Self-taught photographer Robert McCarter on why he’s drawn to Bonneville, what it’s like to create emotion for others in his photos, and why shooting Walmart parking lots was way more fun than Black Friday shopping.
– Robert McCarter
Read the full interview with Robert McCarter after the jump below…
How did you get introduced to photography?
I’ve always been interested in cars so it was only natural to take photos of what I liked for either ideas or inspiration. My photography skills progressed from there.
When sizing up a subject or shot, what’s the first thing you focus on?
Since most of my photography is what I happened upon, I focus on what I want in the shot first then immediately after I focus on what I don’t want in the frame. The latter is most often the hardest part to work around.
Capturing that perfect slice of time – how do you know where you need to be for a shot?
That usually happens right after I’ve missed that moment, but you remember the mistakes, learn from it and move on to making new mistakes.
How have you evolved as a photographer from your first days at this craft?
I started out just shooting cool cars or ideas I wanted to use on my own projects. Now I find myself shooting for other people. By that I mean trying to capture something that creates an emotion for others.
Best piece of advice you ever received about photography?
Don’t throw anything away. Even if it’s a horrible photo, look at it, study it, figure out what is wrong with it and what you could have done differently. Obviously, this is easier in the digital age.
From your experience, have your best shots come from perfect planning or accidents?
Accidents by far. Even if it was a planned shot, I learned how to reproduce it from a previous happy accident.
You’ve spent some time shooting at Bonneville, and you have a book aptly named Salt Shaker. How did this project come about?
I used to mail photo DVDs to friends as a way to share my photographs of the major shows and events I attended. However, some of these friends are PC handicapped or had no means to view a DVD. After my first visit to Bonneville I came up with the idea of making a cheap little book I could send to friends. I printed the first version at home and showed it to a few locals who encouraged me to make a serious effort at it to sell. The project grew from there.
Photographer that has inspired you the most?
My friend Michael Christensen. He’s basically responsible in my transition from just taking pictures of cars to something worthy of hanging on a wall. Plus he was always willing to share his expertise.
Most challenging shoot you’ve been on?
Walmart needed photos of their parking lots at night to count cars for their big Thanksgiving sale. Shooting at night, out the window of a small moving plane, while circling Walmart parking lots for 3 hours and producing clear pictures…fun…fun.
Favorite shoot you’ve ever been on?
That same Walmart shoot. Night flying at 1000 feet, tight turns and steep banking while avoiding radio towers with two friends. Way more fun than Black Friday shopping.
You have 30 seconds to leave for a shoot – and can only bring one camera and lens — what would that be?
Camera choice is easy, I only have one, my Nikon D90. Lens choice would be my 18-200 just because it’s so versatile.
You’ve just been given a blank check to go shoot anywhere in the world for a week – where would that be and why?
That’s a tough one. Can I have the check first? How about the International Space Station? Does that count even though it’s above our world? I could never afford to go there plus imagine the shots of the station and of earth I could get.
What has photography taught you?
It’s easy to overlook noticeable items.
Your idea of the perfect composition?
I like detail shots and nothing makes them more interesting than deep depth of field.
Favorite mantra or saying while you’re shooting?
Can you move out of the shot please? Though I never actually say that to anybody.
You have a hot rod side project. Can you tell us about this project and how it’s coming along?
It’s more like hot rod projects, but I’m sure your referring to my 32 roadster. I finished it about 3 years ago, just in time to drive across country to the LA Roadster Show. But any car guy will tell you, they are never finished. Which is why mine is back apart for an engine swap and 5 speed conversion. Hopefully it will be back on the roads soon since it’s almost roadster season again.
Can you tell us more about your late sixties Camaro?
I’ve had the ’69 Camaro for 12 years now and it’s seen its fair share of miles and changes. Enough miles where it really needs to be gone through again. I’m pretty hard on it and it’s starting to show. It’s pretty basic, 350, 4-speed and a few suspension and brake upgrades. A friend of mine bought it years ago right after it was retired from being a drag car. He wishes he would have kept it but he’s glad I have it. We are currently putting a ’69 Firebird together for him, so that should ease his regret.
What’s next for you?
I’ve started doing concept drawings to help people plan car projects. I use real dimensions to help set ride height, tire size and over all proportions. One I worked on a few years ago is getting ready to come out of the paint shop so keep your eye out for a killer Model A coupe running a banger motor. In fact, I should be getting the seats and interior panels soon. I’m also working on a line of shirts and prints.
+ Source: Robert McCarter