As part of an on going personal project on unusual small business owners I photographed Krishan Klein of Trojan Cycles. Krishan was the only subject in the project I had not know previously. He is a good friend of one of my son’s teachers, Jason. Knowing I was into vintage motorcycles Jason suggested I contact Krishan and that maybe I would want to photograph him with some of his bikes.

Krishnan, a.k.a. Scrap Ninja, buys old and crashed motorcycles then restores them from the ground up. Oddly enough Krishan buys the bikes here in the U.S. then ships them to Japan where he rebuilds them. He sells them in Japan as well because he can get more money for them there than here in the states. One reason is that although many of the bikes he rebuilds where originally from Japanese manufactures like Honda, and Yamaha, the larger bikes where built exclusively for the American market. Krishan has dual citizenship as his wife lives in Japan.

Krishan’s shop was crowed so I decided to photograph him in the alleyway in front of the shop. It was early afternoon and the sun was high in the cloudless sky. I knew I’d need to over power the sun so I pulled out the 2000 watt second power pack and two, 1000 watt second packs, all Dyna-Lite. We had settled on photographing him with a 70’s vintage Harley Davidson, as that was of the more complete bikes in the shop. Of course it was nearly all black.  The little bit of color on the bike was miscellaneous parts plated with real gold, and a painting of Zeus and a Centaur on the Gas tank, “Lovely!” Should have shot a close-up.
I set up two 4×6 Chimera, softboxes side by side, directly in front of the bike, and connected both heads to the 2000ws pack. The wind picked up and the softboxes began to spin around and despite have a sand bag on each stand I was afraid they would tip over in the next strong gust of wind. I asked Krishan if he had anything heavy I could hang from the stands. He returned with several disc break rotors that I attached to the stands with bunji cords. The stands didn’t blow over but the softboxes were still turning from side to side in the wind. I used A clamps to join the two boxes in middle and tied off the outer end of the softboxes to nearby garage door handles using nylon strapping I use to secure equipment to my rolling cart. I told Krishan, “Only a fool would set up two large softboxes in a windy alley way, but that was just the kind of fool I was.”
I wanted two very strong rim lights, on Krishan, to separate him from the brick wall. I placed a gridded head on either side moving the stands right up against the wall. I feathered the light so not only did it define Krishan’s, left and right side but I let a little light spill on to the dark brick as well.
The final touch was wetting the concrete with several buckets of water from a nearby spigot to give it that, “Just after a rain look and pick up some reflection of the bike in the water. Something I learned while assisting Eugene Mopsik on Mack Truck shoots.
I stood between the two large softboxes poking the lens between the narrow slit between the two, and made my exposures.

The most important lesson I will take away from this project is to seize the opportunities that present themselves, to turn impulses into action and try out new things on self-assignments and not wait to try them out on real job.

 Sure would be nice to own of his creations!

I had the opportunity to photograph a piece of motorcycling history, a 1967, Bultaco, Sherpa T, owned by Allen Gracey. I met Allen at an MAVT sponsored trials event in Toughkenamin, PA. It was my first time competing in a trials event. Allen guided me to each section, explained the rules and gave me tips, but above all, he gave me encouragement. I did not place but I was pleased just to finish. I completed all four loops of the seven-section course.
Built in Spain by Francisco Bulto, the M10 ended the sixty-year reign of British, 4 strokes in the sport of observed trials. It’s popularity helped to spread the sport from England to the rest of Europe and the United States.
Unusual for the time, the Sherpa T was powered by a 244cc two stroke, engine with dual flywheels and a radial head mounted on a Rickman designed frame.
Aside from the machine its self, much of the success of the M10 was due to the fact that Bulto signed Sammy Miller to compete for him. In the first two years, Miller took 1st place in 58 of 80 events he entered.
I photographed the bike in Allen’s garage. I rolled the bike onto a white seamless and boomed two 4×6 foot Chimera softboxes over it. Each box had a Dyna-Lite 4040 head inside. Each head was connected to a 1000 pack at full power.
To me motorcycles are more than machines, they are functional art, thrilling and exhilerating sculpture.
Click here to see my Triumph, Thruxton photo.
 vintage Yamaha TY80

