By The Donut Shop Team
Grant Hindsley’s new series takes a look at The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WBDR), “a classic off-road motorcycle trip navigating the lesser-travelled path in Washington state.” Hindsley, a midwesterner based in Seattle after making his way through Utah and Colorado, is a professional photographer with roots in photojournalism. We talked to him about his experience on the WBDR and his general approach to picture taking in our Q&A below. You can check out more of his work on his website and his Instagram.
DS: When did you start shooting photos? Riding a motorcycle?
GH: I started in high school, though my mother put a camera in my hands when I was just a child. I remember taking my first photo of my stuffed Peter Rabbit and later my first roll of film of the Blue Angels, which I promptly opened and ruined. I hopped on a motorcycle when I got to Utah and realized I could do whatever I want!
DS: When did you realize you could meld your two interests?
GH: Probably this year! I’d love to do more of it, but this was kind of my first foray. It’s hard to shoot and ride. Sometimes I strive to go out and shoot riding, but I like riding so much and shoot the rest of the week, it’s a nice break to just cruise. If I could shoot riding for a living though, it’d be a different story.
DS: How has motorcycling (especially long distance) inspired you photographically?
GH: Getting out and traveling is really the best part. I’m into planes and trains and automobiles and all that, but there’s something about getting a bit dirty on a pretty simple machine that can take you anywhere. That’s special. I think that clearing your mind as a creative is important, and when I ride it definitely puts a smile on my face and makes the stresses fade. It’s a cool feeling to be going as fast as possible, all your senses are turned up all the way, everything is loud, dusty, and shaky, then you pull over and take this really quiet photo of a really desolate place and it’s just total opposites.
DS: How did your move out west (Utah, Washington) change your perspective photographically?
GH: I think it’s pretty easy to get used to your surroundings. The first time you shoot something or go to a new place, everything is so, so exciting. Then you do that for year or two, and you get kind of antsy and want a change of pace.
DS: We love your photos from The Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. Can you tell us a little bit about the route and why you decided to ride it?
GH: The route was mapped by a popular motorcycle touring supplier and crosses the state. The BDR itself is about 575 miles, plus the ride to the start and from the finish. The BDR itself took about 3.5 or 4 days of riding, and the exploring and long stretches back filled in the rest. There’s a BDR that exists or soon will in 11 states. The idea is to navigate across the entire state on as much dirt as possible, with small runs of state highways and country roads to get supplies and gas. I’ve wanted to do a BDR since a trip (my first) through CO last year. It’s a stepping stone to longer trips either across country, or internationally, while being able to stay in my own backyard.
DS: 575 miles in 4 days on a bike, wow – that sounds exhausting. What difficulties did you face in shooting while keeping to your riding schedule?
GH: I’ve learned shooting and riding is hard! Especially when you are the greenhorn in the pack. I’d try my best to get moments as they happen, but I had to keep all my gear stowed away pretty deep in the bike to protect it, and getting it out took some time. So I’d hold up the group here and there and have them wait while I went ahead to shoot something. Definitely something that took more time than I anticipated. I think I’d go with a setup that makes a camera more accessible next time. Also, this trip was wonderful and I had a blast….but it wasn’t as physically challenging as I had hoped, so the story kind of misses some complexity to me. It went pretty swimmingly, which is awesome in so many regards, but for photos I wish we had some washed out roads or spots we needed to help each other through.
DS: What was your thought behind leaving the series in black and white?
GH: For a number of reasons, most of our riding was during the most direct light of the day, and I’ve never been a big fan of the motor sport color palette. It’s bright, flashy, doesn’t really go well with the muted colors of foothills in the dog days of summer. The interesting thing to me photographically are the places, patterns and juxtapositions of the tiny people and their machines thinking they can conquer it.
DS: One of our favorite photographs is of the hotel bathroom linens. It is a simple and often overlooked detail that tells a story. What is your favorite part about shooting a series like this? The overarching material or the details?
GH: Anything that helps people wear the “boots” for a minute I think works. I see a lot of photos that preach to the lifestyle of ~adventure~ and all that on Instagram, but it always overlooks those small details. The photo I feel is the most successful, especially paired with the towels, is the one of the two guys going uphill, across the pasture. Those two are what it feels like to me to be riding, and I just hope to share it.
DS: It seems like you spend a lot of time outdoors and traveling on the road. How do you feel like life on the road has affected you personally and professionally?
GH: I wish it was more! I am a weekend warrior more or less, and not much of a warrior. I’m pretty new at all of this, and just want to keep going. I’ve always been a road trip guy, and really feel most like myself heading somewhere else with a good friend in tow. I think it’s kept me sane in so many regards. It’s helped me work things out and given me an outlet. It also has taught me to appreciate the feeling of home and being surrounded by those you love. Without one, you can’t have the other.