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Formula Drift, Round 7, Irwindale Speedway 2013

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Last weekend was the 2013 Formula Drift Finals in Irwindale.
I was out shooting for Falken Tire unexpectedly, which is always a great thing. They’re a fun to team to shoot for and work around. Unfortunately though we didn’t have a strong weekend. All three drivers qualified Top 32, however both Justin and Dai were knocked out before top 16.

Saturday was my only actual day there to shoot. However I showed up on Friday to get my media vest early. The biggest problem with the Drift Finals is that there are a TON of people that apply for media passes. And I’ll be completely honest, most of them have no business being there. They’re un-experienced and represent no major company, no team, nor driver. There are people that I’ve met at these events that simply have their own auto blog and were able to get credentialed in.
To be clear, I’m all for people learning and working hard to advance in a competitive industry. However these inexperienced people tend to be rude, don’t follow rules, and have no common curtesy nor professional respect I find when I shoot a series like American Le Mans.

So rather than deal with a ton of people in the media meeting on Saturday, I showed up on Friday to check in early and then spent most of the afternoon seeing a few friends on other teams and with various vendors.

Race day was busy, as is every Irwindale race.
So, read on, check out a bunch of the shots I’ve selected to upload, and maybe I’ll see you guys out during the 2014 season!

Click the break to read on:

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Formula Drift Round 5 – Seattle

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Another Drift race of the season for the books – and a disappointing turn of events for Team Falken.

I just got back from Seattle a few days ago where I was out shooting for Falken once again for Formula Drift. This time around I was on my own covering the weekend’s events since the the rest of the creative staff was in Canada for the ALMS race. And while I got plenty of great photos from the weekend, the actual race itself didn’t go all too well for the team.

I arrived much earlier than I normally would for a race. I selected a super-early flight for some reason… I was trying to remember why I chose a 630a flight when I was just going up north to Seattle versus cross-country. Typically I seem to handle a lot of the far-away races for Falken. So that means long flights, and lots of travel on my part.
But for the life of me and I can not remember why I chose an early flight that put me in Seattle an entire day early.

No bother though, it was a chance to test out the extra Sony camera gear I brought along.

Thursday for me was a long day… not because I was busy, but because I wasn’t. I wasn’t there to work, so I was just hanging out. I didn’t bring my rental car since I rode with the team. Which left me plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. So, I shot around and took a ton of Behind the Scenes kind of photos of the guys setting up. Getting to know the crew is honestly one of the best parts of my job. Sure, taking pictures is great, but meeting and talking to everyone is seriously the best part. Whether it’s BS’ing with the crew during setup, asking the mechanics about what they’re doing and hearing them explain their job, or sitting at dinner talking with Dai about racing (his job), photography (my job), or fitness (mutual interest), it’s just plain amazing that this is what I get to do for a living.

But anyway, you came here for photos… so, read on!
Tons of images after the break from Setup, Practice, and Race Day. Also, Falken said “go ahead and play with lighting”… so, the photos are a bit different than I normally take.

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Formula Drift Round 4: New Jersey

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Just got back from New Jersey Formula Drift Round 4, where I was out shooting for Falken Tire again!

I wasn’t originally planning on being in Jersey for Round 4, but after contacting Falken on a whim it turned out they needed additional support that weekend. So that worked out great for me since I still had that weekend of June open and am always down to fly to a race to photograph.
So after what will likely be my last direct-flight to an East Coast race (you’d be surprised how many tracks I can fly to direct from San Diego) I met up with the video guys and headed out to grab a bite. This was actually the first time I’d really seen the Falken video crew this season. The other races I had be on, Le Mans Sebring, Atlanta Drift, Long Beach, etc, were all for other clients or Falken bookings where I was the only media support.

It’s always a blast being out with the team. They’re such a busy company that I don’t always get to see many people from their crew, which makes catching up on life less frequent. Plus, BS’ing with the video guys is fun since we can nerd it up and talk about cameras, software, hardware, and debate all the stupid things that none of my family or friends in SoCal really care about. Creative Cloud for Adobe?! Ripofffffff, what do you guys think? lol

The race weekend was great, and went by pretty quickly. Overall Falken did pretty well. Justin took second place. Darren barely missed third place, finishing fourth.

Next up I’ll be heading out to Seattle for Round 5 in Monroe, Washington. Looking forward to that since Falken has said I can go ahead and start being as artsy as I’d like with my imagery from the races. That “they have plenty of action shots” so I can feel free to be more creative with everything. So I’m stoked for that.

