F2 Photo Ambassadors
This is the first of a photography series where we invite specific photographers to share their point of view on automotive photography. Automotive photography presents its own unique challenges and our goal with this series is to share some insight on how to prepare and overcome some of those challenges. The first episode is with Thomas Seabury at Sonoma Valley Raceway in Northern California:
Now about myself; I am a automotive / wedding photographer from the San Francisco Bay Area. I have taken on everyday with a camera in my hands since 2015. I was introduced to automotive photography during a college photography class ( that I was dropped from, because I “failed to grasp the basics of photography”) since beginning my career in automotive work I have been graced with a very busy, but exciting life travelling across the states photographing the most unique builds and their owners, I have met my best friends and had some of the greatest moments all because I choose to carry my camera with me. Being located in the San Francisco Bay Area has also been an extreme boost in productivity, we have so many great pillars of the scene located in the bay and I am so lucky to get to call many of them friends after many years working together on various projects.
My time at Sonoma Valley raceway during the weekly Drift and Drag events was a very different experience for me, I have grown very used to photographing show cars, stance cars, things people put serious time in to make them as pretty as possible. Then you walk through the gate and boom, people are excited to have their bumper ripped off by the wall at 40 and others are celebrating their 9 second pass while piston number 4 is still in orbit. A really crazy, lawless place (at least it feels like it) cars are zipping all over the lots going from run to gas to run to donut pad then back to gas all while spectators are yelling and the air is filled with tire smoke and exhaust.
As intimidating as a large scale event feels the best way to get the best photos is to just get right into the loudest messiest part of the event right away, so I immediately went into the drifting area and started shooting as much as possible. Shooting panning shots is something I hadn’t worked with in well over 2 years so it took a couple of passes before I was starting to really nail the shots in a way I was actually happy with but once I had the settings and the movements back I was snapping left and right.
After the drift cars the Drag event felt like a different planet, everyone patiently waiting to run down the line in a huge clump of metal and gasoline. After walking through the lines of drag cars and snapping some shots of them leaving the line / making their run I ended up talking with owners about their builds, their runs, and their goals. Nothing gets you more connected with the sport than talking directly to those competing in it during their competition.
Throughout the entire event the only struggles I really ran into was just being a bit overwhelmed by everything and forgetting to slow down and take a closer look at details, the next time I attend I will definitely be slowing down quite a bit and looking much closer.
If you plan on attending Drag and Drift to get some photographs definitely bring a couple lenses, I was switching lenses way more often that I typically do. The lighting here may also prove to be a bit of a challenge, you occasionally get a little help from the tire smoke to even out the lighting but quite a lot of the track and the lots are open and very bright sunlight. I found myself using my 35mm lens and shooting 45 degrees from the sun to try and offset its brightness as much as possible.
The event as a whole was a blast and I am making regular trips to Sonoma’s Drift and Drag events a weekly trip for my friends and I.
Check out more of Thomas’s work at @twentythreeeninteen