Digital Cameras For Rallies

Home ] Up ] Site Map ]



Contact me!



Digital Cameras in Motorcycle Rallies

Every once in a while, there's a thread on the LDRider mailing list about the fact that endurance motorcycle rallies still require Polaroid cameras for photo bonuses. In the 21st century, when you can get 5 megapixels for under $100, why not allow digital cameras?

I wrote up this scenario for how to cheat - not to tell others how, but to tell potential rallymasters what they're up against. Since I'm not all that smart when it comes to cheating, I don't think I'm giving away very much by posting the fruits of a few minutes' thought, and I want people to think about the real issues.

First I'll cover the technological and sociological problems of digital cameras at rallies, then the cheating factor.

Logistical problems with digital cameras

The other problem with digital cameras is how to view and save the images back at Rally HQ. If the rallymaster can't see an image, there's nothing to score. If they can't save a copy of the image, there's nothing to audit later. And I think rallymasters do want to be able to audit results, at least in theory.

It may seem like printing photos isn't all that slow, but remember that Rally HQ can be  pandemonium when the deadline draws near - and moreso when it's past, and you're incurring a hundred-points-a-minute penalty! The line at the printer will get pretty tense as the minutes tick by. Also, the finish line is not the place to discover that the printers available can't read the memory card or data format your camera uses.

Bottom line: the rallymaster does not want to be responsible for your pictures. If the printer or viewing computer is provided by the rally, there will always be disputes and fingers to point when it comes to technological or human errors. The RM has enough going on trying to score 50 packets in the time between the finish and the banquet without that.

How to Cheat With Photoshop

A trusting soul on the LDRider list wrote:
> The ability to manipulate digital format pictures may or may
> not ever really become an issue for a rally. 

I think it will. The people talking about cheaters with Photoshop have said, "Heck, you have to ride to the locations anyway, right?" I think they aren't being creative enough.

Picture this: Cheety McCheat enters a 24-hour rally, but has planned in advance with four or five friends to cheat the system. The friends are already in place along the likely route, or scattered around the state, or whatever. The bonus sheets are handed out, and Cheety calls his friends and tells them where to go to get the bonus photos. They go fanning out and get the pictures, while Cheety does a leisurely ride to the first checkpoint. Next leg bonus sheet is handed out. Repeat.

Near the start, Cheety took some pictures of his rally towel or other object and transmitted it to Cheating HQ. As the photos come in from bonus locations, somebody at HQ uses Photoshop to put the towel into the pictures. It's even easier in multi-day rallies.

By the time Cheety gets near the finish, the photos are ready back at HQ. They are electronically transmitted to Cheety's laptop, and he runs them off using a portable printer. At the finish line he proudly hands over the pictures, takes first place, and goes home in triumph.

Is there more to it? Yes. You have to figure out the route you supposedly rode, run up the miles on your odometer somehow, and fake the fuel log, and everything else.

Regardless of the details of how to cheat, the question is whether anybody would cheat. I think the answer is yes. Pulling this off is a game in itself - a game that some people might like to play. It's not the same game that the other riders are playing. It's a different game, with its own rules and skills required to win, something you can win or lose at, with fairly high stakes. (Get caught and you can never play again.)

Some people are like that: they'll go into an online game and have fun messing up the experience of other players, rather than slaying the dragon or whatever you're supposed to be doing. This is that game taken out into the real world.

Countermeasures include placing volunteers at random bonus locations (especially high-value bonii) to observe the riders from hiding. The IBR does that.

Can you cheat this way with Polaroids? Sure. After the last step (printing out the digital pictures), take a Polaroid picture of each one. It'll look a lot like a Polaroid of the original scene, and it'll even help hide the flaws in your Photoshop technique. But I think RM's feel like they're just asking for this kind of shenanigans if they accept digital images.


This page was last edited April 26, 2008.