The introduction of an exciting new model series such as the BMW K 1600 GT and K 1600 GTL brings with it an array of important marketing and communication activities, so that motorcycle fans understand and engage with the product, and are keen to discover more about this machine and its capabilities.
For the new six-cylinder luxury tourers, the interest is even greater than usual, given that it brings new levels of refinement, technical expertise and quality to the class. The message is clear: the GT and GTL are for those riders who believe that
only the best will do…
Consequently, those involved with the marketing of these prestigious machines are compelled to aim equally high, and the search for the most inspiring locations in which to photograph these luxury tourers has resulted in a series of photo-shoots that have taken a creative team all over the world in search of the kind of scenery and roads that long-distance riders dream of.
From volcanoes to rainforests – and from Europe to South America, a team of creatives has been working for months behind the scenes, planning, researching and location-finding, before undertaking a series of assignments that have resulted in these amazing pictures of the luxury tourers in a variety of ‘out of this world’ settings that travel-hungry motorcyclists would love to discover.
With a brief from BMW Motorrad to create ‘unchartered territories’ for the K 1600 GT and K 1600 GTL models, a team was assembled, including advertising agency and production company staff, and top automotive photographer Simon Puschmann, who would be working for the first time with BMW Motorrad. Having worked with BMW cars, BMW Motorsport and Mini before, Puschmann implicitly understood the brand’s values, but so keen was he to ‘live’ the world of BMW Motorrad, that he trained and successfully acquired a motorcycle licence prior to the shoot.
“It took me a little over four weeks for all the theory and practical lessons,” says the Hamburg-based photographer. “Then I went on the shoot and the day I returned I bought a 1969 BMW R 60/5 from a friend who has around 40 vintage bikes. It’s my first motorcycle, but I’m planning to get an R 1200 R Classic later this year.”
Capturing the K 1600 GT and GTL machines in the best virgin landscapes required journeys to France, Portugal, Spain and Brazil, but actually finding the right locations in the first place is the job of specialist companies that search and match a client or director’s vision for an advertising campaign, to a real-world location where the concept can be successfully brought to reality.
This meant using four different production companies – one in each country – well in advance of the shoots. One of these was Sonda Productions, which specialises in photo and film production services for advertising and automotive industries. Watch TV advertisements, or open any magazine and newspaper and you’ll see evocative images of cars in breathtaking locations, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that could be yours, if you just bought that particular brand of car…
Finding these awe-inspiring settings is the job of the ‘location scout’. It sounds like an enviable task, getting paid to fly and drive around the world, but it requires expert knowledge, complete understanding of photography and film-making, and an ability to cut through bureaucratic ‘red-tape’ to ensure there are no unforeseen circumstances that could hold up, or even prevent a shoot from taking place.
Before setting up his company Sonda Productions in Barcelona a decade ago, Werner Dursteler worked for years as a location scout, so he knows exactly what’s involved.
“It’s really important to have a good photographic ability, a perfect understanding of the production side and of course, a passion for landscapes. A good location scout isn’t just there to take and relay pictures, he has to show the photographer what is possible – he has to become the photographer’s ‘eyes’ in his absence. It’s important to understand all the possible layouts, what kind of lenses would be needed, the sun’s direction at a given time, how much space is needed for the crew to work safely and out of sight, which permits are needed – and how to get them – and much more besides. He needs to be able to shoot his proposed locations with a stand-in bike or car, and show the possible shot to its best effect for the photographer and agency to consider.”
Sonda Productions works throughout the world with all the major automotive brands. Dursteler’s team spends a lot of time working hard in location research, so that clients such as BMW Motorrad can be offered new and sometimes wild locations for photo-shoots. Technology and mobile communications have allowed scouts to remotely provide accurate information on a particular area, or road, with up-to-date images and GPS coordinates uploaded to a ‘Filmbook’ internet interface that can be viewed by clients. Recce work is usually done with a car, to offer the photographer a similar frame as the layout, but in certain cases, such as scouting a volcano location for the K 1600 GT and GTL shoots, a helicopter was used.
For motorcycle fan Werner, understanding the different requirements of a bike shoot, compare to a car shoot, was of paramount importance, especially with the lifestyle conveyed by ownership of a machine such as the new six-cylinder luxury tourer.
“We all know that car shoots are changing very fast, with a lot of ‘rigs’ being used and also increased use of CGI technology. However, I think that motorcycles are more ‘alive’ and I believe that this shoot was more dynamic than some car shoots, as we were able to shoot from a camera car and with two bikes at the same time. Simon Puschmann prepared himself well with the extra bike lessons, so that he’d feel comfortable with the dynamics and movements of these machines. I think these new tourers are beautiful, I am a happy BMW bikes customer and had a chance to ride the K 1600 GT – it felt amazing and not at all heavy. Well done BMW Motorrad.”
Puschmann was also lucky enough to ride the K 1600 GT, but not until after the shoot, as he didn’t dare damaging the bike while it was still needed. Massively impressed with these “dreams on wheels”, as he calls them, Simon found it a real challenge to photograph motorcycles compared to cars, but one that he enjoyed immensely and would love to try again.
“Surprisingly, it was much more difficult than shooting cars. The bikes have to be ‘in movement’ in order to appear moving. Unlike in car photography where you can turn a static shot into a driving shot in post production, with motorbikes that's not so easily possible. They have to be ridden, and not too slowly either! And hand in hand with the movement come focus issues, blurred images and other problems that I barely come across in car shoots. But it was nothing we were not able to solve.”
In all, the shoots were a massive logistical four-country exercise, involving a team of around 40 people, including photographer, assistants, riders Dirk Thelen and Marcus Klaas, client, agency and production company staff. And then of course, there’s the painstakingly detailed post-production process that takes place after the shoot is finished, where colours and backgrounds are retouched to really bring the images to life and give them that ‘other world’ feeling. Keen to maintain creative control, Puschmann was very much involved in this process too, and is impressed with the finished results, calling them “virgin landscapes at their best – these pictures make you want to be the guys on those bikes, I reckon.”
As for the international marketing team at BMW Motorrad in Munich, they are equally impressed with the pictures, which are already making appearances as fan posters, in dealer showroom displays and as flyers and product brochures. A film about the new K 1600 GT and GTL machines is also in production, having been shot on location, and the images can also be seen in the new K 1600 GTL catalogue, available soon from all BMW Motorrad dealers.
For more information on the new six-cylinder luxury tourers, visit www.bmw-motorrad.com and to see video footage from this shoot, please see www.youtube.com/bmwmotorrad#p/u/11/DEu7-x8cVkc and www.youtube.com/bmwmotorrad#p/u/10/nEfazqIcq-g