FD ATL // MY FIRST FORMULA DRIFT EXPERIENCE.
I know I'm a couple of weeks late on this, but after consecutive weekends out of town, going freelance, and basically turning my apartment into a home office/studio I'm just not catching up on everything!
I had never been to anything Formula Drift related, and to be honest...I don't really know shit about drifting. I've been to a couple of the local drift union shindigs here in St. Louis but none of those would prepare me for what I was getting into with Formula Drift.
Thursday night me and a couple buddies backed up my little Ford Focus and headed to the Hotlanta! We left pretty late..somewhere around 10pm in hopes of driving all night and making to to Road Atlanta for what would be one of the most hectic/most fun events of my life.
Roughly 9-10 hours later we arrived at our hotel and had just enough time to throw our things in a hotel room, meet up with my good buddy Darren, pack everything into his rental and head to the track. I had worked with Darren a few times covering events but I was still pretty nervous for covering this particular event. Thank God Darren had a pretty good plan set for coverage on this event because I shit you not there was hardly even 5 minutes to sit and think about what we had to do next.
I don't really remember anything before getting to the grid. It was hot as shit, of course I was wearing all black, and I was stuck up there armed with a Pelican case filled with cameras. [notice I didn't say there was any water]
My only direction on the grid was to basically mount cameras on a few select drivers, and make sure the angles were dope. The weekend before I had a little bit of practice at Hyperfest, but that wasn't nearly enough to prepare me for the hectic situation of running around a Formula Drift grid. I probably spent about 25-30 minutes just walking through the visual orgasm of incredible cars, roaring engines, smoke, and drivers before I had the courage to walk up to anyone and ask them if I could mount a camera on their car.
I had met Ryan Tuerek, Vaughn Gittin JR, and Chris Forsberg the weekend before and was pretty comfortable with them so they were the first few dudes I approached.
"h...hey, d-do you think I could uh...mount this g-go-pro in your car?"
was basically how the first round of asking drivers went. After the most encouraging "HELL YEAH!''s I've ever heard in my life, the rest was basically cake. Before I knew it I was slapping hands, grabbing water, and talking initiation and exit speed with drivers like we were best friends. I don't really have words to describe how it felt being on the grid with all of these amazing humans. A motorsport nerd on the grid with a bunch of killer drivers would probably be the best way to describe it.
THE SMILE NEVER FADED FROM MY FACE.
Through all of the heat, sweat, dizziness and dehydration the only thing that remained a constant thought in my head was "This shit is incredible."
After a hectic day and a few brief heart attacks from losing location of cameras, The day had some to an end, and it was time to head back to the trailer to re-group with the homies, pack everything up, head back to the hotel, catch some Z's and do it all over again.
DAY 2 // COMPETITION DAY.
Day 2 was basically a piece of cake compared to Day 1 since we knew exactly what we had to do. We headed over to the track, got our ducks in a row and we were off! Hitting every mark on our check list like we had done this a thousand times. We only had a certain amount of time before heading up to the grid for practice before competition. Once on the grid there was no time wasted, and approaching drivers to mount was second nature. I was more excited to talk to drivers about their setups, problems, solutions, and qualifying times than mounting cameras (although that was still the main focus) It was pretty awesome to see the transition drivers had made from qualifying day to competition day. There was a different kind of energy on the grid, a serious one. I could feel it as I walked by. Everyone was in the zone and I loved it.
Watching donuts and seeing the smoke pour from their tires before each run was something I can't really explain. It was basically like I was seeing everything in slow motion with some epic ass music in the background. It was clear to me that these dudes were serious as shit about what they did, and the energy out there was amazing. My background is typically slow moving studio type work, but working out on something like this has lit an entire new spark in me. Not to mention the amount of incredible positive energy that each of these drivers radiate like crazy. Its very clear that these dudes absolutely LOVE what they are doing, and I think that in itself is absolutely incredible.
After some intense practice runs, the sun went down, and I was unable to mount anymore during competition. So I took this time to photograph the drivers and their crews. I did my best not to bother anyone but I can't say I didn't creep around a certain few people grabbing as many frames of them as I could, haha
Once the competition was starting I went back down to the keyhole and grabbed my camera to shoot some still shots. The energy was still insane but this time it was the energy from the crowd that was engulfing me. Drift fans are definitely my favorite fans. These people get more hyped than any other fans I've ever seen in my life, and I absolutely loved it.
I'm not much of an action photographer, but having a front row seat to the action was pretty freaking awesome if I do say so myself. I did my best to grab some decent frames but I was more hyped to just be out there with the stress of locating cameras off my shoulders. Keeping track of 5 cameras at a time is pretty damn stressful!
All in all I can say with confidence that shooting FD ATL has been one of the most exciting things I've done in my career to date, and I can only hope to be able to get out to any of the other FD rounds this year.
HUGE shoutout to Subject Media Group, Wrecked Magazine, Jeff and Erik Le, and Road Atlanta for making the weekend of of the most memorable to date. Definitely looking forward to attending more motorsport races and getting as much dope shit as I can!