Writer's Ramblings

Behind the Scenes at a Cycle Connections Cover Shoot

Written by  December 31, 2011

Bikers: You’ve put in a lot of work, and spent a lot of money and time to make your bike stand out from the crowd. The perfect paint job…just enough chrome…but not too much. You’ve replaced the factory cables and lines….great pipes…a custom saddle. Major and minor details too numerous to recall. She rocks! But what does everyone else really think, and how does she compare to other bikes? Could she win a contest? I mean, you ALWAYS get compliments, and you could spend hours talking about every last detail. Then you find out that Cycle Connections is holding a “Cover Bike Search” event at your favorite watering hole. Maybe you’ll enter her and see what happens.
Models: Everyone says “You should be a model.” The compliments are appreciated, but you never really could – could you? Those hours in the gym and the time you have spent jogging in the park and eating right were for you, not because you wanted to compete in some “beauty contest.” You secretly wonder how you would do, but you would never really pursue it in real life. And then, one night you show up at the bar with a couple of friends. It’s bike night, and someone comes out of the crowd and asks if you would like to be in the “Cover Model Search” for Cycle Connections. It will be starting real soon; right here at the bar. The girl who asked you is cute and friendly, and she seems like a nice, normal person – not like some Miss America snob. You are flattered, but decline… until your friends talk you into it.
Lo and behold, you won! Uh, oh. Now what?
We hold numerous cover bike and cover model search events throughout the year at some of the most popular bike night locations in the Kansas City area. Sometimes the contestants have been planning on entering for quite a while, and other times it’s a spur of the moment decision. Either way, when the event is over, the top three bikes and top three models are selected by the judges. The first place model is photographed on the first place bike that night; the second place model is shot on the second place bike, and so on.
The first place bike and model winners will be contacted by Mike Schweder, the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of the magazine, who schedules the cover shoot by checking the bike owner, model, and photographers schedules, and coordinating the best date and time for everyone involved. The model is asked to bring a variety of her favorite clothing items to the shoot, including swimsuits, leathers, heels, boots, and so on, which will look good on bike.
Cycle Connections is published monthly, so twelve pairs of bikes and models are needed for cover shoots throughout the year, and other bikes and models are sometimes used for other features, or in the models’ case, may also be invited to help out at future motorcycle events. If you enter an event, but don’t make the cover, stand by! You might just be hearing from Mike to do a photos shoot on a subsequent month, which does happen. Sometimes the shoot is scheduled very quickly, and other times, there may be a backup, depending on the number of cover shoots that are already scheduled, in which case the shoot may be set for a date further out.
On the day of the shoot, the cover bike winner will bring their bike to the location for the shoot. For the past couple of years, Cycle Connections has been shooting at the garage/studio of our cover photographer Bruce Stimpson’s house near Pleasant Hill. His house is a way out in the country, but once you get close, it’s hard to miss. It’s a purple Queen Anne Victorian on six treeless acres. When the sun is shining, you can see it for miles. Wear sunglasses.
If the bike owner plans to ride their scoot to the shoot, we normally ask them to arrive a little early so the pipes have time to cool down before the shoot. Although all members of the Cycle Connections team are professional and have excellent references, as with any photo shoot in which you’re working with a new photographer, models are welcome to bring a chaperone so they feel comfortable and safe at the shoot. Often, models prefer to bring a girlfriend instead of a husband or boyfriend, but that is up to her. Bruce prefers that you not bring an entire entourage, as they tend to get in the way; unless of course it’s an entourage of supermodels or somebody driving a Budweiser truck, in which case, the more the merrier.
After everyone arrives for the shoot, the bike owner is usually busy polishing their bike and doing some last-minute detailing. During this time, we usually try to match the model’s outfit to the bike. In this month’s issue, for example, you will notice that the model is wearing skull boots to match the skulls on the bike, which was pretty cool! Sometimes we can’t exactly match the bike’s design, but we usually try to get close on colors. In the event that the model’s outfit clashes with the bike’s color, then a black outfit works well. Our photographer usually wears a skirt and a simple halter top – and he looks great in them…just kidding!
Assuming the model has brought a variety of outfits from which to choose, we will often have her try on one or more to see what photographs best. Once an outfit is selected, we leave our model alone to change and prepare for the session. If they model feels that they may need a LOT of time for this, then please show up at the shoot a little earlier. We shoot as soon as the model is ready and the bike is sparkling. Once the bike is set up, and the lights are balanced in the studio, we are ready to go.
Here’s a question that models often ask: “How much skin do I need to show?” or “Do I HAVE to wear a bra or bikini, or will a nice, sexy dress do?”
