LomoAmigo John Prolly takes us around on his favorite mode of transportation. His Bike! This cycling enthusiast shows us that not only can he ride his bike, but he can also shoot film photography!
Name: John “Prolly” Watson
City: Austin Texas / worldwide on a bike
Please tell the community something about yourself.
I’m known to the cycling world as “Prolly”, the red-bearded, cycling, party animal photographer with a love of bourbon and bikes. My blog, ProllyisNotProbably.com has become a staple for the urban cycling world over the years and everyone from Richard Sachs to your 16 year old brother visits it daily. When I’m not working on a project, I’m usually on my road bike in the hills of Austin, or in a drainage ditch riding fixed freestyle and BMX with friends.
What was your first cycling adventure like?
While I rode bikes in college, riding for the first time in NYC was quite the experience. I sold my bikes prior to moving to New York, thinking no one had nice bicycles there (little did I know). For the first two years of riding in NYC, I took the train when it was crappy out but I eventually bought rain gear and never took the train again (literally). In the 7 years I lived in NYC, the last 5 were spent commuting on the daily. That, to me was quite the adventure. There’s nothing that can prepare you for riding in NYC. Cabs, pedestrians and delivery trucks don’t see you and they’ll do anything to accidentally walk out in front of you or knock you off your bike. All the years I spent mountain biking in North Carolina, where I grew up, couldn’t prepare me for that!
You make digital documentations of your cycling life. What was it like to shoot using film after perhaps, a long time?
I shot with film in college. I graduated from Architecture school in ‘04 and we had to take a photography class. My skills were limited for the most part, but I understood the basics of exposure, etc. I bought a DSLR about two years ago and started to shoot with film around the same time; just a little PAS 35mm camera. The beauty of film is that you can either take time to compose the shot or you can shoot from the hip and either way, you have no idea how it’s going to come out.
How did you find the LC-A+ as a cycling buddy?
It was perfect. I usually roll around with my Yashica T4 or my Ricoh GR1 and it’s nerve wracking. Those are expensive little bastards and I was always worried about my sweat dissolving some mechanical system. The LC-A+ is about as simple as you can get. Since it’s a range focus, most of the shots were either 3’ or infinity. The controls are a piece of cake, it fits in your jersey pocket and is incredibly resilient. I dropped it a few times! Shhhhh!
Of all the photos you’ve taken using the LC-A+, which are your favorites? Can you tell us the stories behind them?
Favorites are tough. Sometimes the colors pop more in one or the subject’s a bit out of focus but both create interesting photographs. I really loved the way the Odyssey Texas Toast BMX Jam photos came out. It was a BMX competition that was meant to bring the fun back into the sport. So many trick comps are filled with serious attitudes and the Texas Toast Jam brought pros against the local kids. Everyone was riding over giant sunglasses or ramps made to look like dragons. The photos capture the Texas summer heat and the shear scope of the comp. People were stoked! I’m also really feeling some of the photos from my recent trip to Pittsburgh, PA. It’s a rad city, filled with unexpected moments of decay. Those post-industrial revolution landscapes, turned modernist yuppy hideout always present interesting textures.
Name three songs that would serve as the soundtrack of your LC-A+ photos.
When I ride my bike, I usually have one headphone bud in playing one of a few albums. If I’m in the mood, I’ll throw on some blackened germanic thrash like Nocturnal. Their song “Death is the Answer” is an all-out crank fest. Or if I’m feeling some doomy death metal, Hooded Menace’s album Never Cross the Dead fills that niche. They use clips from old horror flicks like Tombs of the Blind Dead to create this menacing ambiance. But once and a while Sabbath or Discharge will do the trick.
If you could photograph someone, living or otherwise, using the LC-A+, who would it be?
I have what some would call an obsession for a Belgian cyclist named Eddy Merckx. I’ve owned numerous Eddy Merckx bicycles ranging from a team 7-Eleven (yes, the convenience store), to a German team’s track bike. He’s still alive but I’d love to photograph him in his heyday. The man broke the hour record and won the Tour and the Giro. In his day his nickname was the “Cannibal” because he would eat his competition alive!
Is there a dream cycling location you haven’t gone to yet?
I would love to ride in France. The Alpe d’huez is nestled in the French Alps. It’s got it all, elevation, views, you name it. The history of that place is mind-numbing to think about. So many of cycling’s greatest athletes crossed this range. I just finished a cycling tour from Portland to SF. 850 miles in 9 days on a fully loaded bike. It’s crazy carrying everything you need to live on your bike. Tent, cooking supplies, clothing, tools, you name it. My bike, made by the guys at Geekhouse Bikes in Boston, was designed especially for me. Think of a custom suit. It fit perfectly! So riding it fully loaded (80+ lbs!) was a cinch. I averaged about 100 miles a day, over ranges, through the Redwoods and some of Cali and Oregon’s most beautiful beaches. You really can’t beat touring!
What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of your cycling life?
Cycling teaches you patience. It also keeps you in shape unlike any other sport. Most people go to the gym and work on “fake muscles”, or muscles just for show. You don’t get that in cycling. Depending on what kind of bike you ride, you get a different workout. Fixed freestyle, BMX and MTB will give you massive amounts of upper body definition, while road cycling will give you legs of steel. In the end, you’re healthy and the endorphins keep you stoked on life.
Any tips for aspiring LC-A+ users, especially those who may want to take theirs out on a cycling trip? Shoot from the hip! Don’t over-think the composition. If you’re good enough with the basics (rules of thirds, etc) you’ll have an inherent ability to product quality images. The range focus is a bit tricky but remember that your arm is a good measure of distance. Some of my favorite shots from range focus cameras are the ones where I just pulled it out and fired, without checking any of the settings. Also be sure to bring different types of film. I love shooting true black and white but cross-processed color comes out rad!
Check out his gallery below: