Behind the 2017 Vintage Bikes Calendar


Rusty Yezdi Behind The ScenesRusty Yezdi BTS

During my wanderings around Chennai I come across some fantastic photo locations. With the help of my trusty Sigma DP3 Merrill camera I take pictures from various angles, record the location in google maps and mentally prepare for scenarios where I might use this location. This particular location is really interesting. It lies in the proximity to an ancient dolmen which the ASI seems to have ignored. Having worshipped Asterix & Obelix as a young lad, the Dolmen really took my fancy and I decided to explore the area around to see what else I would find. There out of the tree cover this rusty scene popped out. An abandoned stone crushing factory which was vast, completely rust covered and reflected such an interesting palette of colors that I HAD to take notice. From the yellow motor and flywheel to the blue On/Off safety switch, everything is still where it was the day the facility was abandoned. The question is : What would I shoot at this location?

When I saw Ajay’s bike, I knew immediately where it was going to be shot. Srini wasn’t sure about using such a rusted machine in our pristine calendar but I had other plans. Rust isn’t a bad thing. Yes it damages metal and renders some machines useless but Rust adds character and tells a story. The rusted, abandoned factory providing the perfect backdrop for a bike that was still wearing it’s original coat of paint (from when it rolled out of the factory in Mysore). The image serves as a throwback to the time when these machines ruled the road. We picked the month of November for this photograph, a tribute to one of the greatest rock songs ever – November Rain by Guns ‘n Roses!


Yezdi Colt Behind The ScenesYezdi Colt BTS

The Yezdi colt is probably my favourite Yezdi of all. It is stunningly well made using box and C section metal. When you compare this tiny motor-scooter to the scooters on sale today, you really feel like you are being taken for a ride in plastic wonderland. I like my bikes to be made of metal thank you!
With a name like “Colt” it immediately threw up images of horses at full gallop. One ride on this machine and you’ll understand just how far the reality was from the visuals the name throws up in your head. It isn’t slow…but to put this bike alongside a competition stallion leaping over a hurdle would be a disservice to the original intended purpose of this machine. So we decided to pick a more “languid” location and for all things cool, one has to call Mr. Arul Futnani of The Farm on OMR. Arul kindly hooked us up with his stables after we promised to be very quick about it. We were there for less than an hour and the horses were very curious. The White female “Omega” was actually licking and chewing the seat of the colt and when we looked at the shots later for compositing, we found that this had made the bike move ever so slightly but enough to render those images useless. Fortunately we had enough material to composite this final shot together.

This is the only shot in our 2017 calendar that has living breathing subjects and the fact that we pulled it off is truly amazing! Thank you and no thank you Omega and co. πŸ™‚
P.S – the food at The Farm is amazing and so is the ambience. You should really take your family and the kids along for breakfast or lunch and enjoy the farm life. The Farm’s Website.


Jawa shoot in studioTale of two Jawa Motorcycles BTS

While we wanted to do a bulk of the work out in the real world, I had never shot an automobile in a studio before and I had a “look” in mind. We sourced the two bikes thanks to the Roaring Riders infinite pool of Czech motorcycles. A lovely black chrome and a red chrome arrived fully detailed and positively GLEAMING!

The arduous task of shifting these bikes up a flight of stairs to the first floor studio commenced. Once this was done, we could shoot!

I went for the interrogation style lighting technique for the red and chrome bike. We brought back some of the detail with multiple strobe hits and composited in post.

For the black and chrome I wanted to take several shots of the bike using “Tin Tin” lighting. Instead of a round light circle, we settled for an ellipse and used the natural shadows in the shot for added drama. The uneven textures of the floor added to the atmosphere and several composites later, we made the images work. This was much more challenging than outdoor shoots as studio lighting needs to be spot on and any missed areas would become impossible to recover. Maha did a wonderful job editing these images and I thank Srini and the rest of the crew for helping out as well.

Thanks to Sid for letting us use the studio space. We took a lot longer than we imagined but with motorcycles like these, you have to take your time.

Yezdi Roadking BTSΒ Lone Wolf Soldier – Yezdi Roadking BTS

Possibly one of the most elaborate shoots we have ever done. The concept came to my mind after Srini sent me a pic of this Roadking. Painted in Olive green and with a brown faux leather seat, it looked like a military bike from WW2. Srini and I popped over to Moore market to pick up a couple of ex-Army canteens, Police riot helmets and Camo pants. Maha identified some light-weight tent material that would do duty as a campsite tent in the final shot. Srini brought a nice realistic looking air gun from a friend’s place. Our production assistant, Ravi, brought the firewood and we all met up at the shoot location. The tent was first assembled as we expected it to be a fiddly affair. Thankfully it went up quickly and we could concentrate on the campfire.

Now I am not a smoker but it turns out none of the people at the shoot that evening smoked. Why is this relevant? When the fire wood was assembled and prepared and the time came to light the fire, we didn’t have a matchbox / lighter / flint stone or anything that could start a fire πŸ™‚
The military Roadking zoomed off the set to go and buy a box of matches. Once the fire was lit we posed all the items on the scene.

Our production assistant Ravi got into the camouflage pants and it is him you see in the photograph as the lone ranger cooking some chicken on the camp fire. Several shots were taken, composited and put together to make the final image. The firelight is what we ended up using to light the side of the bike. We did add in some light to render the tent, helmet, details on the bike like the front hub and headlight. Maha cleverly pulled in a military motorcycle number plate into the image to complete the package. The gun just looks serious and it was posed next to Ravi because which self-respecting soldier would stray too far from his gun?

