Interview: Andre Lavadinho, WRC photographer

Ah, the glamorous life of professionals, involved in running of the World Rally Championship in some capacity. They travel the world, hang out with drivers, share bar bills with team bosses and are getting payed for it. What could be better! For us, mere mortals, these people might look like the special kind of lucky ones, but before I start building monuments to them and make them into stars bigger than the sport itself, let’s calm down a bit. As I said in first sentence, to become a professional working in, around or for World Rally Championship, you must be worthy of such position. And worth in this sport is, at least when it comes to professionals running it, counted in the quality of your work.

Among all those professionals, rally photographers are a special kind. I’ve glorified them enough on these pages already, and besides, their imagery speaks volumes about their skill, talent and in-depth understanding of the WRC and rally in general. Sure enough, some are more photographers than mechanics, and some are more inspired with the artistic side of the job than the details surrounding the cars as piles of mechanical bits, but deep down they understand rally better than many.

Andre Lavadinho is professionally involved in WRC and is one of the tiny but important wheels, keeping the big machine running. His work can be seen in his and the galleries of his clients. With this blog I seek to pursue my own interests, and that is to learn and enjoy the sport my way. Big part of that is to ask questions, study the answers and explore as many possible perspectives as I can. As such, it was only natural to ask Andre for a brief Q&A session – talented young guy making his way in the merciless world of WRC photography – of course I am curious! Andre responded quickly and with a firm “Yes” entered the World Rally Blog Interview hall of fame. Ha!

Enjoy as Mr. Lavadinho explains just how much dedication, hard work and love he is putting into his work.

Let’s begin with getting to know Andre Lavadinho a bit better – who is Andre, when he’s not on the WRC stages and racing tracks?

I´m Andre Lavadinho, 25 years old and I live in Portugal, Guimarães city. When I am not on the WRC and ERC stages I am at my office preparing event by event, booking everything, making contracts, etc. I am also helping my parents in National events and my girlfriend studying in Medicine. My hobbies are: gym and meeting with friends.

I browsed through your collection of photos just the other day, and noticed you covered many different forms of motor sport in all levels, from national events to WRC, even Formula 1, if I remember correctly. Is it safe to say motor sports are your passion?

Motorsport was, is and will be always my passion. I will do everything so that motorsport is my work throughout my professional life growing up step by step, race by race.

How did it all start, what or who brought you to racing tracks and rally stages?

The first event that I saw was Rally de Portugal 1992, I was only 4 years old with my parents when they did this event as professionals. We were also at the tests before the event with Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica). In 1996 my first picture was published in the biggest national newspaper “Volante” with copyright “Andre Lavadinho, only 8 years old”. Later on, I went to all National events and every year the event WRC Portugal and growing up year by year. In 2005 my parents and I were contracted to do the A1 GP (circuit formula championship) for Luis Figo Foundation. I worked for an international agency on WRC Portugal 2007 and in 2008 I visited WRC Deutschland with my father to see how was the environment on WRC and in the same year I made the last 3 events worked for some agencies and teams. Everything was new for me and I worked alone. In subsequent years, until the present day, I always had help of my parents, girlfriend and friends.

What was the hardest thing to learn about motor sport photography? Do you have any formal training or you prefer to be your own teacher?

To be different was the hardest thing to learn. My formal training is doing some tests at home, learn with my father, professional photographer since 1978. I am my own teacher doing the events, testing always something different in the cameras and ideas too!

Which was your first WRC event?

Like i told before, I was only 4 years old the WRC Portugal 1992. As a professional the first WRC event was In Portugal in 2007.

After seeing both forms – do you prefer circuit racing or rally?

To be honest, I prefer rally. Circuit racing in my opinion is not so emotive as rally, where you need to go for 3 days before each event to the see best points, driving thousands of kilometers to go to the stages be closer to the actual places you will work during the rally.

Do you follow the work of other motor sports photographers, and if so, which ones?

Yes I follow the work of all my professional colleagues so I can see what I can improve in my work.

Canon or Nikon? If you don’t mind sharing the details on what kind of equipment you have?

Professional Canon equipment. I think enough to serve my clients.

Which lens you find most useful on rally stages? Are you more of a wide angle lens guy or you prefer telephoto lens? Or just use several bodies and be prepared for any situation?

I prefer ALL lenses… haha. The most important is our eyes, to see what kind of lenses we should need in a situation to shoot a different and artistic picture but never forget the action pictures that are very important for everyone.

How much time do you spend scouting for a good position on stages, prior to rally?