It’s always up to the model as to what type of outfit she is comfortable posing in, and we have only one rule on this: Cycle Connections is definitely no more than a PG-13 magazine, so no nudity is allowed. You can be as sexy as you want, and the sexier the better, but we absolutely will not use any photographs that shows anything that would rise to an R-level rating. Bruce is particularly adamant about this, and does a good job of working with the model to get the best pose possible that flatters her but reveals nothing private. He prides himself on never shooting a picture that makes the model look silly or that is unflattering. And, sometimes he will do the pose himself, to show you how it’s done, which is always entertaining. One of these days we are going to catch him on film. No luck yet, though.
Here’s how the shoot normally goes:
First of all, we pride ourselves on our professionalism in the studio, and we like to have a lot of fun. The shoot is done in a very relaxed atmosphere. Ask any of the models or bike owners from the past, and they will tell you they had a great time doing the shoot. And, you don’t have to be a “professional model” to work well with us. In fact, most of the women we shoot have never worked in modeling at all.
We usually have the following in attendance: Mike the Editor-in-chief/Publisher, Bruce the photographer, the bike owner, the model, her chaperone, and Stripe. We jokingly refer to Stripe as “the stylist” because he helps us notice when a hair is out of place or a necklace clasp is showing, etc. His job is also to stand next to Bruce and make sure he doesn’t move too far to the right or left when taking certain shots – it’s got to fit on a magazine cover, after all.
When the model is ready and on the set, Bruce takes a couple shots to test the light balance. Sometimes adjustments are needed, so we’ll do that for two or three minutes until everything is perfect. Then the shoot starts in earnest.
Mike normally suggests a particular pose we are looking for at a given time. It goes something like this: “Okay, for this one, sit down on the bike like you are going to ride it. Now, put your left hand on the handlebar, and your right foot up on the floorboard. Perfect. Now Bruce will direct you.” Then Bruce might ask the model to turn slightly, lift her chin up, or point her nose a little bit one way or another, and snap! Flashes flash, camera clicks, and we’ve got it. Then Bruce will ask the model to make one or two slight adjustments and snap some more pics in the same pose. When he is satisfied that we got the shot we want, we move to another pose. Easy…peasy!
Throughout the photo session we have the bike owner move their bike so we can shoot the bike from a variety of angles, and shoot the model using several different poses. Check out the “Behind the Scenes” model bio articles in the magazine and you’ll see the various poses we like to shoot.
Stripe sometimes stops us to have the model adjust a piece of jewelry, or fix a strand of hair. Stripe has turned out to be an expert on hair, even though he has all of his in a box somewhere. We’re always open to try new poses and angles, so after several shots, we often ask the model if there are any particular poses she would like to try. Sometimes, the model comes up with a good pose or two that we have never used, and those are usually some of the best shots.
Then we’ll take a break and ask the bike owner to move the bike so we can shoot it from a different angle. This gives everyone a chance to relax, check hair and makeup, and so on. After the bike is moved, the lights are re-checked, and the model does a few more poses.
Then another break, move the bike, and repeat.
We shoot a lot of photos during these sessions. We have had sessions where we have shot well over 200 pics, and we rarely shoot less than 100.
When we are done (usually about an hour or so), the model changes back into her regular outfit and the bike is removed from the studio. Bruce starts unplugging flashes, and Mike gets out paperwork. There is a release form for the model, and hugs and handshakes all around. Then we’re done in the studio.
In the days after the shoot, we review all the pictures that were taken and pick out our favorites. Bruce does a little post-production work – color balancing, cropping, sizing, etc. All the selected images are sent in to Mike, and the one, special cover shot is forwarded to our graphic artist, where the cover is created, which includes a suitable background color/graphics, along with the featured article titles for that month’s issue.
At midnight (technically 12:01 a.m.) on the first day of the month, the magazine is published, and the beautiful, gleaming bike and model appear on our cover! We are always proud of our work together – and always receive a lot of great feedback on our covers! The magazine always contains featured articles and photos, which includes a model bio, bike owner bio, and a bike specs page.
Mike usually gives a stack of business cards to the model and bike owner so they can give them out their family and friends to let everyone know where to go to see their cover and related articles and photos.
Depending on the upcoming events, the model and bike owner are often invited to make an appearance. These events are always fun, and the model gets to autograph a lot of printed covers, and gets to pose on our reader’s bikes for even more photos. I can’t recall anyone ever asking the bike owner to sign anything – except once a restraining order…just kidding!
And there you have it…a “behind the scenes” look at what normally takes place at one of our cover bike and cover model photo shoots. Maybe you or your bike will be featured in one of our upcoming issue. You’ll never know until you try!
The Cycle Connections Team