The Art Of Bike Photography – Kaycee Landsaw

Kaycee Landsaw (@kaycee_landsaw) is an adventure and motorcycle lifestyle photographer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
His work blends a unique candid snapshot feeling with a richness of color and perspective that allows the viewer to fall into the photograph and feel for a moment as if they were there and a part of the story being told. In the interview, he discusses how leaving everything behind to live in Costa Rica with just his wife and a surfboard gave him an appreciation for the simple life, how he cultivates “organic” photography sessions, and his thoughts on the adventure lifestyle.

BC: How did you get into photography?

KL: I’ve been shooting photos since I was in junior high. I was huge into skating and snowboarding growing up, and the process of becoming a photographer started organically from there. I started with video first because we used to film a lot of what we did. We used to tape skate videos and I would screenshot some of the best parts and use them for stills. I started getting interested in photography when I began taking photos for print. For how I got into shooting motorcycles, I always used to shoot things I was passionate about, so I started shooting motorcycles in the last 10 or 15 after I started riding them. I’ve only started sharing my motorcycle photography in the last three or four years, though.

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BC: Who are some of your biggest influences?

KL: I’m honestly influenced by anyone that’s creative or that likes to go out and have a good time. People who are willing to get out of the norm and do things that are wild. My friends are probably my biggest influences. As for who has influenced my photography, I’m kind of all over the board. One of the first photographers who really pushed me to get out and shoot a lot more motorcycles was Scott Toepfer with his project “It’s Better In The Wind.” A lot of different photographers who don’t do motorcycle-related work influence me too, like fashion photographers. Something that constantly influences me are people that can tell a story. I love the type of people who are doing different projects, people who are setting out on some kind of adventure.

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BC: How did you get into riding motorcycles?

KL: I bought my first bike from a need for transportation. I got tired of paying so much for gas, and once the car started having issues I decided to just get a bike. At first I was considering scooters since they’re so economical, but I got bummed on them pretty quickly just looking at them. So I got a CB450. As soon as I got on it I had the most epic summer of my life. It was like, “Holy cow, how have I missed this my entire life?” Four or five nights out of every week instead of hanging out with buddies or chasing girls I was our riding in the mountains, canyons, and country roads enjoying the warm summer breeze and the beautiful landscape. After a little while I wanted to start customizing my bike, and I got into the cafe racer culture, which was big at the time when I was 18 or 19. I had that bike until I moved away from Salt Lake City for a couple years, but getting another bike was the first thing on my agenda when I came back. I got an ’05 Triumph Bonneville, and I’ve been riding it ever since.

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BC: Why did you choose a Triumph Bonneville T100?

KL: When I came home, I was debating between a Harley Sportster or a Bonneville. All my buddies had Sportsters, and so a big reason was just that I wanted something a little different. I also always liked cafe culture and the British aesthetic — I love the old heritage look. So that’s what drove me to the Bonnie. It was rad because when I originally got my bike, I had never seen the “creamsicle” color scheme and was super stoked on it. I picked it up from a lady who had bought but never ridden it and was letting it sit in her garage, and the rest is history.

When I first got it, it was bone stock. From there it went straight into the minimalist cafe racer look. It was my canyon cruiser that I just loved getting into turns with. Since I got it, my bike has been through four or five different stages, and it’s always been influenced by whatever I’m into at the time. About two years ago, me and a group of friends got stopped during a ride by some pretty heavy rain, but I decided to take my cafe racer off-road down this side trail to check it out. In spite of my bike not being set up for that, I had tons of fun and was immediately hooked. So I got some scrambler bars, upgraded the front and rear suspension, got some knobbies, and started taking it out to the desert and rallied it. I did that so much it felt like I was never riding my bike on the road. After that, it went through a phase where I wanted to bring it back to the original style with some tracker bars and give it a more aggressive stance to make it great for both carving canyons and getting loose off road.

This last year I got on a flat track in Austin and raced for my first time. I’m definitely not a racer by any means, but just being out there and part of the competition and the community was such a thrill. I’ve always loved old vintage flat track bikes, and I think they have been heavily influencing me this last year.

My bike is constantly changing. The Bonneville is super versatile, and there’s so much you can do with it.

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BC: Why do you think the adventure lifestyle is taking off?

KL: I think a lot of it has to do with social media. This generation that’s coming up is very visually stimulated, and things like Instagram have allowed people to gain a broader perspective of the world which previous generations may not have had such easy access to. It’s pushing people to experience the world and in a way that’s visually appealing. It inspires me to get out and travel.

