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How to Photograph While Bicycling (Video Too!)


As many of you know, Elvis likes riding his bike almost as much as he likes making photographs.  Combine the two?  Yowza!

This article will address what type of camera to buy and how to use it when out cycling.

Point and shoot digital cameras.  Has there ever been a product whose life cycle is so short?  As recently as six months ago you could buy a camera and be sure that within a month or so it would be replaced with a newer, better and cheaper model.  Not even PC's get replaced as fast as digital cameras.  Has this got you down, bunko?  Well Elvis has got good news for you; the megapixel wars that drove camera development are over.  That's right, buy a camera today and you will get years of use out of it without feeling that you made a mistake.  This isn't to say that cameras won't improve or get cheaper because they will, but it won't happen nearly as fast.

The other piece of good news is that as this technology has matured and spread out almost any camera out there today will give you good pictures, with the only real differences in models being look, feel and features.  Elvis can almost hear you asking, "Hold on there Elvis, aren't the new 16 megapixel cameras twice as good as the 8 megapixel models?".  In a word - no.  The image sensor in almost every camera is exactly the same size.  This sensor, (which records what you've got the camera pointed at - just like film did in 35mm days) contains tiny pixels that record data.  When 1 million pixels where spread out (1 megapixel) on this sensor there was a lot of room in between the sweet spot of the pixels and this lead to less than stellar performance.  Cameras improved dramatically as manufacturers were able to put more pixels onto the sensor.  But a funny thing happened when they started putting (for marketing purposes) more than 6 or 7 million pixels on the sensor.  In order to put so many pixels on a defined size they had to reduce the size of the pixels and at some point as the pixels shrunk in size - so did their quality.  Camera companies knew that potential customers understood none of this and just thought that more megapixels meant a better picture.  And these companies were naturally happy to have us all replacing our cameras every 6 months or so.

This is an oversimplification of course, and probably more information than you need but it serves to explain why almost any name brand camera that you buy in the 8 megapixel range will give you the ability to make a fine print for hanging on your wall or a lovely electronic image to email to grandma.  

Great.  Now that we know what megapixel size to focus on will the choice be easy?  Unfortunately, no.  There are literally hundreds of name brand cameras to choose from in the 8 megapixel  range.  So what else can we do to narrow our choices?   Well, since we want to be able to use the camera while out cycling it needs to be on the smaller side.  Sure, you could stuff one of the bigger cameras in your jersey pocket.  These are all point & shoot cameras afterall, even the biggest one is small by 35mm SLR standards.  Still, if it's not small, light, easy to get in and out of your pocket and easy to use - you just won't take it along.  And that would defeat it's purpose.

What else are we looking for in a cycling camera?  How about a big and bright screen?  We'll be using this out in the bright sunshine and it would be nice to see what the camera is pointed at, wouldn't it?  How about a lens that has a wide angle so that you can fit all of your cycling buddies into one shot without being a hundred yards out front?  It also needs to have a so-called "dummy" or automatic mode.  A setting whereby the camera does everything for you; focus, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, etc. (truly point and shoot).  And you need to be able to use it successfully with one hand - safety first.

You also want a camera that does not use or need a lens cap.  A lens cap is just something that will get in your way, affect your biking concentration (as you try to remove, keep track and replace it) and eventually get lost.  A camera with a lens that retracts into the camera body when not in use is nice too.  Easier to get it into and out of your pocket without a big lens 'nose' catching on everything. 

We've made some progress narrowing our choices.  But what about brands?  There are about 20 different brands that offer more than one camera that would fit out current list of needs.  When Elvis buys stuff he likes to buy from companies in the business of making the products.  What does Elvis mean by this?  As an example; Nikon is in the camera business.  If they made a really crappy camera you'd never buy another Nikon camera.  Which is to say that you'd never buy anything from Nikon.  Plus, Nikon has decades of expertise in this business.  Sony by contrast, isn't quite as concerned about making great cameras.  They can still sell you a playstation, a computer, television, stereo, music CD's and so on.  Sony, while they make fine digital cameras, aren't really in the camera business.  Elvis has got nothing against Sony, it's just that we need to narrow our choices and sticking with companies that focus (note the pun) on photography is a smart choice.  Along with eliminating Sony, we can eliminate Epson, Fuji, HP, JVC, Kodak, Kyocera, Panasonic, Samsung, Sanyo and Toshiba.  Don't feel bad if you've already got a camera made by one of these companies, our purpose here is simply to narrow our search for the prospective buyer. 

