Photographing Classic British Motorbikes on Location

I couldn’t hide my surprise when Lee, of Bridge Motorcycles Exeter, offered to release The Vincent from its cage so that I could photograph it for the cover shot of the 2020 British Classics motorbike calendar; I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere. “I need an excuse to get it out and the tyre needs some air in it!” he said.


Sometimes I wonder why I ache so much, and then someone comes out on a shoot with me and reports being very tired the day afterwards.


This Saturday’s shoot started the day before with me loading the car with just about every C-stand that I own as well as a couple of heavy duty boom stands. These stands are heavy but much more stable than kit stands and when you have a six-figure value bike in front of you the bike needs respect. Lighting was a set of Bowens strobes (1-1500w, 1-1000w, 3-500w), and two Nikon speedlights, in the end I only used one of the 500s along with the big ones. The 1500 is great for firing across the bike and was running at full power

The main issue with the setup was to screen off the rest of the warehouse without dropping gear on stock. In an ideal world I would have enjoyed the whole warehouse but I was grateful for the space that was provided and the help from the team at Bridge.

The lighting setup was to be relatively straightforward, a strip set above and behind the bike to proved a rim, and a main/fill light bounced from a large sheet to the side of the bike. Due to it’s position this light achieves both key-lighting at the front and fill to the side. Finally a couple of Nikon speedlights in SU4 mode were used to accent the wheels a little. The setup was tweaked for the flat shots.

As ever I tend to shoot long with the Nikon 70-200 ƒ/2.8, I did try the same shot ‘wider’ but it didn’t suit the bike. Shooting tethered to the Mac gives real-time results and as ever I am happy when I reach the, ‘if I have to walk away now I have the shot’ moment. I tried a few extra angles and even enjoyed a visit from fellow photographer Peter Stephens (Ted had to stay in the car)

At the end of the day the bike was returned to its cage – I would urge you to go and check it out if you have any interest in such things – and the car was packed up, ready to be unpacked.

I was going to go for a swim afterwards.

Video of Motorbike Location Photography Setup

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(Sorry about the vertical aspect, it was shot for Instagram)