Beauty can lie within the ordinary. The humdrum. The good old commute. Ten miles each way, a workout for the legs, for the nerves. Who needs skydiving or bungee jumping when I can simply jump on a bike in central London and get my heart pumping?
Here’s a glimpse into the predictable but also surprising moments from the last four minutes of my commute. All content was recorded on my new GoPro (more on that below).
First, the surprising. I love this image, which I only came across when playing the video back. A nice little fist pump salute to the camera! This image alone almost makes the investment in the GoPro worthwhile! Long may such quirky moments continue.
Commuting the same route for 8 years [ach, 8 years – I need a new job!], you become familiar with the potholes, the pinch points, the sections where pedestrians cross the road without looking, like the one below. To be fair there is no green man at this crossing which is just ludicrous.
Sure London is busy and the commute can be crazy. Yet glance to my left and there’s history everywhere I look. I glance left everyday at this point.
Another glance to the left. Tower Bridge, usually with the sun rising behind it first thing in the morning. I love crossing London Bridge southbound against the trudge of the rat race. Plus, I’ll now be able to capture the incredible view when in December the sun rises right between the two pillars of the bridge. Normally it’s too cold to stop and get my phone out!
Another point where every day I’ll be guaranteed a pedestrian crossing in front of me no matter how much I ring the bike bell. I don’t get mad, I just slow down. I’m a firm believer in the hierarchy of the road.
There’s always one. Usually more unfortunately. The fella below decided to overtake the bus to save, oh I don’t know, 10 seconds, without really thinking things through.
A few more folk trying to save themselves ten seconds. Fortunately I’m going slow as the red lights are on. There’s another set of lights about 1 metre behind me.
Let’s finish on a more positive note. Looking west across London bridge, St Paul’s in the distance, London bus approaching, sun’s out. Life’s good.
GoPro Hero 6 first impressions
All of the above are unedited stills from my first GoPro commute. I filmed using a GoPro Hero 6. Light and compact, I picked up an ex-display model for a bargain price.
I think I’ll use the stills more than the actual videos! I’m hoping to capture some actual interesting footage when I go cycle touring. This is more a quick demo of what the camera can produce.
Most buy a GoPro for the almost professional quality of the filming. I’ll let the video do the talking. The image stabilisation is almost too good, too smooth. I feel like I should begin practising Morgan Freeman voice overs just to do the image quality justice.
The GoPro editing app, Quik, helps you produce quick video edits. The video below was created in about 20 minutes messing about on a mobile phone. Sure some of the settings can be a little cheesy but hey, this ain’t the Sundance Festival.
The app is a little buggy but it does the job. The major drawback is you can’t save to your SD card by default. A little crazy given the file sizes!
Note the slo-mo in the video below. Very nice. This was recorded in 1080, 60fps (frames per second). The YouTube compression loses a lot of the image quality so isn’t representative. There’s also 4k recording options on the GoPro and the ability to record at 240fps – ideal for super slo-mo when I crash!
You can also use the Quik app to create quick photo montages. This one took about 2 minutes. You can remove the fish-eye perspective from stills by changing the video perspective but I like the look.
When I have some decent footage I’ll bore you all with a combi-production of video, photos and time-lapses of mountains, cows, hairpins and roads so beautiful you’ll want to go for a bike ride.
Why record my commutes?
I wish I didn’t have to. Yet a few recent near misses broke my resolve. After over 15 years of cycle commuting in this dirty old town I decided to get a video camera. I’ve become jaded. Whilst the roads have on the whole become safer during this period, not so the unfathomable anger and rage of a minority.
You know the ones. The close passes which are not an accident, or the ones who actually try to knock you off your bike or the ones who simply want to fight you because you ride a bicycle.
Like the bus driver who last week would have squashed me when overtaking if I hadn’t stopped. Or the taxi driver who drove within centimetres of my rear wheel in attempt to intimidate me and save himself zero seconds. Or the man in the van, a passenger, who asked me why had I no lights on. In daylight. And then proceeded to rant and tell me he hoped I died. Nice chap.
Well no more. This isn’t me becoming a vigilante. This is documentary making. Awareness raising. Police, you will be sent incidents. Dangerous drivers, there will be consequences.
It’s such a shame it’s come to this. I love my commute. Whilst incidents are isolated, they are scary. Yet let’s not forget for every scary moment there’s a 100 lovely moments, like the one above of the girl giving the camera a black power fist salute!
So don’t worry, this blog will not become an advertisement for idiots. I’ll save such footage for the police. You’ll get goats in the road and summit views.