Of of the real camera companies; Canon, Contax, Konica-Minolta, Leica, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax, we can eliminate Konica-Minolta and Contax as being too esoteric and Leica for being too expensive.  Olympus is a very fine camera company that gets eliminated because they force you to use a proprietary memory card (more expensive, not as readily available).

Let's review.  What we want in a camera are the following specifications;

Around 8 megapixels
A screen at least 2 inches wide, and bright
Lens that retracts into the camera body and uses no lens cap
Has an "auto everything" mode
Wide angle of 40mm or less
Easy to turn on/off with one hand
Easy to take a picture with one hand
Smaller is better
Made by one of the following; Canon, Nikon, Pentax

The rest of the specifications that fill the sales brochures, things like; DIGIC III Image Processor, Face Detection Technology, Super Sport Mode, One Shot Easy Print Mode and the rest really don't matter.  It's all just marketing B.S.  Don't concern yourself with them.  Just grab a camera from one of those three manufacturers within the specification range as provided and go have fun.

Here are some tips for using your new camera;

- Never push down on the shutter button.  This motion will cause the camera to shake and the result will be a blurry picture. While your index finger is on the button, gently squeeze the camera between your index finger and your thumb (which is under the camera).

- Leave the lens at it's widest zoom setting.  Not only will you get more of your cycling world on the picture, it's also the point at which most lenses offer the best quality imaging.

- Never use the 'digital zoom' settings.  On or off the bike this is just a gimmick and will ruin your photos.

- Preset your camera to the auto mode so that you don't have to concern yourself with f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO settings.  Off the bike you do worry about those things, don't you?

- Always have your camera set for the highest image quality.  This will be under the picture/quality/resolution menu.  Just set it for the biggest number or "Fine" or "High".  

- Memory cards are cheap.  Arm yourself with a 4 gig card and you will be able to take hundreds of photos.  Don't rely on the memory card (if) provided with the camera.  It's stupid small.  Elvis Kennedy recommends that you get a 4 gig memory card.  You could save 5 dollars by buying a smaller card but that would be silly.  And if you stick with Sandisk or Lexar brands you won't have any trouble.  This will add about $20.00 to your camera investment.

- Set the ISO (don't ask, doesn't matter) of your camera to 100 and leave it there.  A higher number will add significant noise to your images.

- Play around with the video mode of these cameras.  It's fun and easy, and you will (should) always have it with you since it's so portable.  The quality is surprisingly high.  Just look at the video below shot on a bike with a little Canon.  If you always have a little video camera handy you never know what you'll be able to do with it.  Maybe you'll catch your boss doing something he/she shouldn't be doing.  Then use the video to make one of two things; 1) yourself the boss after he/she gets fired, or 2) lots of blackmail money.

- When in video mode try not to do any zooming, and hold the camera still.  Otherwise you'll get a crappy movie.  Pre-zoom for composition before hitting the record button and then hold the camera steady.

- In warm weather keep the camera in a little plastic baggy when on your bike.  Otherwise it will get full of sweat.

- For heaven's sake - be careful!  Especially if you try this while riding.  Make sure that you practice operating the camera before taking it for a ride.  Keep it in an easily accessible location.  Have any settings set in advance.  Pay attention to your cycling and your surroundings at all times.  If you have to, guess by pointing your camera at it's intended target.  Don't stare at the image screen (before or after shooting).  You don't need perfect composition here and you'll have plenty of time to review it later, safely on your couch.