Also, I just talked and met with Sony Digital Imaging, I’m going to be testing some of their gear! This is pretty exciting. I was given a bunch of gear to test during the month of July! So I’m currently working with Black Flys sunglasses to set things up with their athletes for some awesome shoots with their athletes. Stay tuned. July is going to a lot of fun with all this new gear….

Anyway… on to the Drift photos!
There’s a bunch for you guys that just want to see a lot of photos of cars/etc. You will be able to tell the images that are straight from camera and don’t really have any heavy editing applied to them.

Oh, also, I’m trying something different for this blog and all the photos that follow are going to be 800 pixels at the longest edge… I’m trying it out to see if I prefer photos a bit larger than my typical 650 pixels at the longest edge. Let me know what you think in the comments about the size change. I’ll need to adjust the right column links though I realize.

More photos after the break

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Formula Drift Round 2: Atlanta

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So I’m finally getting around to uploading the action shots that I took at Formula Drift Round 2: Atlanta.

I was out in Georgia two weeks ago or so for the race shooting for Falken Tire this time around. I was the only creative staff sent by Falken, which meant I would likely be on my own the majority of the time wandering the track and getting images out to the Falken team back home on the west coast for them to upload.
My flight to the east coast came just two days after my return from the east coast where I was attending my friends Aaron and Danielle’s wedding in Clearwater, Florida. I suppose I could have spoken to Falken about flying me direct from Orlando, but, that would have meant that I would need to bring even more gear with me to Florida on that trip since I would need different things at the race than I had brought to Florida for that trip.

Anyway, back in Georgia again, and it really didn’t seem as though it had already been over six months since I was there for Petit Le Mans at the end of the 2012 season.

This race I would be focussed on three drivers: Dai Yoshihara, Darren McNamara, and Justin Pawlak.
I was also able to continue my ongoing portrait series while out there, as you guys may have already caught in my last blog post.

Overall it was a great weekend. The weather was overcast and a bit rainy… which unfortunately makes for less-interesting Drift photos in my opinion. Colder track temperatures means colder tires means less smoke…. means boring photos. Hahaha

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But… Vaughn DID run over a car on the track… that happened.

Haha, click past the break a ton of photos from the weekend. I decided to just upload a ton from the weekend. Enjoy. But sheer numbers alone you’re bound to at least dig one or two of them.

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Formula Drift, Round 1, Long Beach 2013

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Three incredible drivers took the podium at Formula Drift Long Beach this past weekend.
Daijiro “Dai” Yoshihara , Vaughn Gittin Jr., and Chris Forsberg took first, second and third respectively. And despite the dreary weather it was an awesome race weekend – but I do feel bad for poor Randyl Dawn who was stuck standing in the middle fo this champagne fight… she ran away shortly after this photo. haha!

I was out at Drift this past weekend shooting for my old employer, K&N Filters. Some of you who have been following my work for several years remember when I was on staff for K&N Filters and AEM Intakes. It actually wasn’t all that long ago – about three years. While on staff with them these were some of the guys I had to focus on the majority of the time I was at the track.
Well, on a whim I randomly hit up my old boss to see if they were in need of coverage for Long Beach. I’ll be working for Falken Tire on part of the season for Drift this year, however for the season opener at Long Beach I was not yet booked. Turns out my timing was perfect since K&N was just looking at what their options were for Long Beach images. And with Vaughn having a new tire sponsor, new livery on his Mustang, and new logos on his race suit, K&N definitely needed photos and headshots.

Perfect! I was now booked for the weekend, and I already had a good idea of the types of shots that K&N would be looking for.

But I was most looking forward to the headshots I was going to be required to shoot…

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Portraits! This was an awesome opportunity to create portraits of some of the drivers for Formula Drift! And, of course, Bil Baldwin “The Bearded Man of Drift”! But, I’ll post that in a couple days in a new blog post. I have additional photos of the portraits and a couple BTS shots to share too. I rather that be it’s own post.

So we’re going to keep this post simple… Just a ton of photos, and a few captions here and there for good measure.
But keep in mind I was shooting for photos to be used in magazine ads (like this), so, they’re fairly cut and dry. Not as “artsy” as I might get with my Le Mans work. haha Specific clients need specific things.

Click to read on!

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Formula Drift Finals 2012

Last weekend was the Formula Drift Finals in Irwindale, Calif.
I was invited to attend by Falken Tire – one of my clients who I’ve done a lot of race work for this year. I actually hadn’t shot Drift in a couple years; not since my days handling K&N Filters photography when I was on staff with them. So I jumped at the opportunity to go out and shoot a bunch of new images as well as hang out with my friends on the Falken staff.

