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Caught On Film: Photographing Formula Drift Irwindale on Film

As a fitting final farewell to Formula Drift at Irwindale Speedway, I wanted to shoot the entire event on film. All year long, I’ve been dabbling with shooting car events on film—but with a digital body as a crutch as well. Jumping in full bore this time, I decided ditch the digital and shoot the entire event on film.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

If you’re looking for a complete event recap, make sure you head over to our 2017 Formula Drift Irwindale Final Farewell. This story will be geared towards capturing a motorsports event on film.

Preparing to Shoot An All-Day Event on Film

Having shot at Irwindale before, I wanted to prepare for three different lighting situations: bright daylight, golden hour, and nighttime. Choosing three different films types, one that would shine in each of those environments, was a very difficult task but I narrowed it down to three:

  1. Rollei 25 RPX Black and White – Bright Daylight
  2. Kodak Portra 160 – Daylight / Golden Hour
  3. Kodak Portra 800 – Nighttime

Shooting Daylight With Rollei 25 RPX Black & White Film

Of the three films I shot, the Rollei RPX 25 impressed me the most. Holy Cow that film was amazing to shoot with. This has to be one of the cleanest black and white films I’ve ever used. Check it out…

Chelsea Denofa finishing out the inner bank on a solo practice run.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Dean Kearny didn’t podium this weekend, but damn that Viper looked good in BW.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Flying into an umbrella, Alec Hohnadell slots into the inner bank.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Golden Hour For the Money with Kodak Portra 160 Film

As the day went on and the shadows got long, I switched things up and added some color to the photos, using Kodak Portra 160. Kodak film is known for its beautiful warm colors, and I wanted to see how that would pair with drift cars in motion at sunset.

How can you not love Bill?

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

I love way the light comes in across the inner bank and lights up the smoke.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Long Distance pan of Alec Hohnadell slotting in under Jeff Jones from across the track.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

There could be a fireball chasing James Deane, because he was on fire all year long. 

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Challenging After Dark with Portra 800 Film

The most challenging film to shoot with was by far the Portra 800. Not only was it extremely noisy in low light, but my shutter speed had to be extremely low in order to capture anything properly exposed. I missed a lot of shots out of two rolls, but I got some good ones also. If I were going to shoot this event all over again, I would’ve switched out the Portra 800 color film with Kodak Tmax 3200, or something of the like. Black and white just looks so much cooler with grain added to it.

The beauty of shooting Formula Drift at night is that you get the opportunity of capturing some serious fireballs. If you can time it just right.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Piotr Wiecek took home the win for this round and he looked unstoppable all weekend long.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Even though this is very blurry, I kind of dig the way it turned out.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

Our pal Vaughn Gittin Jr. looked absolutely demonic at night on Portra 800 film.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

No Irwindale finale is complete without a grand stand shot.

Car Motorsports Photography on Film

The Rest of the Equipment For Shooting Drifting on Film

It was an absolute challenge to shoot Formula Drift Irwindale strictly on film, but it was also a major blast! I’m sure you’re wondering by now… the camera I used was a NikonF100. The lenses were a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 and a Nikkor 35m f2. Major thanks to Formula D for putting on such a monumental final event! 

See more in the gallery below. Shoot film too? Let us know what you use in the comments below!

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