The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

Photos of motorcycles and their owners are undoubtedly my favourite thing to shoot. Oftentimes, having someone show their essence and their relationship with their vehicle takes time and isn’t always achievable. However, there’s a yearly event where working towards that goal requires almost no effort – motorcyclists leave their houses prepared, they’re already imbued with that attitude and can only attend with classic motorcycles and fitted with elegant attire. The whole event has one single purpose, so I’ll transcribe it straight from the event’s official page so not a single comma is missed and the full spirit of the announcement is present.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/25000″ . ISO 200

“The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride unites classic and vintage style motorcycle riders all over the world to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in Sydney, Australia by Mark Hawwa. It was inspired by a photo of TV Show Mad Men’s, Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit. Mark decided a themed ride would be a great way of connecting niche motorcycle enthusiasts and communities while raising funds to support the men in our lives.”

The event happens worldwide on the same day. The organizers are incredible, the managers dedicate time and effort only having in mind the success and safety of the event.

Last year’s number of participants in Argentina was 3425, Buenos Aires being one of the cities that gathers the most motorcyclists, every one of them eager to enjoy themselves and be photographed. As I mentioned before, during the event all motorcyclists are committed to playing their role, some who are more enthusiastic start preparing for the day of the ride months in advance.

In sum, the photographic challenge is purely technical since the participants are eager and willing to pose in front of the camera. It feels like a time travel experience with classic motorcycles and their pilots donning vintage wear, sometimes even including pipes and monocles.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/1800″ . ISO 200

The photographs mentioned in this text are from DGR Buenos Aires 2018 and 2019, back when no social distancing was required. This year’s event will be different, no better nor worse, just different. The pandemic has made it so that keeping distance and wearing a mask is a necessity, which undoubtedly will be a challenge. Therefore, DGR 2020 will be different from previous ones. The event has its official photographers and each brand also has its own photographer.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/2700″ . ISO 200

Since I enjoy photographing it but also taking part as a motorcyclist, not being an official photographer gives me the freedom to enjoy the event without the obligation of presenting any results, and that’s when something incredible occurs, when I don’t have an obligation to fulfil, the best photographs happen (to my criteria, obviously).

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/28000″ . ISO 200

This way, during the DGR I can have my moments as a motorcyclist and my moments as a photographer, both roles having so much fluidity and attention that in the last DGR, I jumped off my bike to take pictures and when the ride started, I lost it, a Royalenfield Classic 500 Stealth Black, amongst the others bikes. I had to wait for the group to be dispersed so I could be able to locate it and continue with the ride.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/12800″ . ISO 200

The groups of motorcyclists ride from previously agreed upon meeting points. In my case, I rode from the Royal Enfield Vicente López agency. The moment before the ride starts is ideal to start photographing. The weather on the day of the DGR 2018 was excellent for photographic purposes, it was cloudy and bright, with even light without shadows. This way, I had almost 360 degrees of vision around the riders and their bikes. Since I don’t like to carry a lot of gear, my all-terrain combo is a body (in this case my X-T1) with an XF56mm f1.2, two extra batteries, and 2 memory cards.

Since there was a possibility of rain, I also carried the XF50mm f2 which is weather-resistant, so that in case it did rain, I could carry on photographing without spoiling the equipment. I enjoy long focal lengths because they separate the subject from the background and the front perfectly. A super useful accessory that I don’t want to forget to mention is the ND filter, to be able to use the lenses with the maximum aperture and not exceed the maximum shutter speed.

I always try to portray the subjects in their best view, with an almost epic attitude. So the XF56mm fits perfectly for this type of photography. You take them lightly from below, connecting the driver to most of his vehicle.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/1800″ . ISO 200

The DGR 2019 was sunny, so the challenge was also the orientation of the light, but the trick is to position yourself in relation to the shot and instruct the motorcyclist to look at a fixed point that locates them perfectly for the correct light. In these cases, I use spot metering and take the photometry on the subject’s face, along with the focus.

