Russ Roca is a photographer and videographer, who enjoys using imagery to tell stories and share experiences. Russ has a fascination with zombies, a deep love of bacon, and a 5-piece fly fishing rod that has taught him about patience. His work has appeared in Adventure Cycling, Bicycle Times, Momentum Magazine, Rangefinder Magazine and Italian Vogue. Currently, he is combining his multi-media skills to inspire and advocate for bicycling around the country.
Being a photographer/videographer that goes to all assignments by bicycle, I have a different set of requirements for my gear. I shoot primarily travel photography and videos for various bicycling and adventure travel magazines and websites, with an emphasis on bicycling. All my gear is chosen with an emphasis on quality, volume and weight. On a bicycle, every pound counts (especially uphill!) but at the same time, I don’t want to compromise image quality.
When I go out to shoot and film multi-day bicycle adventures, I pack as light as possible, leaving the full-frame Nikon at home and take out my much more portable micro 4/3rd kit. For stills, I can usually get away without a tripod. But when I’m shooting video with the GH2, a tripod is absolutely necessary to avoid shaky, unusable video. I’ve been using MeFOTO tripods for the last few months and have been really impressed. They are highly packable, lightweight, nicely built and quick to deploy (all big assets when traveling...especially by bike!).
I’ve tried the MeFOTOs in two flavors, the BackPacker, which is the smallest version, and the RoadTrip, which falls in the middle of the line.The BackPacker is great for shooting stills with high-end point and shoots or any micro 4/3rds camera. I can fit the tripod and case easily in a pannier. Its only shortcomings are its shorter maximum height and slightly more vibration prone legs for video. If I needed a tripod just to shoot stills with, no video, the Backpacker would be a no-brainer.
The tripod in the MeFOTO line that I am most excited about however is the RoadTrip. It is larger than the Backpacker and can’t be quite as easily stowed in a pannier (though it fits well on a rear bicycle rack), but provides enough stability to not only shoot stills but also video. For my uses, I’ve replaced the provided ball head with a video fluid head on which I’ve mounted everything from a bare GH2; a GH2 with rails, follow focus, audio recorder and matte-box; to even a small 2 foot video slider with another fluid head!
Another benefit is that if I want to go even more mobile, one of the legs on the Road Trip can be converted into a monopod. This setup is great for run and gun videography when I’m grabbing b-roll. While not as rock solid as a shot on a tripod, when combined with some image stabilization software and good technique, it allows me to capture moments you might have missed.
The RoadTrip extends to a great usable height without raising the center column. This means more stable shots when shooting video with a long lens. The twist locks are super fast to deploy. I’ve gotten good practice with unlocking all the locks of a single leg with one fluid motion then extending the leg with a flick. The overall build quality is excellent. I’ve used many small travel tripods with spindly legs that don’t compare. I’m not saying it’s rock solid as a full sized Vinten or Sachtler, but for tripods of similar size/class it performs really well.
When the MeFOTOs first came out, I thought it was all flash and sparkly colors. But after using them for the last several months I’ve come to appreciate them as great photo and video tools. While they won’t work for every camera or every situation, when an assignment calls that involves long days in the bicycle saddle up and over mountain passes, I definitely pack a MeFOTO on my bike.
Depending on the type of shoot I'm doing (video, stills, b-roll capture, interview) the gear I carry varies widely. When portability is paramount, the MeFOTO RoadTrip always comes along. But my basic kit includes:
GH2 + spare batteries
50mm f/1.4 Nikkor
45mm f/1.8 Olympus
20mm f/1.7 Lumix
ND Filters and adaptor rings
Varavon Slidecam Lite 600
Zoom H1 audio recorder
Sennheiser MKE 400
+ spare batteries
50mm 1.4 Nikkor
Nikon Strobes x5
(and various gels)
Chimera Small Softbox
GH2 or Olympus EP3
On My Bike