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Flint Hills Photocycling Tour Report

In Blog by Eric Benjamin4 Comments

The latest installment of the Adventure Monkey Photocycling Tour happened last weekend. Of all the hot, dry days we’ve had this year, someone flipped the switch and we had a pleasantly cool but somewhat wet weekend to play in the Flint Hills with our cameras and bikes. As usual, it went amazingly well and I made some more good friends.

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 Everyone ready to unload at Camp Wood to get the weekend started.

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We changed things up and stayed in the upgraded cabins this year instead of the “rustic” cabins. Each pod has two full cabins with lots of room (I think 10 people could fit in each), heat and A/C, two attached bathrooms with amazing water pressure in the showers and a gathering area in the middle. I am thinking we will use these from here on out. I was impressed with how nice they were. We had our “bike shop” in the middle and hung out there in the evenings.

I have revamped the classroom sessions to show more images and talk about composition, camera settings and post processing. I think it went much better than the past classes as I am trying to keep my participants engaged.

After checking into our cabins and finishing classroom session one, we loaded up to ride into Cottonwood Falls to eat. It is a pleasant nine miles or so from the camp. Well after the first hill is behind you, it’s pleasant.

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 Riding to Cottonwood Falls on Lake Road between Elmdale and Cottonwood Falls.

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The skies were beautiful and the weather was simply amazing. I couldn’t have picked a better weekend or so I thought.

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 With the rain we’ve had lately, the hills were fairly green and the wildflowers were in bloom.

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 Our bike gang descended upon Cottonwood Falls

After eating dinner and some pie we checked out the Cottonwood Falls bridge. The water was pretty low. Matt shot a cool panorama with his point and shoot Fuji. Looks pretty cool. Speaking of cool, before we left the bridge for camp, we put on our arm warmers as the air was nice and crisp.

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Seems like even our timing was impeccable as we rode into a beautiful sunset. We stopped to take some pictures and experimented with our cameras and finding the best setting for such a bright, beautiful sky. Later in the classroom, I showed the ins and outs of processing such a thing. Who knew all the details that were hiding in the shadows, especially in a RAW file? Well I did, and now so do my fellow photocyclists!

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 Loving this shot

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 We stopped on the big Lake Road hill to shoot the last minutes of the sun. Little did I know that would be the last time we would see the sun for a long time.

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 Sara Kay, Connie and John – Photocyclists getting the shot

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 Kissed by the “golden hour” sun, Sara Kay shoots the sunset

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 Rachel in the sunset

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 Another panorama from Matt’s camera. Pretty cool even with the weird lines on the horizon where the camera stitched together images.

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 Tracy took some very nice images of cyclists in the sunset!

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But as we looked at these images on the projector screen, something got our attention and almost brought us to tears with laughter. It was a great exercise in composition. Something to watch out for when composing an image – butt lights. Good thing we can remove that in post processing, well unless Planet Bike would like to use these for an ad. That is a bright light, just in a funny spot! I think Tracy needs to send these to the Planet Bike company…

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 Nice Butt Light!

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 Riding down the hill back to camp with lights on. Woo Hoo!

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Camp Wood has a foundational rule about health and healthy eating, so no soda pop on site. We soon found out Tracy, my healthy eater, had a weakness. Thank goodness for the local store. Tracy was able to feed her Diet Pepsi fix!

We stayed up talking about various things that always come up with cyclists and budding photographers. We went to bed looking forward to getting up and shooting the sunrise from the patio of Camp Wood.

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 This is as close to the sun as we saw the rest of the weekend. Good thing Tracy got a shot of it.

The sun hid behind wet, low clouds all weekend. It was cool outside and soon after breakfast, the mist rolled in. I was a little worried about the cycling portion of the weekend. But this was an Adventure Monkey weekend. We would be riding!

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 Early morning camera talk among cyclists shot by Tracy.

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Matt captured this nice shot of me explaining something to Tracy. I know, it looks like I am talking about something completely inappropriate and Tracy is trying to ignore me altogether. Good times.

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 Photo class in the morning after breakfast shot by Tracy. Her shutter speed was a little slow, introducing some camera shake, but it’s still a cool looking, natural light shot.

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 Rachel, shooting behind the back got this shot as we set out to ride our 30 mile gravel ride.

It wasn’t raining, but it was a thick mist for most of the day. With the temps hanging around the 60’s it was a nice day for a ride. I had to continuously wipe off my glasses as we rode, but it was a good time nonetheless.

