photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

Photographers and motorcycle lovers Gregor Halenda and Thomas Liggett were faced with the challenge of photographing a wide lineup of beautiful bikes at the One Moto Show in Portland. Combined challenges of beautiful light, reflective surfaces, and a fast paced environment, their equipment choices needed to match the caliber of their demands.

HBI: Tell us about what led  you to photograph at the One Moto Show?

GH: Motorcycles are my passion and not just riding them but also building and shooting them. When I moved to Portland a few years back, I was impressed with the motorcycle culture of this small city. The One Moto Show was perhaps the highlight of the year — hundreds of custom motorcycles and thousands of motorcyclists.
I have had several of my custom motorcycles exhibited in the show in previous years and each year Thor Drake, the mastermind behind the show, produces a coffee table book of the event with photos of all the different bikes. After the last year, I told him I wanted to shoot the show and he said yes.

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

HBI: What were you after with your image style and look?

GH: “You’re the artist. I don’t want to tell you how to do your thing. You do it however you want.” Those were the only instructions from Thor.
Motorcycles are typically shot with large soft lights so I wanted to do it differently — with hard light. This would allow me to also feature the character of those who built the bikes. I needed a light that would be big enough so I instantly thought of the Broncolor Para. It’s a large parabolic reflector with a bright silver surface and it gives a fantastic hard yet wonderfully directional light. I wanted to use the Para 222 to establish a base — a almost like a giant ring light — behind the camera to act as my non-directional fill. That light would be two stops under to create the first layer of light.

Then, I wanted to add direction and shape and for that I chose the Para 88 on a large boom arm that we could move around. This light would give the defining look of the shot by being a “soft” hard light — directional but strong and broad enough to cover the size of the bike with nice fall off.

Finally, we realized that we needed one additional light — a single head with the P70 reflector and a coarse grid. We started with this light on a stand but quickly realized in our tests that at the pace we needed to keep, hand-held was the only option.

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

HBI: What were some of the challenges you were faced with on the shoot?

GH: Volume and speed. I knew right away that I’d never be able to do the job on my own so I enlisted a former assistant, and now amazing photographer and fellow motorcyclist, Thomas Liggett to fly out from NYC to shoot the show with me. Tommy and I tag teamed the whole shoot and we worked together on the light.

We’d hoped to start shooting the day before the show opened but that wasn’t possible. We were able to prelight a few bikes but we had to shoot 170 bikes in one day which included the bike, details for each one, and a portrait. We calculated that we’d need to shoot each one in less than four minutes. Tommy and I took turns shooting and holding the P70 head to break up the rhythm and prevent muscle cramps. No food, no breaks, and a bike every four minutes for almost twelve hours. Oh, and make them beautiful and not like assembly line shots.

No food, no breaks, and a bike every four minutes for almost twelve hours.

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

HBI: What tools did you use to address the challenging shoot?

GH: We used the Para 222 as our fill light, the Para 88 as our key, and the single gridded P70 head as a mobile, floating accent light. This allowed us to shoot fast by not needing to worry about a stand. We shot tethered of course and developed a sense of how far away we needed to be with the floating head by checking our monitor. Tommy’s wife Kristine was our digital tech and she also kept us on pace.

The Paras give a remarkable light — broad, hard, and directional which gives the images a very dimensional feel with tremendous detail. The gridded P70 has a flawless fall-off that doesn’t draw attention to itself and allows that light to be present without being obvious.

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

HBI: What did you take away from such a challenging experince?

GH: I consider myself a craftsman not an artist. I enjoy solving complex problems and don’t have a single style that I stamp on my images but rather an approach that I bring with me to each project. Being able to change my approach keeps things interesting for me, fresh for the client, and more importantly, allows me to continue to learn with every new project.

I have spent twenty years in studio but with my move to the Pacific Northwest, I am working more and more on location and enjoying the challenges that come with bringing high-end studio light to varied locations.

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

photo: Gregor Halenda / Thomas Liggett

Our immense thanks to Gregor for the amazing interview, and the stunning images he and Thomas created. Make sure to see more of Thomas’ work on his website. You can find Gregor on instagram as @gregorhalenda and view his work at gregorhalenda.com.