Photographer Simon Puschmann is well known for his work with many of the world's most desirable brands, including BMW cars, BMW Motorsport and Mini. The Hamburg-based photographer had never worked with BMW Motorrad before though, so the opportunity to provide marketing images for the eagerly-awaited K 1600 GT and K 1600 GTL luxury touring machines was just too good to miss. The shoot took him all over the world in search of the kind of landscapes and roads that long-distance riders dream of. The results are outstanding of course, and Puschmann enjoyed every step of the journey, as he reveals in an exclusive interview.
You’re a BMW fan. We hear you have recently bought a 1969 R 60/5 Boxer?
Yep. It is my first motorbike. I'm planning to get an R 1200 R Classic later this year. For this shoot I specifically and very quickly acquired my bike licence. It took me a little over four weeks for all the theory and practical lessons. Then I went on the shoot and the day I returned I bought my R 60/5 in gold off a friend who has around 40 vintage bikes.
How was your first time working with motorcycles?
This was my first bike shoot but hopefully not my last. The agency had previously contacted me for other bike shoots but I somehow ‘fell thru the grid’ every time. So, this time I "promised" I'd have a licence by the time we'd shoot if they really wanted to hire me. I knew that the client prefers the shooter to have a licence and be able to ride a bike. It makes sense, too, I've come to realize.
What was the brief you received for this project?
The main target was to create "uncharted territories or virgin landscapes" and of course make the bikes look great.
Did production companies find all the locations, or were you able to have some influence in this?
Since we shot in four countries we ended up using four different production companies (Tim Michel from Hamburg who oversaw the whole shebang, Sonda for Portugal and Spain, Luna Images for Brazil and Hanne Evans for France). Each of them brought in their local knowledge but the overall decisions were made by the agency Serviceplan and myself – not so much by the production companies. They make suggestions and hence do have some type of influence in the location part but they don’t make the final call.
Which was your favourite country of the four you visited, and why?
I pretty much love every country that I'm in instantly. I get paid to look at the world, I stay in decent hotels, eat decent food – what is there not to like? I did like the Spanish Pyrenees a lot though and it was my first time there. We spent quite a few days there.
Were there any problems with the weather, climate, insects, wildlife etc?
Certainly, plenty of that: rain in Brazil; fog in France; snow in Spain; planes not leaving; airport strikes; equipment not arriving; lots of delays; rescheduling – the usual photo production madness.
Have you had any involvement in the post-production of the pictures?
Yes, very much so. I like to be involved from A to Z. Just pressing the button on set isn't the entire job. Post production is a vital part of it and I'd like to maintain creative control as much as possible. These images were ingeniously put together by Jonas Braukmann of Recom, Ostfildern.
What are your impressions of the finished results?
Virgin landscapes at their best. These pictures make you want to be those guys on those bikes, I reckon.
How did shooting motorcycles compare to photographing cars?
Surprisingly, it was much more difficult than shooting cars. They have to be in movement in order to appear moving. Unlike in car photography where you can still 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 nothing we were not able to solve. Photography is pretty much physics after all and most problems can be solved if you give it some thought.
Did you always use public roads to make the shoots?
Yes. Mostly blocked public roads with police guarding top and bottom but also the occasional car park
Were you working to ‘storyboards’ to fulfil the brief?
Well, yes – only we call them layouts in photography. For the filming part – we also shot some film footage as well – we had no real brief. Just film the bikes riding through grand landscapes.
What main photographic equipment were you using to make these pictures?
I shoot with a Contax 645. The lenses in this shoot range from 35 to 55. My digital back is a Phase One P45+ with 39 Mega Pixels. I use a Briese 180 cm modul and Profoto 7bs for flash-light.
You’ve done work for BMW Motorsport in F1. Would you consider a similar project in World Superbikes?
Certainly. Being hooked on the whole motorbike thing now, it would be a blast, I'm sure. Mind you, I'm not a sports or documentary photographer. I need control. I can stage stuff well and make it look like an optimized version of reality but I'm not the documentary type.
What are your impressions of the new six-cylinder tourers?
I was stoked. They look awesome, they ride well. They’re bloody dreams on wheels.
Did you get to ride any of them then?
I rode the K 1600 GT after the shoot. I couldn’t risk damaging the bike while it was still needed. It felt awesome.
What kind of person do you think the K 1600 GT and K 1600 GTL models will appeal to?
That’s not a question for me. I’d get one if I could afford one. But I’ll have to settle one level lower, like with the R 1200 R Classic that I am waiting for.