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The Stock Photo Guy
Businessman Riding His Bicycle On A Busy Freeway
Life in the fast lane
My associate, Sam Diephuis, had this great idea stock photo idea and asked me to join him in making it into a photographic reality. His original idea was simply a man at his desk in the middle of a freeway, but we decided to expand it into this series. We ended up with this image, the man riding his bicycle on the freeway, as well as a man and a woman at a desk (with papers blowing), a man and a woman on their couch watching TV, a couple having a picnic on the freeway, and a two year old toddler in diapers standing on the freeway. In the image with the toddler I decided not to have any cars. The image was disconcerting enough without actually adding the cars…sometimes less really is more!
Slow circling the airport
To get the freeway shots I drove my convertible around and around the San Francisco airport a slow speeds while Sam sat in the back and photographed the road behind us. At one point the airport police followed us around for one entire circuit, but eventually just pulled on by us. I was sure they were going to pull us over for security reasons! On the way to and from the airport Sam photographed cars behind and alongside us giving us the raw materials to populate the freeway with.
Props, lighting and details
The next day we set up in the parking lot in front of my Sausalito photo studio. Our props were simple enough to get. We borrowed a couch from a friend, carted my big screen TV out of my house, and set up the shot using Profoto 7b packs and heads to provide supplemental light. A couple of times we added yet a bit more light with reflectors. We let the Sun be our primary light and shot at approximately the same time of day as we shot the road shots. I made print outs of the road shots we chose for our backgrounds so that we could continuously check the lighting and angle details. All of our photography was done with a Canon 1ds MKII and a 24-105 Canon zoom lens. We use pocket wizards to fire off the strobe packs.
We repeated the process photographing the desk from my office, my "cruiser" bicycle (bought for burning man), and with a fellow photographer's 2-year-old boy. I used Photoshop not just to strip-in the models and sets, but also the automobiles. I also had to do a fair amount of work on the freeway backgrounds. I added to the complexity of the freeways and "cleaned-up" a lot of extraneous items such as light poles, signs, unwanted cars and so forth. I even used Photoshop to change the color of one car from red to blue, and to add the motion.
We had a wind machine to perform such functions as blowing papers off of the desk and blowing clothing and hair as if the wind of passing cars were impacting the scene. However, as is so often the case, the wind machine was pretty ineffective. When we got the machine close enough to actually work the it would either be in the shot, or it's shadow would be interfering. When the wind machine wasn’t doing the job we improvised. For example, for the bicycling shot, we held out the man's tie and shot it as if it were flying out from the wind. We then were able to put it into position with Photoshop when we composited the image. We used a similar process for the flying papers in the desk photograph.
Photoshop and success
It was a challenging job to put the images together in Photoshop and to make
all the angles and lighting work cohesively. I have been through enough of these
shoots to know that it is important to shoot everything from slightly different
angles and to pay close attention to the quality and direction of the light.
There is nothing worse that being in the middle of a compositing job and to
realize that you don’t have the right angle or lighting to make it work. In the
end though, I am really pleased with the final result, and Getty Images has
placed five of the photos from the series into their collection. For a whole different take on freeway interchange and clover leaf photography, check out this incredible aerial freeway picture.
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