Cover Bikes

From Where I Was Standing - A Behind the Scenes Look at a Cycle Connections Cover Shoot

November 30, 2006
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I enjoy reading each the issue of Cycle Connections, which is published on the first day of each month, and I also look forward to receiving my monthly Cycle Connections e-newsletter because that means, among other things, a new cover photo to ogle and drool over. Hey, what’s not to like. Cool bikes? Good. Hot babes? Good. And when you put them both together? Very Good! Like I said, what’s not to like?

So my interest was peaked when Alan Stiles of Al’s Choppers told me his hand-built Big Bear Chopper had been selected to be on the cover of the December 2006 issue. He was looking for a place to shoot the photographs so I hooked him up with another friend, Kirk Banes of M Source, who had some extra space in his new machine shop in Olathe, Kansas. On the day of the shoot the weather was good for a ride so I decided to run over to make the introductions and then get out of everyone’s way. What I was treated to was a behind-the-scenes perspective of how much work goes into getting the cover photo every month, and believe me it’s not all glitz and glamour.

The work started way before the first shutter snap as Mike Schweder and Dave “Stripe” Baxter started to unload all the equipment required to do the photo shoot. There was a lot of activity as a frame was assembled, the backdrop attached and the lights set up. Now I don’t want to call these guys perfectionists but evidently lighting is pretty important to taking photographs because it took them some time to get the lights placed just right and they continued to adjust them throughout the shoot. My limited understanding of this fundamental element of photography may explain why my pictures are always dark and fuzzy, but I digress.

While Mike and Stripe finished setting up the lights, Alan, his wife Lori, and his brother Tony put the finishing touches on the bike and laid down a runway onto the backdrop so they would not get any dirt on the tires. Now don’t get the wrong idea about the dirt on the tires thing, this was strictly for the photo shoot. Alan’s bike is a beauty but it is not a garage queen by anyone’s definition. The maiden ride was a rain-soaked Biker’s For Babies®. It has been his everyday ride through whatever the weather throws at him and he is fine with that. Alan builds them to ride. They just happen to look good too.

When everything was just right, the bike was rolled into place and Mike and Stripe finally got to do what they do best and that’s take great photographs. They had chosen an attractive young girl named Jennifer to model with the bike. Now I don’t know Jennifer, only seeing her around at some of the local bike nights and rallies, but she worked as hard as anyone during the shoot. It looked more like an advanced yoga class than a photo shoot with all the twisting, stretching and contorted positions that she had to get into but she went about her business in as professional a manner as anyone I have ever seen.

Mike and Stripe coached Jennifer into the different poses as they went about their business of shooting both bike and model from as many angles as possible, sometimes dangling precariously from a step ladder, to get just the right shot. After all the shots were taken, and it must have been hundreds, they sat down with Alan and Jennifer for some onsite editing before tearing everything down, loading it back into the truck and heading off to their next gig.

So the next time you are ogling and drooling over the cover photo in Cycle Connections, think of all the hard work Mike, Stripe, and the Cycle Connections models go through to give you that photo. And then, by all means, ogle and drool away. I know I will.

By Ted Reinsch

Published in Cover Bikes