for photography on-the-go, invest in a good lens and learn post production procedures. I am now trying my hand at video editing with Final Cut Pro and will ride to Rishikesh in November end followed by a long ride to Auli, Munsiyari in December.
Shubham Saini, 25, New Delhi
Who: Founder, Photographers Of India
Bike: Chooses to rent them
Camera/gear: Olympus OMD EM 10 Mark 3, DJI Mavic Pro Drone
Lockdown buy: An iPhone 11 for travel photography
‘Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul’. The pandemic’s restrictions have been tough on every rider and when things eased, I first visited Himachal Pradesh. Going back to the mountains after staying home for months felt great and different at the same time.
The journey that led me to this shot in Spiti Valley was an unplanned one. As we transitioned from the tarmac to the off-road, the real adventure began. We ascended towards one of the most iconic structures in the valley, Dhankar Gompa. As we approached it, we found a spot which gave us a postcard-worthy frame: the monastery in all its glory atop the mountain, and the stunning contrast of the snow-covered mountains at a distance blending with the mountains in front of us.
As a trip organiser, health will take precedence going forward and we can’t make frequent pit-stops too. We are currently prioritising smaller groups and destinations that allow us to book an entire place for ourselves. Participants are recommended to get tested right prior to departure for our upcoming rides to Tirthan Valley and Lahaul.
Joe Abilash, 24, Chennai
Who: Adventure motorcyclist and freelance photographer
Bike: RE Himalayan: 411cc, single-cylinder, fuel-injected engine
Camera/gear: Nikon D5600 with basic prime and zoom lenses, Oneplus 7t, Snapseed and Lightroom for editing
Lockdown buy: GoPro 8
Growing up, the distant mountains of Uthukottai were a usual sight from my bedroom. During the pandemic, I realised how they remain a mystery to me and I headed there a month after the first State lockdown was announced. I have been frequenting the place since and this photograph was taken on one such trip. I stumbled upon this spot by accident, thanks to Google Maps, and was completely overwhelmed at first. It is the perfect camping site high atop a hill and I stayed overnight in the company of stars. Watching the sunset and sunrise was cathartic and a much-needed break.
In such challenging times, the best thing to do is indulge in leisure motorcycling and explore uncrowded places – nearby forests for instance. I have now planned shorter rides to nearby cities and villages and to head to the lesser-known Tirumala Hills and Venkatagiri (on the Andhra border) soon.
Srivatsan Sankaran, 30, Chennai
Who: Founder – Madras Photo Bloggers
Bike: Royal Enfield Bullet 350 ES
Camera/gear: Sony Alpha A7RIII, Sony 16-35mm f2.8 GM lens, GoPro
Lockdown buy: Shooting videos on my mobile camera, Waze app for navigation
This photograph was taken atop the Valparai Hills this August. The radiant blue mixed with the orange shade of the horizon was enthralling. As layers of mist unfurled, the sun slowly turned everything blue into gold and I remember standing at the spot for a long time.
The pandemic has changed my entire perspective towards travelling. I now prefer solo trips, isolated destinations and road trips on familiar terrains. I’ve also learnt to slow down while exploring new places. It helps me connect with nature and clears my mind, something I never did earlier.
I prefer mirrorless cameras as they are ideal to capture the essence of beautiful landscapes. The GoPro comes to my rescue if I am travelling to rough terrains. The lockdown got me to use my phone camera more since it helps to focus on the picture’s composition rather than the technology. I’ve always wanted to ride to Megamalai in the winter and I plan to travel there in December. I will also be exploring Madurai, Karaikudi and Tanjore on this trip.
Mayur Mahanta, 27, Guwahati
Who: Founder, Assam Bikers and photographer at Mototripperco
Bike: Royal Enfield GT560
Camera/gear: Nikon DSLR, One Plus 7, Photoshop, Lightroom and Snapseed on the phone for editing
In August, I rode to rural Assam to visit a friend. It was a short ride from Guwahati to Borsola village in Sonitpur district and the escape after days of lockdown was refreshing. I was sceptical about riding during lockdown but it was hard to stay away from the outdoors. In the coming weeks, I will ride to Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh.
Navaneeth Unnikrishnan, 27, Bengaluru
Who: Indian Amateur Astronomer and Astro-Landscape photographer
Bike: Royal Enfield Classic 350
Camera/gear: Sony A7RIV
Lockdown buy: A macro lens
This drone shot was captured on a trip to Munnar in September. It’s hard to put it in words how surreal it felt to take a trip after five months of no outdoor activity. The photograph captures my mindset perfectly: the clouds represent freedom and it’s a silver lining that resonated with my thoughts on that day. It was taken at 5.30 am in freezing weather and although I’ve been to Munnar several times over the years, I am glad I was able to capture this picture.
Now is the time we should support local tourism and businesses. Travelling responsibly – abiding by social distancing norms, wearing a mask, getting tested before setting out – are important. It’s now safe to stay in tents or hotels that have sanitising facilities rather than a village or a homestay as this ensures minimal contact with others.
As a landscape photographer stuck at home, I invested in a macro lens to shoot the tiny creatures around me. I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom for editing but I suggest buying a tripod and ND filters (for long exposures) if you shoot landscapes. A good camera bag, rain cover, extra batteries and memory cards are important.
Shikha Dalal, 32, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Who: Former pilot and now a filmmaker, photographer at Reboot My Brand, a digital marketing agency
Bike: Bajaj Dominar 400
Camera/gear: GoPros (7, Max), iPhone 11 Pro when on the road
Lockdown buy: 360 camera MAX, planning to shift from my bulky Nikon DSLR to a light mirrorless system soon
I rode to Mt. Abu in July and it was spectacular as we witnessed the onset of the monsoon season. We rode about 225 kms and while riding uphill during the rains in a misty cloud and surrounded by the green landscapes on the ghats. We left for a trek in the hills soon after we reached and this view has stayed with me since. I feel caged when I am not riding and on this trip especially, I felt like a bird set free. The lockdown has urged me to take more road trips and explore my State rather than travel elsewhere. I will soon be riding across coastal Gujarat.