Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The other day friend called me up and suggested I pack my camera gear and make a trip to Sturgis, South Dakota for the weekend to get my name out there and see what it would be like to work there. For many of you, the Sturgis Rally is known best for it's wild and unruly lifestyle. While it still exists, I was personally more interested in seeing some awesome motorcycles (I love old cars and am drawn to design by nature), meeting kicks people and taking in the beautiful SoDak views.
As someone who travels so frequently (I consider myself a local at this point) to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri -- I too know just how quickly a place can become stereotyped as a only party scene. When in truth, there is so much more depth to the place than just what others speak of or write about in nationwide news. Another story and rant for another time.
I absolutely love Colorado, but the Black Hills beauty is like none other. As you fly in to the city of Rapid City, it seems like it's just a field of gold below. One of my favorite trips was taking the dog and going to Custer State Park for the weekend, staying in a cabin and seeing Sylvan Lake, Needles Highway and the Devils' Gulch trail. I'm hopeful to make a trip like that again in the next month.
So I made my route up to Sturgis in a steady amount of time and arrived early Friday evening. A storm came through so of course my friends on their bikes were unable to come meet until it cleared, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get into the camper. After a long day of driving, all I wanted to do was take off my makeup and rest. So I defied all beauty rules, stuck my hand out to the rain, and rubbed and rubbed until my face kept clean. I assumed I could get ready and beat the downtown, so I proceeded to get ready in my car. Full face of makeup and outfit indeed. It's a good thing my windows are tinted.
Just as I finished, my friends arrived and we made our way down to Puddle of Mudd at the Buffalo Chip area. There's times I want to take my camera to everything, but there's also so many times I prefer to just sit it down and take in the moment. And enjoy life as it comes. So I left my camera behind to soak in the atmosphere and rock our little hearts out.
- The drive into buffalo chip campground in Sturgis, South Dakota. Taken on I-Phone
By Saturday, I knew my friend Stacey happened to be working at One Eyed Jacks Saloon, so I made my way down to visit here. It was a hot day again, so I didn't bother getting too fancy as I knew I would only overheat. But I still felt like dressing the part a little. After sitting down and visiting with some locals and riders, I got some cool shots and made my way down to check out all the rides.
After a hot day in the sun, a nap was in order so I made my way back to camp to load images, do a quick edit and relax. (You are seeing a trend here that I like naps, and you are right). I found my way back to Deadwood and walked around the trails and in town, taking in the scene. Noticing the beautiful details of the architecture, the people who walked the streets and did a little light window shopping while at it. Personally, I think Deadwood is my favorite city amongst these little towns. It just has a different character to it, and while it still is a dang good time, it's a little slower paced which is more of my personal preference.
It's safe to say with hundreds of thousands of people, you'll find a cop pulling over someone nearly every 15 feet, so it's best to keep a good head on your shoulders when traveling. It was just early enough so after taking a couple landscape shots, I made my way into Lumpy Casino Bar located in Central City. As I walked up, I knew this is where you find the locals. I drink my NA Busch Lights with Bloody Mary mix (that's my jam), sat down with the folks and laughed harder than I had in a minute. It was so nice to feel able to just relax for a minute, as I quickly had learned what high stimulation Sturgis seemed to bring. Every time I sat down for a nap at camp and a motorcycle went by I felt my adrenaline begin to pump!
After explaining I was there for photography work, I broke out my camera for a couple impromptu photos of this super rad bar, the owner "Lumpy" and his friends.
After a night of some awesome hospitality and absolutely amazing Chicken Ranch frozen pizza (it's really that good) and light hearted fun, I made my way back to camp to crash. By morning, the folks I stayed with asked if I would join them for the day so of course I obliged. It was a scorcher of a day, and the smoke was filling the skies, so I drove to our destination rather than hop on someone's bike. If you ever need to test your driving abilities, drive in Sturgis with hundreds of thousands of bikers and you'll figure it out real quick let me tell ya! Holy lord was I nervous.
Full Throttle Saloon was just as cool as my new friends said it was. Such unique detail throughout the bar. I decided to go get a hat and after standing in line for some time and, I began conversing with the older gentlemen behind me who happened to be from Springfield, Missouri. There's something about hearing Springfield/Ozarks/Missouri that always seems to connect two random strangers. After chatting for some time about this being my first Rally trip, his second, Missouri and all things Ozarks, I stepped up to check out. To my dismay, he jumped in and purchased the hat for me and as we walked away told me to enjoy my first trip. I still couldn't tell you his name, but it's good hearted people like him and their kind gestures, that rebuild your faith in humanity again.
A friend from Nebraska that also frequently goes to the lake happened to be in the Cycle Source Magazine Show at Iron Horse so I made my way down to check out his latest bikes. Derek of Xotic Customs is always sure to blow you away with their custom upholstery, metal fabrication and body work.
While I'm certainly not a fine art motorcycle photographer, (an expensive and incredibly detailed art) I enjoyed getting the opportunity to take in the details and design in my own artisttic way. And it's takes an awful lot of practice before you learn how to really capture a subject, no matter the person/object it may be.
As a lover of the 35mm 1.4, I enjoy how much this lens really opens up my angles. You may have noticed per my Instagram and social media feeds, that I've let my exposure drop down quite a bit and fallen into a very dark and moody category with a hint of some vintage. While your initial thought might drift towards thinking maybe that's all I'm capable of doing, it should be noted there's a hidden meticulous reasoning behind this.
As a photographer who uses social media to stay up on trends and habits, I note certain things. What season are we in? What's the general temperament of society? Where am I traveling? How am I feeling in this season? Personally, I wouldn't want to see a light and airy photograph of a motorcycle. Now someone else might. I definitely want to see some detail, the shine of chrome, and the way the colors pop. And I want a lot of depth of field. I'm also naturally more drawn to moody edits, as they stir emotion in me and speak a story without even knowing any details.
As we begin our transition into Fall, you'll notice many style bloggers breaking out the black and white buffalo check front door mats, mums and pumpkin everything. I do the same thing with my social media feeds as a photographer, I let it reflect the season.
In the summer, you'll see a more refreshing balance of sunshine, open meadows and all things sweet. And in the fall, you'll notice I'll showcase my ability to edit in a more rich, deep and evocative style.
When it comes to editing, there's really no one sized fits all package. No matter how many presets you may buy. I truly believe if you are putting one purchased preset on a mass bulk of images, you'll begin to lose the creativity of your work.
Discovering your personal branding isn't just purchasing a badass preset. It's noting down things that draw you into artwork. What colors make you more likely to feel emotion towards? What tones make you feel happiest? When all of these colors begin to flow, that's when you'll feel your absolute best about your editing and back work process.
Until you actually begin to tweak them the presets and your colors to what captivate your own eye best, you'll never really appreciate your own work. As photographers, we are such passionate human beings about noticing the beautiful chaos of life. But what about the beautiful chaos of your own work? If you're looking at your feed wondering why it seems completely unbalanced and without flow, take a deeper look into yourself. That's where all of your personal branding will evolve from best. That's what your customers what your customers want from you.
Alyssa Herold, Owner of Hallie Jean Co. Photography and Cedar and Sage Studio is based out of Eagle, Nebraska.
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