From the first moment I rolled out onto the streets of San Jose with thousands of other people riding in San Jose Bike Party, I knew it was something I was going to love. The once-monthly themed rides aim to “build community through bicycling,” and are a lot of fun. That was more than two years ago, and I’ve been on many of the rides since.
I also knew I wanted to photograph the phenomenon, but it’s hard to get a frame that captures all of Bike Party — once it starts, riders can spread out for blocks, or miles. Besides, the most interesting thing about Bike Party is the people who ride in it, many of them real characters. So I decided to set up a makeshift photo studio at one of the regroup areas and shoot everyone I could.
With the help of Daniel Garcia and Flora Moreno de Thompson of Content Magazine, we photographed folks at San Jose Bike Party’s Rocky Horror Ride in September. Flora wrangled riders and got contact info, Daniel provided the white backdrop and held up the lighting. What started as a personal project for me turned into an assignment for an article on Bike Party that Flora wrote for issue 4.4 of Content, which is available now.
I’ve uploaded all the photos to my online archive, so if you’re one of the folks I photographed, you can download a low-resolution photo for free, or buy a print. Use the “Buy Image” link to access both. Check them out here: San Jose Bike Party Photo Studio.
Why, when thinking up a lighting scheme, do I insist on things like, “The flash will fire at the camera but instead hit a mirror which will light the subject’s face, and oh, by the way, the camera will be clamped to a car while it’s driving down an alley and let’s make sure there’s no lens flare and we have to get all this just perfect before sunset because there’s another shot to do with another tweaky and annoying lighting setup.” (?!)
And so, I found myself adjusting a lens hood made out of gaffer’s tape as I ran next to Glen’s vintage car down an alley, gently supporting a camera on a magic arm clamped to the door, firing off a single frame as we got up to speed, urging Glen not to move his head too much or the circle of light created by the finely-adjusted side view mirror won’t fall on the right spot.
It worked, as you can see from the photo above. But it certainly helped that I had help.
It helped that the subject was Salinas portrait and pin-up photographer Glen McDowell, who frequently has me work with him at weddings. It helped that Glen’s assistant Annette was there, and it helped that my pal Travis Geske came along. Both helped with key suggestions on lighting and by moving gear.
Here are some photos from the shoot made by Travis:
This shoot was a self-assigned project — I wanted to do a portrait like this, Glen wanted some new portraits for his new website (and honestly, I owed Glen some favors). There are more such self-assigned portrait projects in the works.