One of the categories of stories most requested by RoadBike readers is tour stories. Rightfully so: RoadBike is all about cruiser and touring motorcycles, the things you can do with them, and the places you can go. But if you’ve noticed, we rely heavily on contributors to supply the intriguing words and beautiful imagery that take you on a journey in each issue. It’s a matter of logistics. While we on staff ride and tour extensively, we still need to meet deadlines and slog through the office time to bring you each issue; we can’t be everywhere all the time.
Some of our contributors make repeat performances several times a year. They’re seasoned veterans of the touring story circuit and spend most of their time riding, shooting, and writing. Yet others appear less frequently. Those are sometimes readers just like you who have the urge to share one of their adventures with fellow readers, and they’re thrilled when they see their names in the byline.
For all the possible tour story pitches that cross our desks, there are only a small percentage that actually make it to print. Sometimes the locale of the topic has already been recently covered or perhaps the story isn’t interesting enough. After all, nobody wants to read about an all-highway journey with no side trips, and we’ve read many a story about wonderful family reunions, but that won’t have enough broad appeal for our readers. And, finally, some stories are intriguing and visit interesting sites, but unfortunately the supporting imagery isn’t strong enough to back it up.
In actuality, it’s the other way around. Images don’t back up text, they are the foundation upon which a great tour story is built. You’ve heard the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Never has it been more true than when we’re publishing a RoadBike tour story. As we say around the office, “With no art, there is no story.”
With so much riding on the pictures, we’ll start off with a list of tour story photo guidelines. The photos are usually the first aspect
we check on any story submission and weigh heavily on possible acceptance.
Look Before You Shoot
Take time to compose a stellar shot. Set up a gorgeous picture; horizontal format pictures are preferred. And shoot several views of each scene. Position the subject matter both centered in the frame and offset. Leave room around the subject so the image can bleed off the printed page. Watch the lighting. Try several different exposures and be cognizant of where the sun is in relation to your subject. In most cases, you want to keep the sun to your back and avoid getting the photographer’s shadow in the photo. Dramatically lit shots are usually taken at sunrise and sunset.
Trying to figure out what to shoot? Motorcycles! Shoot scenery with and without motorcycles. After all, this is a motorcycle magazine. Position the bike in the background sometimes; mix it up. Then shoot some scenery shots with no motorcycles, just wide-open vistas. Include people in some of your pictures, both motorcyclists and non-riders. Show the locals in their natural habitat, both candid and posed. And consider carrying a small tripod. Not only can you set the camera to get yourself in the shot, but it will help in low-light situations.
Shoot as many pictures as possible. Writers on staff here at RoadBike return home from tours with as many as 500 images from a five day trip. While only 10 to 20 may be used in print, we need plenty to choose from. Bring extra memory cards or download images to another storage device at the end of each day if possible.
Image quality is an important factor in laying out an attractive story. High-resolution digital pictures shot at 72 dpi should be at least 41.7″ x 27.8″ or 300 dpi at 6.7″ x 10″. A six-megapixel camera set at the highest resolution is a general setting that will perform to this level. The higher the resolution, the larger we can make the pictures on the page. Ever noticed the beautiful vista shots we run in RoadBike across a two page spread? (see page 38). This would never be possible with low resolution. Cellphone shots and video captures won’t do the trick.
When you return home with your collection of images, do a bit of editing. Weed through the images; delete the blurry, dark, and bad pictures. Sort and pick about 50 to 75 of the best pictures that illustrate the story. Got bad photos? If you didn’t get enough good pictures or you want to supplement what you’ve got, contact the chamber of commerce or tourism bureau for pro-quality, royalty-free art. Burn the original, unretouched image files to a CD, DVD, or USB stick.
Tell Us All About It
Captivate your audience. When possible, your story should have an angle. Why should the reader want to visit these places? What interested you enough to travel there? Themes are nice. Some trips are well thought out and planned to the nines, and others are full of last minute changes of plans. Tell the reader what the plan was, and we’ll all roll with the punches. Tour stories are mini-vacations for the mind of the reader. Take him away from the daily grind. Provide helpful tips that you discovered along the way which may be valuable to the readers, possibly in a sidebar.
What Am I Looking At?
We try to position images in tour stories to correspond with text nearby, but it’s not always possible. Include creative captions for images or batches of images. Captions for the photos should be numbered and match the sequential numbers of the photos, or provide an index of the images. Be sure to include the photographer’s full name for crediting purposes.
This Is Work
Plan on the trip taking longer than it would if you were not photographing it and taking notes. Resign yourself to the fact that this process takes time. Think you can cover 600 miles a day while writing a tour story? Better write (and shoot) fast. The key to a successful tour story is stopping many times for images and information.
RoadBike tour stories are usually printed at 1,200 to 1,500 words; however you should include more if possible. If it was a long journey, and the story is equally long, we might consider running it in sequence: Part I, Part II. Don’t become discouraged if your article is not accepted or printed right away. Monthly issues are planned with geographical regions in mind, and if you covered a region that was recently run in the magazine, your story may have to wait.
Beyond the tour story, RoadBike is always looking for motorcycle event coverage and destination stories as well. Those are usually 400 to 500 words in length, sometimes comprising just a one day trip. They are condensed tours. A list of source information should appear in a source box, or Hard Data section. Info for sights and locations should appear as follows:
Company name, product (hotel, restaurant, landmark, etc.), phone number, web site, GPS coordinates if available.
Let’s See It
All text documents should be formatted as a word doc, typed in New Times Roman, and saved to a CD, DVD, or USB stick. Send it, along with the high res images, to:
Re: Tour Submission
1010 Summer St., 3rd Fl.
Stamford, CT 06905
There you have it. That’s all it takes. Simple, right? Bet you didn’t realize so much effort goes into each tour story you enjoy in RoadBike. We hope you can appreciate it when you read about someplace like Machu Picchu or Yellowstone’s Grand Teton Loop. And we hope you’ll give it a try. Share your adventure with us and your fellow RoadBike readers. Take us along with you, and see your name in bold print in these pages. RB
By Steve Lita
Originally printed in RoadBike, April 2011.