This autumn, I managed to get out to Elk Island National Park twice, with two broad goals. First, I wanted to do some early morning photography, and secondly, I wanted to explore some ideas I’ve been having about using a mountain bike, not for ripping, shredding, or even bunny hopping, but as a means for observing nature and exploring with a camera. In some ways, Autumn is a particularly good time to do this, as trails tend to be dry, the light atmospheric, and the leaves colourful. So, this was to be more about NTC (nature trail cycling) rather than MTB (major trail bashing).
But a small confession should be made. I find that once on the bike, I become possessed. The MTB thrill can override the loftier NTC motivation. Even as a walking photographer, there were times that I would forego the shot to maintain the walking rhythm that I am in, simply being with nature rather than trying to capture it. On a bike, it’s kind of the same, but different. Gone is the quiet nature-rambling soul. Instead, it’s the bike and I, in the flow, cruising down the trail, entranced by the rush. Sometimes I find it hard to stop to take photographs, or even slow down when the path is obstructed by fallen trees or a stray chainsaw…
But I do have to stop. At some point, I have to take a break to boost my blood sugar and rehydrate. I’ll find a promising spot to park the bike and, between snacks, I look for camera fodder. But now it is late autumn. There is less to photograph. There are a few birds and other wildlife around, but most subjects like flowers, fungi, or bugs have shut down for the approaching winter. Still, I enjoy these outings, as simply a pleasant retreat into a peaceful, if somewhat austere, landscape.
What will I do next in regard to NTC? At this point, I am not equipped to cycle snowy trails in winter, and my Nordic skiing skills are lamentable, so I won’t risk my camera equipment that way. I hope to start exploring each of the cyclable Elk Island trails next spring, with the goal of observing and photographing nature while scouting for potential photographic opportunities. I now have the beginnings of a workable setup for lightweight nature photography, and these late-season trials have shown that I can be comfortable and secure carrying them with a bicycle. I look forward to revealing more about the trails and refining the idea of Nature Trail Cycling, with the goal of sharing the results on this blog and, perhaps, even creating a video series to support it.