When I met my wife, she was a flight attendant. She stayed a flight attendant during our first year of marriage, and we used her benefits to do a lot of traveling, specifically in Southeast Asia. After a while we decided to move to Costa Rica for a few months. That experience put life into perspective: everything there is so slowed down. I’m a very ADD person, so I don’t sit very well, and when I’m working at home I’m always working on hundreds of different projects at a time. Moving to Costa Rica was a reality check because the only concerns were getting work done during the day and then going surfing in the evening. Like, every single day was working from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon, and when I was done I would grab my surfboard and my wife would grab a book and we’d go down to the beach for the rest of the day. After the sun went down, we would stop and grab popsicles on the walk back and figure out what we wanted for dinner. Then we would go to bed and do it all again the next day. It was epic. It set the tone for the good majority of my life afterwards. Living there put things in check as far as it made us reconsider what we really need in life. I realized how much excess I had in my life. It’s easy to get caught up in our society, especially in a consumer-driven society like ours. But it was kind of cool when Christmas time rolled around and my wife and I talked about how Christmas would be different this year because the more we thought about getting gifts the more we realized we didn’t need anything. All I brought with me when I moved down there was a duffle bag and my camera gear, and it turned out I only needed like a third of what I had. I just wore board shorts, t shirts, and sandals, and beyond that I didn’t need anything. There aren’t many times in life where life can just be those few things and making sure you have food and shelter. It’s amazing how happy it made me. Everything became quality over quantity when that simple lifestyle came with us back to Salt Lake. It was rad to simplify.

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BC: Why do you think the adventure lifestyle and motorcycling go hand-in-hand?

KL: I think a lot of it is that riding a motorcycle is an adventure in itself. I can’t think of a more classic adventure than strapping and tent and your minimal needs to the back of a bike and going out exploring. Adventure kind of influences everything where I live. The outdoors are a huge part of my life. Every weekend we’re hiking, fishing, camping, just doing something outside. And the motorcycle itself fits perfectly into that lifestyle. It makes it such a more epic experience to go out into the world behind handlebars instead of a windshield. I think it’s also a thrill-seeking thing, because when you’re on a motorcycle, you’re 100% there, otherwise you’re in trouble. I think it’s an emotional thing because you’re part of the adventure. It’s one key piece of gear that just makes your adventure that much more epic.

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BC: What would you suggest to someone who is interested in getting into motorcycle photography?

KL: Just shoot things that you love and that you enjoy. The pressure of social media and Instagram creates a huge temptation to shoot photos for the sake of gaining followers or getting recognition, which is cool, but I’m more personally inspired by the work of other people who are out there shooting photos of things that they’re passionate about. I don’t think it’s about capturing “the good photograph,” but more about the feeling you get from a photograph. Tell a story. That’s one of the things that’s missing from so much of photography in general. Those are the people that inspired me to be a better photographer and go on adventure: the one that are telling a story. That’s the whole mode of shooting photos: to visually tell a story or portray an emotion. A picture is worth a thousand words, a collection of photos is equal to a novel. I think a good collection of photos is worth so much more than just one strong photo. If I get to see 10 or 15 photos, I feel like I’ve been on the road with the people in the photos for the last 1500 miles; the people taking those kinds of photos are the ones who are killing it and are accomplishing what photography is all about. The short answer: focus on the stories rather than the skill or technique of shooting photos.

Instagram has opened doors for me, but it’s something I personally struggle with at the same time. It’s hard to just put out one photo at a time and be able to convey the whole experience instead of sharing a collection of photos altogether at once. When I go out and shoot, it’s because I’m having a really good time with my buddies. I’m constantly fighting with do I ride or shoot when I’m with them, but those are the best shoots because I’m having the best time. I want to be able to shoot a photo and share it and inspire people to stop scrolling and start rolling. I think that’s what it’s all about.

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BC: Describe your ideal shoot.

KL: I generally don’t love setting up a shoot. I kind of street clear from a lot of big shoots in themselves setting up a location and creating a shot list doesn’t work for me, although it does work for a lot of people who kill it. I just enjoy grabbing a few bikes and my camera and going out riding with the homies and letting it happen organically. It’s not that I’m a great photographer, but it’s that I have really awesome friends who are doing really awesome stuff all the time. I keep using the word organic, but it really portrays how we go about things: we just let things happen as they happen. The best shoots are when people start getting wild and getting loose and when we let it just happen. I look for things that you wouldn’t generally do on a bike, and that’s when I shoot. For me, it’s more about the experience, because if I’m just out shooting photos for the sake of it, it gets really stale and I don’t enjoy it as much. You can tell if a photo was caught or staged. There’s a totally different feel to it.


Report by British Customs
Photo courtesy of @kaycee_landsaw

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