Photos Of The Year 2011>> Larry Chen Pt.1: Focusing On Visuals

I’ve split my photos of the year into two posts. One for photos that I think are visually appealing – but may not tell much of a story – and the other for photos that tell a story but may not have the best composition or technique. This opening shot is one of my favorites from the year. While it may be beautiful, it doesn’t tell much of a story. It has a very cartoon-like quality to it from all the different colors. I was honestly just at the right place at the right time when those red and blue fireworks lit up the clouds. Half of photo journalism is luck anyway!

(Above) SPA 24hr, SPA Francorchamps, Belgium

This is the famous Eau Rouge corner at night, during a fireworks display. Earplugs are a must when shooting from this spot.

Gatebil, Rudskogen, Norway

Certain events allow more photo access than others. It really depends on the venue as well. Gatebil was one of those events that allowed a lot more creative freedom, as they had a dedicated camera chase car. I took full advantage of that.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

It was my first time to this event, and I am glad I went since it’s the last year of the dirt. Next year, the entire course will be paved, which will change the history of the 98 year old race forever. I was sitting on the side of the mountain freezing my behind off when Linhbergh told me about the natural purple light that appears. I could not believe it when I saw it, but it was amazing. It only lasted two or three minutes, and I made the most of it.

Tianjin, China

I’ve returned to the mainland over 20 times since I left Shanghai, my home city, at two years of age. Until recently, I’ve never had the chance to photograph the culture as a professional. This man was just enjoying his homemade kite, on a not so clear day. The sunrise and sunsets seem to last forever in the smoggy city of Tianjin, because of the massive amounts of construction that goes on 24 hours a day. It takes the term, “pardon our dust” to a whole different level.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

Sometimes, I’ll ask myself “Why was I so stupid?” Here, I was mere inches away from Rhys Millen as he flashed by at 120mph. Although this is one of my favorite shots of the year, I regret risking my life for it. I am not the only one though, check out Linhbergh hiding in the gutter at 7:12.

Formula Drift Irwindale, Irwindale Speedway, United States

Some of the most emotional shots you can get when shooting at a track is the inevitable “walk of shame.” Some guys keep their helmet on, others leave their helmet in the car. The way Megan Racing driver, Cyrus Martinez, held his helmet as he walked back to the pits showed great confidence. He may have wrecked, but he walked away with his head held high knowing he was that close to glory.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

This track was very hard for me to shoot. I grabbed as many frames as I could from all the available angles. The layout was very short and there were not many open photo positions. I relied heavily on remote cameras.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

This was definitly one of my favorite scenic shots of this past year. JTP just happened to be driving back to the grid as the sun set over the trees.

Speedweek, Bonniville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

The sunrise on the salt flats was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Maybe this is what Mars would look like if there was water on the surface.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

During the top 16 introductions, all the cars roll out slowly as the national anthem finishes. You better believe Drift Alliance will lead the pack in perfect formation. It still gives me chills when I see it.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

That is a natural “sunshine state” glow peaking through the grand stands. No Photoshop here.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

I was lucky to shoot from a scissor lift for this round. These are usually reserved for television crews.

Formula Drift Palm Beach, Palm Beach International Raceway, Florida, United States

You probably wouldn’t understand a word of what Ian Stewart, of ASD, was saying, even if he didn’t cover his mouth up. It seems like all those guys at Team Falken talk in secret code.

Oslo, Norway

I think of this photo whenever Norway is mentioned. I was driving to pick up some power adapters from the local shopping mall when I looked over and saw this beautiful scene.

World Drift Series Tianjin, China

I love shooting sparks, because even if the rest of the photo is blurry, the end result is still very cool.

World Drift Series Hang Zhou, China

I’ve been shooting the WDS events in China since 2006. I’ve never actually had the guts to explore the nooks and crannies of the Olympic stadium until Speedhunters videographer Will Roegge, came along.

Hang Zhou, China

Will loved climbing on bamboo.

Global Time Attack, Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, United States

I was very excited to see this car run. I nearly ejected the media guys out of the bed of my truck because I was hitting the good photo spots at break-neck speed.

Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, United States

I admire Jeff Zwart for his driving skill and his creativeness. Although I think he is crazy for entering his first car in a transcontinental rally.

Formula Drift Irwindale, Irwindale Speedway

This was a year of risks for me. I risked my gear at every event I went to.

Formula Drift Irwindale, Irwindale Speedway, California, United States

I think it is always worth it as long as your gear doesn’t fall off.

Formula Drift New Jersey, Wall Speedway, New Jersey, United States

This track is perfect for shooting with remote cameras. Since it is a tiny bowl shaped track, the radio signals bounce around everywhere. It allowed me to trigger no matter where I stood.

