Ride Slow, Take Photos

By Erik Mathy. Erik carries an entire 4×5 view camera on his bicycle journeys. Let’s check out some of his recent work…Ed.


Above: The Ferry Building, San Francisco. With giant polar bear.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a funny place. I’ve been riding up to the top of Hawk Hill, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge, pretty consistently in the mornings before work. It’s a nice climb with a couple of good punches for out of shape, slightly overweight guys like me. More importantly, there is also a decided lack of car traffic in the mornings which we cyclists can always appreciate. Anyways, for the last 2 months I haven’t been able to see the bridge from the peak of Hawk Hill. The fog is just too thick in San Francisco during the summer months.

But come September? The clouds part, the sun comes out, the Golden Gate is fog-free and our already fine Bay Area cyclist life gets all that much finer. For me, that’s because I’m almost always packing a camera when I ride. All that extra sunshine in September and October make from some fabulous photography.

A few years back some friends of mine and I did a big spate of long bikepacking trips. Crescent City to San Francisco. Klamath Falls to the Deschutes in Oregon. Fruita to Moab on the Kokopelli Trail. Those trips made me realize that I was not, nor would probably ever be, a very fast cyclist. I’ll never go back and race the Tour Divide like I tried to do way back when. I’ve found that what I love isn’t trying to keep up with the fast guys. It’s riding my bike and taking photographs.

Bicycle Times has been kind enough to ask me to send them over some photographs from my various rides each month. There’s a big 1200 mile photography bike tour on my horizon, and I’m working getting my camera setup down. I’ll be taking a self-made camera lens and an old, 50’s era Speed Graphic that shoots sheet film. I’m looking to scratch a pair of itches on this trip:

Do more creative work with my hands.
Make photographs that have a distinct, old look and feel to them.

And that’s the down low on my first, but hopefully not my last, edition of Ride Slow, Take Photos here at Bicycletimes.com. Enjoy!! Technical specs below…


San Jose Airport, San Jose, CA


Newmark Tennis Stadium at night, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA


Van Graffiti, Emeryville, CA


Burned out homeless encampment, Oakland, CA


Police, Oakland, CA


Motel, Oakland, CA


Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.


Skate Like A Girl, Town Park Skate Park, Oakland, CA.


Immigration Station, Angel Island, CA


Tiburon – Angel Island Ferry, San Francisco Bay, CA


China Camp, San Rafael, CA


Harry Bridges Plaza, San Francisco, CA

I shoot with a 1950’s era 3.25×4.25 Speedgraphic press camera. The lens is a handmade 140mm f/4.5 Dollar Bill Lens made with surplus optical glass elements and, yes, dollar bills. Film is Kodak X-Ray film. Its red light safe so I can cut it down safely from 8×10 to the oddball 3.25×4.25 size.  It shoots at 50asa, just like normal film.  The best part is that I can buy 100 8×10 sheets for $115, which makes for 400 sheets of 4×5 or smaller. It’s the cheapest way to do large format, by far!

Look for more of Erik’s work as he travels around, camera in tow. His next project is going to be epic! -Ed.



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