West Africa Cycle Challenge

I CANT BELIEVE IM ONLY JUST PUTTING THIS BLOG POST UP NOW, I AM A TERRIBLE HUMAN. I thought I could post this as an anniversary post considering it's been 3 months since I cycled from Sierra Leone to Liberia with street child (see what I did there 😉) 

Where do I even begin! 

First day of the trip was bike assesment, changing seat heights and pedals. 

First day of the trip was bike assesment, changing seat heights and pedals. 

As always I like to explain the technical aspects of my trip as this was a job after all. My tip top tips for shooting/ cycling in Africa is:

1. Ask permission, Africa isn't like the west where you can beg for forgiveness. You must ask permission first people can get very cross if you don't. They aren't so used to cameras over there so when you whip out a shiny big camera they will either freak out or be intrigued. I found that if I explained what I was doing first it meant I could freely take pictures. 

2. Shoot in aperture priority, it makes sense when your moving so much the light will change all the time. One minute you'll be in full sun and the next you'll be in full shade. Also because I was often cycling and snapping I didn't have two hands to change my shutter speed on manual mode of aperture priory was a life saver! 

3. The widest you should go is f.4, this is due to all the movement from my bike and the people I was snapping. You'll struggle massively to get people in focus if you shoot any wider. Also due to the sun, which was so strong, I couldn't shoot any lower without a filter on my lens. 

This is the amazing George our oldest cyclist 

This is the amazing George our oldest cyclist 

4. Normally in sports photography I would up the ISO slightly to make sure I have a high enough shutter speed but in Africa this is not needed at all. You may as well keep your ISO as low as possible to get less grainy images. 

5. Composition was important on this job because often a lot of the landscape would look the same. I had to try and mix it up with either the rule of thirds or creating different reactions out of people. 

6. Timing was everything, street child wanted to document the whole process that meant the happy and the sad. Often we would get off our bikes after a full day and have to be welcomed by a tribe when all we wanted to do was collapse into a sweaty mess. This meant I had to be even more motivated to keep energised and capture these moments when I was just as sweaty as they were. 

Our first but not only crash! 

Our first but not only crash! 

7. How often do you take photos? During cycle holidays I think most photographers must as themselves the same question. Because all you are doing is either cycling, eating or sleeping with site visits along the way. During the long terrains of cycling it wasn't worth getting my camera out all the time because not a long would happen. But when we stumbled across something momentous the camera had to be easily accessible, hence the camel bak. 

8. Maintaining battery life is key to survival not only with your camera but also with yourself. I know I sound slightly dramatic but it's true. Most evenings we wouldn't have power, I knew this would happen so I took 4 extra batteries just in case, but even so being camera battery savvy was important. If you watch most photographer they will take a photo and then instantly look at playback, I have two issues with that: 

A) You waste battery 

B) You should have confidence in your photography and not second guess yourself by looking at the images on the back of the camera. 

So I tried to reduce playback to as little as possible meaning at least double the battery life. This also included food, I always kept snacks in my jersey and we constantly stopped for water. Some of the snacks included theses tiny bananas and fresh coconuts! 

9. Riding 300km is no easy feat, number 9 has to be training. Luckily I cycle for work in London so I'm quite used to being on a bike but if your not I suggest you start exploring! Some of the terrain was so uneven we were basically off road mountain biking which was great fun, however occasionally we would travel on road which wasn’t as adventurous but did give your legs a rest.  

10. Have fun and live in the moment, this is one of my craziest and most fulfilling adventures to date. I often had to remind myself to live in the moment and not worry about whether the last photo I took was good enough. 

Some of our accomdation right in the middle of a jungle

Some of our accomdation right in the middle of a jungle

The state of my feet at the end of each day

The state of my feet at the end of each day

Our regular breakfast was egg and bread, I never did get used to it

Our regular breakfast was egg and bread, I never did get used to it

Running into the gloriously cold if a little choppy Atlantic sea on the last day of our cycle

Running into the gloriously cold if a little choppy Atlantic sea on the last day of our cycle

I still have a sponsorship page for my cycle, donating towards Street Child an amazing chrity educating children in Africa, if your feeling particularly generous feel free to sponsor me here!

Health and Fitness Photographer