I love photography. Aside from mountain biking, I’d say it’s my favourite hobby and it probably ties on the top spot. I love creating feelings through images – capturing the way something looks is one thing but bringing the image home and tweaking it to make it feel the same as it did when I took it; that’s the draw of it all.
Inevitably, this means I lug the camera around a lot. When I’m not biking, I enjoy walking and even when I go into a city I usually take the camera too… just in case.
I should probably pause here and explain. When I say ‘camera’ I don’t mean a point and shoot from Argos (although there’s nothing wrong with these). I mean a DSLR, a few lenses, filters, tripod, drone, drone remote, drone batteries, and any spares that I need. So it’s a fair size kit. I need a rucksack to carry all the gear around because it’s not something I can just fit in my coat pocket and pull out when I need.
I’m sure you can imagine the annoyance this causes when I’m presented with an opportunity to combine my two most favourite things to do. When the weather’s good, the trails are running sweet and there’s a bunch of us riding it’s really easy to be motivated to snap some shots off. But it does mean carrying a ridiculous full-size rucksack about; at least if I want to take the full kit. And that’s less motivating. Aside from having an enormous bag sliding around on your back and making it all sweaty, the weight soon gets on my nerves and pulls on my shoulders.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it on plenty of occasions. Jase, from the No Name Syndicate, invited me and a bunch of others to ride some of the South Wales trails a few summers ago. Of course, I couldn’t say no and the opportunity for pictures was there so I took the kit. The whole kit. And I put up with it the whole way around Cwmcarn for what must’ve been a solid 4 hour ride. My shoulders ached when we returned to the campsite that evening but I knew I’d got some shots I was happy with so it was all good.
But what if I could take photos without having to carry the kit? What if something I had already was both small enough and light enough to carry the whole day without even noticing it? What if a phone could take shots of a high enough quality to rival a DSLR?
In September, I bought the iPhone 11 Pro in the hope that this would finally be the answer to weighty kit issues. I really went all in on it too and purchased the Moment photography app which lets you shoot burst in RAW (something that the Lightroom app camera option doesn’t allow for). I deliberately left my full camera kit at home so that I couldn’t be tempted and set off to the trails with George. Dalby off-piste and I’d spotted a few frames I wanted to shoot already.
Well, I won’t drag this post out any longer than it needs to be. These are the shots from the phone.
Of course, I’ve edited the tones a little through the mobile Lightroom app (and applied one of my presets) but otherwise they really are phone shots.
Do they rival the DSLR? No. There’s way less dynamic range (the difference between the shadows and the highlights) which is probably the reason why it’s hard to see the faces. The colours seem less impactful and there’s noticeable noise in the dark lighting.
Will I be using the iPhone to take bike shots? Yes! Not having to carry the full kit around was way more fun and didn’t stop me riding like I wanted to at all. Granted, there’s a noticeable difference in shot quality but for memories and Instagram I’m happy with the quality. They’re not shots that I’d be blowing up and printing out but for screen viewing, I’m happy. And lighter. Win.