Behind The Scenes With The Speedhunters
I Am The Speedhunter

I’ve been reading articles on the Speedhunters website for at least seven years; for many of you, I’m sure it’s been longer than that.

We’ve all been consuming this content over the years, but what’s really involved in creating these photographs and stories? The 2017 SEMA Show was was my first encounter with the team and I set out to answer this very question.

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For me, things really have gone full circle in the last four years and it all starts with The Speedhunters. So, to start things off I’ll properly introduce myself and let you know where I’m coming from.

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It was in 2013 when Paddy and Larry started the Speedhunters Photography Guide and I absolutely ate it up. (Who wants a revamped, Version 2?) Seeing as how I had fairly dismal results at the 2012 US Grand Prix with my parents’ point and shoot I borrowed, I thought I’d take the plunge and go for a DSLR before my trip back in 2013.

The only one I could reasonably afford at the time was a Canon EOS 40D, the very body Paddy recommended as a sort of low-end but acceptable option for motorsport. I picked one up, along with a couple kit lenses, and a 50mm f/1.8 for something like $60 used, and I took my gear with me everywhere.

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At the same time I purchased the 40D I went back to school to pursue my engineering degree. I can easily say that I spent more time behind the camera than I did in class, and more time in post-processing than I did doing homework for the next four years. Despite this, I still graduated, and I’m currently working full-time in California’s Bay Area.

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Meanwhile with my camera, I shot and shot and shot, anything and everything, until I began to produce what I wanted.

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I became more and more interested in shooting cars, and eventually that was my only focus. Drifting is a particularly good place to get acquainted with the mechanics of a camera; the dynamism of a moving vehicle forces you to learn how to use your gear.

The drift events were fun, allow you good access and made for some great imagery, but eventually I started shooting at track days where I found a lot of support from the drivers.

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As with many things, timing is everything. Had Paddy and Larry not created the photo guides right when they did, I likely wouldn’t be here. If I hadn’t received support from drivers at track days when I did, I probably would have had to go back to a restaurant job to put myself through school.

If Paddy and Taryn Croucher hadn’t handled the I Am The Speedhunter program back in the day, I doubt I ever would have thought it was possible for me to be a part of the site.

The Guys
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Of course, there are the guys you already know and love. Dino, Paddy, Larry, Justin, and Louis were all at the SEMA Show. Mark Riccioni, Ben Chandler, Rob Bullough and a few others who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the site moving also attended. Here you can see Paddy explaining to Louis why Dino is the one that gets back rubs from Larry – totally normal.

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As you know, plenty of these guys had to come from overseas, resulting in an absolutely astounding 76,900km traveled by the team just to cover this one show, totaling north of 150 travel hours. Of course, not such a large group need to go to every show or event, but there’s lots of work to be done at SEMA.

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Larry, who of course needs no introduction, says over the years he isn’t able to shoot as much at SEMA (and elsewhere) because there’s just more and more business to be done. It’s terribly hard to shoot for people who you haven’t met yet, isn’t it?

The SEMA Show is a melting pot of all things automotive, and if you need to find a company, make a contact, or strike a deal for the coming year, this is the place to do it.

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If you’re hanging around Larry at an event, it’s likely that Louis Yio is not far behind. This guy is an absolute machine behind the camera and was positively cranking out the clicks the entire time I followed him about.

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When the track wasn’t hot, he’d turn around and shoot the crowd, the buildings, the signs. I think he even started shooting the sky, perhaps because he simply ran out of things to take photos of. His gear shows some serious signs of use, and I’m sure that shutter has been replaced at least a few times.

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You’re already more than familiar with the man in white glasses, Dino Dalle Carbonare, who has just stepped down from his role as Editor in Chief to do more hunting in the field. I followed him around a bit while he worked on his JDM piece, as well as the V8-swapped FC3S Mazda RX-7 spotlight.

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Originally from Italy, which is why his name sounds like a fancy dish you might order at an upscale restaurant, he’s been in Japan now for over two decades. He says he quite likes it there, so he just never left. This trip to SEMA marked his 12th time in Las Vegas, surely with many more to come in future years.

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As you know, Paddy is the one who will replace Dino at the top of the Speedhunting food chain. This was his first time to SEMA as he hails from Ireland, which is awfully far away as well as bitterly wet and cold — perhaps why he always appears quite angry. However, if you approach him slowly with a small snack of some sort (or coffee), he may let you pet him. He’s quite friendly once he warms up.

Paddy’s journey to SEMA was the 20th trans-Atlantic flight he’s made this year alone; covering Formula Drift is a lot more work than you might realize when you must come from Europe to do it. Be sure to thank him for all the drifting content you’ve seen this year. Likewise, be sure to check out his long exposures from around the show, carrying a tripod around all day isn’t easy either.

