After photographing a bike outdoors, I rolled a 69 Chopper made by Darwin Motorcycles/Brass Ball Bobbers into the assembly room at their shop. I was shooting digital for a magazine story and set up my lights to get an “environmental” shot showing the bike with Dar and Bryan working in the background. Once I was done with shooting digital, I set up my Toyo VX-125 4×5 camera and shot this photo with Bryan Nikkel and Dar Holdsworth working on another bike in the background. The bike in the foreground is destined for a customer in Mexico City.
I love photographing motorcycles and the enthusiasts who build and ride them. I think they make interesting character studies.
This photo is of my friend and customer Dar Holdsworth, owner of Darwin Motorcycles, makers of the Brass Ball Bobbers line of motorcycles. Dar is a former Army vet who decided to build his own custom motorcycle. Later he started building bikes for friends and it eventually morphed into a well know motorcycle manufacturer here in Oklahoma City. I have photographed a lot of bikes for Dar over the past 5 years. This bike was heading overseas to a dealer in Dubai. Yea, he builds bikes that sell all over the world, including a dealer in China.
I shot this bike for Dar with my digital cameras for a magazine story. When we were done I set up my Toyo VX-125 view camera and I photographed just the bike with Dar – the epitome of cool – in the picture.
Feast your eyes on one of my favorite photos so far from my 4x5x365 series. I went down to Brass Ball Bobbers in Oklahoma City and took this shot of master motorcycle builder Bryan Nikkal on a motorcycle he recently completed building. He and owner Dar Holdsworth design and build the most beautiful, well built custom motorcycles for clients all across this world – this bike was headed to Mexico City. I have photographed a lot of bikes for Brass Ball Bobbers and wanted to get something on film. Bike builders like their bikes photographed from the rear quarter like this, but to carry depth of field and keep the bike in sharp focus I normally have to shoot around F11 or higher. For this shot on my Toyo VX-125 I instead swung the front standard so that the plane of focus followed the length of the bike. If you look closely at the photo you can see the narrow depth of field in the concrete below the bike. The kickstand is out of focus but both the front and rear wheel are in focus. That is something that can only be done with a tilt shift capability of a view camera or a tilt-shift lens.
This bike was sitting in an open bay of their shop so I grabbed Bryan and had him pose for this photo. I really liked the lighting and the casual look of this photo. I am trying to show more authenticity in my photos and I think this is a portrait that has authenticity written all over it. Just Bryan, a bike that he hand built, natural light, and a good old fashioned view camera shooting on a big slice of film.
Motorcycle Industry Can Help
For the past two days I have been on assignment with an electrical utility client, photographing the extensive damage as well as the recovery efforts and the race to restore electrical power after the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. As an avid motorcyclist, I couldn’t help but notice the damaged and destroyed bikes under the mountains of rubble. I ran across Gerald Mobley, a US Navy veteran, who was dragging the remains of his bike from beneath the rubble of his home. I struck up a conversation and discovered Gerald had been building his “dream bike” one piece at a time as he could afford the parts. He had always wanted a highly customized Harley of his own, and set about building it in his spare time and with spare cash in his garage. The devastating EF5 tornado put an abrupt end to his plans. And since the bike was not complete, Gerald’s insurance most likely won’t pick up the tab to repair the bike.
While chatting with Gerald, the gears in the back of my mind were turning like the valve train on a Honda RC166 six cylinder race bike. I knew about my friend and customer Dar Holdsworth, owner of Darwin Motorcycles. He runs a program called “Recycle for the Troops” where his company takes an old donated worn out motorcycle and rebuilds it to better than new condition, then donates the bike to a needy veteran. He has also done a program with Pros For Vets and Toby Keith, where they build a highly customized V-Twin motorcycle and donate it for veteran charities. Dar’s company also builds commercially available bikes, but one of his passions is helping military veterans in need.
So I contacted Dar and spoke with him about the project. He and his company had been eager to help, but like many people, didn’t know how they could help. Dar jumped at the opportunity.
Of course, bike parts and services such as custom painting, wheels, tires and other items are not free, and after the down economy, Dar wasn’t able to afford the entire cost of the build. I suggested to him that the motorcycle community and industry would jump at the chance to help out and make a difference and put a smile on at least one person’s face after a devastating loss.
How about it? Anyone in the motorcycle industry willing to help out withe services, parts, equipment, expertise, or cash? If so, drop an email to Dar Holdsworth at email@example.com 405-270-0995
Today I attended a presentation by Sarah Mason Sears at S-Design, a graphic design firm in Oklahoma City. Sarah is the founder of S-Design and always has a pretty good take on marketing. Her talk today was on developing a marketing plan. During her talk she explained the importance of using custom imagery for your company versus stock photography and hit the nail right on the head.
Creating your own library of imagery is so crucial to building the brand of your company. There is a place for stock photos, but those should only be used in low importance marketing materials. Your own imagery is part of your brand and helps differentiate your company from all your competitors. Can you image a company like Harley Davidson or BMW or Coca Cola using stock imagery? Not a chance, especially when talking about their brand. The look and quality are critical to the image they portray.
You might say “Yea, but I am a small company and I can’t afford custom photography.” The cost of stock photography may be far more than you can imagine. The big cost is the lost opportunity cost. You are spending money but not maximizing your investment because you are trying to scrimp on a key part of your brand image. A great example of a small local company who does a great job of creating custom imagery is my regular client Darwin Motorcycles. I don’t do all their photography, but I do work on their key product launches and important bike rollouts. Over time they create a library of high quality custom imagery of their bikes and the people who ride them. This imagery helps define their brand.
As Sarah suggested, the best way for a company to start building their image library is to budget for professional photography for the year. Create a line item in the budget and then use that depending on the needs. You don’t need a pro photographer for everything, but for key events, key marketing programs, and important marketing materials that define your brand, nothing beats high quality visual imagery to define your brand.