I’m Addicted To Tire Smoke

I’ve shot many types of motorsports, but my favorite will always be drifting. There really is nothing quite like it.

I find myself sitting in traffic all the time, which of course is pretty normal in Los Angeles. When someone slams on their brakes and lock up their tires they create a tiny puff of smoke. Most people hate the smell so they roll up their windows. As soon as it comes across my nose it instantly reminds me of drifting. I’m sure that is the face Matt Powers makes when the same thing happens to him.

Yep, that is me. Enjoying a smoke if you will. I always joke that in 30 years my finger nails will fall off or something due to inhaling all that tire smoke. The good thing is I can still shoot photos if I don’t have fingernails.

Which brings us to Formula Drift New Jersey at Wall Speedway. There is just something about this track that attracts me to it. It’s like it was built for drifting.

It’s an absolutely beautiful place. Who knew right? The light is perfect. Maybe it has to do with the thickness of the air. It is so humid there, my lenses always fog up when I walk outside from an air conditioned room.

The bank is not very steep but it provides for some great photography and great drifting.

The infield is very bumpy so it is incredibly hard to navigate. I swear this track causes the top drivers to spin out more than any other track.

Wall Speedway was always a hot place for drama. This single event has generated more buzz than I have ever seen from just one round of Formula Drift.

The fact that it is a bowl shape means it retains the tire smoke. As long as there is no wind it’s going to linger around for a while. It almost looks like another planet.

People always ask me which Formula Drift track is my favorite to photograph. Ever since Formula Drift stopped going to Infineon raceway I replied with a ” I’m not sure.” Well, my mind is made up after this past round at Jersey.

I get all excited when someone gets sideways whenever I am shooting racing. I think it would be sensory overload for many of the old school photographers who have never shot drifting. Just look how cool it is when the light hits the smoke the right way. It looks like the car is on fire.

The forest behind Wall Speedway cuts the light into rays that shine through with photo perfection. You can’t set this kind of stuff up if you wanted to.

This track is also perfect for remote cameras. Because of the bowl shape it bounces radios signals all over the place allowing you to trigger cameras from anywhere track-side.

Although, it’s nearly impossible to shoot through the thick bowl of smoke at times.

How some of these guys see when following during tandem is beyond me.

The way tire smoke pours from under the wheel wells of these drift cars is just so something you have to experience for yourself. Just look at the way the wing on Chelsea Denofa’s BMW M3 modifies the direction of where the smoke goes. Also noticed that little pocket of smoke that gets squished out by the tire right on the bottom where it comes in contact with the ground. Amazing.

Then there are the little puffs of tire smoke that appear from e-brake initiations. It’s just like a little preview of what is to come.

Bam! This is what was coming! Chunks of cloud. To think that some of these tires are rated for 50,000 miles. These guys travel just a smidgen less than that when drifting.

One minute you are idling at the starting line and the next you are creating your own rain cloud. How could you not like this sport?

I always find myself putting down my camera and sitting on the sidelines enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of drifting.

If you have never been to a drift event this is the perfect time. The competition has never been this exciting and there is no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

So if you happen to be within driving distance when Formula Drift New Jersey comes around again you should come and enjoy a bowl of tire smoke with me. But, in the meantime you should enjoy these desktops.

-Larry Chen


Additional photo provided by Liora Klein

More stories of drifting on Speedhunters.

More stories from Larry Chen on Speedhunters.



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Larry don't you have a fish-eye lens? I would've thought that the shots you took from above on the bank would've looked better with a fish-eye. I also have to agree with you, I'm addicted to tire smoke too!


I wish I could tag every auto racing game developer in the world in this post. Racing games are all stunning nowadays, with the cars and environments rendered with incredible detail... But I have yet to play a game in which the smoke doesn't look like look like a bunch of cardboard cut out smoke puff drawings popping up behind the car at varying opacities. Billowing, rolling, dense smoke is so captivating to look at. A game that captures what these photos capture would set the bar for graphics in my opinion.


 @Baljit Singh The shots from above the bank were shot with a 10mm lens, and on a crop body it will become 16mm. My fisheye is 15mm, on a crop body it will become 24mm. I do agree it would look better, but in this case the 24mm would not be wide enough. This shot was taken with the fisheye on a crop body: http://cdn.dev.speedhunters.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/124.jpg


Bowl? Smoke?I see what you did there, LOL.


 @Absolution me gusta :3


i think Forza Horizon (Xbox 360) might have just wat ur lookin for. :)


i know wer u might come from as a photographer about the clouds of smoke covering most of these shot, but he way Daigo's car looks (9th from bottom) is SO agressive and it looks just plain mean with the smoke and the vignette... nice job LArry u always know how to impress :)


Ha,ha ............... headline befits the shots, nice one!


 @Larry Chen Did you use a 7D to take those, or what is that crop body you wrote about? I always thought it was FF all the way for you.


Never been to a drift event so far. Still love drifting. :)


I second your opinion on Wall stadium Larry. Also digging the shots from atop the fence, we thought you were crazy climbing up there!


I love Larry.


yuckin nice !


yuckin nice !


yuckin nice !


yuckin nice !


yuckin nice !


This kind of smoking I don't mind :)