Since I come from the film camera era, I do not take bursts, only a single shot and I make sure that photography is the best it can be, I do not take more than 1 or 2 photos per subject, that helps me at the time of editing since that means there is not much to choose from. At noon, if it is sunny with no clouds, the light gets complicated, so I either take out a collapsed reflector or I put the camera away and enjoy the event.

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/2700″ . ISO 200

The only time that I take photos of the motorcyclists without their motorcycles, is during the organizers’ speech, when the participants are located on the stairs of the engineering faculty building. The columns of the building plus the vintage style of the participants make these unique photographs.

As always, I leave the difficult task of selecting the photos to Mauricio and Hugo. If you allow me, I leave a link to access the ones that were left out: https://photos.app.goo.gl/dGbM2hgFp2MusMC16

DGR’s official website:
www.gentlemansride.com 
@gentlemansride

Fuji X-T1 . Fuji XF56mmF1.2 @56mm . f/1.2 . 1/1800″ . ISO 200

Spanish:
Las fotografías de motos y sus dueños sin lugar a dudas es lo que más me gusta, en ocasiones normales lograr que la persona muestre su esencia y la relación con su vehículo, lleva tiempo y no siempre se logra. Pero hay un evento en el año que casi no hay que trabajar para lograr ese objetivo, los motociclistas salen preparados desde sus casas, ya están embebidos de esa actitud ya solo puede asistir con motos clásicas y solo pueden vestir de forma elegante. Todo el evento tiene un propósito y les transcribo el objetivo del mismo directamente desde la página oficial del evento para no fallar ni en una coma, exponiendo el espíritu de la convocatoria.

“The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride une a los motociclistas de estilo clásico y vintage de todo el mundo para recaudar fondos y crear conciencia sobre la investigación del cáncer de próstata y la salud mental de los hombres. The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride fue fundada en Sydney, Australia por Mark Hawwa. Se inspiró en una foto del programa de televisión Mad Men’s, Don Draper, a horcajadas en una bicicleta clásica y con su mejor traje. Mark decidió que un viaje temático sería una excelente manera de conectar a entusiastas y comunidades de motos de nicho mientras recauda fondos para apoyar a los hombres en nuestras vidas.”