 - Here's what Elvis does to get a good shot while riding.  But first, a disclaimer.  Elvis Kennedy does not recommend that anyone attempt to take pictures while riding a bike.  It's dangerous.  Don't do it.  Really.  Elvis Kennedy will not be responsible for anything bad that happens to you.  Or any one else.  Ever.  Driving a motorcycle?  Don't be stupid.

Some have asked how Elvis does it and here goes (This is an outline of what Elvis sometimes carefully does, not a recommendation for what you should do.  You want a recommendation?  Don't do it.)

1) Have an idea of what photo you want before whipping out the camera.  If you just pull it out and start shooting you're unlikely to get anything worthwhile and you'll be thinking about photography instead of cycling.  A front or behind shot of your cycling buddies is almost always a good choice.  Especially with cool scenery around.

2) Look ahead for a smooth, open and empty stretch of road.  Slight downhill is good so that you don't have to pedal.

3) Make sure that you're steady on the bike and get your camera out.  Since you've preset everything (you did, didn't you?) and since it's already on auto mode (because you paid attention to the earlier comments) all you need to do is turn it on.

4) Carefully position yourself for the shot.

5) Maintaining a steady position, bring the camera up, point it at your desired target and shoot.  You can briefly glance at the display to get a rough idea of your framing but don't stare at it.  Never forget that you're on a bike.  Remember that you can crop and straighten your pictures at home on the computer easily and more safely than you can while riding.

6) Take multiple shots.  Since the road is bumpy and you're guessing at framing take 3 or 4 shots.  Your odds of getting something worthwhile will go up.

7) Turn the camera off and put it away.

8) If you're not comfortable taking pictures on the bike don't fret.  Just ride ahead, get off your bike and take the shots of your buddies as they roll by.  If the scenery is pretty - stop and smell the roses.  Then take a picture.

9) Never do this in traffic, in town, in big groups, in races or with cyclists who would rather you didn't.  Or anywhere else or in any manner that is unsafe.

10)  Some of the best shots are pre and post ride.


Crime Scene?  Murder?

An old, broken down and abandoned home in Bailey's Harbor, Wisconsin.
Stone walls and chimney still standing, everything else destroyed.
Note the bullet holes in the bathtub.  Is this a crime scene?  Murder?


Made with a Nikon D3s and 14-24 lens.  7-shot HDR image at f/7.1 and ISO 200.




After a hard hour of chasing his kids around the playground Elvis sprawled out on the floor of the gazebo.  Looking up he noticed this interesting geometry.

You never know when an interesting scene will present itself.  Elvis was prepared with his trusty Nikon nearby.

Made with a Nikon D7000 and 35 f/1.8 lens.  3-shot HDR sequence (-2, 0, +2) at ISO 100 and f/5.6.


Memorial Day - Galen Kittleson

Honoring all those who have fallen to preserve our freedoms.

Every Memorial Day Elvis personally honors Sgt. Maj. Galen Kittleson, who served the USA with valor and distinction.  Sgt. Maj. Galen Kittleson is Elvis' hero.

You can read about Kittleson's heroism HERE.  And in the book about him entitled Raider, HERE.  And you can watch an interview that Elvis did with his hero in 2003 - HERE.

Image made with a Nikon D2x.

Here's an interview that Elvis did with his hero in 2003;


Review - Leica X1


The Leica X1 looks and feels like the precision instrument that you would expect it to be. It is a Leica after all. For over 100 years Leica has engineered and crafted state-of-the-art optical instruments, and the Leica X1 is no exception - it continues the tradition.

What is the Leica X1? Simply put it is a large sensor, small body digital camera. By large sensor Elvis means much bigger than the sensors found in pocket sized point and shoot cameras. In fact, the sensor in the X1 is almost as large as the sensors found in digital SLR cameras. Larger sensor usually means higher image quality (more on that in a moment). By small body Elvis means much smaller than digital SLR cameras. Smaller body means easier to carry and have with you (and easier to hide for you secret agent types).

What does all of this mean? Essentially it means that you can have image quality almost as high as an SLR camera in a package almost as small as a point and shoot camera. These are both very good things.


