Capturing the madness at Formula Drift Long Beach

Last week I shot for my first full scale motorsports event. It was the Formula Drift Streets of Long Beach event. Here are some things someone looking to do the same should know beforehand.

You will run. You will run in jeans. And you will like it.

According to my phone, I ran around 13 miles for both days. I say “around” because I left my phone in driver Pat Goodin’s car after setting up a GoPro. Now 13 miles in two days isn’t impossible but it’s also not the easiest thing to do when you pilot a desk for 40+ hours a week.
And have an addiction to being a lazy pile of shit.  
It’s especially not easy while carrying multiple cameras and wearing jeans in 80-degree weather. “Why don’t you wear shorts?” Long pants are required for trackside media members. “Wear something not denim.” Well, my corduroys were still at the dry cleaner and slacks don’t go well with the bright yellow media vest you’re required to wear.

Rules are important and will be broken, just not by you.
Friday morning, all media members are required to attend a briefing that goes over the schedule, track safety, what is expected out of you, and more information of the like. It was made extremely clear to all attendees that we are professionals and will act as such.  Our gear is what separates us from the crowd and therefore ABSOLUTELY NO POINT AND SHOOT CAMERAS OR CELL PHONES WILL BE ALLOWED.  
But alas this was a very familiar sight both days of competition.

After doing some digging, I was told that “Media Members” like these get their passes by being affiliated with someone who has a vendor booth at the event. In the big picture it’s really not a big deal. They found a loophole to experience some cool shit and they did. I can’t be mad at that. The problem here though, is that hey were definitely making photographers who make a living off events looks bad by association.  Granted, the quality of work produced would vary vastly.
And on a serious note, at least get an Ollo Clip dude… for real.
Null all your gear. Bring Half.

I brought too much gear. There, I said it. As the photo above shows I brought a Canon SL1, RODE shotgun microphone, four lenses, batteries and chargers, memory cards, two tripods, three suction cups, a GoPro and accessories, a DJI Osmo and accessories, a MacBook Pro, external drives, and any other thing with wires I could find. With 20/20 hindsight I see I could have brought almost half the gear and still produced the same amount of content and saved the back ache of lugging this all to and from the event.
Make friends.
Just like in school, make friends with everyone. (Expect the goths because eyeliner) Other media members, Staff Pro employees, Formula Drift Staff, Drivers, EVERYONE! Making friends can get you into places other media members can’t. For instance, having worked with Chris Forsberg in the past I was able to hang out in his pit area and enjoy shade and a beer (don’t tell Jeff). Having arm wrestled Pat Goodin in the past was a great way to allow him letting me put a GoPro in his car.
I was lucky enough to store all that gear you just read about in Huddy Racing’s trailer away from prying eyes and loose hands. Not having to carry around anything that wasn’t necessary makes the days a lot more bearable. It also gave me a place to sit down away from noise, heat, and swarms of people to review footage and photos.
Don’t get me wrong. I love tire smoke and broken taillights flying past my head just as much as the next guy but a safe space is never a bad thing.
James Deane is not the truth in America… yet.
I know this has nothing to do with shooting your first event but it’s relevant and needs to be said. Before bottles of Jameson and Red Beast get thrown at me, allow me to defend myself. James has won basically everything except Formula Drift (before last weekend) and he, without question can chase like a son of a bitch. But this kind of track is what he’s used to. Tight, small, flat, and slow (relatively speaking). I can’t get on the James Deane train until I see his performance at Road Atlanta later this year.
On his chase run with Chris Forsberg in the Great 8, he hit Chris on entry harder then either of them let on. If Chris was any less of a driver he would have spun, no question.
Be proud of the outcome

I firmly believe this is the best photograph I have ever taken. I found this photo at 3am Sunday after getting home from the event and woke up all my girlfriend’s neighbors in excitement (Sorry Linda. Ill get you more Starbucks) and that moment made all the sweat, all the running, all the frustration, and lack of sleep worth it.
Tess Flanders said “A picture is worth a 1000 words” and he was wrong. That photo is worth much, much more to me.
Josh is our Editor of Young-Person Things. He thinks everyone should own a BRZ.  
Follow him on Instagram @mr.stealyourdog

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4 responses to “Capturing the madness at Formula Drift Long Beach”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    Candid and fun description of the experience, and really a great shot! Looking forward to seeing more copy and imagery from you.
    Also, it’s NOT the gear that makes a pro. I had a couple of thousand dollars in Nikon, and I didn’t sell a single pic, let alone amortization or making a living. The profession bit makes a professional. If you can sell jpgs off your phone, do it.

  2. kombi man Avatar
    kombi man

    Craicing pic!

  3. Bradley Brownell Avatar
    Bradley Brownell

    I could care less whether the guy is shooting with a cell phone, but LAYING ACROSS THE BARRIER?
    We’re told in photo meetings to stay the eff off of the barriers. Don’t put any part of your body (or your gear) ON the barrier.

    1. Josh Ostrander Avatar
      Josh Ostrander

      We also got told the same thing. I saw a lot of tripods on barriers but got scolded if I leaned on one. Rules make no sense anymore.

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