When you begin riding bikes you are constantly bombarded with new challenges – your first mountain, your first puncture or even the first time you get lost. Like anything though, after a certain period of time these challenges become less stimulating. You can always push yourself harder or ride further but nothing will ever compare to that feeling when you first reached the summit of that illusive mountain. For us, this adventure was about chasing that feeling. We wanted to do something so far out of our comfort zone that there was a possibility that we wouldn’t even make it. To find a challenge befitting this criterion we travelled half way across the world to the northern most pocket of India to ride from Manali to Khardung La; a Himalayan road made famous by it’s altitude and it’s precarious nature.
Claimed by many to be the highest and most dangerous motorable road in the world, the 515km stretch of road traverses numerous peaks above 5,000 metres and rarely dips below 3,800 metres making it one of the World’s most challenging cycling adventures. Built over 100 years ago by the Indian Army, the road is only open during the summer months, yet even in this period is prone to constant landslides and motor vehicle accidents. During the remaining 8 months of the year the road is blocked by snow and subject to constant avalanches. Admittedly, it doesn’t come across as the perfect cycling destination but that was all part of the allure. Like all cyclists, there is something hardwired into our brain that seeks out risk and adventure. For two mediocre cyclists nearly carrying our own weight in filming equipment this was easily the most difficult ride either of us had ever undertaken – and to make things more interesting we had only 8 days to do it.
A vast majority of us, when planning to go out to take photos, spend our time considering what lenses we need to put into our bag, which ones we can leave behind to save weight, and what accessories we will need for a particular shoot.
With the Canon 1200mm lens, planning involves not what to bring and leave behind, it starts with this question: “How many people do I need to bring with me to carry the gear needed to get the shot?” If you own this lens, you had better have at least one friend who is passionate about photography and willing to carry heavy loads. You may be better off with two or more friends. Carrying the lens, camera bodies, and supports is more accurately a 2.5-person job. Hauling the gear to a location and shooting a lens like this is more akin to a logistics challenge than simple planning.
Also, there is nothing casual about this lens. You cannot just decide, on a whim, to take it outside to make some photographs. If you want to try to use the optic to its fullest potential, you will need to scout locations, have ideas of what images you want to capture, and keep an eye on the weather. Remember to do all this while coordinating the schedules of several other people who you will need to pull this off.