Motorcycling photographer finds the right personal mix

All our lives we are encouraged to follow our passion. If you love what you do then it isn’t really work right?

All our lives we are encouraged to follow our passion. If you love what you do then it isn’t really work right?

Some choose careers for the salary and follow their passions in the hobby world. But, what if you could do both?

Photographer, Tim Swanky, has found the key how to combine his passion for his work with his passion for motorcycling with the recent publication of a book titled, “Front Lines: Portraits of Caregivers in Northern British Columbia,” for which Swanky was the photographer.

About 80 per cent of the remote locations traveled to by Swanky were done on his motorcycle.

Needless to say, catching up with Swanky proved to be challenging and I finally found him stationary at the local BMW dealer while he was having his motorcycle serviced.

After hearing of a history as a logger, a self-taught photo journalist and then a professional photography studio owner, it became clear how the early beginnings in the outdoors and a history of telling stories with photos would make Swanky the perfect candidate for the book.

“The book was an awareness/recruitment project,” said Swanky. “That was the logic.”

The book illustrates northern British Columbia health care workers in their natural elements, showing who they are as people as opposed to what they do for a living.

“The entire health care profession is represented and the book was aimed at attracting new health care practitioners by exposing the lifestyle that comes along with working in the North,” continued Swanky.

Swanky’s part of the project took just over a year to complete because “I wanted to represent all the scenery that the seasons have to offer and the diverse outdoor playground of Northern British Columbia.”

“All the images were photographed prior to any writing,” said Swanky.

“Every aspect of the photography was a clean canvas. It didn’t have to live up to any pre-conceived idea. Complete creative direction was all mine.”

As I listened, I couldn’t help but notice the tan on Swanky’s face—a sure sign of many hours behind bars this season already.

“I was given names and phone numbers. I knew nothing about the people, and no concept of what I was in for. I would phone the individuals and ask them about their passions away from work. The mandate of the book did not allow for any work or occupational photos— this was a book about the people.”

A dream project by any photographer’s standard, however, selecting to do all the necessary travel by motorcycle may not be the transportation of choice for most but for Swanky it was the only choice.

“I wanted to be paid to ride,” laughed Swanky.

“The plan was to try and ride as much as I could while still working.

“It was an ideal job that would allow me to ride. No schedules—if I got weathered out, I could just wait it out.”

After reviewing the published photos, I wondered how Swanky managed to get the proper lighting to capture such professional images.

Good photography requires specific lighting so we were interested about what concessions Swanky had to make in gear selection in order to take his motorcycle?

“With today’s advancing technology and thanks to Joe McNally and his lighting course. I packed light without sacrificing quality,” Swanky said.

McNally is a world-famous National Geographic photographer.

He hosted a week-long lighting workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico that Swanky attended. The topic was location lighting and the effective use of small strobes in place of large studio lights.

“With that knowledge, a portion of the images in the book are lit with small strobe units and the balance with natural light,” he said.

It was difficult to tell the difference and that was exactly what Swanky was aiming for.

Shooting with his favourite body, and four independent strobes, that left two luggage compartments for clothing and necessities and no room for camping gear.

“When I ride anywhere, I prefer to camp. I really don’t like hotels and motels. I would rather have the same bad bed each night instead of a different bad bed each night,” said Swanky.

Picture the bike—a 2009 Buell Uylesses—with hard saddlebags and a trunk.

One saddle bag for camera gear, one for clothing and necessities and the top trunk with his office (laptop, phone, and camera/lighting accessories.

The travel gear was 80 per cent camera equipment and 20 per cent personal effects.

As for lighting stands, well those were the passenger strapped cleverly to the passenger seat.

“I had recently sold my Harely-Davidson Road King to buy what I had envisioned would be the perfect motorcycle (the Buell Uylesses). It was fast and comfortable on pavement and adept off road—the perfect travel machine,” he said.

Marissa Baecker is a Capital News contributor



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