Water, flash and real high-speed sync for MOTO cover

When MOTO magazine relaunched as an iPad and smartphone App instead of a print mag, it was decided the cover shouldn’t be a regular motorbike-in-action shot, but something that was a bit different. And not having to compete with other magazines on the newsagent’s shelf any more, it could be a bit more creative end edgy. It was also to be the basis of an advertising and marketing campaign all around the launch, with promotion on the website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So it had to be dramatic and catch the eye.

The plan was to shoot the first 2016-model KTM motocross bike in the country in front of a black background in the rain. A sort of Sin City-esque shot with the rider pretending to do a race start. So the bike was organised, a front number plate graphic commissioned and a date set for a lovely August day.

The final cover in all its glory
The final cover in all its glory

The thought was to put up a black Colorama background outside KTM UK’s HQ, light the shot with a range of two Elinchrom Ranger Quadras and four Rangers (to avoid having to use any mains power – they don’t play well with water) using two Chimera softboxes fitted with grids, and a couple of heads with Elinchrom beauty dishes with grids, and two with standard reflectors with grids. Then create some fake rain using a garden sprinkler attachment to create the rain. Only thing was, the glorious summer day was a day when it lashed it down with rain all day. So instead of being able to control the water, the only thing I could do was to shoot from inside the building to the bike that was just outside. Ideally keeping the lights as close to the building as possible so they didn’t get too soaked. In the end, the grids on the softboxes cut down the light too much so I removed them. Of course, the Colorama got soaked and ruined, and blew over several times. A bit of a nightmare, but I got the shot.

The shot, converted to mono in Capture One
The shot, converted to mono in Capture One

Most of the lights were positioned behind or to the side of the rider to give hard edge lighting, and they were adjusted manually to get the desired effect and the right amount of light on the rider. And I used a Phase One 645DF+ camera with a Schneider Kreuznach 110mm lens with a leaf shutter for maximum quality. Using Profoto AirSync triggers, this allows wireless triggering with a maximum flash sync speed of 1/1600sec. This would allow virtually none of the available light to register. Even though the background was black, ambient light means it will go grey unless you can keep light off it – either by directing the flashes and upping the shutter speed to kill as much ambient as poissible.

The results are pretty good, and looked great on the first cover of the iPad magazine and in the marketing materials. And if you’d like to see a small – and I mean very small! – behind-the-scenes video of the carnage, you can check it out on my Facebook page. All seven seconds of it!

How it looked on the finished article!
How it looked on the finished article!