1st February 2021
James Popsys | Using Bokeh
How did you get into photography?
I’ve always liked to think of myself as a creative person, but my singing voice and attempts at painting say otherwise. But in the late naughties myself and my now wife did a fair bit of travelling, and naturally we thought it a good idea to take some cameras. It wasn’t until then in dawned on me that taking pictures could be a creative outlet, so I stuck the karaoke machine and paint brushes in the back of the cupboard, and got to learning how to take pictures.
What makes a bicycle a good tool for you as a photographer?
Lots of the images I take are in difficult to reach places. That means a car likely won’t get you close enough, and if you’re on foot it’ll take all day to reach a single location. A bike is often a perfect happy medium enabling you to see lots more stuff before the sun goes down. In fact even if you spot a beautiful scene next to a roadside, I’d still much rather be on the bike than in a car because finding somewhere to pull over in a car at those spots is where I do 90% of my swearing.
Why a bike like a Bokeh in particular?
Versatility. I love my mountain bike but it has a tendency to pretend it’s swimming in treacle on the road. The Bokeh eats up bridleways but when I’m back on the road it gets me home for dinner in no time. And mine is orange, which is worth at least 100 watts.
How do you have your Bokeh bicycle set-up for photography? How do you carry your kit?
On my back for the most part, with any kit that isn’t electronic in bags o the . I’d love to put more camera gear on the bike but because the Bokeh is so capable off-road that’s where I like to play, and cameras just don’t like that kind of vibration.
Where are you based in the UK? Why there?
I live just outside of Snowdonia in North Wales. Luckily for me I grew up here and I love it. We’ve got coastline and mountains, and we’re not at the end of the earth so getting to other parts of the country is easy. It is wet though, so leave the dry lube at home.
Being based in Wales and exploring it a lot you must know it pretty well. Whereabouts in Wales would you recommend we visit with our bikes?
If you’ve got a mountain bike, get up Snowdon on the Llanberis path and down on the Ranger path. In the summer months you have to do it in the early morning or evening as there’s a cycling agreement in place. On an adventure bike, head in an direction from Capel Curig and you’ll find mountains, woodland fire roads and if you’re unlucky, completely unrideable bogs. But in any case, you’ll get back to the car with a story!
How is your work split, commercial/pro work, YouTube etc?
These days all of my work comes as a result of my YouTube channel. So alongside ad revenue and sponsored videos, I sell books and prints, and I run photography tours around the world. It’s all only possible because of the YouTube channel though.
What's in your camera bag?
I currently use a range of bodies from Lumix, and with lenses I like to cover myself from 16mm to 200mm. When I’m conscious of weight I take my micro four thirds gear, and if I’m shooting in low light then I’ll opt for a full frame set up.
Please tell us about the top 3 places you've taken photos?
Greenland, Sri Lanka and the Dolomites. 3 completely different places but all special in their own way. Greenland has to be the pick though, I’ve been lucky to visit a couple of times and what always gets me is the silence. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where away from the towns, there is zero noise. Apart from my camera's shutter, obviously.
And where do you most want to go right now?
I’m lucky enough to have lots of special trips in the diary - Antarctica, Patagonia, Namibia to name a few. To be honest though I’ve started feeling a little conflicted about travel for the sake of pictures. These trips involve lots of flights, sometimes helicopters, hotels, lots of single use plastics. I’m looking to find a way to adventure that doesn’t make me feel quite as burdensome going forward. That screams bike packing doesn’t it...
Can you give us 3 tips for making better photographs while out on our bikes? Or rephrasing it, what are the 3 top mistakes that people make when making images while bikepacking?
The best photography tip I can give that applies to any circumstance is to strip everything back to basics. Most people look to cram as much into a photo as possible, which is like trying to get as many instruments into a piece of music as possible. Every element that you add to a photo likely adds confusion, indifference and noise. Aim to make your images as simple as they can possibly be, and people will engage with them more. Always think “what can I remove from this scene?” rather than “what can I add?"
What would you recommend for a simple bikepacking camera setup?
It’s cliche, but phones have come a long long way. If you’re after the best image quality in the lightest set up possible, I’d go for a mirrorless full frame camera with something like a 24-105mm lens, which gives a great general purpose coverage. Just be careful about keeping it in your bar bag if you’re heading onto the rough stuff.