As I was organizing blog categories recently I began thinking “Crap this is a lot of work and time spent.” When I first started the blog I didn’t even know what direction to take with it. I had never done a blog and just sat there with my fingers on the keyboard wondering what the hell should I type? It wasn’t easy. For a week I would start something, erase it, start over, erase it, completely confused about what to write about. Then one day Margaret is watching me sit there staring at the blank blog canvas and says, “You know you can add pictures too.” GREAT, I wasn’t even writing anything let alone considering sticking pictures up. More confusion, thanks. I was lost. Then Margaret mentioned the FWHOG Chapter was having a ride on the weekend and I should take pictures and write about that. Great idea! And that was the first post and how it all got started.
Looking back now at that first post, Going to the Gap Ride, I see how much the blog has changed. It used to be limited to a few pictures and a short dry write up of the ride. Over time I added video, slideshows, and write ups dealing with a variety of riding related subjects. What first used to be focused only on Chapter rides now expands out to anything riding related that I want to write about. Topics now come so easily that I often have enough posts completed to stretch out for a month ahead of time. Some of the posts might have taken place a month before it ever gets posted. An afternoon on the road can easily prompt an idea for several write-ups.
Writing was and still is the most difficult challenge for me in putting together a blog post. It’s gotten easier but it’s still a struggle. I am not a writer, I don’t have an extended vocabulary to express myself as a writer does, and because of that my posts can be pretty boring sometimes. It’s still important for me to try in hopes that someone will find something enjoyable in each post. I spend HOURS writing posts, reading, editing, re-reading, deleting, starting over, trying to write something that provides enough interest to keep people coming back. For us the blog is a digital archive of our history of riding since I first began posting. For readers my hope is they can relate, laugh, learn, and get a bit of entertainment once a week from a quick read, photos, and occasional video.
Along with the writing challenges comes the visual media difficulties. Picture presentation is easy, just upload them and create a slideshow that links to the post. Taking pictures is not so easy though. Even before snapping shots I often have to determine camera settings such as the aperture value, ISO, time value, shutter speed, and white balance. I rarely use full auto on my camera preferring instead to manually set up the camera for shooting. I almost never post pictures that have been “cleaned” to look better with picture editing software. What you see is what was taken. I do occasionally add some weird effects to them just playing around but I prefer a clean picture that hopefully captures the moment. So there is some work involved just to add picture media. It takes time and it takes money. The time factor involves taking pictures when others are having fun, downloading them, sorting through them, making them the correct file size to view as a slideshow, and keeping original backups to our server updated in case of a hard drive crash. the money factor comes in when I have to buy digital storage cards for the camera and keep purchasing hard drives for space to store them. The higher the resolution, the more megs/gigs it takes of storage space. I also have to pay once a year to have the digital sensor in the camera cleaned. And of course the cost of the camera itself with the accessories. We actually have 2 cameras we use, an older Canon Rebel EOS XT and a newer Canon Rebel 3Ti that Margaret won on some blog survey thing.
Another difficulty is the video. Until I got the GoPro I had never owned a video camera. I work for hours on every video that gets posted. The maintenance videos are the easiest because I just do the work and talk while pointing the camera at whatever it is I’m doing. Other video is harder though. Trying to figure out what might make a good 4 second clip and tell a story is freaking difficult. While riding trying to figure out what will best portrait the scenery and ride is even more freaking difficult. What the eye sees doesn’t always show the same when the clip is downloaded to the computer for editing. The feelings invoked from the ride don’t always transmit through that camera eye onto the screen. So I struggle hard with this. I’ve gotten better from when I used to mount the camera in a stationary position on the engine guard. Now I just hold the thing and point it at whatever I think might be a good clip. I get smoother cleaner video and more variety of subject matter doing it this way. I keep 6-32 gigabyte memory cards just for the GoPro. Those are not cheap but I need to be sure to have enough video storage. In order to do anything with all this media, pictures included, I have a computer which I have to keep running and updated, like I did recently by upgrading the OS, and the software to work on the media. I use Photoshop Pro for the pictures when I re-size or do freaky things to them. I also use Photoshop to make graphics used for the blog header and background, and the headers used at the start of each video. I use Sony Movie Studio 13 Platinum for creating the video. Most of my videos are on Vimeo which I pay a yearly fee for as well. All of this incurs cost and time.
Once the ride is over and we get home I usually download all of the pictures and video clips so I can start working with them throughout the week. I’ll browse the pictures deleting any that just don’t make the cut. To me, just because a picture was taken doesn’t mean it should be used so I try to only present the ones that have good subject matter. The write-up can take days for me. I might work on one for a few hours, stop for a couple days, and pick back up on it again later. The video also takes hours. Compiling the clips, trimming the header and the tail of each clip to get the right start and stop point, merging them together, creating audio envelopes for adjusting sound levels up and down to try and maintain sound consistency throughout the video, and adding music if used. When I use music it adds a whole new dimension to the video creation process. I like to try and use music that in some way pertains to the video. Sometimes the lyrics of the song, the title, the type of music, or instrumental will be used in the video to correspond with what I wrote about. I try hard to mesh what I write about with the pictures, video, and music so the entire post is all encompassing in regards to subject content.
The next time consuming procedure is matching the video clips to the music. If I can do it, I try to make transitions between clips timed with the music beat and rhythm. I like to try and make clip content match words in the song when I can. If you watch some recent videos like the Loco Coyote ride you’ll see things like when Kenny Wayne Sheppard says “Kings Highway” the video changes at that moment from a town to a highway. Or when he says “not looking back” I pan or transition the video clip to show Margaret riding behind me or roll the video in front of me instead of behind. The Muenster & Bridgeport video which uses the song “Vapor” by Little Big town shows a gas lamp on a building and the Bridgeport, TX fire and smoke when they say “fire and vapor”. The content of the song also goes with all the different things we saw that day, what I wrote about, and that we should live life to its fullest before it’s gone. I also try to smooth clip transitions so the change is subtle and blends nice. In this same video there is a drilling rig that I timed the transition from the side of the rig to the front so that its swinging in the same direction during the transition. If I had changed the clip from when the rig was moving in an upward swing to an immediate downward swing it wouldn’t flow smoothly. In yet another video, one of our Chapters Skills Day videos, the music changes from a theatrical mood setting music to rapid electronic industrial music at the moment the video transitions from showing others doing maneuvers to a first person view from my bike taking off onto the course. There are other teasers like these throughout the video as well that if you watch and listen closely you can pick them out. Another time in the Strawn, TX video when the large group of oncoming bikes passes by, almost every bike passes in time with the rhythm of the song. And after all of this, the video clips have to fit within the time frame of the music.
I feel nearly completely confident these intricacies go unnoticed by most people. I do it because it adds dimension to the video that someone may or may not see, or provide them with something look for. It gives an element of surprise to viewers if they happen to catch it in the video. I’m far from even being an amateur in video creation but I still try to make them enjoyable with little hidden surprises when I can make it work.
I know this was a long post. I just thought it might be interesting to go through the details of what it takes to make a weekly post. There are many hours of work to create the typical post and even more if a video is involved, and costs associated with each step. And all of this is done between my full time job and riding time. I guess it’s become one of those labor of love things for me. It’s fun and frustrating all together but the end result is something for everyone to hopefully enjoy.