Something I’ve always appreciated while watching live sports are the camera guys.
From the stands I see their little neon bodies zipping around, and a bit of envy rolls over me — they’re so close to the action. A few times before I’ve been given a trackside look at grassroots drift events with Trevor, but I’d never had full access to a pro-level event like Formula Drift. That is, until until a couple weekends back.
After a solid year working with Trevor behind the scenes and on the other side of the fences, at Formula Drift Long Beach I was finally able to be one of the guys in a bright-colored vest. From the sleepy morning track walk to being pelted with burnt rubber from pirouetting tires less than an arm’s length away, it was completely surreal.
Was I dreaming?
Somehow, I was not, and although drifting has always been my favorite motorsport by far, I think my fondness for it has been increased tenfold. There’s just something so visceral about the sport.
Hearing the engines scream and the seeing the cars careening sideways somehow transports you into the driver’s seat. In all motorsports you might wish you were behind the wheel when you see the drivers jet past, but with drifting you almost get enough just watching.
It’s definitely the ultimate spectator sport, as well as the ultimate place to begin shooting from the other side of the fences.
This is especially true in the streets of Long Beach where photo opportunities are practically endless. Here, handsome skyline backdrops and palm trees blur behind tires in cloud form; it’s almost hard to get a boring photo with the wild spectacle taking place in front of your camera. And it’s this wildness that makes the sport so easy to love.
The weekend also grants ample opportunity to work your camera out all day. With other motorsports you might have to hike 30 minutes to get to the next corner at a track, but drifting is nice as the action is condensed. Also, the Long Beach layout has a camera hole at nearly every great photo corner — and they’re all within a 10-minute walk of each other and the paddock.
There are loads of opportunities to switch lenses as well. From dizzy wide-angle panning shots to smoky 300mm close-ups, there’s really no setup that isn’t useful here. Also, in contrast to other types of motorsport, there’s almost always a minute or two between runs which allows you to catch your breath and evaluate what you just shot, which is helpful for a less experienced shooter like me.
Then, there’s the unbeatable community. In Formula Drift there’s a certain sense of kinship you don’t quite get at other events. Everyone has each other’s backs, especially if you’re the new kid on the block.
Although it may not be glamorous to some of the people who have been shooting FD for a while, it still seems that everyone leaves at the end of the day feeling fulfilled and cathartic. If you can’t tell, I’m definitely a fan of this whole arrangement, and although Trevor nor I will be at this coming weekend’s Formula Drift second round event in Orlando, my first go behind the fence was a little habit-forming.
If I’m lucky, I won’t be away for too long.