DIY Motorbike Studioshoot: The Video


If you liked the last post about the studio photoshoot with motorbikes – here is a timelapse video illustrating the process.

Homemade motorbike studio shoot

20151108-Bike-Studio-Header-001I have photographed motorbikes excessively this year (Link1, Link2, Link3). All these shootings took place in the bike’s natural habitat: roads, streets and in one case an open field. These shootings are fairly easy concerning the logistical part –  just take the bike somewhere at the right time of the day, bring a camera, maybe a tripod and flashguns, and off you go. But I wanted to knock it up a notch and go into a studio environment. Last year I conducted several photo sessions with sports cars in the studio… ok, _model_ sports cars (Ferrari FF, Lamborghini Aventador) and I particularly like the shots with light straight from above, illuminating the silhouette and some details on the cars. I had to use model sports cars because a.) I don’t own a Ferrari and b.) neither do I own a lighting rig large enough to illuminate the whole car (like this one [Link]). But I own two 80×120 cm softboxes with studio flashes – and that is big enough for a decent bike shoot.

I cleared the carport in front of your house of the trash can, bicycle and our car, sweeped the floor and started installing my equipment. I hung both softboxes from the beams of the carport roof and installed the background system with black cloth behind it as a backdrop. The studio flashes were tied to the beams using thin rope. The edges of the softboxes which are in contact with each other could be velcroed together, so that the gap between the softboxes is as small as possible. The lighting setup is not complex in terms of fancy technology – suspend a large softbox (or two) above the subject and place a dark background behind it. But due to the dimensions it took some effort. The setup took around an hour to be completed.

Equipment used:

  • Two Quantuum R600+ studio flashes (600Ws) with 120×80 softboxes, fired via Yongnuo radio triggers.
  • Background system with black cloth
  • Nikon D800 with the 24-70 f2.8 (the 70-200mm) would have been my first choice, but I did not have enough room to back away from the bike).

The flashes were set to full power, the camera to ISO 100 and a varying 50-70 mm at mostly f/22. Looking back I could have gone with f/16 and less flash power, that would have given some more sharpness in the images. But since most details will lie in the dark in these images I deem the choice of the f-stop to be ok.


Tips and experiences shooting with this setup
Bikes often only have a side stand, which means that they will lean to one side when the side stand is extended. Depending on from which side you are shooting, there will be more or less light on the side of the bike. Assuming the side stand is on the left the bike will lean towards you when it faces left. Since the light is coming from above the side of the bike will be quite dark in this position. On the other hand, if the bike faces to the right it will lean away from you, exposing the side to more light.

I found out that if the bike leans towards you, the shot tends to look…odd/stupid. Due to the perspective the bike is crunched a little and appears smaller. That looked odd on many shots. Here it is an advantage if your bike has a main stand to position it vertically.

Since the setup takes some effort it is advisable to take as many shots as possible. Move back and forth, photograph the bike as a whole, move in for detail shots, turn the bike around, take shots from unsual angles. Look out for nice details.

If you feel so, use a third, handheld flash as a fill light from the side. I experimented with it a little, but found that the fill light intervenes with my idea for minimalistic lighting. But maybe you have other ideas.




The raw images were far from perfect. The light cone emitted by the softboxes hit not only the bike, but also its surroundings, see left. So there was much work to do. In Lightroom I used the brush tool to bring the surrounding area of the bike down to black. Using a brush with a soft edge I painted around the bike, brutally drawing down eyposure, lights and shadows.

After approx. 1/2 of the surrounding area had been painted serious lag began to build up. The mask Lightroom is creating becomes too complex and the software is struggling to keep up with the changes. After 2/3 of the editing process the lag is next to impossible to work with. Five seconds between a brush stroke and seeing the effect on the screen is not an exxageration. I work on a late 2012 iMac with 304 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 24 GB of RAM. It can’t be a lack of computing power. Lightroom is simply bad coded, the program does not use the computer’s full capacity. But that’s another chapter.

Photoshop is the far better choice when you make vast edits to the image. I edited a few images with Photoshop and there was absolutely no lag (working with dodge/burn via layers). So that’s another lesson learned. The drawback: The Photoshop file of your image suddenly is 480 MB large. But hey, whatever you do, there is always a catch. Being able to work lag-free is far more valuable than disk space.


Things I would have done differently, if I were able to do of have thought of it:

  • Shooting on a concrete floor: Our yard is paved with red stones, can not change that. A concrete or asphalt floor would have been better, because it would emulate a workshop enviroment.
  • Honeycomb grid for more direct light: these would bundle the light a little and minimize light spill to the sides. Would accentuate the lighting and reduce the post processing (unwanted lighting of the area around the bike).
  • Increase the distance between the background and bike/flashes: Since the background was close to the bike (spatial restriction in our yard) the black cloth was heavily lit by the flashes. That meant a lot of work in post-processing (making the background disappear in black)


Bottom line
A work-intensive shoot, both in preparation and post processing. But the results are deeply satisfying, I am totally excited about these catalogue-style shots. If I get the opportunity to photograph another bike I would be happy to use this setup again.

Bike in autumn foliage, part 1: Daytime


The motorbike season is over, the leaves are falling and so are the temperatures. At the moment it is cold and dry, which might give me one last bike trip this year. But once a little rain will fall, the rustling foliage will turn into road soap and terminate the biking season for sure. But that day has not come yet and so I could make some nice autum themed bike images.

