There’s nothing like combining two great passions, travelling on motorcycle and photography, and experiencing them around the world. Tim Burke, riding his BMW GS 1200, tells us how he did it.
Name: Tim Burke
Job: Full-time nomad
Favorite place: “Home” Where my family lives: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Favorite book: “Chickenhawk” by Robert Mason
Favorite movie: “Good Willing Hunting”
The best day of your life: Oh, that’s a hard one to answer. Traveling to new places brings many highs. I’ve had so many amazing days that I didn’t want to end in so many different countries, it would be impossible to chose just one.
Best Journey you had: The current journey that I’m on, which simply hasn’t stopped since April, has been nothing short of amazing. Seeing almost all of Europe via motorcycle was a life changing experience that I’ll never forget.
Most Complicated Journey you had: Anytime shipping is involved or simply crossing borders, the logistics are challenging. I take every challenge slowly and methodically. There are certain times, especially when everything seems to be piling on top of each other and not working out perfectly, that things start to get complicated. By taking a deep breath and coming up with a strategic game plan, you will work through every complication.
Your motto. “The key to getting started is to quit talking and start doing” – Walt Disney
When did you decide to quit your job and travel the world with your motorcycle, making photography your life?
It’s always been a dream of mine. It was always something that I put on the backburner though. At the beginning of 2017, I started taking my dream seriously, studying maps, and roads. My dream turned into an obsession and it was all downhill from there. I started selling of my possessions and preparing my bike for tens of thousands of miles ahead. The hardest decision was leaving an amazing job that I worked hard to earn. I have no regrets.
Which photographers influenced you?
I’ve always been pretty independent – taking pictures of whatever I want. Since my photography started out as nothing more than a way to hang onto memories, I always took photos for me – not for the approval of social media, for example. I do enjoy following like-minded adventurers on social media though. Following the journeys of other world-travelers or local travelers is a good way to stay motivated. Simon Cudby’s (@cudby) motorcycle photography is 2nd to none. My friends Jesse Felker (@jfelk), Nick Livingston (@rodeo.Cowboy), Marcel Lestrade (@marcel.lestrade), and Spencer Hill (@the_gear_dude) are all talented photographers and I enjoy their galleries. We have different styles but we’re on the same level when it comes to our love of two-wheeled travel. There’s just so many people’s photos I like to see every day that it’s hard to determine if there is one “influence” that guided me to where I am now.
Which journey you made has influenced your style the most (if you have one)?
Again, each photo I take… each photo that is actually worth parking my motorcycle for and taking my gear out of it’s protective case (a chore sometimes) represents a memory from my travels. Each journey I’ve been on is documented by hundreds of photographs. The ones that seem to hold a place in my heart are always the ones with friends. When I can take a trip and spend a night around a campfire with friends… Those are the journeys that I am influenced by most
What makes a good picture stand out from a average?
A few things: First, I like a picture that is taken under some challenging lighting conditions. Maybe it’s at night or in poor visibility. Perhaps it was taken in miserable weather conditions… I can emphasize with the effort involved with getting the shot. The second thing that makes a photo stand out to me is one that tells a story. One that tells me about the environment and the feelings involved without reading the caption. Creative composition and creative vantage points also capture my attention.
What is your typical shooting gear?
I’m don’t own very fancy gear. For one, I just don’t have the room for it on the bike. Secondly, I just can’t risk having really expensive gear get broken during my travels as the camera gear takes quite a beating, bouncing around on rough dirt roads for days at a time
For now, I shoot with a Nikon D750 with the standard factory lens. It’s a f/4 24-120 lens that stopped autofocusing 6 months ago and has scratches on the glass! With patience, it gets the job done but it is a bit challenging to get fast shots.
My other lens (my favorite) is a 20mm F/1.8 lens. This is what I use primary for my night photography. For lighting and flash (I don’t have a remote flash) I just use the LED flashlight feature on my iPhone to illuminate subjects during long-exposures.
How do you load all your gear on you motorcycle, especially when you’re leaving for long or difficult travels?
I have a Pelican Case mounted on the rear of my motorcycle. It has foam on the inside that I have shaped to fit the camera and an extra lens. It keeps my gear waterproof and, for the most part, protected from the bumps.
What is going to be your next destination?
I am typing this from Bogota, Colombia! I just arrived today. I have some routine maintenance items (tires, oil change, etc) to take care of and then I will start meandering south, slowly. I will travel through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay on my way to the bottom of the continent!
The world of photography is constantly growing. It’s more and more difficult to find a personal style; you did it in a great way. What do you think about the future of photography, and what suggestions would you like to give to young photographers?
It’s funny. Social media has really changed the way we can market ourselves and find our style and it’s really easy to try to engage your audience by taking photos of what they want to see. What I think is most important is to take pictures of the things that YOU want to take pictures of. Take pictures of the things that YOU want to remember. Expose and process your photos how you want. You will find your own style, naturally!