Formula Drift Long Beach, Streets of Long Beach, California, United States

Fredric just loves the camera. Every time he sees me mount one on his opponents car, he makes sure to get really close for a photo op.

Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Risky Devil guys gave me an amazing tour of the windy city. I will never forget that night.

Formula Drift Las Vegas, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nevada, United States

Out of all the stops on the FD tour, the Las Vegas course is where you can get the closest to the track, with the cars drifting at over 100mph.

Circus Circus, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

I believe in daily driver/drifters. Most people can’t afford a track car and a spare car. I have to give it to Nick Dizon of Formula Drift for building a daily driver with such style and function.

Speedweek, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

Just ten minutes into the sunrise on the salt flats, Linhbergh and I hit top speed in our rental car, in search of a hot rod. There is no magic hour on the salt. Only a mere 15 minutes if you are lucky.

Speedweek, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

This was definitely my favorite shot from Speedweek. So simple and clean. It reminded me why I still lug my minigun around.

Speedweek, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

Linhbergh usually has perfect hair. I forgave him for having bedhead since we woke up at 4am.

Speedweek, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

The rain was coming in near the end of the day so we left to avoid it. I shot this as we were driving back to our hotel.

Speedweek, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, United States

I was very happy that there were no major incidents this year at Speedweek. It would have crushed me if I had the last photographs of a human being. I have experienced it once before and I don’t ever want to experience it again.

Gymkhana 4, Universal Studios Backlot, California, United States

It was such an honor to work with Ken Block on his Hollywood Megamercial. It is also an honor that they decided to use this photograph in the actual video at 8:05.

Formula Drift Seattle, Evergreen Speedway, Washington, United States

Fredric drives with so much emotion it’s scary. I always joke with Linhbergh about how we missed the shot of Fredric shedding a single tear when he realized he had finished in third place. Later he told me that he may have dented the roof of the Scion tC as he punched it in celebration.

Formula Drift Seattle, Evergreen Speedway, Washington, United States

I think it is beautiful when drifters yank the e-brake during initiation. For one short moment the rear wheels stay still, as if the car is parked. Yet, the rest of the car is still violently in motion.

SPA 24HR, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Only one McLaren MP4-12C remained after a gruelling night of racing. One of them wrecked quite badly right in front of me. A coin sized piece of carbon fiber made it’s way through the catch fence. It sits on my desk as I write this.

SPA 24HR, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

I had this shot in mind ever since I heard that the Team Need for Speed BMW Z4 would have a reflective wire-frame livery. I bought myself a flash extender, which basically concentrates your flash beam onto a subject that is further away. It is mostly used by bird photographers to get that extra oomph. I only used it for a few exposures, in fear of blinding the driver.

SPA 24HR, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

I was in my element while covering my first 24 hour race. I didn’t mind that my entire body was soaked. While most of the media ducked away under to shelter, I stayed trackside. That was when I produced one of my favorite shots of the year.

SPA 24HR, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

I just love shooting at night. To have total control of the light leaves the door wide open for creative light painting.

SPA 24HR, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

If you look closely you can see my reflection in the window. I leave my afro this big for shots like this. If my hair was short, there would be a laser beam going through that guy’s head.

Gatebil, Rudskogen, Norway

Can you believe this is 3AM in the morning in Norway? I woke up thinking it was 7AM or something.

Gatebil, Rudskogen, Norway

This track catered to the media in every way. I’ve never run across a hot track until this event. Scary, I know.

Gatebil, Rudskogen, Norway

It took a while to convince my camera car driver to get this close to a car in mid-drift. I kept on saying “HOLD STUMT” over and over and over.

Gatebil, Rudskogen, Norway

Unlike China, the sunsets in Norway last for hours because the sun never actually goes down. Not because of thick pollution.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

I admit this looks like a shot from photography 101 or “intro to digital photography.” I just thought it was neat to see the guys walk around with headlamps on.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

I drove our Mazda 3 rental car up and down Pikes Peak quite a few times. At a few points I would have to downshift to 1st gear in order to make it up the steep hills. The loss of horsepower is quite noticeable to say the least.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

I was trying to take a power nap when I saw this scene. I quickly jumped out of the rental car and pointed my 85mm lens at these media dudes. After the autofocus hunted for a minute straight I almost gave up. It was like the lens was dancing to dubstep. On top of that, It was too dim to manual focus. Then luckily one of the guys turned on his headlamp. Boom, I achieved focus almost instantly and fired away.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

That glowing trail behind Rhys’ car is dust. Since they run on public roads, the conditions change from corner to corner. This photo was from the first run of the day, so the track was especially dirty.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

Rhys’ prototype Hyundai is very photogenic. I’m sure you would’ve noticed his car appearing in my post a lot. That’s because his very dedicated team kept his car in working order for the entire week. Every time there was an opportunity to run, he did. Therefore it allowed me to get many shots of his car.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

I placed my camera on a hay bale and squatted down for this shot. At 14,000ft, I was winded just by standing up from the squatting position.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States

This is another of my favorite photos of the year. Although I’m sure Jeff Zwart hated it. The reflection of the sun from his side mirror hit his left eye perfectly, as he was pulling up to grid.

