|William Henry Jackson's assistant leading a mule loaded with gear.|
|Denis and KLR 650|
First and foremost, I had to find a motorcycle.
|The bike was in rough shape when I bought it; it required a certain amount of TLC before being rideable for long stretches of time. This is an image of my first outing.|
After having ridden the klr for a couple years now, I'd say that it is the right bike for what I do: it gets me from the house to the trails in relative comfort and is also proficient off-road. The biggest drawback is its weight: loaded with all my gear it is really difficult (almost impossible) to bring back up by myself after a fall. I can do it once on a trip, but not twice…
Then I needed to choose a set-up to carry my gear.
In order to protect my camera (a paramount issue), hard-side panniers were the only choice. There are many options for panniers, but being on a budget I quickly zeroed in on recycled ammo cans and Dirtracks mounting racks. I ordered the widest possible ammo cans - which were meant to house 20 mm ammunitions- they are 18.5' long x 8.25" wide x 14.5" tall.
After some modifications, mine look like this:
I also added a top box on the back rack, which is were I keep my lenses, digital camera and other sensitive and expensive gear. Most people are familiar with Pelican cases - which are wonderful but a little pricy. I opted for a less-known brand: Seahorse cases. I bought the Seahorse SE 630; it had the perfect dimensions to fit on the bike and carry enough stuff.
|Klr 650 with side pannier and top box.|
Ammo cans are so sturdy that I was also able to install Rotopax mounts directly on them in order to carry two 1-gallon Rotopax water containers.
|You can see the mount and how the ammo can has been modified so the lid now pivots and only opens on one side.|
|Rotopax water container and mount.|
Enough with the motorcycle, let's talk about photographic gear.
First, I had to find the right camera.This meant that I had to sell my trusted 8x10 Calumet C1.
I loved that camera! It was ugly, heavy but unbreakable and had a tremendous bellow draw (which allowed me to do all my close up still life from the compost). But, even folded down, it was just too big to fit in any side pannier.
I sold it and invested into a 8x10 Deardorff field camera. I have absolutely no regrets, it is a beautiful object , is fairly light and fold down to an incredibly manageable size.
|The Deardorff in action at Wheeler|
|Folded, the Deardorff measures 12"x12"x4.5"|
A crucial element of your arsenal is the silver nitrate bath.I purchase a travel tank from Lundphotographics and couldn't be happier with it. During my trip to the San Luis Valley, I kept my silver nitrate in the travel tank for an entire week of bumping up and down on backcountry trail. I virtually didn't loose anything. The tank is tight and robust.
You will of course need a dark box to process your plates.At this point, it seems to me there are only two options on a motorcycle: an ice fishing tent or a home-made foldable dark box.
For a while I carried an Eskimo Quickfish 2 and it worked very well for 1-day outings, but is too cumbersome if you're planning a multi-day trip and you have to carry your camping gear.
|First trip with the QuickFish.|
Eventually, I realized that I needed something that could be folded and tucked away. I set out to design a fabric foldable dark box with an internal PVC structure. Once put together it looks like this:
When folded, everything fits in a 30-liter dry bag that I can attached on the top of one side pannier.
At first I would fill the tank with water and set unwashed plates in. However handiwork wasn't perfect and the tank leaked at the junction of the box and the lid. Some water would end up at the bottom of my side pannier. Eventually I elected to flow all my plates with a mixture of glycerin and distilled water (1+1) before putting them in my tank for travel. This works perfectly for me. I can conserve my unwashed plates for several days and wash them at my leisure when convenient.
|Plexiglass tank holding one of the plates from wheeler.|
So how does all of this look on the bike?Obviously the first things to pack are the side panniers.
In the left side pannier, I can fit the camera (note that is protected by a cardboard enclosure), a modified 8x10 film holder, three trays, the camera dark cloth (on the right of the camera), and the dark box shroud (top right corner). Everything is zoo tightly packed that there can only be very minimal movements while riding.
In the right pannier, I put the travel tank (barely visible at the bottom), all my chemistry (in the soft-side red cooler), the plexiglass tank (on the right) and paper towels.
In the top box, I carry a soft bag that contains one lens, release cable, headlamp, timer, gloves and trash bags. I have additional room for my digital SLR.
This is a picture of the motorcycle loaded for a 7-day adventure in the San Luis Valley (you can read more about the trip on the blog: http://collodion365.blogspot.com/search/label/Exploring%20the%20San%20Luis%20Valley)
You can see a water container in front of the pannier (in white). On top is my foldable dark box in its red dry bag. The left pannier also carries a 1-gallon water bottle; on top I attached my tripod and my sleeping bag.
I have also added tank saddle bags where I keep some food and other necessary items.
Loaded like this, the Klr is possibly at capacity. If not, it is definitely at my capacity to bring it back up as mentioned earlier.
The trip in the San Luis Valley was a blast; I can't wait to do something like this again.
I hope that this was helpful and that I will get to see some of you on the trails this coming summer!