Rider’s Lens: Kae-Lin Wang’s 35mm Film Photography
Today’s edition of Rider’s Lens comes from Seattle-based photographer Kae-Lin Wang, who presents a vivid selection of images captured on 35mm film. She also shares her story of finding community and creating change through bikes. Learn more about Kae-Lin and explore her work here…
Editor’s Note: Adding to our ever-deepening well of Rider’s Lens features, we’re excited to share some work from Ampersand Bikes Club founder and repeat contributor Kae-Lin Wang, who first wowed us with “Finding Roots,” her powerful story of rediscovering her identity while touring the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
We shared her story in the The Bikepacking Journal 07 and later recognized it in the Best Writing category of our 2021 Bikepacking Awards. Without further delay, find a colorful gallery of film photos and get to know a little more about Kae-Lin’s photographic and cycling journeys and how she’s blended them together below. —Lucas Winzenburg
Words and photos by Kae-Lin Wang
My name is Kae-Lin (pronounced “ky-leen”) Wang, and I currently live in Seattle, Washington. I began taking photos when I was 15, and it has been consistently part of my life since then. After a debilitating health condition, I started riding bikes again at the end of 2019, as I wanted to fulfill my dream of bike touring someday (Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2021!).
I spend a good chunk of my time building community, trying to break down barriers to cycling, and having more conversations about access, inclusion, and racial equity in the broader cycling community. Over the years, I’ve realized I find a lot of fulfillment in bringing together people with shared values. Outside of bikes, I enjoy being obsessed with my cat, Bubbles, working on food projects (baking sourdough, specifically), and strength training.
I first started dabbling into film photography 22 years ago, taking photos of my favorite high school bands at shows in moshpits. Then it evolved into digital SLR, and I worked at my college newspaper, focusing on photojournalism. In my 20s, I did wedding photography and gained a lot of experience learning how to shoot in stressful situations and harsh/dark lighting. It also taught me a lot about navigating a small business with no experience by learning through trial and error.
After realizing I needed a steady paycheck in health benefits, I currently only take on smaller projects that align with my values. I mostly shoot on film now because I usually don’t have to deal with an editing crisis. Since photography is something that has always been part of my life, my camera goes with me on most adventures so I can document it the way I see it and would like to share it with others.
My favorite type of photography is taking photos of my friends and those I care about. I love being able to capture someone’s personality through the lens. It’s important to me that when they see portraits of themselves, they feel confident and seen in those photos, especially since most people feel nervous in front of a lens, myself included. I also love documenting interesting projects that people are working on within the community, whether it’s art, food, or anything else. I love telling the creators’ stories in a way that captures them as a person and their project as a whole.
When riding, I always have to tell myself to stop and take in more of the details that I ride by so quickly and would miss if I don’t stop. Reminding myself to do that has helped me take in what’s around me more slowly. A quote a friend once told me was, “You have to stop and take in all the little details because you’ll never see them in the same way again in that very moment,” and I’ve held onto that ever since.
I currently work at a nonprofit called Bike Works, focusing on youth and adult education, trying to make bicycles accessible to all as a vehicle for change. We also take in donations at our warehouse and strip all the parts to rebuild custom bicycles and sell them at the bike shop at affordable prices. It can be a lot of emotional work intersecting my professional and personal life, but I know it’s creating an impact! I’m also working on relaunching a new bread and bike project centering around my cat. I’m excited to start baking again as winter is approaching quickly.
Looking forward, I’m not super sure what 2024 will look like, but I hope to continue to learn and grow by having hard conversations with those around me. I’ve been trying to practice loving people more by being direct with my communication, providing feedback, always being open to ways that I can learn from my mistakes, and being transparent about any learning moments. I’m always a work in progress. Also, I’ve been longing to have a transformative experience for myself. I am not sure what that looks like, but I feel like it’s time for me to step outside my comfort zone and take on a challenge soon.
Kae-Lin’s Photo Gear
For film, I use a Nikon N75 SLR and an Olympus Stylus point-and-shoot. For digital, I use a Nikon D800 and Canon EOS M. I also tend to use my iPhone a lot. For lenses, I mostly use a 35mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 that I can interchange between digital and film. If the camera is small, I carry it inside a plastic bag in a feed bag. If it’s an SLR, I’ll keep it inside my front bag and take it out as needed. My preferred films are Superia 400, Gold 200, and Ektar 100.
The photo below was taken on September 11, 2020, during the first year of the pandemic. I was laid off from my job at the very beginning of lockdown and had spent my unemployment baking and delivering bread to all the different neighborhoods in Seattle to get by. That year was also my first time going on a bike overnighter.
Near the end of summer, as a bike graduation, we decided to drive to Mazama, Washington, and ride up to Harts Pass, the highest point in the state that’s accessible by car. The route climbs around 5,322 feet in 26 miles up to Slate Peak Lookout, where this photo was taken. Harts Pass is also significant to me because it’s the last stop before you reach the northern terminus in Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail (I had last camped here when I was thru-hiking in 2017). We rode up to the peak for sunset, camped at the Harts Pass Ranger Station, left our bikes behind some trees, and hiked on the PCT the following morning to relive the old memories.
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