You can note that the Leica X1 is not a do everything camera and be disappointed. It does not have lots of menus filled with shooting options, post processing options or an array of fancy shooting gimmicks and tricks. It doesn't have (gasp!) video. You're stuck with a 35mm field of view lens. Or you can take the alternative view as Elvis does and look at the Leica X1 as a do one thing very well camera and be happy.

The Leica X1 is simple to operate. You won't miss shots because you left your menu settings on some silly option. You won't waste time over-thinking which shooting option or which lens to use. You won't be disappointed with the shaky video that you get with most SLR cameras. You will be amazed at the image quality. And you'll be tickled with the famous Leica "look" that you can only get with genuine Leica lenses.

Top 5 Reasons to Love the Leica X1

  1. The Leica lens and the Leica lens "look"
  2. It compliments your digital SLR
  3. Ease of use
  4. Image Quality
  5. Image Quality

NOTE: Elvis' reviews are based on equipment that Elvis purchased with his own, hard-earned money. This means that Elvis went through some sort of justification in buying the piece of equipment and/or that it was likely to fill some need. Elvis doesn't buy stuff just to review it. Therefore, if you're looking for reasons not to like the Leica X1 you'll need to look elsewhere. Elvis is a lover, not a hater. The intent of this review is to show you what the X1 can and cannot do, how it works in actual operation and what you can expect in end results. The intent is not to nit pick the X1 or to compare it to a variety of other cameras in some sort of contest.

The Leica Lens & The Leica "Look"

The Leica lens included with each X1 is a valid reason to purchase the X1. It's a 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit. Leica aficionados recognize that to be a world class lens. To those new to Leica, allow Elvis to assure you that the lens quality is of the highest order. The "look" of a lens, or family of lenses is difficult to describe. Ineffable, really. It won't stop Elvis from trying though. Elvis' two favorite lenses ever are the Leica 35 f/2 Summicron aspherical and the Nikon 85 f/1.4. These two lenses are bright, sharp, have a remarkable flatness of field and when used correctly produce very pleasing out of focus ( bokeh ) areas. These attributes make for great landscapes and stunning portraits. Elvis argues that these two lenses are so good that you can justify buying a good camera body on which to attach them. They really are that good.

What does that have to do with the lens on the X1? The 24mm on the X1 produces photographs that give a "look" that is similar to Elvis' two favorite lenses described above. Bright, sharp, flat field and pleasing out-of-focus areas. And don't let the 24mm moniker concern you. As an APS-C sensor camera there is a multiplication factor to consider: 1.5. That 24mm on the X1 gives you a 35mm field of view, which is just about the most versatile field of view there is.

Take a close look at the sample images provided by Elvis. Click on each image to view the images in their full-file glory. And click on More Images to see, well, More Images.

It Compliments Your Digital SLR

The X1 is the perfect (and Elvis means perfect) camera with which to compliment your digital SLR. Your SLR gives you lots of shooting options, lots of lens choices, video and all kinds of fun tricks to play around with. That's your main camera. The Leica X1 compliments this by being small and pocketable with high image quality. Going on vacation? Use your SLR at Disney World, on the vehicle trip to the mountaintop lookout and on photography specific excursions. Pack the X1 for street shooting, at the beach, hiking and when out to dinner. Shooting a sporting event? The SLR is great for action shots during the game. The X1 is great for shooting the team during pre-game pep talks, players on the sidelines and after game celebrations and team activities. Weddings? SLR is great for formals and receptions. Leica X1 is great for during the ceremony since it is silent in operation. You get the idea. With an SLR and an X1 you are well equipped for any photographic opportunity.

Ease of Use

In use the Leica X1 is terrific. Take a few minutes to understand the few shooting options that the X1 offers, set your favorites and you are now ready to shoot at a moment's notice. There is nothing to the X1 that will slow you down. It's a photographic machine - plain and simple.

