Time alone in the woods comes in many different form factors. Riding, digging, hiking around scouting for lines and angles to shoot with other riders are everyday components of life for many people in the bike world. Now and then, I find pointing the camera back on myself for a day or two to be a fun and rewarding process. On one hand, it lets me pick apart my own riding, which I rarely get to see. And on the other, more interesting hand, it’s a low-consequence way for me to test out camera equipment, contraptions, and concepts that I wouldn’t necessarily want to try for the first time on a client shoot. It’s a good test platform for the “what the hell is that” ideas that might not work.

Cameras and lenses are just like bikes: by adding or removing components, you can completely change the feel of an image. Sometimes you want a snappy XC whip, and sometimes you want a planted enduro race bike. And by changing some tires and suspension settings, you can get closer to either one with whatever bike you have. Other times, you want to drop in on a rigid single speed with a suspension seat post, tassels, and a playing card in the spokes. The lens contraption I shot with for this video is like that, but with a sweet airbrushed flame paint job that’s been fading in the sun since 1969.

In order, beginning closest to the camera, I had a focal reducer, a vintage 50mm lens, an even older anamorphic projector scope, and a variable diopter. All that glass does a lot to degrade image quality, but where you lose the elements that make an image clean, you have the opportunity to gain a certain character. And while “character” is not appropriate for every job—like the rigid single speed isn’t appropriate on every trail—the dirty, imperfect anamorphic image this particular combination of glass produced is very different from stock in a way that does fit certain projects. Since shooting this last spring during the height of Covid, I’ve come to a good understanding of how those pieces of equipment interact with each other, and what their charms and limitations are, and how they can be interchanged to tune the image. I’ve even found a few projects where I felt that such a look enhanced the content of a video. Mission accomplished.

The bike in this clip is a slightly more conventional Kona Process 134, tuned towards a firm, more supportive midstroke using a MegNeg can, and a damp on-trail feel with DH casing tires.

Peter Wojnar