Dean O'Brien's Blog

Coventry Conversations: Mike Valente – Car Photographer & Video Maker

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Well as I enter a fresh year at University I was looking forward to hearing our first Photography speaker and Mike Valante did not disappoint.  Mike has been a freelance photographer for over 30 years.  He specialises in car photography and managed to give a good insight into what he does.  Although shooting cars might sound easy, the shots consist of static, beauty, action, tracking, cornering, panning and close-up shots.  In all honesty I had never really found this type of photography interesting but I did find ‘him’ interesting.

Shooting cars is not all plain sailing though.  Sometimes Mike will only have the car for ten or fifteen minutes so the the shots have to be achieved in this time scale – no excuses.  He is always on the lookout for ideal locations for advertising shoots such as industrial estates, low/tall buildings or just anywhere unusual.  Permission is not always possible to get to shoot so Mike admits that sometimes he just has to take his chances.  Time is very important for these shoots and the daylight hours (all two of them at this time of year!) are vital.  Is there any shots that he is fearful of doing?  Mike is afraid of heights but stresses that once he is looking through the viewfinder on the camera he only sees the subject, and his fear is gone.

And the golden question……Does Mike miss using film instead of digital?  Of course.  Back in the old days it was a proper boys club.  Going to the pub with all the other photographers, sinking a few sherbets and waiting a couple of hours for the film to be developed.  I sensed that he does miss the face to face interaction (and beers) which seems to be a disappearing trend in this digital age.  This was also expressed when asked about the pre-planning of shoots.  There is no luxury of going into an office, sitting around and planning a shoot.  Everything is sorted out over the phone in the car on the way to the shoot now.

Amongst all this image taking there is obviously a big question of taste regarding the images which eventually make the pages of a magazine.  You can virtually guarantee that the magazine will choose totally different shots to what Mike would have chose but thats all part of it.  The up side to all this shooting is the fact that after its all done he sometimes gets the chance to drive some of the best cars in the world.  The down side?  Mike loves a nice low down shot of the car and he says that you can virtually guarantee that there is always a massive puddle there for him to lie in!

The talk was handled very well especially as Andrew Noakes was keeping the fires burning with riveting questions.  This was a nice touch as it saved the often embarrassing tumbleweeds flying across the room which I have seen happen far too often when people are either too shy or just cant be bothered to engage in asking questions with the guest speaker.  This managed to keep the talk interesting and I look forward to the next one.


Written by Dean O'Brien

January 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

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