Normally on WRC, I arrive on monday to see all the stages on tuesday and wednesday. Thousands of kilometers to see the best light, the best points and road access to arrive there. Nice travelling, but very hard and difficult. After the recce, I always spend a lot of hours doing my appointments and meeting some drivers to help me on places. Sometimes, when I have a doubt, I can’t sleep the night before due to all the excitement about what will happen, if I will have the best spot and if I made the best choice.

Once the stage gets underway, do you stay on set position or do you move around, looking for a better shots? With limited amount of cars going through, do you risk missing a good shot to look for potentially great one?

Normally I move around into a place to see if I can do something different, but for my clients I prefer one shot, but it should be better than the five ordinary pictures.

How much post-processing goes into your photos, or do you like to leave them in original state as often as possible?

I never give an original. I prefer to take my time and give the pictures 10 or 20 minutes later but with 100% dedication. I prefer quality over speed. Each picture take 2 or 3 minutes of my time doing some adjustments.

Which rally is your favourite and why?

Every rally has your favorite part. The famous Col du Turini in Monte Carlo, the beautifull scenery and cold weather in Sweden, the long trip to Mexico, Argentina and Australia to see a totally different cultures and stages, typical white villages in WRC Portugal, the vineyards of Deutschland and France, the famous jumps and environment in Finland, the beautiful Sardinia, the famous corner in Spain with thousands of spectators vibrating with the rally, the mud of Wales among many others that we will only be able to describe to our children and grandchildren.

With good often comes the bad as well – did you have a bad rally, and if you did, what happened?

I never made any mistake like arriving late to a stage, uploading pictures later to my clients, failed a place thinking it was good. Obviously some rallies are better than others, and of course I must have with me my lucky start! What do you think? Tell me your negative points about me so I can have it in my mind for future events! Hahaha. (Alright, Andre – I’ll do my best to find your worst! – Tom of WRB)

Be honest, we know this job is beyond great, but what are the bad parts about it?

The bad parts are: to be without the persons that I like for one week. Also, to not be able to relax before, during and after each rally because I need to be my best at all times and not make mistakes. You cannot actually comprehend the pressure we can put ourselves through at times over our work. Nobody can imagine how it is.

Out of many rallies you visited, tell me one story that is most memorable for you – funny, sad, inspiring, anything goes.

Story of WRC Mexico 2011! I was alone doing recce on the second special stage of the day at 8 am and had 4 punctures! There was no phone connection, and nobody around for I think 50 kilometers, in a road like in the desert ( I’m sorry but it’s the truth). I arrived to the rental service with a car without tyres, wheels destroyed, suspension in funny condition. After it I know that I can do everything!

Which driver would you pick as your favourite and why?

WRC have now great drivers, one better for jumps, another one for an action sideways picture, another one for the best portrait. But they are all very very professional.

WRC is still going through a bit of a rough period, but apparently we are seeing the light at the end of a tunnel. Your thoughts on the current situation?

The light at the end of the tunnel is the star that everybody involved in WRC is following, so the WRC can continue to grow, rally by rally with the help of all of us. I hope too that more manufactures will be in WRC in a near future.

Do you believe WRC and rally in general is a TV sport, or do you think Youtube is enough?

YouTube isn’t enough. In my opinion I think it’s a right for everybody in all countries to have an open channel that gives us everyday a 20/30 min brief of the day without paying for it. For example in Portugal we need to pay to see the WRC on a sports channel.

What are the three most important things you would change in WRC, if you had the power?

The dream of all fans around the world is to have a live coverage of some stages, rally by rally in a worldwide channel. For sure FIA and all involved are trying to do that, and me and fans are hoping it will be realized.

Any plans to get behind the wheel of a rally or racing car, or even pick up pace notes and do some co-driving? Or are you happy being behind the camera?

I am realizing my goal and dream in photography, but we don’t know the future and if I will give the opportunity to my colleagues to make a picture of me jumping 100 meters I call all of them!!!

The single most important tip you would share with young people, looking to learn motor sport photography and be the next you?

I am young too! The best tip is start working with your ideas and grow up with them, develop them and always listen to the opinions of the older photographers. If you want to start as the professional rally photographer, you must be motivated psychologically and physically for long long trips, long waits at airports, leave your family and everything behind and do it for them.

What are your plans for this season? Exclusively WRC, or do you have other plans as well?

All WRC and ERC events

Andre, big thanks for your time and best of luck in your photo adventures around the world!

Andre Lavadinho Facebook page

Andre Lavadinho website