Gravel bike & pinhole photography

Cycling and photography complement each other beautifully. A bike provides the ideal means to venture into diverse landscapes, while a camera captures the essence of those moments. While I've long combined cycling with pinhole photography, the transition to a gravel bike over a year ago has truly transformed my explorations. Situated between a road bike and a mountain bike, a gravel bike offers versatility, handling both roads and off-road trails with ease. This 'adventure bike' has broadened my horizons, allowing me to delve deeper into the countryside with my pinhole camera and tripod.

While I have a strong preference for my large format pinhole cameras, the obstacle of lugging around a bulky camera bag has often deterred me. However, for this excursion, I decided to streamline my gear selection. Opting for the compact Holga WPC and the Artcise CS20C travel tripod, the Holga fitted nicely in my daily cycling bag and my tripod a perfect fit in my handlebar bag. Despite my current makeshift solution, I eagerly anticipate discovering a camera bag that strikes the perfect balance: spacious enough to hold my equipment comfortably yet compact and ergonomic for long cycling expeditions so I can comfortably take my larger cameras.

I pre-planned my ride spanning approximately 22 miles through local country lanes, woodlands, and downlands, I armed myself with just one roll of film: Kentmere Pan 100, offering a mere six precious shots. Unlike my meticulously planned ride, I left the photo opportunities entirely open, eager to capture whatever moments caught my eye along the way. This spontaneous approach injected an element of unpredictability and adventure into the journey, as each frame became a unique reflection of the landscapes and experiences encountered throughout the ride.

My first stop brought me to the iconic Long Man of Wilmington, an enigmatic hill figure etched into the steep slopes of Windover Hill, near Wilmington in East Sussex, England. The Long Man's origins are shrouded in mystery, sparking debates among historians and locals alike. Some speculate a prehistoric lineage, while others lean towards the notion of a skilled monk from the nearby Priory, crafting the figure sometime between the 11th and 15th centuries.

With this beautiful backdrop, I carefully composed my first shot, framing my bike in the foreground (the bike became the perfect "foreground interest" for a lot of my images) and The Long Man in the distance.

Continuing my journey, a brief ride from the Long Man led me to the picturesque Lullington Church, affectionately known as the Church of the Good Shepherd. Nestled amidst serene surroundings, it is one of several churches claimed to be the smallest church in England. Believed to trace its roots back to the late 12th or early 13th century. 
Though I often find myself drawn to this enchanting spot, I harbor intentions of returning one late afternoon, when the sun would be in a much better position. Nevertheless, on this occasion, a fleeting moment was all I sought to capture.

As my journey unfolded, I cycled a few more miles, relishing the tranquil charm of the country lanes. However, my momentum was briefly halted by a puncture. Shortly after helping another cyclist grappling with the same misfortune. With a swift repair, I resumed on my journey.
Continuing through the woods and ascending onto the majestic South Downs, I encountered a scene that beckoned to be captured: a farmer's hay bale trailer. Its rustic charm and idyllic setting presented an irresistible photo opportunity, a testament to the simple yet captivating beauty of rural life. Just meters away, a solitary windswept tree stood as a familiar yet timeless subject, its allure drawing me in once more, despite having photographed it countless times before. 

Descending from the South Downs, I rejoined the roads with the wind at my back, propelling me forward on my journey. Along the way, I couldn't resist pausing to savor the breathtaking vista overlooking Beachy Head, with the iconic lighthouse standing tall in the distance. This scenic presented yet another photo opportunity.

Continuing my journey, I made a brief pit stop at a cycle cafe, indulging in a well-deserved coffee and cake to refuel for the final stretch. A heartfelt thank you to my Buy Me a Coffee supporters for fueling my adventures.

As I set off on the last leg of my ride, the gentle patter of raindrops greeted me, a reminder of nature's unpredictability. Undeterred by the weather, I pedaled several miles across the downs, my mind drifting to a spot I had been contemplating for the last photo opportunity.

However, upon reaching the location, a flood of memories washed over me, leading me to another spot not too far away. This particular spot held poignant significance—it was where I had recently shared a moment with my beloved dog on social media. As I reminisced, I realized that it had been precisely five weeks since I had bid him farewell, his old age and failing health prompting the difficult decision to let him rest.

With a heavy yet determined heart, I navigated through the damp, clayey mud to reach this cherished spot. Here, amidst the elements, I found solace in capturing one last image to commemorate both the end of my journey and the enduring bond I shared with my faithful companion who joined me on many photography adventures.

In conclusion, my gravel bike adventure, coupled with the humble simplicity of my pinhole camera, proved to be a deeply enriching experience. From the ancient mysteries of the Long Man of Wilmington to the tranquil charm of Lullington Church, and the breathtaking vistas of Beachy Head,  I look forward to the next chapter in my cycling and photographic journey. 


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