Personally, I like the loneliness of the image, just a man and his survival kit strewn around as he cooks some dinner. You can imagine him being on a recon mission inside enemy territory using the motorcycle to get around the rough untended paths and keeping out of sight of enemy soldiers. I’d say a Yezdi Roadking is waaay too much eye candy for such a role and it sounds like Keith Moon on a bad night.The bike IS the focus of the shot but we needed everything else to tell a story.


Twin Roadking Fireworks Shoot!

Maybe not as elaborate as the military theme shoot but this was a unique and thrilling shoot for one reason : This is the only shot in the calendar featuring two motorcycles!

This shoot was also the nadir of my professional career. We had driven to the location, identified the angle and then setup the camera. The camera would not be moved until the end of the shoot several hours later. As we waited for the bikes to arrive we strarted to lose light so I wanted to take a few safety shots of the sunset sky colors so we could composite those details in at the end. I turned on the camera and to my horror I found that there was no SD card in it. As a minimalist, I like to go for a shoot carrying only what I need and nothing more. The SD card was left on my desk at home inserted into the card reader and the rest of my SD cards were in my main photo bag, which was also at home. I was stuck, on location, in the boondocks, with 3 people on site and 4 more to come, two bikes to shoot, fireworks to play with and I didn’t have an SD card anywhere on me!! This is a mistake I will NEVER make again.

My only consolation was the fact that I managed to salvage the situation by calling my production assistant Ravi to buy any SD card he could find at the market on his way to the location. I was sure the pickings would be slim because in rural areas you will be lucky to find anything new tech. He did show up later with an 8GB Class-4 Snail paced SanDisk but it did the job!! Apart from that, I managed to tether the camera to my iPhone 6+ using the Sony remote app. I could shoot and save images to my phone but these wouldn’t be anywhere close to the resolution of the camera. I sat there quietly bracketing away exposures of the sky and the dilapidated structure that would form the background of my shot. We did use these shots in the final image. The sky colors and clouds you see are from these images I shot and saved on my phone. Everything else was clicked AFTER the 8GB SD card arrived. Phew! I had to get that off my chest!

Soon, the lovely RED and YELLOW Yezdi Roadking motorcycles arrived and they just looked awesome. With an SD card back inside the camera (but with limited storage space) I had to nail this shoot. We positioned the bikes and started lighting up the scene. After lighting up the bikes, we got ready for the fireworks! Maha’s cousin Soorya had showed up to assist us on this shoot so I had no problem in putting him in mortal danger. His youthful exuberance helped him overcome his fear and soon he was wearing a motorcycle helmet, eye-protection, gloves and we were lighting up the fireworks. He had to spin the fireworks at the end of a cord and do it at speed so there would be maximum throw of sparks. After we were done capturing the fireworks we asked him how he felt and he said “I was confident because you guys knew what you were doing…you must have done this several times no?”. At this point Maha and I burst out laughing and that is when Soorya’s face went pale and he said “#*&^$@# Don’t tell me this was the first time!!” which was followed by more laughter πŸ™‚

In the end nobody died in making this photo. I did sink in a long way into the ground which was slushy to begin with. By the end of the shoot I was up to my calves in buffalo dung / mud / water. My ego had taken a battering thanks to the SD card incident. My wife’s cousin was inconsolable. All in all a normal day’s work if you ask me. We hope you like the final image πŸ™‚


Run-in with the Transvestites!

Napier bridge is one of the most recognizable sights in Chennai. It traverses two islands over the infamous Cooum river. The Cooum river is synonymous with smells that assault the nares in your nostrils. In the absence of proper sanitation pipelines, this river was used as a dumping point for all kinds of waste. As a result, as the sun rose every morning, the heat would cook the contents of the water and give rise to a spectacular pong!
These days, however, the situation is vastly improved and it is possible to walk across this bridge and enjoy the cleaner waters and the fresh air that blows in from the sea.

When I saw the color of this Yezdi D250 Classic, I knew that I wanted to put it against the night sky with a strong white background to offset the blue. Blue and white go well together. I thought about shooting it in front of the Police HQ building which is one of my favourite buildings in Chennai. The idea of spending a few nights in jail with a lubricated wooden lathi for intimate company quickly put that thought out of my head. I summoned my minions and told them of the plan to shoot on the bridge.

The idea was to go there post 11pm and setup. We thought the traffic would have died down (wrong!) and that we would be able to work in peace (wrong!). It turns out that traffic doesn’t die down significantly enough to be able to stand in the middle of the bridge. So we were shoved off to one side. If that wasn’t bad enough, the bridge is used for other nefarious activities in the night.

Our presence there was, apparently, an impediment to these proceedings and there was one transvestite that made it her personal mission to disrupt our shoot. We were verbally flayed for 20 minutes and she determinedly stood right in the frame despite us promising to get out of there within 15 minutes. Things were escalating rapidly and suddenly 4 more transvestites showed up. At this point I thought we were in for it. Lucky for us they asked us what the commotion was all about and when we told them the issue, they proceeded to blast their colleague for treating the public space as personal property. They told her to back off and give us time to finish. Buoyed by the fresh support and the peace that followed their arrival, we quickly made the shots that we needed.