Updated: August 18, 2020.
Recently, I used the term “photocycling” in a Twitter posting to define “the art of capturing images of different subject matters while cycling.” I’m still uncertain if the term has been used frequently (or ever) in the past, so I will refrain from claiming credit if it is a neo-word that has been previously utilized in our lexicon.
The purpose of this article is relatively simple with a theme that reminds me of how Tina Turner introduces her classic cover of “Proud Mary”. (That’s right! Many pop music connoisseurs know “Proud Mary” is not Miss Turner’s original song, even though it’s definitely one of her most renowned signature hits from her impressive career in entertainment. When Tina initially performed the song, she executed it in a fashion so indelible, one could be forgiven for assuming she’s the original artist who delivered the song first. In case you’re curious, “Proud Mary” was initially released by Creedence Clearwater Revival back in 1969).
The relevance of “Proud Mary” in this article pertains to the photographic subject matter. In the song’s first few lines, Tina says:
“You know, every now and then I think you might like to hear something from us nice, easy
There’s just one thing
You see we never ever do nothing nice, easy
We always do it nice and rough.
And we’re gonna take the beginning of this song and do it easy
But then we’re gonna do the finish rough
That’s the way we do
Proud Mary. . .”
Alas, I would like to present some images, none of which were preconceived, premeditated, or planned. These could be classified as “nice and easy” because very little contemplation went into them, which is in complete contradiction to how I orchestrate my professional photography (which is always “nice and rough”, and strategically conducted). Essentially, my rhythm and flow when photocycling is in the opposite direction of how Miss Tina belts out “Proud Mary” for the masses. I’m giving you “nice and easy” this time, and it’s so much fun!
All of these images are scenes that I found curious or scenic just by riding through the landscape. This is part of the joy and excitement that ensue whenever I ride my bicycle, whose name is Melbourne. (There’s a long story behind my bike’s name, but the abridged anecdote is that my car’s name is Sydney. On any given day, I must often choose which mode of transportation I would prefer, similar to how Australians compare and contrast their two largest cities, which are forever in competition with each other).
Photocycling, for me, is also enjoyable because I do not know what I will necessarily come across with each bike ride. I cycle roughly five or six days a week, and even though many of the bike trails and routes I explore are the same, what and who I encounter during those rides along the way are never the same. That is why I always pack Ananda (that’s the name of my trusty and lovely Sony A99ii dSLR camera) in my backpack whenever I cycle on Melbourne. I highly recommend carrying a camera on your long walks, hikes, or rides.
Without further ado, please enjoy some subject matters I have captured during recent bike rides this summer. Since I have a plethora of images that I have captured while cycling over the years, this article will be the first chapter of an intermittent series. Please click on any image below to view a larger version. Enjoy!
Black Lives Matter / “Say Their Names” Living Memorial, Seattle.
While cycling on the promenade along Harbor Avenue in West Seattle on the first day of July, I came across a display of portraits in monochromatic tones. The portraits featured several black and brown men, women, and children who lost their lives violently and brutally. I am uncertain when the display was erected. In fact, to call it a “display” is incorrect and diminishable. This was, in essence, a creative memorial to slain men and women: some of whom were prominent and historical figures; some we are familiar with on account of the gruesome stories of their deaths covered by the media; and others who were everyday citizens like myself. Sadly, there were a significant number of individuals who I did not even recognize. As a result, I was deeply touched by the “Say Their Names” living memorial, even more so by the fact that no one had vandalized or desecrated it days after when I cycled on the promenade several times later that month.
While capturing these images, on this particular day, I had observed other pedestrians and cyclists deliberately take some time to look at the portraits and learn the reason why these individuals were being recognized. The colorful flowers placed in between each set of monochrome portraits, altogether against the backdrop of a grey, overcast, and somewhat foreboding sky made for a composition I could not ignore. The memorial itself commanded attention from anyone passing by, but the conditions of all the elements compiled on that first cloudy day of July commanded my camera to document.
Green River Valley, Kent, Washington.
Deep in the suburbs south of Seattle, the Green River Valley has been my local “escape” since the coronavirus gripped the planet at the beginning of the year. Since March, I have purposefully traveled to this area just to take Melbourne out on the trail and cycle, sometimes for hours depending on my mood. There are many reasons for this. As much as I love cities, we are now in a situation in which physical, in-person proximity to too many people within a confined space has been deemed very hazardous to maintaining one’s own health. Because Seattle is a major city, and also what is called a “fair-weather” city (in which the residents come out in public in droves because the weather is agreeable on any particular day), I have had to take this into account when I cycle on the weekends. Seattle is typically packed with people outdoors on the weekends, and rightfully so, as it’s the only 48 consecutive hours that most people have the time to decompress, run errands, exercise without a definitive timeline, and just be out and about for some fresh air. I completely understand that, but in this new era and reality under the pandemic, I prefer to avoid the crowds (even with other cyclists) congregating on the Emerald City’s principal bike trails.
Therefore, on most weekends, regardless of the weather, I head south. I drive Sydney to a particular trailhead that I like along the Green River, dismount Melbourne from the trunk, and head into the valley, increasingly surrounded by nature the farther south I cycle. There are very few people I come across along the trail, many of whom just smile and wave as we pass each other. (Occasionally, I wonder if some of these joggers and cyclists are there for similar reasons as my own). Because the area is devoid of masses of people, one mostly hears the sounds of nature — the river babbling, the birds chirping, the bees buzzing, the wind whispering. From the images I have shared below, part of the beauty of the valley is simply that of contrast between urban and rural — a newcomer to the valley might be surprised to know that America’s 18th largest city in population was only a few miles away to the north. Once one is outside of Washington state’s major cities in the Puget Sound region, a lot of the landscape looks just like this, and it’s incredibly charming. I have been frequenting the Green River Valley almost every weekend since March, and I’m still fascinated by the terrain.
Bellevue & Medina, Washington.
On many early mornings during the week, Melbourne and I embark on a ride through multiple neighborhoods in Seattle. Mornings are ideal because most people are still at home or doing their workouts indoors. Also, mornings are typically quieter than the rest of the day. This lends opportunity to some mindful introspection and observation while cycling, which is just my personal preference. As of late, I’ve extended my rides to Medina and Bellevue, Seattle’s eastern neighbors across Lake Washington. (As a point of trivia, Medina is where Bill Gates lives). There’s a lot of scenery to enjoy in this part of the Puget Sound region, and it would be folly as a professional photographer to not have Ananda capture some of the allure of what is colloquially known as the “Eastside” (which is the entire metropolitan area east of Lake Washington, and does not include Seattle proper). Here are some scenes of Bellevue and Medina, the majority of which were captured adjacent to a bike trail!
Thanks for reading this article. If you enjoyed the photographs here, please visit my official website @ www.tia-international-photography.com for an indelible, visual experience.