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Also out in Vegas was Justin Banner, the (quite powerful) wizard behind the keyboard. He’s grown up around cars, racing, off-roading, and all things automotive. You’ve probably noticed how thorough he is in his writing and he’s the go-to guy to bring you all the details on a build.

It’s great to have someone dependable to throw photos at, knowing that he can explain the ins and outs of a feature car with an eloquence I lack. And, if I’m honest, he knows a good bit more about cars than I do anyhow.

The Gear
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Then there’s the gear; loads and loads of it. Together, the team brought 16 camera bodies and 37 lenses to bring you content from the SEMA Show.

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“Just look at all this trash someone left on the table,” Larry said. Absolutely disrespectful, those Speedhunters. There were cases and bags all over our table, not to mention laptops, chargers, card readers, back-up hard drives, and all the other little odds and ends you don’t quite consider.

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If I learned one thing at this show, it’s that I need some better support equipment to go along with my cameras and lenses. Bags for quick accessibility of lenses, for example, and I also quite liked these filter holders I saw Louis and Larry using. This all-new huge aperture 35mm that Louis picked up seems pretty useful.

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Bringing all of this gear to use means you’re responsible for hauling it around with you all week, too. But we put it to good use — the exact count of shots taken at and around SEMA by our group alone was 46,327. That’s nearly half the entire rated lifespan of many consumer-grade DSLR bodies, just at one show. And for a motorsports event like Formula Drift or the Goodwood Festival of Speed, it’s easy to rack up three or four times as many shots per day as a static event like this.

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This content filled over 950GB on hard drives, which of course doubles when you back it up. Then, after taking all these photos, you have to sort through them as well. Louis seems to be having a better time here than Paddy, but then again, Paddy may not have had his coffee yet.

Believe it or not, when you’re all done, you actually have to talk to people to figure out what’s in their cars in the first place. Who would have thought that photographers were allowed to socialize? Dino, however, has an alternate technique where he becomes very still and close to the car, trying to hear it whisper to him. See? He’s doing it right there.

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As far as taking the photos themselves, I personally upgraded from that 40D to a 60D, then on to my first full-frame camera, the 5D Mark II. This switch pretty much blew my mind, and I wish I had done it sooner. Eventually I moved on to a 5D Mark III and later added a 1D Mark IV (which has a 1.3x crop sensor), both of which I shoot with now. They’re a bit older but they get the job done.

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I know Paddy brought this miniature device in conjunction with his big-boy bodies, all three of which saw use at the show. Other camera bodies used by the team unsurprisingly include Canon’s 5D Mark IV as well as bodies from the 1Dx line.

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Of course, a DSLR does no good without some nice glass in front of it and that’s where things tend to become expensive. For a show like this though, simple, relatively affordable gear is sufficient. I primarily use my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 for stuff like this, and toss in the 16-35mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 as well. Of course, you can never go wrong with a good 50mm either; Dino has a nice f/1.2 version, and I got away with my f/1.4 when I needed it. The thing I noticed most when following these guys around was not their gear, but instead their movement as they try to frame an image.

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It’s pretty insane when you start to tally up the equipment involved in making each of these stories happen, and there are more feature cars on the way.

While it’s one thing to create 10 or 20 images that you’re happy with from an event, it’s another thing altogether to individually produce the hundreds of edits required to cover a show like this.

The Larry
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During the course of the SEMA Show, Larry was the one Speedhunter that eluded me the most. Larry is a guy who essentially has an endless list of assignments, and as such he’s a bit hard to track down. Or perhaps it’s the way I smell?

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He gets his own chapter not because he’s better than anyone else — he’ll be the first to tell you this. In fact, I stole those words right from his own mouth and you can hear them yourself in this video, where you get to see in more detail what Speedhunting is like.

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Instead, I set aside a chapter for Larry alone because he is the hardest working guy in the industry; others on the Speedhunting team are quick to say the same about him. If you’ve ever seen Larry at an event, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He’ll be found running around with two or more cameras, capturing something from a previously undiscovered angle or shooting a moving vehicle at a dangerously slow shutter speed.

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Or posting on Instagram to keep all his hungry fans fed with delicious photos. (Don’t bother sneaking up on him though. Here, Larry used Shutter Detect — it’s super effective!)

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At SEMA, his hard working nature was apparent. When I finally was able to link up with him, I could hardly keep up. I know I’ve got short legs, but it seemed Larry was practically running to his next assignment. When he got there, he was documenting Magnus Walker, who would be showing F1 superstar Max Verstappen around the show a bit.