It’s funny that after living right next to Irwindale for two years and never doing any shooting there that I would have the chance to do so right after moving to San Diego for the remainder of the year.
I was able to stay with friends in OC, so it was just a brief trip right up 605 to get to the races.

I didn’t shoot this event the same way that I cover Le Mans. So unfortunately I do not have a bunch of behind the scenes photos and stories for everyone like I usually would. Since I was a guest of Falken rather than there working I did my best to stay out of the way as much as possible.
So, scroll down after the break and check out shots mostly from the track of the various teams ripping through the turns and destroying their tires for sport.

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Road America – American Le Mans with Falken Tire

Road America, with the Falken Tire racing team.. and what a beautiful weekend it was out in Wisconsin!

Yes. We crashed. Let me start with first saying that I don’t know any details about the crash beyond this: Whatever the end cause was, it sent Bryan into a wall at an incredibly high speed. It wasn’t head-on, so, Bryan escaped with a few bumps and was cleared quickly by medical. As for the cause or crazy photos – I don’t know, nor do I have any. I was at a different location on the track when it happened. And the cause is being investigated so changes (if needed) can be made before Baltimore in 11 days.

Now, onto to details of the rest of the weekend..

Any sort of East Coast travel always means very little sleep the night before. Going to bed early doesn’t really work well for me, and first-flight-out typically means leaving the house at 5am. So I only got about four hours of sleep that evening. The travel day went surprisingly smooth. Funny that with all the flying that I do the best service I have is consistently “budget-airline” Southwest.

That first afternoon in Wisconsin was spent with Cale and Qazi, two of Falken’s video team. We were going around town doing some filming and shooting of the city for b-roll type footage that they could use for their final piece on the Road America race. We found a couple cool locations and the guys did their thing as I wandered around on my own. I didn’t really have much use for any of the shots I would have taken, so I pretty much just took behind the scenes stuff.
Later that evening we checked into our hotel to get ready for a busy Saturday at the track. Oh, and we stayed at the Osthoff Resort which was incredible. I was in an awesome two-bedroom suite on the top floor with a view of the pools and lake.

Practice day for me started early. The photographer meeting was at 730am. So, I was up early to get ready and get out of the hotel in time. Plus it was a new track so making sure I figured out my way around was important, too.
Overall the practice day went really well. I was able to check about half the track during the various practice sessions. Road America is a 4 mile track, so that’s either a LOT of walking… or a lot of driving if you are lucky enough to have a golf cart. Our video crew used the golf cart the majority of the time, which means I was on foot. Qazi, one of the videographers, actually joked “You’re in the best shape out of all of us, John. So you get to walk.” Hahaha!

Race day was a different story… as we arrived at the track the first GT practice of the day was getting started. So, I had the guys drop me off so I could start shooting right then. I rather have every opportunity I can to get shots of the car on the track than risk not getting enough images. The rest of the day was whirlwind of bouncing around the paddocks, grabbing breakfast/lunch at whatever point I had a few minutes to do so, and hiking pretty much the entire track to check out possible new areas to shoot.

And as everyone is aware, our race day was cut short due to a crash – a very disappointing end of the race for us when Falken was bouncing between 3rd and 5th place at the time.

Anyway, I’ll stop typing. Read on for a ton of images and captions from my weekend with Falken’s ALMS team at Elkhart Lake.

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Monster Energy Supercross w/ Falken Tire

Ok, so this is clearly just me and the Falken girls… but still.

This year I’ve been contracting with Falken Tire for the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series! It’s actually pretty great to once again be out on the track working with a major brand such as Falken. Several months ago I worked with them putting together the 2012 Falken Girls poster and promotional images of the girls. Three of them, Brittney Leigh, Julie Galindo, and Mayra Tinajero in the photo above with me. Now I’m handling a small part of their racing photography as well.
And most of you know that off road race photography is nothing new to me – I used to do a ton of it when I worked for K&N Filters. Working with Falken is very different though. I’m actually just as much a photojournalist for the day as I am a race photographer.

During the race day I spend a lot of my time with the Falken team photographing their fans and guests that come by the trailer to meet the models, enter the prize drawings and get more information about Falken products. I’ll typically make my way out to the track several times during practice to photograph Ryan Villopoto – not only the top racer in the series right now, but also Falken’s sponsored racer.