My son Wynn on vintage Yamaha TY80

The basics of Internal combustion are simple, if an engine has fuel and a spark, it should run, so when Wynn’s 1975 TY 80 refused to start, The first thing I did was check for gas in the tank. There was plenty of fuel so I ruled that out, leaving the electrical system the likely culprit. I removed the plug from the cylinder, stuck it back into the cap and grounded it on the cylinder head. When I jab at the kickstarter, a bright, blue-white spark should snap between the electrodes of the plug. I kicked it over but no spark. Was the problem as simple as a bad plug which could be easily and cheaply, be replaced or was it something more complex?

I remembered a trick my father had taught me. While repairing a lawnmower he called me over and asked me to hold the sparkplug wire. Not knowing about such things at the time, I obliged. Dad yanked on the starter cord and I recoiled as an electrical jolt ran from the wire, into my fingers and up my arm. Dad thought it was pretty funny and after a while, so did I. Some time later, while working on a rototiller my father called me over, again, to hold the sparkplug wire. I’m not sure if he had forgotten about pulling that trick on me before or if he didn’t remember which of his three sons had fallen for it before, but I walked over and took hold of the wire. We were both smiling as he pulled the starter cord.

Back to the present and troubleshooting Wynn’s bike. I removed the plug and remembering Dad, stuck my little finger in the cap and jabbed at the kick lever again. This time there was no jolt, not even a tickle.This confirmed there was indeed a problem in the electrical system. It could be the coil, the points, the condenser, a short or a broken wire.

As a teenager, I had learned to do many motorcycle repairs out of necessity. The bike shop was far away and I could barely afford the parts let alone the labor. If I wanted to ride, I had to fix it myself. I’d order parts from the shop by telephone (rotary) and had them delivered C.O.D. via U.P.S. I could install chains, sprockets, tires, cables, pistons and rings. If it was just a matter of removing the worn or broken part and bolting on a new part, I could handle it. My Achilles heel was, and continues to be the electrical system. If a new sparkplug doesn’t fix it, I’m stuck. Time to find a bike shop.

Triumph Thruxton

Triumph Thruxton

Triumph Thruxton motorcycle

I sell myself as a people photographer specializing in location work, so what am I doing showing a photograph of a motorcycle in the studio? Well, let me explain.

I do photography for The John Alexander Gallery of Chestnut Hill. They specialize in Twentieth Century British handcrafted furniture and decorative arts. I photograph, tables, chairs, cabinets, lamps, umbrella stands, coat racks, dressers, bookcases, mirrors and so on. There are no personalities to deal with so for a few times a year, it’s a welcome change of pace.

A few weeks ago I received a call from John saying they had just received a new shipment and he wanted to know what my schedule was like over the next couple of weeks. We settled on a date and I agreed to meet him at his warehouse. I arrived early to hang the background and set up the lighting before John’s arrival, when we would go over the pieces to be photographed.

After spending about an hour setting up the background, lighting camera and computer, John walks in the door swinging a helmet by his side. “Addison, would you like to see my new toy!” he says, with a broad smile. “I followed him outside.

Sitting in the driveway was a new Triumph Thruxton 900. Named after the famous English racecourse where Triumph had set numerous endurance records in the 60’s. With it’s rear mounted footpegs and clip on handlebars, the Thruxton is a modern day reincarnation of the classic café racers of yesteryear.

John asked me if I wanted to take it for a spin. I was Tempted but I told him “no thanks, I didn’t want to ride it, I wanted to photograph it!” It only had sixteen miles showing on the odometer and I wanted to photograph it while it was still in showroom condition. Next time he offers to let me take it for a ride I’ll have a different reply.