Home Events Harley days, career decisions and a Hoggiefest.

Harley days, career decisions and a Hoggiefest.

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It started in July 2001. After 30 years working in the motor industry, I decided that it was time to take a break from all the pressure and the endless travelling.

But by mid-2002 I found myself being courted by Harley-Davidson to set up am HD sales company for Australia and New Zealand. Harleys had been sold in Australia and NZ for many years but always through importer/distributors. America’s iconic bike maker had decided it was time to go solo.

The wooing

Agreeing terms for my employment was a rather protracted process and, anyway, I was in no hurry because I was also being wooed by a car company at the same time. But in September 2002 I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia, at a Harley 100th Anniversary Road Show event and still negotiating.

I had flown over from Sydney a day earlier and at the last minute, I had put my Leica M6 with a 35mm lens and some Ektachrome slide film into my bag. I thought I might have a tad of spare time to take photos of Harley riders and their bikes. Fat chance. I was on a 6 pm deadline to leave Atlanta to catch a flight to LA and then a late evening trans-Pacific flight home.

By 5 pm I had wasted the day on and off negotiating so I went out into the event area to take some photos and to get some air. Sadly I had the opportunity to take just one photo before I was back talking. At 6.15 we finally agreed on a deal — just as I was putting my papers into my bag ready to go home. Then it was a mad rush to Atlanta airport. I just made the Sydney flight in LA and, much to my surprise, so did my bag.

The image below is that solo shot — a scan from the Ektachrome slide. I remember the circumstances very well. The rider is a really typical American Harley guy and, as is almost always the case, very friendly and eager to talk.

No gun Aussie

He was very surprised to learn that I was Australian and that I spoke English so well (!) and even more surprised to find out, after he raised the subject, that contrary to the fake news he had recently read in the NRA journal, Australians were overwhelmingly in favour of the strict national gun control laws which had been introduced a few years earlier.

He really could not get his mind around the fact that I had never ever even handled a gun let alone fired one — and that I was typical of most Australians in that respect. But at least he did not ask me if I lived near where they filmed the Sound of Music.

I really like the photo because of the memories it evokes: That conversation was a precursor to so many similar encounters in the US during my years with Harley.

After that occasion I did not take a single Harley-related photo for the full six years I was running Harley-Davidson Australia/NZ. Why I am not totally sure. I was always very busy but also my usually keen interest in photography definitely waned during that time.

The only other two other Harley photos in my files were taken years after I had retired. The first of these is below. Chenz is everyone’s image of a Harley rider — beard, shades, attitude, big and muscular with a shaved head and tattoos all over his arms (and who knows where else). He was with his bike at the 2015 Chromefest Hot Rod Festival at The Entrance here on the Central Coast.

In the bag

A photographer with a big Nikon DSLR was already lining Chenz up for a photo when I came across him. She was changing lenses and fiddling with the camera’s controls and Chenz was getting a little edgy. I had my Leica X1. No lenses to change and no decisions to make. While Ms Professional was deciding which lens to use, Chenz was in the bag. I don’t do monochrome often nowadays but I do think that it suits Chenz.

My favourite Harley image is the header photo. It was taken at the very popular Jerry’s Cafe, at Kulnura in NSW. On a Sunday morning, Jerry’s is full of riders about to head up the road up to Wollombi and the Hunter Valley. I often call in at Jerry’s with car enthusiast friends for a coffee and a bite before we drive that same road.

That particular day we were having a cars-and-coffee morning and the Harley Owners Group (HOG) riders were saddling up ready to for the off. The light was right and I saw my chance just as most of them were firing up their bikes. Another grabbed X1 shot.

Stick with Hoggies

Although some of them might look a little intimidating, HOG riders come from all walks of life — lawyers and doctors to tradies and retired oldies and most are amiable. Nevertheless, a little bad-boy-or-girl attitude is part of the brand’s appeal.