Is it the fastest focusing camera ever? No it isn't. In dim light it can take a few seconds to focus. But keep in mind that the Leica lens is sharp and what you want is precise focusing to take advantage of that sharp lens. Just like a manually focused lens it can take a moment to get it critically correct. And in medium to bright light it's fast. (See Elvis' test of the improved focusing speed with new firmware HERE).

The battery and charger are both small and portable. The SD cards used in the X1 are universally accepted, fast and durable (and inexpensive). The DNG files can be opened with almost any photo editing software and are claimed to be future-proof.

The small size and light weight of the Leica X1 cannot be overstated. The camera is incredibly easy to handle, use and pocket. But don't let the size and weight fool you - it is built to exacting standards and is jewel-like and elegant to hold.

It may very well be the camera with the highest image quality that you could hand to a stranger to take your picture in front of (name landmark here) and not need to explain to the stranger how to use it. It's simplicity belies it's strength.

The B-52s

Image Quality

If you are familiar with Leica imaging you will immediately recognize that pedigree in the X1 photographs. If you are new to Leica you are in for a treat. The X1, like the Leica M series of cameras and lenses, produces sparkling, clear and crisp photographs with smooth and pleasing out of focus areas. Lack of flare and lack of field curvature are other traits in the world of Leica.

You needn't look hard to discern Leica photographs. It's immediately apparent. Elvis is particularly fond of the crispness of Leica photographs. It's not exactly sharpness and it's not exactly contrast - it's crispness (Elvis warned you at the outset of this review that these are difficult things to define). Just look at the samples and see if you can note these things.

Point and shoot cameras and 4/3rds cameras are no match for the Leica X1 when it comes to image quality. Some DSLRs can have a slight edge but at a size and weight cost. The Fuji X100 is a close match in a different (not as simple) body, and should be a camera that you consider (see Elvis' comparison of the Leica X1 and Fuji X100 HERE), but it won't give you the Leica "look", ease of use or pocket ability.

When it comes to image quality, engineering matters. Leica excels at engineering. Some primary keys are; sensor quality, lens (glass, not plastic) quality, lens-to-sensor distance, lens element positioning and consistency, lens element coatings, use of aspherical surfaces, durability of materials used. All of these areas are strengths of the Leica company and have been for generations.

Superior lens glass is more important than a high resolution image monitor. A superior sensor is more important than a video mode. A clean and simple but highly technical light path is more important than page after page of shooting and post processing options. You get the idea here. Leica focused on the image path and little else.

A larger image sensor is a very good thing.  All things being equal, a larger sensor captures images with a greater dynamic range than a smaller sensor.  Essentially, greater dynamic range means more detail in dark areas, medium areas and light areas of the scene.  Higher image quality.  As a bonus, larger image sensors produce a smaller depth of field for any given aperture setting, allowing for superior out of focus areas and image "pop".

Leica managed to mount a large image sensor into a small camera and for the first time we have a pocketable camera that can generate high image quality.  Some thought that the so-called four thirds system cameras were going to be the solution.  The sensor in the Leica X1 is roughly 60% larger than the four thirds sensors and in Elvis' estimation the resulting image quality is at least double.  There's nothing wrong with the four thirds cameras but the X1 image quality is higher.  The image sensor in the X1 is 8 to 10 times larger than the sensors in typical point and shoot cameras.  You don't need Elvis to do that math for you.

In a world of do-it-all cameras with options too numerous to mention (let alone fully understand) one could say that Leica took a flyer with the X1. Ignoring video, not being tempted with gimmicks and gadgets could be considered a risk. But that would be a complete misunderstanding of what Leica is. Leica has always been about stripping photography down to it's bare essence. Focus on the image. Let other companies throw out dozens of options to see what sticks. Leica should be applauded for putting a superior, large sensor behind a true Leica lens and stuffing both into an elegant and portable body.

The result of all of this engineering is that you can get a high image quality producing machine in a small and elegant package. A true industry leading product, the Leica X1.

For the full set of sample photographs go HERE, and be sure to hit the "O" button above each image to see them in their Original, full size.