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When I asked why he doesn’t use a fancy dual camera strap, he said he simply wears them out. Manufacturers of photography accessories, I think this is a challenge…

I followed Larry for about 15 minutes, during which I captured over 300 photos. Just from the sound of his shutter, he took at least three times as many. Unfortunately, I had a flight to catch, which I almost missed, so I had to head out early.

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Honestly, shadowing Larry was much harder work than shooting cars. I was sweating as I walked back to the Media Center to pick up my bags, but that might be normal when coming in close contact with Larry. Has this happened to anyone else?

Jokes aside, I hope this gives you an even greater appreciation for his work. It doesn’t happen by accident, that’s for sure.

The Show
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This work ethic and drive for perfection applies to everyone else on the team as well, and they’re often doing it on a minimal amount of sleep. Dino and Paddy, for example, travelled a combined 53 hours through 16 time zones.

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Due to this, Dino may actually be asleep here… it’s hard to say. This is a time when coffee becomes as much a part of your kit as your go-to lens.

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When you consider the amount of work it was for The Speedhunters alone to bring you SEMA coverage, keep in mind over 140,000 people attended the event. Think of all of the exhibitors, visitors, models, and 3,000 other media attendees that also made the trek to Las Vegas.

Many shipped multiple cars and loads of equipment to show off at the event — without these things there’s no show at all. To further give you an idea of the scope of things, I heard that one booth spent over $125,000 just for the lighting equipment.

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It’s a seriously massive undertaking and would never be possible without the thousands of people working behind the scenes to make each booth, and eventually the entire show, come together.

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As a photographer, I’m thankful to everyone who made the SEMA show what it is; from five cars displayed in 1967 to over 1,500 five decades later, it is quite the impressive automotive celebration. I’m especially grateful to the Speedhunters team for being so welcoming and easy to work with. I might be biased, but it really is a great group of guys.

For anyone interested in a consolidated list of the totals from the SEMA show, I’ve tallied it all below.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto
TYRphoto.com

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44 comments

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1

Great intro post! I hope to see more of your content on here!

2

Thank you!

3

NIce "behind the scene" .

And an absolute YES to your question about a version 2.0 of photo guide :p

4

Loved this! Awesome work.

5

Very, very nice post! I also got very excited since Paddy and Larry Photography guide, but haven´t practiced as much as i desire. But i see in your case that hardworks paysoff!!! congrats!!!

Seen this hardwork from everyone definitely makes us appreciate more the content of each feature, sadly i see so much hate on the comment section; what i have learned is to respect each individual taste, maybe it is not our taste but that does not mean there is no effort, time, love or passion behind it;

PS: ¿Does any SpeedHunter uses Nikon cameras?????

6

There was no conscious decision for most of us to use Canon, it's just a coincidence.

7

With the majority of the team using Canon, it probably makes sense to keep to that as much as possible, use the collected knowledge and everything works the same way.

Not to say that Nikon don't make some great cameras, but why add something that doesn't fit into the workflow?

8

I was wondering when we'd get an intro post from you. Very well done and congrats on the transition from reader to hunter. Absoultely spot on description of Larry, I've only seen him in action properly at one event (FD in Montreal) and I was in awe at how hard he works. Especially considering how damn hot it was that day, certainly a worth ethic to aspire to.

My first year at SEMA I wasn't able to get a locker and had to lug my laptop around the whole event. Nearly killed me. Trying to see it all is no joke...

Did you find the transition from 5D MKII to MKIII worth it? I went t2i to 5D MKII and I'm super happy with it but always curious to find out what others think.

9

Haha carrying stuff around is the worst, always nice to have a good home base at an event.

As for the 5D2 to 5D3 I would say it was more than worth it for the track day stuff I was doing. The 5D2 autofocus wasn't even as good as my 60D due to the fact that the 5D2 (and the 6D, it's worth mentioning) only have one cross-type autofocus point, which is right in the center. I could have gotten away with a 7DII as well, but went for the full frame.

That said, the 5D2 is plenty capable; that shot of the drift car at sunset at the beginning of the article was taken with this body and a prime 200mm f/2.8, both of which are very much in the realm of affordability.

10

Ah cool thanks for the insight. My wife has a mk iii maybe I'll try and borrow it for an event. Sadly not shot a lot of Motorsport yet with my mkii.

11

Hey guys I was just wondering why in all the photos of the camera bodies are the brand logo covered with tape.

12

In my case, it makes them look less attractive, less expensive and hopefully less likely to be stolen when shooting on the street. Larry & Louis tape up to protect the cameras and to stop dust / sand getting inside because they shoot in infinitely harsher conditions than most.