El evento ocurre en todo el mundo el mismo día, la organización es impecable, los encargados le dedican esfuerzo y tiempo con el solo interés de que el evento se lleve a cabo con éxito y seguridad. En Argentina, la cantidad participantes el último año fue de 3425, y es la ciudad de Buenos Aires una de las que más motociclistas reúne, todos con ganas de disfrutar y de ser fotografiados. Como les comentaba, en este evento los motociclistas están compenetrados en el papel, de hecho los más fanáticos se preparar meses antes para el dia del “ride” (DGR, en adelante). En síntesis, el desafío fotográfico es pura y exclusivamente técnico, ya que la actitud para posar ante la cámara de los participantes está garantizada. Parece un viaje en el tiempo, con motocicletas clásicas, con sus pilotos con trajes, antiparras vintage, a veces también con pipas y monoculos. Las fotografías de este texto, son del DGR Buenos Aires de los años 2018 y 2019 donde no era necesario el distanciamiento social. El DGR 2020 va a ser diferente, ni mejor ni peor, diferente. La pandemia va a hacer que tengamos que mantener el distanciamiento y el usar tapabocas, lo que sin dudas va a ser un desafío. Por eso el DGR 2020 va a ser diferente a los anteriores. El evento cuenta con fotógrafos oficiales y cada marca auspiciante también cuenta con su fotógrafo. Como me gusta tomar fotografías y participar del evento también como motociclista, no ser fotógrafo oficial me da la libertad de poder hacer disfrutando sin la obligación de tener material, y algo increíble es que cuando voy sin metas, salen las mejores fotografías (a mi criterio obviamente). Así que durante el DGR tengo momentos de motociclista y momentos de fotógrafo, los dos roles me generan tanta fluidez y atención, que en en el último DGR me baje de un salto de mi moto a tomar fotografías y al momento de partir, la perdí entre las demás, una Royalenfield Classic 500 Stealth Black tuve así que esperar a que ser disperse el grupo para poder ubicarla para seguir con el Ride. Los grupos de motociclistas salen de puntos de encuentro acordados previamente. En mi caso salgo de la agencia de Royal Enfield Vicente López. Los momentos previos a la partida son ideales para comenzar a tomar fotos. El clima del DGR 2018 a los fines fotográficos fue excelente, nublado y luminoso, luz pareja sin sombras. Así que contaba con casi los 360 grados de visión alrededor del motociclista y su moto. Como no me gusta cargar mucho equipo, mi combo todo terreno es un cuerpo (en este caso mi X-T1) con un XF56mm f1.2, dos baterías extra y 2 tarjetas de memoria. Como había posibilidad de lluvia, llevo también el XF50mm f2 que es impermeable, en caso de lluvia puedo seguir tomando fotografías sin estropear el equipo. Me gustan los las focales largas, ya separan al sujeto del fondo y del frente perfectamente. Un accesorio súper útil que no me quiero olvidar de mencionar es el filtro ND, para poder usar los lentes con la apertura máxima y no sobrepasar la velocidad de obturación. Trato siempre de retratar al sujeto con su mejor vista, con actitud casi épica. Por eso el XF56mm encaja perfectamente para este tipo de fotografía. Las tomas ligeramente desde abajo, conectando al piloto con la mayor parte de su vehículo. El DGR 2019 fue soleado, así que el desafío fue también la orientación de la luz, pero el truco es ubicarse en relación a la toma e indicar al motociclista que mire un punto fijo que lo ubique perfecto para la luz correcta. En estos casos uso medición puntual y tomo la fotometría en la cara del sujeto, junto con el foco. Como vengo de la época de cámara de películas, no saco ráfagas, solo un solo disparo y me aseguro que fotografía sea lo mejor posible, no saco mas de 1 o 2 fotos por sujeto, eso me ayuda al momento de la edición ya que no hay mucho para elegir. A las 12 hs del mediodía, si está soleado sin nubes, se complica la luz así que o saco un reflector colapsabe, o guardo la cámara y disfruto del evento. En el único momento que realizo fotos con los motociclistas sin sus motos, es durante del discurso de los organizadores, los participantes se ubican sobre las escaleras del edificio de la facultad de ingeniería. Las columnas del edificio mas el estilo vintage de los participantes, hacen que sean fotografías únicas.

"Marcelo Esperon (aka Marcelo de Coghlan on social networks) Family man, dentist, motorcyclist, amateur documentary and portrait photographer. I was born in Buenos Aires City - Argentina, in 1970 and living in Coghlan, a small neighborhood. I am married to Ale, a very patient wife, and I am a very proud father of two sons. I’m a dentist, my hobby is photography, and my way of relaxing is riding motorcycles. I love the three activities, but the combination of the last two is amazing. I also love street photography, love walking with a camera in hand. I began with photography 30 years ago."

4 Comments

  1. Cool, another motorcycle theme post. I live just outside of Daytona Beach, Florida and we have two large biker events each year, which I photograph.

    Trying to be as kind and diplomatic as possible… nobody at any of our events looks anything like the subjects you have presented here. Everyone in your post looks like a model with perfectly composed wardrobes. No big belly, raggedy leathered riders who may not have been to a barber in a few years. Talk about a target rich environment.

    As usual, you made that 56mm sing. Thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Albert, the philosophy of the event is be elegant, is the reason that all the people were cool in the photos. The Harley – Daytona style events are the same style here. I went to Daytona bike week and is true.
      Thanks for your words and time to share your thoughts!
      Marcelo

  2. John Deal
    For me l would love to see these taken with a slightly wider lens, l feel it would draw me into the atmosphere of the occasion more.
    But still great pictures.

    1. Hello John, maybe you are right about the wide lens, but I can’t stop using the 56mm or 90mm. I tried the 35mm 14 and sold it. I like to show only one or two subject on frame. But i understand your point. Thanks too much for your comment!
      Marcelo

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