This ‘ET’-Inspired Photo of Biker Rising In Front of the Moon Was Not ‘Shopped


Earlier this year, Swiss photographer Philipp Schmidli attracted a good deal of attention for a series of photos showing the silhouette of a biker in front of a gigantic moonrise.

The photographer received many comments about how the photos resembled the cover of the movie ET. Although that was never Schmidli’s intention, he decided to follow up the original series with an actual ET-inspired shoot!

Just for reference, here’s the iconic movie poster showing the boy riding in front of a full moon:


The shoot occurred four full moons after the previous project, and the location was exactly the same as last time. Schmidli installed a ramp on the hill, and recruited three bikers — Roger Grütter, Matthias von Rotz and Pascal Röthlin — to pose as “Elliot” (the boy from ET).


To make the photograph even more realistic, they installed a basket on the front of Matthias’ bike with a plush figure that’s meant to serve as ET.


Like last time, Schmidli used a Canon 1D X DSLR and a 2x teleconverter. In terms of focal length, Schmidli decided to step things up a bit and use an 800mm f/5.6L IS instead of the 600mm f/4L IS II he used last time. Thus, the total effective focal length for this shoot was a whopping 1600mm.


The equipment used.  The circle indicates the location on a distant hill that the ramp was located.

The equipment used. The circle indicates the location on a distant hill that the ramp was located.

After some test jumps and shots before the actual moonrise, Schmidli communicated with the bikers and was able to capture the bikers jumping three to four times — that’s all the time he had before the moon had risen too high above the horizon.

Here’s a segment about the photo by SRF, the largest TV station in Switzerland (not in English):

The resulting photographs are amazing:



…and the winning image (you can find a higher-resolution version here):


Image credits: Photographs by Philipp Schmidli and used with permission

  • Marschal A. Fazio

    nice but wish he would have found a way to hide the ramp

  • StevenRosas

    I agree, it’s really noticeable.

  • Chris

    technically that’s a pretty impossible ask. To make the moon fill the frame he has to work at pretty long focal lengths. And for a biker to get enough clearance and be centered in the frame like that, the ramp has to be where it is.

    If they move the ramp back 5-10ft so its not visible, now the biker is barely clearing the horizon when you snap the photo. Or he’s just at the edge of the moon.

  • Joey Duncan

    Meh, they could have, they could have put some brush in front of it, they just need to make it less noticeable.

    But really should you really care? Is it something that NEEDS to be pointed out? I mean he’s not really all that high, it’s a different bike, the clothes look different, it’s not the 1980s, ET looks like he put on a few pounds……

  • Guest

    the family portraits i did last night are better than this… and i would have hid the ramp cause i don’t think this guy knows much about photography :-)

  • CalTek

    That would have required Photoshop ;)

  • Andy Hodapp

    I looks like they were on grass, they could have dug a hole and put two ramps facing the opposite direction.

  • Shift

    shouldve photoshopped the ramp out, wouldve taken all of 2 minutes. sick idea though

  • nate

    guys its an action sports photo, you always have to have reference to where the athlete is going and where they are coming from. Otherwise its just a floating “photoshopped biker in the sky”

  • Shift

    for the action shots sure, the ET remake? take the ramp out

  • Mantis

    Then it would just be a photo of a guy floating in front of the moon, and not a BMX rider doing a sweet jump.

  • TheEel

    I like the ramp.

  • Shift

    he was trying to copy the ET poster, not shoot a bmx rider doing a sweet jump, but its just my opinion. I would have taken it out

  • David

    The whole point of this shot was NOT to use Photoshop! Otherwise it would have been much simpler…

  • dan110024

    Then that totally defeats the purpose of using the ramp instead of photoshopping the rider in.

    They could have gone bigger and longer which would have pushed the kicker back out of the frame, but I guess that would then introduce the problem of requiring a faster shutter speed which may not have been an option with this photo.

  • natums

    photoshop! Oh wait… that kinda defeats the point huh…

  • Shift

    Yeah he was using 2x converter so I’m sure shutter speed was a bit of an issue, but a 1DX can push some serious ISO. It looks dark out, but looking at the behind the scene, it wasnt that dark. I’m sure they could have pushed it out of frame and made a higher jump, but its all subjective at this point.

    I just think the ramp is distracting to me personally and I would have PS’d it out to make it cleaner if they couldn’t jump farther or move the ramp back. All the same its a fricking cool shot and he had to shoot it from almost a mile away which is just nuts.

  • Patrik Ruskprick Sputt

    How about digging the kick into the ground? That way you don’t even need a ramp and it woldn’t be visible in the picture :)

  • Joel Ruiz Cantisani

    dark out? ambient light in this photo is totally irrelevant, he’s only metering for the moon, not the ambient surrounding the biker, and the moon reflects a ton of light, try snapping the moon and you’ll need either a fast shutter or a small aperture or both.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I’m kinda torn on “rampgate”, the image probably would look better overall if the ramp was out, but with it in you kinda assume it was shot that way and not Photoshopped (if you can imply that in the image without explaining verbally or written, its always best).

    I vote… leave the ramp in.

  • Shift

    hes talking about using a faster shutter for bikes jumping farther, you can see if you read the article hes at 1/250 at 2500iso but f20 something, so I was saying he could get more shutter speed if he needed to

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Dat lens!

  • JJ Cali

    is that a sprinkler head?

  • Ray Fischer

    I wonder: What if the ramp was just below the crest of the hill, pointing somewhat towards the camera, so that the bikers would pedal uphill and then crest the hill as they jump. The ramp would be hidden and the bikers would still be visible.

    I know, I know: “why don’t you go and try it out and see if it works?”

  • MirkyJedi

    I like the ramp in the photo because it seems like he’s rising above rooftops. I, personally, love it!

  • tksubbu

    These days, definitions of terms like heroes and geniuses are being thoroughly mis understood. what happened to the real heroes and geniuses from 20th century?

  • Ryan

    Totally agree. With the ramp in it becomes a cool homage to a movie by a real BMX biker. With the ramp out, it would have looked like someone just Photoshopped an ET-like image. The ramp adds to the “this is not Photoshopped” message.

  • Bob Dobbins

    nah, its a gorgeous shot because its real. Why should he go scar the mountain so his picture looks photoshopped?

  • Rocky Fi$her

    It is distracting.

  • Joel Ruiz Cantisani

    I stand corrected, thanks!

  • Jenna

    I thought he was biking off a rooftop originally, before I read the article. So I agree with you too

  • Hernani Jon Onyok Cañete

    thats what makes it original and not copied nor photoshop

  • WhoKnows

    Funny that a rider finally joined the string while all the photoshop kids have their fun. PRS Wins!

  • FroFan

    Yeah but did he shoot RAW? ;P

  • Chris Beatty

    To photoshop, not to photoshop, ramp…no ramp. What about the technical aspects of creating such a photo. The timing, the setup, the camera angle, camera settings, etc. As an amateur photographer I yearn for the knowledge to put all that together to capture the perfect picture. This was an awesome result of time and knowledge.

  • Rod

    is it possible to have this point of view everywhere on earh ? I’m living in France, and I don’t see how it’s possible, moon seems always “HIGH” in the sky.

  • Yann Bunzll

    Amazing work ! ♥

  • Torako

    the moon rises, just like the sun does. it doesn’t just appear when night falls.