Once again I kidnapped my friend’s Moto Morini Granpasso 1200 for the shoot. The bike has been featured in previous posts (Link 1, Link 2).

The images were made with the Nikon D750 and the 70-200 f2.8 VR lens. Post-processing in Lightroom involved lights adjustment, white balance correction, a tad of vignetting and the removal of unwanted objects (mainly lamp and fence posts). Oh yes, and I included one little easter egg in one of the images. can you find it ?









Operating theatres


I’m a member of a Facebook group where photographers from Hanover share images, coordinate events and discuss all the stuff photographers are discussing. Recently two of the members, who happen to work at a big local hospital, organized a behind-the-scenes-tour through some operating theatres. We were a group of 10 and met on a nice sunday, armed with our cameras and a lot of enthusiasm.

I won’t win a fashion contest like that, but that was not the point. I’ll show a collection of the images I made and comment shortly. Click through the gallery and enjoy !

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Photographing inside a submarine, part 2


On the island Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea, just off the German coast, lies a post-WW2 submarine of the German navy. It has been converted into a museum and after posting about a WW2 submarine I thought it would make nice mini-series.

The shooting conditions were similar to the WW2 submarine in Laboe. Not much light, mixed light at the entrances, very narrow passageways, many tourists squeezing through the metal behemoth. I shot with the 14-24 mm and pretty much the same techniques apply as described in last week’s post: If you want to take a wider shot you will have to wait for a moment when nobody is in the frame, or you can focus on shooting the details. Be patient. To get a people-free shot of the bridge I had to wait roughly five minutes as many children visited the submarine (“I wanna be the captain now !”).

Read some of the remarks below the images for additional information.

Photographing inside a WW2 submarine


In Laboe, a German city at the Baltic Sea, you can visit a WW2 submarine which has been turned into a museum. Needless to say I wanted to see and photograph it. The submarine is a Type VII C boat, which entered service in September 1943. The german Reich built 693 units of those submarines. Most of them were sunk in WW2, taking the crew with them into a horrible death. Tens of thousand young men died and lie at the bottom of the oceans since then.

As a monument against war, but also as a testament for german engineering, the submarine has been turned into a museum. You enter the aft section and work your way forward to the torpedo tubes. Needless to say there is not much space and if you imagine 44-52 people in there the space shrinks even more.

The submarine has a very slim contour as you can see in the third image (photograph taken before the bow). As the space is very limited inside, a wide-angle lens is the weapon of choice. Let’s head inside, shall we ?

I chose the Nikon D750 with the 14-24mm f2.8 lens (wide angle, wide aperture). Of course I was not alone, many other tourists visited the boat at the same time. Getting a photograph without people leaves you with two options: Either you are patient and wait for the moment or you focus on photographinf details like piping and instrumentation. If you choose the first option you really have to wait a little and stand / crouch in your position, poised to press the trigger as soon as that person in the frame moves out of your field of view.

The only “special trick” I applied in Lightroom is local color adjustment. Towards the entrance and the exit I encountered mixed light – daylight from the opening which had been cut into hull and artificial light from the inside of the submarine. This could be fixed with the local brush

Next week I will show images from the visit to another, post WW2 submarine of the German Navy. Stay tuned.



Blood Moon


There has been an extensive coverage of the recent lunar eclipse (bloodmoon). I also headed out in the middle of the night to photograph that event.

The night before I prepared everything in such a way, that I just had to get up in the night, jump into my clothing and motorcycle gear, take the backpack and head out.

I used my Nikon D750 with the Tamron 150-600 mm lens and a MeFoto compact tripod. The location I chose is a small artificial hill near the Hanover fair grounds (former Expo 2000 site). We don’t have any mountains here in the Hanover region, so I reckoned that the hill would make a good observation point.

The eclipse startet somewhere around 3 AM, with the “bloodmoon phase” occuring from 04:11 AM. Since I had to go to work that day (it occured the night from Sunday to Monday) I opted to skip the partial eclipse phase and only shoot the blood moon.

I got up at 3:30 AM, jumped into my stuff and onto my motorcycle. I rode 14 km to the hill and set up my tripod. It turned out I was far from being the only one who chose that location. In the time I stayed at the location (4 AM – roughly 5 AM) about 10 people came and went. I took the first image at 4 AM, while the moon was already mostly red with only a small white strip at the bottom.


I continued shooting for another 15 minutes, then thick fog came up and the moon was hidden. The shooting was over. I managed to take 27 photos with 8 “keepers” in terms of quality. But since all those keepers showed the same moon I chose only to show one of them.

To illustrate how thick the fog was here is a shot of the former Expo 2000 site.


The building on the right is the ruin of the dutch pavillon. It was never demolished or reused as nobody was reponsible for it. Looks a little like an alien spaceship that landed right here. The fog became even thicker, so that the pavillon (around 600 m from the hill) became invisible. I stayed at location until around 5AM, hoping the fog would clear. But as it became thicker by the minute I packed my stuff and mounted my bike again.

A very foggy and unpleasant bike ride later I entered the office at 05:45 AM. I brewed a strong coffee and started my week.


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