WORDS BY RACHAEL FLORA | EDITED BY EIC
What could beat the joy of finishing a bad ass build and taking your fresh iron horse for a spin and a flick against the San Diego sunset?
Not a fuckin’ lot.
That’s the life of Ben “the Boog” Zales, and we agree it’s a pretty damn good one.
Ben’s been building choppers and chasing the shutter behind the lens for a solid decade now.
“I’ve been into bikes for ten years,” Ben says. “My older brother was always into sport bikes, and my wife has been riding her whole life. Something just clicked one day and I was like, I think I’m ready for something new. It just turned into something I don’t see myself not doing.”
For that, we’re grateful. Ben’s choppers are sleek and sexy—photogenic—with gleaming chrome handlebars, bright, geometric tanks, and constant pops of color at every glance. Ben loves his long bikes so much he names them—The Denver Boog and The Crimson Boog are just two members of his two-wheeled family.
The devotion to his iron offspring isn’t hard to see. One look @BenTheBoog‘s Instagram and you’ll catch yourself 100 words deep in origin stories about rare parts—like the communal, late 60s Denver’s Choppers frame “Grandpa Freddy” built from a modified Harley using Bondo. That’s his daily ride now.
Ben rides often, building special bikes for a trip, meeting equally driven people and photographing them all along the way. He cut his teeth on film then moved to digital photography.
“Photography has always sparked my interest, but the somewhat slow process of developing and not seeing what you were shooting never sat well with me,” Ben admits. “So once digital photography was a thing, I jumped on board.”
Ben began shooting Canon but made the switch to Sony equipment two years ago and hasn’t looked back. Inspired by filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and PT Anderson, he approaches the medium treating bikes like subjects with their own stories to tell.
“I’m a huge film guy, so I use film and filmmakers as inspiration,” he says. “I’d love to shoot all of my favorite filmmakers. I think it’d be great to shoot the shit with them and get portraits in their homes and maybe on set.”
It’s no surprise that Ben’s work has been featured in Easyriders, The Horse, Cyclesource, DicE, and Hotbike Japan. This year he hopes for more of the same: riding across time zones and shooting outside the U.S. His dream showcase would be an exhibition at the Harley-Davidson museum.
And we’re convinced he’ll get there—slaves to the craft always do.
Whether it’s building a bike, shooting them, or even playing music, Ben maintains the same relentless approach to all creative endeavors.
“I usually have an idea of what I want, but I try every single option anyways,” he says. “Sometimes something in my head that I don’t think is going to work actually works better in real life than what I had already thought up.”
When he isn’t getting his hands dirty on vintage parts, or shooting bikes, you can find Ben in his living room studio editing images and trying every option in spite of himself. He’s likely listening to “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield or “Slow Dancing” by Paul Luc while his wife’s handmade candles fill the air.
At the end of the day, Ben just wants us to “be kind. So many things can be solved with just being a kind person.”