Formula Drift New Jersey, Wall Speedway, New Jersey, United States

I was sad to see nearly all of the convertibles on the FD grid disappear this past yaer. I was planning on getting a nice overhead shot looking into the cockpit using my remote cameras. Maybe next year.

NASCAR Camping World 300, Texas Motor Speedway, Texas, United States

The photo hole I shot this from was the scariest shooting position I have ever been in. This particular race tied for the most cautions in NASCAR history. There were so many wrecks that the race was under yellow most of the time. I didn’t stay there very long.

Formula Drift New Jersey, Wall Speedway, New Jersey, United States

Shooting drifting is so much safer, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting to shoot.

IZOD IndyCar Series, Texas Motor Speedway, Texas, United States

Since I am a stupid photographer only looking for that special shot, I went back to that dangerous photo hole the next day to shoot the start of the IndyCar race. The hole was about the size of a six inch sub sandwich. It didn’t take long for me to get pelted in the face with 200mph flying debris. I never went back there again.

Formula Drift Atlanta, Road Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Yo dawg, I heard you like your photos in focus, so I focused on your focus points.

Formula Drift Atlanta, Road Atlanta, Georgia, United States

I feel very privileged to be able to follow the FD series. This is my favorite spot to shoot at Road Atlanta. It is located right under the Suzuki bridge, which means you’re actually on the track. I don’t think there’s another motorsport event at Road Atlanta that lets you stand on the actual track.

Formula Drift Atlanta, Road Atlanta, Georgia, United States

I often joke about Matt Powers going into over-drift and drifting into the “D” dimension. If there was such a thing, I feel like this is what it would look like. That cool rainbow effect is caused by the light from his headlights showing through nylon stand up flags.

Formula Drift Atlanta, Road Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Don’t you hate it when you are taking a photo and someone walks in front of your frame? That is what happened and it turned out pretty great.

Formula Drift Atlanta, Road Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Another shot from under the Suzuki bridge. You can even see the heat rising from the “Hotlanta” ground. Joon “gentle” Maeng is not gentle anymore. It sounds like World War Three when he goes out for a qualifying run in that crazy three rotor RX-8.

XDC Irwindale, Irwindale Speedway, California, United States

One of my favorite cars of the year is Chris Forsberg’s VK56 powered M45, also known as “Mr Toad’s wild ride.” Term coined by Formula Drift announcer, Jarod Deanda.

Global Rally Cross, Irwindale Speedway, California, United States

It was impressive to see so much dirt on the infield at Irwindale. It was even more impressive that this guy landed this awesome crooked jump without flipping over.

Formula Drift Long Beach, Streets of Long Beach, California, United States

I made a point to capture as many photos of Matt’s car before it turned into a pirate ship. This is definitely my favorite spot on the famous street course.

Staten Island Ferry, New York, United States

Neither Charles Kha or I had never been on the Staten Island Ferry. We enjoyed the view of the bay.

Empire State Building, New York, United States

Eight years ago, I shot photos of New York City with my Canon PowerShot S50 from the viewing level on the Empire State Building. It was that exact moment when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in photography. I just had to visit the same spot when I stopped by New York for this year’s Auto Show.

Downtown Los Angeles, California, United States

The roof of Irwindale Speedway is the coolest place to watch sunsets over downtown Los Angeles. It’s strangely romantic.

Stay tuned for my favorite photos from this past year that tell a story.


More photos of the year posts

More posts from Larry Chen



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I really love the picture of en rouge, could you please make that available as a desktop?


Some great photographs here. Great work, a great year in review :)


awesome work


The pikes peak pictures are stunning.


Great stuff Larry!!!


Amazing ! Best pics yet. Pikes Peak stuff is mouth dropping.


sick pics high res of the supra at gatebil please!


So I was just trying to get the speedhunters app I don't think there is one but there should be and while searching for it I stumble across that survey to win that 400 page book you guys should sell it so I can buy it


wallpapers of every photo pleaaase!!! holy cow!! you capt the soul and passion of the cars on the drift photos they are awesome!!!!


