It’s one thing to ride your motorcycle through lush valleys and overshadowing mountains…the visual snapshots you see as you whiz by glossy skyscrapers and underneath ridiculously puffy white clouds are images you wish your family and friends could witness themselves. But it’s another thing to try and savor these wonders by attempting to take pictures with our cameras. Sure, sometimes it comes out looking nice…but let’s be honest. It’s pretty darn difficult to capture even remotely the awesomeness of a ride! But once in a while you get a talented photographer, like Mike Rand, who is able to take photos that share with the world all the colors and textures and excitement that riders see during their excursions.
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Perhaps one of the most liberating aspects of motorcycling is that you don’t need to justify getting out on two wheels. Whether you’re a fan of adventure riding, sports bikes, commuting to work on a bike or just cruising around town, the overwhelming sense of freedom is the same. Amateur photographer Mike Rand has combined his love of motorcycling with a passion for his chosen art form. The freedom of two wheels has allowed Mike access to some extraordinary locations which form the backdrop to his equally breathtaking images.
Riding a BMW R1150GS Motorcycle, Mike has extensively toured Australia, Canada and his native USA over the past nine years. Throughout the journeys, Mike captured stunning shots of landscapes, horizons, nature and the bike itself. Although he is not a photographer by trade, the 34-year-old has displayed a natural talent for creating interesting images and as such has seen his work appear in two published books and in several museum exhibits.
“I have always been a very keen photographer, as my father, Glenn Rand, is an internationally respected photographer and academic,” explains Mike. “He has displayed his work at numerous museums across the world. This gave me the inspiration to take up photography and it’s something that I love to this day.”
It wasn’t until Mike traveled to Australia that his passion for motorcycling was realised. “I was living in Australia, completing my Masters degree,” he continues. “I was surfing most days, enjoying the local life and traveling around the area in a pick-up truck. Then, during a break from college I decided the time was right to see a little more of the country, so I headed to my local BMW Motorrad dealer and picked up an R1150GS. My original plan was to ride around Australia, so I stuck to that as rigidly as possible. I’d only ridden about 15,000 miles in total before the trip, but nevertheless I set out and headed west across the outback!”
With such limited riding experience, Mike couldn’t have chosen a more challenging first ride than a trek across some the world’s harshest terrain. “It was a pretty interesting experience,” he admits. “I was dodging kangaroos, cattle and sheep and riding on some very difficult tracks. Unfortunately, one day I lost my clutch about 200km from any type of town! Luckily I had prepared in advance and read about survival techniques in the bush, so had taken a satellite phone with me that I was able to use to call for rescue.”
Not only did his Australian adventure equip Mike with invaluable experience on two wheels, but it also provided material for his first book – ‘Motorcycling to Aesthetics: Australia’ – which features page after page of stunning photography from the world’s most desolate continent. Whatever happened on his first foray into long-distance riding awoke a sense of adventure that has remained with Mike and since spawned several ambitious trips.
He has ridden 200,000 miles in the last nine years, covering not just Australia but all the northern-most roads in Alaska and Canada plus most of the lower 48 states of America. In 2008 he even made it to the semi-final of the inaugural BMW Motorrad GS Trophy, however family commitments forced his withdrawal prior to the final. “One of the most rewarding trips I went on was through Alaska,” Mike recalls. “It was a 22-day trip and I think I only experienced two days of dry weather and clear skies. I rode the rest of it in torrential rain and deep snow. In the Yukon region in particular, I went through mile after mile of snow, at some points six inches deep. Needless to say, I got some fantastic shots from that time.”
Mike added to his portfolio of work with extensive riding throughout the USA, although the birth of his daughter forced him to cut back on the amount of time he spent either on a motorcycle or with a camera in his hand. “Most of my work now centres on the United States, mainly due to family commitments,” he admits. “But there is so much diversity on my doorstep that it doesn’t seem necessary to travel to the other side of the world to take interesting shots. I visit Nevada and Utah, which offers some superb, challenging riding.”
As a result, his second book, entitled ‘159059’ (which reflects the amount of miles his R1150GS had covered at the end of the project), took slightly longer to compile but contains over 100 portraits of quintessential North America.
Having captured North America and Australia on film, Mike now intends to expand his horizons even further. “I have so many aspirations for riding in the future as I love being out on the GS,” he concludes. “There are so many places you can get to where you can’t with a car or 4×4. I would love to ride across Russia one day, perhaps with my daughter on the back of the bike. I’d also like to see Europe and I plan to go to South Africa in 2012. I’ve covered 162,000 miles on the bike so far in less than ten years, and have compiled two photography books during the same time. I don’t intend on stopping any time soon!”
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