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 Rachel riding under the gloomy clouds

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 Matt shot this quaint, inviting house along the way.

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 We had a Yeti from Lincoln in attendance.

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 A gaggle of cyclists armed with cameras took to the gravel roads of Chase County Kansas.

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 Normally this is a beautiful place to shoot with the hills and gravel, but it was a bit wet last weekend.

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We met a few hills with no problems and the roads were not bad at all. No mud (yet). Here’s Sara Kay, kind of a hard core cyclist having a good time spinning up the hill.

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Soon we had our first flat tire. Not only is Sara a hard core cyclist, she also managed a bike shop for about five years too. We had our very own wrench on tour with us! James shot this great photo of Sara as she happily changed the flat. We pointed out in class that when you shoot you need to pay attention to the background as Sara has a bicycle tumor coming out of one shoulder and a person hiding behind the other.

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 James captured Tracy showing off her new Adventure Monkey duds.

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Tracy captured the curve in the road.

We were able to discuss in class the effect a small aperture (big number, small opening) has on an image. In this case it gives us a huge depth of field, maybe too huge as the water droplets on the lens start to become a part of the image.

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 Here comes James! (Captured by Matt)

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Sara Kay captured this amazing image of a spider doing yoga in a flower. Very cool! And obviously a large aperture was used to get the other flowers out of focus.

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 Hmm, we wondered what was going on in that house

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 always a kidder

We got back to camp, ate, cleaned up and looked at participants’ images until late in the evening. This worked out well as we talked about composition, camera settings and post processing of images. I think this may have been the best learning environment so far as it tied everything together.

The next day we hoped to catch a sunrise and another ride. The sunrise was covered in a thick layer of clouds, but the bike ride wouldn’t hide from us!

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 Holding the camera near my leg I captured Matt griding some gravel ahead of me.

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Tracy had to leave for Lincoln so we rode with one short. The weather was crisp and we had avoided any real rain thus far. It seemed like a good day to ride to Coyne Creek Road to give these cyclists a taste of some nice minimum maintenance gravel!

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 But first we stopped by the old Clements Bridge to shoot.

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 Connie and Sara were using their critical eye to find the shot.

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 Coyne Creek Road

Coyne Creek Road is a nice one having three low water crossings, hills and some pretty rough terrain on it. I figured it may be a little sticky, but ridable.

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 The views on Coyne Creek Road are worth the ride

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 The climb out and the sticky mud got the best of most of us.

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 Sara Kay climbed the hill with a smile.

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From the top of the hill

We took a quick break on the top of the hill to eat before heading back the way we came. It is fast and fun riding down the hill! As I rode down more and more mud was sticking to my tires and bike. Then it began to rain. The road soon became a mushy mess and we had to find a good line to ride to stay out of the thick mud.

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 I waited here for quite awhile for the riders to show up. The road was getting muddy. No riders were in sight. Something must be wrong.

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I rode ahead with Rachel and stopped to shoot this.

Still no sign of the rest of the group behind us. Rachel let me know that Matt had his second flat of the day and they were changing it, but they still were taking quite awhile.

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Rachel cleaning some of the mud from her bike

Soon John rode up. He looked to be pedaling fast as if he had an urgent message to relay to us. His first words were something like, “Well it’s time for plan B.” Matt had taken on too much mud and his rear derailleur wasn’t pleased. It objected but it was too late. The derailleuer would derail no longer as the mud and rocks got the best of it.

I hightailed it back to camp as fast as I could to get John’s Suburban. That’s the fastest I rode all year. I made the ten miles or so back to camp in record time. Camp Wood Road never felt so long as when I knew I had to rescue one of my riders.

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I took Highway 50 as a shortcut back to camp. After all the mud and bike destruction, the clouds thinned out and finally gave us the beautiful sky we hadn’t seen since Friday night’s sunset.

It all worked out. I picked up Matt, John and Rachel and we drove the rest of the way to camp. Matt was still in good spirits even though he’d have to have his bike repaired. Sorry Matt! It’s all part of the Flint Hills experience.

I had a great time on the Photocycling Tour. Once again the participants and I discussed my lack of business sense and screwed up business model. I need a business partner, as I would do this for free. The money side of things is just not my strong point, but making new friends through photography and cycling? That’s effortless.

Thanks to all the participants and to Camp Wood for a great weekend. I am looking forward to the next one!

Feed Your Monkey!