Grandmaster Tom Tricks Through Grandeur
Tom Oehler on sumptuous terrain:
Bicycle Trial Star + Top Photographer
+ Grand Location = Unique Story
Written by Lisa-Marie Reiter and Robin Jay
Back when Viktor Sedlacek founded the Grande Hotel de l’Europe more than 100 years ago in the Austrian state of Salzburg, he would not have imagined the following: Tom Oehler, trialbike legend, elegantly jumping over the reception front desk while having his photo taken by photographer Armin Walcher working with a Leica medium format camera. Obviously, times are changing.
The spirit of better times is still alive at the Grand Hotel, because after all, a few years ago the picturesque place in the center of Bad Gastein still accommodated guests. The golden clock at the front door indicated the passing of every full hour and the chandelier in the entrance hall used to sparkle brightly. Although these times are long gone, entering the pompous building still leaves the visitor speechless. It feels like traveling back in time as you take in the royal elegance and unique charm of the abandoned hotel. Among other factors, this special charm is what immediately captured photographer Armin Walcher and athlete Tom Oehler. They knew they had finally found the perfect location.
The Photographic Plan
The photographer’s original intention was to tell a tale of the hotel’s vibrant past by looking at it from an entirely new perspective. When looking at the sequence of pictures, one can feel the spirit of the story. That’s why even the athlete, Tom Oehler, said this project was a unique one. For him, the biggest challenge was finding suitable obstacles in this unusual location and secondly, performing in the chilly temperatures of the old hotel. At times, it turned out difficult to retry certain tricks multiple times in the antique setting without doing any harm to the architecture.
“It was clear this shoot would be about getting creative with the camera and with flashes,” Oehler told International Opulence. “Concerning the bike action, it was really important that we didn’t break anything, so when we first saw a spot for a picture, I checked what kind of line I could ride and then Armin would see how he could capture it. Once we got everything lined up, it was about the details. As we had lots of time and a safe indoor location, we could take plenty of tries to get every shot 100 perfect, which was exhausting but also very satisfying.”
Unique Photoshoot Venue
For Armin, a distinguishing characteristic of this specific shooting situation was the prevalence of low light situations in which his Leica camera and lenses proved to be just the thing. What convinced the photographer most was the three-dimensional quality of the pictures taken. The photos also confirm one of Armin’s personal beliefs, namely that a photo is primarily created in the camera and that any editing happening afterwards should be kept at a minimum.
Bicycle tricking in a historic, mainly abandoned venue was a first even for this experienced pro athlete. “I had the chance to really feel the spirit of this historic building,” “Oehler said. “I also tried to imagine what it was like for the guests who were first visiting this grand hotel. Before I got there, I thought it would be really spooky, but it really wasn’t, it was just really impressive architecture.”