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The Border Raid

Guest post from Greg Villalobos of Adventure Spec, though this story was actually on his Shoot and Ride site. You'll see from the post that it mixes a love of riding and adventure bikes, with a passion for photography.

All words and photos: Greg Villalobos

This summer I invited Gary from Sideburn to come up and ride through Northumberland into The Scottish Borders. It would take two days with an overnight stop at Wooler Youth Hostel. Gary would be on the Adventure Spec CRF300L, and we would be joined by Chris on the GasGas ES700 and Ryan on his FE350. I was riding my 450EXC.

Gary, Chris, Ryan

The route was an adaptation of TET Borderlands, part of the UK Trans Euro Trail. While this part of the county is not quite as dramatic as its neighbouring Lake District, it is vast, open and very sparsely populated. West of Morpeth there are a LOT of water crossings. Some of these are simple fords and some were raging rivers that are really only for the brave and / or those willing to sink a hour or two into un-drowning their bikes.

None of us were feeling that brave.

Water crossings are always fun. I won't lie, I'm always sitting there with my camera ready to capture the moment someone dunks their pride and joy. Ruthless I know. This time round everyone got across all the rivers safe and sound.



I experimented with shooting a high shutter speed (200th second +) to freeze every drop of water being flung off the back wheel, as well as a slower shutter speed (30th second ish) that blurred the water splash and created a sense of movement.

For the slower shots I used back button focus on my Canon R5 to lock onto the bike and rider, and then physically tracked them riding past. This helps keep the centre of frame sharp and create blurred movement towards the edges.

Back button focussing gives you a lot more control over how you focus on your subject, it take a little getting used to but is a big improvement on the standard ‘half push shutter’ that many are used to.

We had hit a lane that was partly flooded in a deep muddy rut. What should have taken us a few minutes ended up turning into 20. It was time to take a breather, strip off and cool down.

These are often great opportunities to shoot more candid shots, where riders remove helmets and you can actually see who they are and capture the hot, sweaty reality of it all. A lot of these frames are shot wide at 14mm with my Canon RF 14mm - 35mm f4 lens.

Whenever I'm riding I'm trying to figure out how to tell the story of the day with my camera. We were right in the middle of August harvest and the farms were busy with tractors and combines brining in the years crop. I parked my 450EXC up against this hay bale and asked Gary to pose next to it. To be honest I thought the farmer was going to have a proper go at us as he drove past in his John Deere but he just waved from the cabin.

It would have been easy not to stop and get this shot, I'm glad we did.

Gary enter Scotland wearing full Adventure Spec gear, with Sideburn-edition Kriega backpack

Sign posts make a great prop for telling a story, or getting people to think about what's going on in the frame. Sometimes it's not until you get back to the edit that you realise you've captured something that has different levels of interpretation.

We rode quite late into early evening, just as golden hour was hitting the golden crop. It was glorious. I used my long RF 70/200mm lens to try and capture some of the texture of that experience. I also played around with a slightly slower shutter speed, the idea to put the focus on the crop and not the bikes.

On the way back down from the Scottish Borders into England we cut across Kielder Forest Drive, a 12-mile long gravel toll road. I've ridden this track loads and it's one that I have a long running project with to try and find the perfect corner, the right angle to get that killer shot. I've not found it yet, I think I get too carried away with the riding and really I just need to slow down, ride it both ways and be more systematic.

A lot of these shots look like the guys are riding fast, but in reality they are going maybe 15/20mph. This allows me to track them with a slightly slower shutter speed that gives the impression of speed. In reality, when riders are bombing past at the speed of light it's really hard to get a sharp shot!

We are lucky to have some incredible landscapes to enjoy in the bike here in the north of England. As I prepare to send this email out the crops have already been taken in, the days are getting shorter and the trails wetter and muddier.

Autumn is upon us and with the new season a whole new experience of Shoot & Ride begins.

It’s time to wrap up warm and get out as the leaves start to turn golden.

1 Comment

Mr Znuk
Mr Znuk
Dec 01, 2023

nice tour, i ride the crf300l too, with much fun

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