I’ll save all the rambling I could post and just put up some images… they’re more interesting anyway. haha!

Let’s start with the San Diego, Qualcomm Stadium race for Round 6..

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Falken Tire 2012 Promo Model Poster Shoot

The 2012 Falken Tire Promo Model poster has been released! And that means I’m allowed to share additional photos from the shoot with everyone that I created for Falken Tire and their 2012 season!

For those who read my previous blog about the Behind the Scenes from this shoot, you’ll recall that I mentioned the goal of the entire day was the image above. Basically we arrived first thing in the morning – before sunrise – and shot all day until sundown. And then, after 12 hours of shooting we created the image we came for – the poster shot. Seriously. The image we spent so much time planning for was created in the last five minutes of shooting. And was also one of the last 10 photos or so I made with the girls.

But it was worth it. The long day. The lack of food (on my part. I forgot to eat most of the day since I was so busy running around that TJ had to make me stop and take five minutes to eat something at the catering table). I look at photos of me at the end of the day and laugh because I look exhausted.
I did at least 17 shoots that day working with each of the models multiple times and in several locations with many different lighting setups. Everything worked out incredibly well. Falken had a very  aggressive set of goals to complete that day and I’m very proud to say that we met all of them! During the time we weren’t working on group shots the models were in hair/makeup and whoever was ready with their next look would be sent over to shoot individuals.

The individual shots we created are mainly for use on the models profile pages since they’re in no way related to tires or the automotive industry, haha! But part of the reason this location was selected for was for wide variety of looks that could be created around the property.
I had the oh-so-difficult assignment of poolside bikini and exercise photos. Wow. Rough location. Haha!
Throughout the middle of the day and afternoon the girls would be switched out with me to shoot around the infinity pool with all the mountains in the background. Gorgeous. I could easily see why so many magazine shoots are done at this location with this pool.

A second concept for the poster was a composite idea I was asked about. There was some question to the feasibility of doing this shot with six girls and making the shot work at the venue. The one thing there wasn’t much of was large open space and walls. We selected the three-car garage doors as the best spot to create a six-photo composite extra-wide style poster. I think it came out pretty damn good, actually.

Each girls was shot with the same style lighting and power adjusted according to the background, skin tone, or wardrobe. But overall it worked great. I may print a large version of this just for the sake of seeing how it looks. But, the version I’m looking at right now on my 27in screen looks pretty awesome!

Ultimately the pool shot was used for the poster – which is perfect since that was the original idea and goal anyway.

Click the break for a ton of additional photos of the girls… since I know that’s what you’re really here to see.

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Falken Tire Girls 2012 – behind the scenes

The Falken Tire 2012 Promo Girls poster is near release and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share some of the Behind the Scenes photos from the project.
I had an incredible opportunity at the end of last year to work directly with Falken on this. I was contacted and asked about possibly tackling this large scale – and very important – photoshoot for the company. After everything was made official we started the planning phase for a quickly-approaching shoot date.

The ultimate goal for the project was to create their 2012 Promo Model Poster with all six girls. We took the girls away from the track/race scene for something different, stylish and sexy. After budget discussion, location selection, and dates solidified it was time to really crack down and get things moving. Our shoot was right after Thanksgiving and there was plenty to get working on.
I was required to bring two assistants – it would be better to have too much help than not enough for a project of this size. And I’m sure all of you are thinking “Yeah, cuz it would be terrible to hang out on set with a bunch of models all day”. But I needed two experienced people on hand that I knew would be great. I brought TJ down from San Francisco. He has 10 years experience with lighting and set work and who has also helped me on multiple shoots over the last few years and understands my style and how I shoot. David came up from Orange County as my other assistant. I met David working on weddings and he has an incredible knowledge of photography and wealth of experience to bring to this setting.

Our shoot day started early.. EARLY. A 430am call time is never fun, but it’s part of the job. Overall the entire day went great. There were a few hiccups along the way as could always be expected, but we still made sure to get everything taken care of that we hoped to complete. I was able to create a ton of amazing images with all the models. And both myself and my team had an awesome time working with Falken and their crew. The models, Julie Galindo, Mayra Tinajero, Olivia Korte, Melanie Tillbrook, Brittney Leigh, and Randyl Dawn were all awesome. And thank you all for putting up with me having trouble with your names all day… having six new models with a new hairstyle/outfit every time I saw them throughout the day definitely screwed with my head. Haha!

Ok, so… on to the photos! I’ll stop rambling and simply post captions…

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