13

To minimise reflections I'd imagine.

14

Thanks for all of your hard work fellas! Any one get a few more images of that gorgeous Porsche?

15

Which Porsche were you wondering about?

16

silver with the orange detailing. Larry is shooting with Magnus in the background.

17
Rui Levita Gonçalves

Thank you! Awesome post!

18

Trevor, this was a great intro post, and I am happy to see the people behind the camera lens for the first time! Larry, Dino, Paddy, Louis, it was great to see the people behind the camera for the first time.

19

Superb post. The stats alone are mind boggling. Really interesting insight into the inner workings! Well done to the whole team.

20

Behind the white glasses

Always a great treat to see what the mechanics are and moving parts. Anyone can be interested in that aspect. Like is said before the write ups can be even better than the video or the event itself. That’s is the talent of the writer. Kudos Trevor

21

Just wondering Trevor, where in the bay are you based? I might attend college in San Jose if things go my way next year and I would like to link up sometime and maybe shoot something of mine if it's worth shooting at the time, if it's worthwhile. But it's kinda hard to imagine the scale of all this stuff. Like it's insane how much data in photos is captured. 950GB of photos is super hard to imagine.

22

I'm in Fremont but a few years back I lived in San Jose — it's a cool place to be because you're close to everything. And yeah, it all starts to add up pretty quick. I got used to it at the track days where 1,000 photos an hour is in the realm of possibility between me and another shooter; the worst part is the sorting haha.

23

Awesome into , been here following since it started , and must say keep up the good work guys ... hope to see alot more content from u expressing the speedhunter thats in you ,through your photos... Speedhunters and the photography guide made me took it serious , check my work out https://www.flickr.com/photos/66734014@N04/ and i must say thank you speed hunters ... dont stop !

24

That photo guide was legit! Those drift photos are quite nice, and especially that one of the red RX7 with LEDs.

25

Amazing

26

Great job at SEMA and trough out the years.

27

Great shots from SEMA and over the years

28

Loved this post. The humans behind the cameras (lol, laughed at the "16 bodies brought" statistic, in Vegas that has an alternative connotation) are more intriguing to me than the work... I.e., "what makes a Speedhunter tick" type of thing. This was a grand primer.

The cars are why we come, sure, but the people are why we stay.

29

Maximum respect for this job!

30

G'day mate. Bloody nice post!

31

I find it odd that you all still seem to use the standard camera straps? Don't you find them very uncomfortable? Considering how long you must be wearing them for and how heavy they are I'd have thought decent straps would be one of the first things you'd buy!

32

I use a Black Rapid double strap, as the standard straps always slip off my shoulders.

33

Photo guides and GREAT photos of urban tuning cars brings me back to this page.
As a rookie DSLR user and a gearhead is this the right place for me.

Thank you Speedhunters for the Photo DIY's!

34

this is the first i put a comment here. triggered by the inspiring post as i'm trying myself as well to be automotive photographer. Gotta agree on the practicing with drift event though. Fortunately here in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia, i got the chance to shoot them for quite few times now. Wish i can meet you guys someday.

35

What editing software do you use? Which laptop as well?

36

Yep, I do about 99% of my work in Lightroom. Photoshop here and there, but not very seriously. That star photo above used a star-stacking program, then Lightroom.

I'd say the main consideration for a laptop is the quality/accuracy of the colors on the screen. Speed matters especially when you're scaling up to 100s of edits a day.

37

Thank you soo much for the inside info on how the brains of Speedhunter works. I love the story of behind the scenes as much as the regular car ones. Next time we need a video of you guys talking about it.

38

Most, if not all, of us use Lightroom. Dino & I are Macbook Pro kind of people, the rest of the SEMA crew were on various Windows based systems.

39

Only can say, thanks for your work Speedhunters! Many people like me have dificult to travel around the world following some great motorsport events, so and personaly, the best way to keep informed are you. Congratulations and cheers up from Basque Country!!

40

From everyone on the team, you're welcome! We all do it because we love it.

You've got some good racetracks and events not too far from Basque Country, though!

41

I always enjoy behind the scene stories and pictures. It gives the amazing pictures a story.

But I must ask, is that glue on Louis' camera? And what is with the plastic cup over the camera lens?

42

plastic cup AS the lens ;)

43

I'm currently doing the same thing with my photography. I love reading about people getting to this point with their passion. Gives me more drive each time I see a post like this one. Good stuff.

44

I love these articles and the effort you clearly put in for your passion puts you at the head of the game without any doubt. Do you start to feel like Bingham in the "up in the air film" after a while?

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