Stunning Photos :)


desktop please


It's ALL about the Light. You've become a Stand Out photographer of Exceptional ability!!!


high res of the sideways supra at gatebil please!


Larry you have a LOT of great work!!! I'm not just talking technically but also artistically. Keep up the great work because I enjoy looking at it.


Beautiful photos! How did you get the water so soft in the shot from the ferry?


To the creator of this website: I am a car guy, an architect, and a fan of good photography, in that order. Thanks for creating such a stellar website. Bravo amigo. You have an incredible eye, serious talent, and a commendable work ethic. Thanks for doing what you do. Happy holidays.


desktops! all of them! especially the first one, with eau rouge and the fireworks.


SPA 24hr, SPA Francorchamps, Belgium

Colours and lights are great!!!


It already is buddy, dig through the wallpaper section, you'll find it. We need walls of some of the other pics though!


This whole collection is epic, man. Any chance we could get the pic of Matt at Formula Drift Atlanta and the rallycross picture as wallpapers?


Man, I love that Eau Rouge shot, it has seen a lot of time on the desktops of my computers. I highly disagree that it doesn't tell a story though! The headlights lighting up the grass and path in front of the car...the different lengths and patterns of brake lights that show the length of braking and line the driver took. And you managed to make Raidillon look like a little bump!


These should all be available on the desktop section...


Rad. I'm feelin every shot.


Without a doubt you have the most amazing photography skills here. Love all you guys but Larry, you're on another plane of existence! Amazing skills!

I'd love access to the hi-res to blow them up for wall art!!


Desktops of the drifting Supra and the E30... !!


Your photos are amazing Larry. In fact, the first shot of Eau Rouge is my current wallpaper. Keep up the good work!


For anyone else wanting the first image as a desktop heres the link:

AMAZING photo!


Thanks for the kind words guys. Most of these photos are in the desktop section already. You just have to do some digging:


wow, great pics. love to have some of these as desktop... esp first one.


Larry, your photography is inspiring. Seriously.


Larry Chen = Visuals Boss


Thank you so very much for the photos Larry. They are amazing. Bye the way, that guy doing the crooked jump is Dave Mirra. He's is one of the most successful BMX riders ever and he now has a more respectable job as a rally driver for Subaru Rally America. Again, thanks for the incredible photos. Can't wait for part 2.


Goddam all of these are great shots.


Would be very nice to see these pics in high res. The eau rouge photo is my background for the past few weeks.


Sickkk shots man! BTW that "guy" in the global rally cross pic with the subaru is Dave Mirra (im sure you knew)


mate outstanding photos you are a credit , what lenses do you have ?????


Amazing, Larry. Just plain amazing!

Hope to see you at Gatebil in 2012!


I cried.

no words


Larry! You are one lucky guy, getting to travel all over the world and back! Gotta say you're my favorite photographer man, because I can relate to your style of imagery. Looking forward to part 2, not to mention next year! Keep it up man! I also concur w/Dan.


Desktops please!!! beautiful pictures!


Awesome pics!


Awesome job as always Larry!! Keep up the great work! I enjoy reading your posts!! Thanks Bro!


It would be great to see a Desktop of the Subaru sideways in the air during the Irwindale Rally Cross!


Awesome pics!! Thank you!!


The shot of Jeff Zwart with the sun peaking in is just too cool, I could literally stare at that picture all day, and there's not even a whole car pictured in it. It's just cool to see what kind of shots natural lighting give you once and a while.


Nice to see a NASCAR picture sneak in there.


The picture of Eau Rouge needs to be a wallpaper! If you see this and make it, thanks.


I read this article, the song "If I Could Feel Again" - it was very atmospheric! Cool article and great photos!


looking forward to part 2!!!


GOSH, love every of them so much!! <3


the "pirate ship" is really a great picture!!!


Awesome photos! Hard decision for me . . . when I grow up would I rather shoots photos as good as you or as good as Lihnbergh? In the mean time I'll learn from you both (LOL). Kudos on your excellent images. Looking forward to Pt. 2.


Larry Chen, Photographic Genuis


awesome shots

i know what you mean, nailing that perfect shot is an awesome feeling


Jus love ur picture!!I


"Empire State Building, New York, United States"

One day I would like to see the whole city from this aspect too. Great photos!


i've had that first shot as my desktop since you first posted it on here. so rad.


Please make a desktop of the first picture and the pikes peak shot at 14,000ft!!


In Part 1 I showed you guys my picks for the most visually appealing photos from the past year. Now, on to my most impactful and best story-telling photos of the year.


Dang, you pretty much went all over the world!!


I get the chills too with such amazing things! :D


"Later he told me that he may have dented the roof of the Scion tC as he punched it in celebration."