Back story: a long time ago when I was a budding landscape and art photographer I did a lot of things to learn techniques that I never really used much if ever afterwards. Some of those days/nights payed off and gave me a skill set that is broader than many of my "competition" even if I rarely if ever get to use them. One of the phases that I went through was shooting nocturnes and I got really good at them. I would head out at night with my camera, tripod and a sandwich. I would have scouted the location and would do stupidly long exposures by street light, moon light or just about anything that was dim as heck. My shutter would be constantly in the 1 minute+ range. Then I started doing a bunch of architectural night shots where I was using a strobe or flashlight to add some dynamic lighting to the scene. It was all cool but I abandoned that years ago. News photography is rarely a thing that allows you to take such purely artistic liberties.
Well my assistant Kim, bless her, called me a while ago about photographing her ex Tommy’s award winning chopper. I got excited not because it’s a chopper – they don’t do much for me, but because the good ones are pure design. Tommy’s is cool and I knew that it would be fun as all get out to make a story telling image out of it. We decided to shoot it at sunset in front of the very roadhouse looking bike shop that Tommy works at. I knew that this was going to be shooting something in the near dark with strobes, just like the old days.
The lighting and mood is everything with this kind of deal and with an all black with chrome bike it’s all about creating highlights that reveal the curves. Two large softboxes on stands created the front/top lighting and a head through a 3×6 foot diffusion panel opened up the bottom of the bike. Since the thing is so low the camera position was very close to the ground and the diffusion panel was just out of the frame.
The basic shot with the strobes, lights coming from the bike shop and ambient/sky light looked pretty cool: the bike looked sleek and pretty wet. They I pulled out the coolest lighting toy ever: the Maglight with a gaff tape snoot. After the initial strobes went off I painted in some highlights with the Maglight and the thing really came to life.