The Digital Effect: Formula Drift Long Beach In 0.836 Seconds

Taking digital photos is a weird thing to do.

In contrast to shooting film, where you’re physically capturing a moment on a tangible, touchable medium, there’s a certain soullessness to machine-gunning away with your files being written to some mysterious digital ether. I’ve typically noticed my keep rate when I’m using an analog camera is somewhere north of 90 percent, whereas it’s probably around a tenth of this when I pull out the modern equivalent. There’s simply not as much artful thought going on. Still, the tedious task of sorting coupled with the rewarding process of post-production results in — hopefully — an image that tells a story; a photograph that still has some soul to it.

While Keiron’s given you a look into Formula Drift Long Beach’s media day, and I’ve already covered qualifying as well as the event’s final results, I wanted to put together a gallery from the whole weekend consisting of my favorite shots. These aren’t photos which fit into some larger narrative, but instead simply stand on their own as images which mean something to me personally.

Together, the exposure of all 60-plus shots here combine to represent less than one second in time. Simultaneously, they represent days of work on my part as well as months of preparation from organizers, teams, and drivers.


Our weekend started off when on Thursday afternoon I noticed my friends Cirone, Schwartz, and Russo from 9nine2 shooting Matt Coffman’s refreshed S13. Sara and I were planning to just pop in for our media passes, but I couldn’t resist getting some shots of the Nissan sitting on Turn 10 of the track.


I first ran into Matt years ago at a Tandem of Die-hosted Bash To The Future drift event in Medford, Oregon. It’s hard to describe how excited I was getting up close to his car there, long before I thought I could be taking photos to make a living. The S13 has gone through a few iterations over the years and as it sits now is powered by an angry Roush Yates 410ci V8, while steering angle comes courtesy of a Wisefab kit. But best of all, the car is currently purple.


It’s always a pleasure to see Matt tear up a track, especially when the track is in the streets of Long Beach.


There’s always plenty to see around the paddock in Long Beach, too, from a nitrous-fed 6.0L Ferrari V12 to last-minute buzz cuts.


Every day is packed with moments of calm before brutal interruptions of the peace. Shooting Formula Drift is very easy in one sense, but at the same time it’s quite difficult to capture the specific shots you need while still getting the variety you want.


I often find myself spending too much time at one corner getting slightly different iterations of the same shot rather than using my feet to improve on what I’m getting. The same as how Friday is practice (and qualifying) for the drivers, it’s practice for all of the photographers and videographers.


Come Saturday, everything is a bit more serious. Well, it is still Formula Drift, so not too serious. Even as the hard work of competition kicks off everyone is having a good time, which is what drifting is really all about.


I’ll also interject to say that this isn’t my Hasselblad, I’m not that cool. Maybe someday…


Throughout the weekend I made it a priority to slow down my shutter as much as possible. This post’s opening image, and these two pans from up in the stands account for more than half of the exposure time in this article.

For those curious about this sort of thing, the shot of Piotr Więcek was taken at 1/5th, the one of Fredric Aasbø and Dan Burkett at 1/8th, and the lead shot of Vaughn Gittin Jr. at 1/6th of a second. This is the advantage of shooting digital, though, as I’d never end up with shots like these if I was limited to a handful of 36-shot film rolls over a weekend.


On to the Top 16…


For those who opt for the VIP experience, the start of the Top 16 is a cool opportunity for fans to get up close to their favorite drivers before the track goes hot again. But the best part for me are the unsanctioned donuts after driver introductions — especially when they’re Donkin’ Donuts.


From the stands or track-side, drifting really is a spectator sport like no other.


I’ll point out that none of these items are mine, but they do represent a fairly typical lunch for plenty of photographers out there: Pringles and a Coke. I always try to do my best to stay well-fed and well-hydrated; no matter how much fun you’re having it’s still a long day in the sun.


As you probably already know, the weekend belonged to Odi Bakchis and his Falken Tire-scalloped S14.


The more shots I take, the easier it is for each individual moment I capture to have less significance to me. It’s a good practice for me to take a second look and to pore over the finer details of what ended up on my hard drive after a weekend like this one. The newsworthy aspects of any race weekend are only a fraction of the story; the majority of the time is filled with little moments that are special in their own right.


It’s easy to get distracted by the big names, headlines, and even the action itself on the track. But, camera or not, it’s often best to just kick back and take it all in.

There you have it, a Formula Drift weekend as told by less than one second of digitized daylight.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto



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those shots are just amazing

Devon Bartholomew

really really nice shots. I really do prefer them full car without cut offs like the KG pic but they're so clean. awesome


If you think you can not get film shots like this one, you have never shot with an F5. That thing will rip focus stops apart it focuses so quickly. Digital makes it easier but it is not impossible to do it one film.

Great shots though. You get more feeling to a photo when your drag the shutter.