The real “bad” bikers or bikies are not HOG members but outlaw motorcycle gang followers such as the Finks. They are the ones with gang “colours” on the back of their leather jackets. It’s probably best to exercise extreme caution when photographing them without consent — which you are unlikely to obtain. My advice is stick to the Hoggies if you’re looking to photograph chrome and leather.


You can find more from John Shingleton, at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram

More articles by John Shingleton on Macfilos

11 COMMENTS

  1. A great article John and a great B&W shot. I wonder how you processed the image to have such profound blacks. It’s my favourite shot.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Jean , thanks -yes from time to time when I consider it appropriate I do black and white but such instances are rare nowadays.
      I use Silver EFex Pro2 for my black and white conversions as a plug-in on my Lightroom. I purchased it a few years ago as a software bundle from Nik Software . Soon afterwards Google bought Nik and offered the bundle for free for a couple of years but then as so often happens with Google they lost interest and said that they were no longer supporting it. However it was acquired by DXO-good on them-and it is still available at a cost from them and other suppliers. I highly recommend it.

  2. Neat article, good advice on Gang Bikers, last week the Hells Angels new HQ in the Bronx was shot up. They not sure which rival biker group responsible. Please stay well with all those bush fires.

  3. Great images and article. Really love the B&W photo – perfectly processed for the subject. I always wanted a harley but my mother and then my wife were against it. That was probably a good idea with my somewhat rebel dimension.
    I once had a Hells Angel bump into me in a pub and he glared at me as if it was my fault. I instantly glared back before thinking but luckily he moved on.
    I also like the US flag being in your colour photo as it adds a special dimension as well as echoing the colours in the HD logo. Hence, I do not think it would work as well in B&W but who knows!
    You sure were blessed and thanks for an interesting article.

  4. John, when I saw your name on your latest article, I misguidedly thought I was about to receive an update on Australia’s devastating fires. Please reassure us that you are safe in your part the world.

    Having relatives in Melbourne, I have been watching the Victoria fire risk map and warnings. Unbelievable loss of lives, wildlife and properties. But all is well, so far. Nearest fires are two hours away. Seems close to me.

    Fine use of the X1 again.

    • David, thanks for your concern. We are all safe here in Terrigal although the smoke haze and falling ash has been a serious nuisance for nearly three weeks. There is a massive fire burning in the national park inland from here but it is not a threat to us. In fact it is currently lighly raining -not enough to put out fires or be of any use but as it is the first rain for over 5 months at least it proves it can still rain.
      Although we have not been directly impacted we are all very distressed by the terrible loss of our country-people-buildings-parks and the wild animals. On Kangaroo Island off South Australia they estimate that 250,000 koalas have burnt to death and that’s just a small area of the fires.
      Many of us are also deeply distressed by the behaviour of many of our politicians but as Mike does not like politics on Macfilos I will temper my vitroil.

  5. As a distressing footnote to the story-Jerry’s Cafe at Kulnura where the header photo was taken was right in the middle of a massive fire last week. There was extensive property loss in the area. I do not know the fate of the Cafe but I would say that it’s a real worry. It’s only an hour’s drive away but I can’t venture up there to find out as the area is still shown as an active fire zone on the Firesnearme.App.

    On that subject we have been brilliantly served by that Rural Fire Service App which gives constantly updated info on the fires and active maps. Also the ABC-the Australian public broadcasting service has done an amazing job. The sad thing is that our government is determined to privatise the ABC-at the urging of Rupert Murdoch so in future we may well not have the benefit of such coverage.

  6. Great shots and a great story! A few years ago I worked with Heather Malenshek who is now global head of marketing. She is like a stick of seaside rock with Harley written all the way through her. She is truly the epitome of the brand, and totally admirable whether your ride a Harley or not. It is an incredible brand with a very diverse owner base and they do not conform in reality to the clichés that people perceive them to be.

    Cheers!

  7. Hi Mike,

    Sorry for my lateness to the show, I have been a little busy with work and what have you.

    I love the story of this article, and clearly you have been very lucky with some of your life time career options.

    I love the monochrome image. It a beaut.

    Hope you are all well and the fires are still keeping away from both Wayne and yourself.

    Dave

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