I would love to be one of those ‘finger on the pulse’ people but the truth is I’m not. I’ve just taken the Seamaster off to type but don’t envisage a digital watch sitting beside my keyboard in the foreseeable future.
Thursday’s shoot was the last of this year’s calendar bikes, provided by Bridge Motorcycles of Exeter to be photographed at Capital Air Charter’s hangar at Exeter Airport. It’s not been easy this year, the weather has been awful and even as we were being escorted to the site specs of rain appeared on the windscreen.
When Photographing Have a Plan But Be Prepared To Reassess It
Plan B was both bikes in the hangar, Plan A was the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP (to give it its full title) to be photographed outside, probably just natural light and the Yamaha YZF-R1 was to be photographed in the hangar. I was pleased the Yamaha was a red one but would love to see the yellow and black one when it’s out.
Malcolm Humphries managed my expectations by letting me know the hangar might be empty but as it happened there was a Beechcraft King Air to sit by the R1. Well actually there were some aircraft manoeuvres in the hangar before we could get going. John Greenwood from Bridge was a fantastic help throughout.
So, the scene was set, an aircraft that has been developed since 1964, a Honda that is the last of the ‘simple’ superbikes and the Yamaha which is as far removed from my mechanical Seamaster as one could imagine.
Photographing The Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP
The weather cleared slightly, so I asked John to place the Honda in the middle of the road (whatever you call a road that planes go on). Being a long lens chap I retired to a suitable distance and laid down in the middle of the road to shoot and after a short while we found that planes were coming directly at us, albeit at a distance; this added value to the shot.
This was the point when John (armed with a smartass phone) was able to capture the planes subsequently taking off above the Honda, where as I, who was running a two second mirror-shutter delay on the Nikon D800e failed to capture the moment. John is a pleasant chap and handled my abuse well.
Ultimately we managed final shots with planes, both turboprop and jet, forming a backdrop as well as a reverse shot along the road that had just been nicely messed up by the aero-fuel tanker driving through puddles and leaving tire marks all over the scene.
Photographing The Yamaha YZF-R1
The SP was wheeled back into the hanger and initially I used it as a target to set the Bowens Gemini Pro strobes up whilst John retrieved the R1 from the van. The truth is there was enough light to photograph the Yamaha without lighting but I wanted two very different shots from this session.
Various other interested parties dropped by to check out the action each with their own tale of the bikes they’ve owned and ride. Mark from Iscavia was a particular mine of information about the plane, bikes and a nearby collection of interesting bikes. There’s a world out there that sometimes one just trips over.
Last year we had real problems shooting an R1, there wasn’t a single one in the south west. Ultimately I found a fantastic satin one and we shot it in a freezing MOT bay. The main reason for the dearth was that the new model was due out the one that I was now looking at.
And here’s the admission; when I first saw it I really didn’t get it. The design of the old model had been around for such a long time, it had a real flow to it, this one seemed not to have. But now I am converted. The other week whilst shooting the Suzuki a blue R1 was just to the side of us, well I think it was sold whilst we were there. But, given some space to view it as well as a bit of time I eventually started to get it.
Again I took a number of angles with the R1, I was pleased that I had asked for a red one too. In contrast with the subtle light for the Honda shot the R1 lighting was ‘obvious’. As ever the Bowens Gemini Pros and Travelpak did the job, with Manfrotto in the supporting role. I still use my now thirty-five year old Manfrotto Triman tripod for the higher level camera support needs; look after your stuff and it will look after you.
I mentioned previously, this year the calendar bikes have been hard work, as indeed have I. It’s not that the bikes have been difficult, our glorious weather has been challenging, as indeed am I. Throughout the project we’ve enjoyed fantastic support from the bike suppliers and owners, the people who’ve supplied the locations. Yet again we’ve met fantastic people which really is what pushes me to do this job. I say we, Karin has risen to the challenges impressively.
Whilst wrapping up this bike photoshoot John opened up his smartass phone and showing me a picture of what I initially thought to be a gilt mirror, John commented, “This is what I used to do.”
And there was John on a horse, pulling a gold carriage, you know, the one the Queen nips out in. Yep, John used to take the Queen ite and abite, arinde London.
Andrew Butler is a professional photographer and designer based in the South West of England. He has had a long career photographing for clients as diverse as Arts Council England and Motor Cycle News.