Thoughts On Documenting Experiences

Some people like to document and share their rides while others don’t even bother taking pictures, let alone videos. I happen to fall in the first group of people.

I have been asked whether taking pictures and recording video is worth the trouble and whether it interferes with the experience to a point that it ruins it. I mean it’s better to watch an amazing sunset than scout for an place to capture it, set up your camera and click away while the sun disappears behind the horizon. It’s better to ride past a beautiful pasture and take a deep breath of pure fresh air than fiddle with your GoPro to change modes, start the recording and then stop it, while you completely miss the moment. The whole point of riding in the lap of Mother Nature is to experience her raw beauty, feel the wind, smell the air and feast your eyes. You can’t do that while fiddling with electronics.

When I started documenting my motorcycle travels, I started doing it with a helmet mounted GoPro. I bought a GoPro remote and strapped it to the handlebar so that I could start and stop recording easily. But more importantly so that I could know which mode I was on without stopping the motorcycle and removing my helmet. Back then I used to switch between video and burst mode all the time. The GoPro remote also helped me figure out whether I was recording or not. Without the remote strapped to handlebar I used to often stop recording when I actually wanted to start it. The short beeps of the GoPro that denote a start or stop really don’t go well with wind noise at high speeds.

I did this for a while and quickly realised that something wasn’t right. I was getting too distracted with fiddling with the GoPro, checking this and cross-checking that. I wasn’t really enjoying the moment like I wanted to. Also I realised that many times something interesting happened and I didn’t get the time to record or capture it. That was followed by a feeling of regret which ruined the experience even further. Basically, I was torn between the need to document the experience and the desire to immerse myself in it. So I came up with a solution during my ride in Mongolia a couple of years ago, which has been working well for me so far.

I bought a dozen 128 GB MicroSD cards. I bought a dual battery GoPro charger and two extra batteries. I then set up my motorcycle so that the two extra batteries got charged in the tank bag or tail bag as the third battery was being used in the GoPro.

With this set up in place, I now start the GoPro in video mode in the morning when I start the ride and stop recording when the sun goes down or when I reach my destination for the day. Each GoPro battery gives me around 1.5 to 2 hours of video recording time. So when I stop for a break I do a quick check for the battery life and the space left on the card and swap batteries and cards if I need to. This way when I’m riding my motorcycle I do nothing else but ride my motorcycle. I’m completely immersed in the experience and am enjoying every bit of it.

Previously I used to take pictures in bursts and then selecting the best picture from the lot. Now I simply pause the video on my computer and take a screenshot. The end result is the same for me. I’m not making cinematographic masterpieces. So I’m not to picky about resolution and that kind of stuff. These pictures are for private viewing on a computer or the home TV or for social media which messes with the fidelity anyway.

Of course, as you can imagine, doing this gives me a ton of footage which I then need to sort out after the ride. I’m ok with that. Actually I relive the ride while I’m sorting out the footage which is more enjoyable than I thought it would be. This workflow also goes well with my philosophy of getting off social media while I’m on a long ride. As I’m sorting out the footage I take screen shots or create short clips and post on social media. People sometimes think I’m still riding my motorcycle when I’m actually back home sorting out GoPro footage in my free time.

This setup has worked for me for rides that are a couple of weeks long, because that’s the maximum I can do at this point in my life. But when my rides turn longer, I could use my 4 TB portable hard drive and someone’s computer to transfer the footage or just buy more 128 GB cards.

I’m open to suggestions and ideas to refine or improve this system. I’d love to hear from people more traveled and experienced than me.