Guest post: In Motion – The Art of Drifting


Rob Primo, Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 135mm, 1/30 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200


Walker Wilkerson, Nikon D4, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 200mm, 1/60 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600

This guest post is by Armin H. Ausejo (websites: | | Twitter | Facebook, click on images for larger view):


Nikki San Miguel, Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 200mm, 1/30 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200

Motorsports, in some form or another, has been around for more than a century, and of course documenting motorsports through photography has been around for just as long. While motorsports generally involves competing to be the fastest from Point A to Point B, one form of motorsports known as “drifting” involves style and precision, rather than outright speed and lap times. Originating on the twisty mountain roads of Japan in the 1980s, purists may not regard this as a proper form of motorsports, but it’s definitely among the most exciting to watch and photograph.

I’ve been shooting drifting since 2006, and over the years I’ve used a variety of different Nikon bodies: D200, D300, D700, and D4. When I first started shooting motorsports, I was one of only a handful of Nikon shooters amongst a sea of white lenses, but as the years have gone by, I’ve been seeing more and more Nikon shooters out on track with me. Unlike most other motorsports, drifting is very dynamic by nature and as a photographer, my goal isn’t simply capturing a frozen moment in time, but also the passage of time, the motion of the cars, and even the tire smoke itself.


Ken Gushi, Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR2, 300mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

It’s very important to capture context with the subject, so simply setting your camera to a fast shutter speed and zooming in as close as possible often doesn’t deliver the best results. Drifting isn’t just about the car(s) as the subject: there’s the look on the driver’s faces, the crowd roaring behind them, the smoke billowing from the rear tires, and sometimes even the other media along side you on track. One of the ways I try to capture all of these nuances is by switching between telephoto and wide angle lenses. My Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2 is definitely my go-to lens for motorsports, but I’ll also switch to my Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G and get some wide shots.


Chris Forsberg, Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, 35mm, 1/30 sec, f/9, ISO 200


Jonathan Raymer, Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, 35mm, 1/15 sec, f/11, ISO 200

I also have a Tokina 17mm f/3.5 that I’ll use when I went to get really wide, providing a perspective that really pops out at the viewer, albeit often a little distorted. It can often be a little hair-raising to use this lens on track, since you really have to get up close and personal with a car flying past you in very close proximity.


Ken Gushi, Nikon D700, Tokina 17mm f/3.5, 17mm, 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO 200


Rhys Millen vs. Kyle Mohan, Nikon D4, Tokina 17mm f/3.5, 17mm, 1/15 sec, f/8, ISO 800

Using different lenses, focal lengths, and angles is important for drift photography, but the one thing that you absolutely can’t live without when shooting drifting is the ability to pan with the subject. Panning isn’t easy; it takes a lot of practice, patience, and willingness to throw away a lot of photos. I typically advise first-time track shooters to start at a relatively fast shutter speed, anywhere between 1/125 sec and 1/200 sec. You don’t want to set the shutter too fast; otherwise you’ll stop the motion of the wheels, making the car look like it’s simply just parked on the track. You also don’t want to set the shutter too slow to start, since you’ll have a hard time judging if you’re getting your panning fundamentals in place.
I also advise to set the camera to continuous focus and burst fire mode, with the autofocus point where you’d want the front bumper of the car to be in your frame. Sure, you might be able to get away with just taking one or two shots and manual focusing, but when you first start out, it’s much easier to go this route until you get more panning shots under your belt. As you improve with practice, you’ll start to notice that you’ll have more and more sharp “keeper” photos, and fewer photos that are just simply out of focus. Once you reach this point, it’s time to start slowing down the shutter speed and seeing if you can continue to get sharp keeper photos. For me personally, I’m able to get consistent sharp photos at 1/30 sec, but I also sometimes shoot as slow as 1/10 sec to achieve some really nice results.


Ken Gushi vs. Toshiki Yoshioka, Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 70mm, 1/10 sec, f/13, ISO 200


Ryan Tuerck vs. Ken Gushi, Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, 35mm, 1/20 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200


Conrad Grunewald vs. Kyle Mohan, Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, 24mm, 1/15 sec, f/8, ISO 100


Vaughn Gittin, Jr., Nikon D4, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 70mm, 1/10 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

To help achieve these long shutter speeds, you’ll more than likely need an ND filter, and for all automotive photography, a circular polarizer is absolutely essential. Each of these photos was taken with a B+W or Nikon drop-in circular polarizer, along with a B+W 3-stop ND filter or ND film when necessary. Either way, panning is all about practice, practice, and more practice.
Shooting drifting is very easy to get into, since many of the major racetracks around the country have “open drifts,” allowing locals to just get on track with their cars and learn how to slide their cars sideways around the track. Just be sure to keep it on the track; I definitely do not condone doing this sort of thing on public roads. I hope you enjoyed this guest post and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need some advice.

Armin H. Ausejo
Senior Editor,


Mike Phillips, Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR2, 300mm, 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200


Justin Pawlak, Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR2, 200mm, 1/30 sec, f/8, ISO 200


Danny George, Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR2, 300mm, 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200


Vaughn Gittin, Jr., Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR2, 300mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800


Mike Essa vs. Chris Forsberg, Nikon D700, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G VR2, 300mm, 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250


Yukinobu Okubo, Nikon D200, Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR1, 200mm, 1/100 sec, f/11, ISO 100

If you have an interesting idea for a guest postyou can contact me here.

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  • That is a cool type of photography with some interesting challenges!

    Great post.

  • John

    Excellent post! thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Mike

    Sick photos and great article. Im already looking up drifting races around the city where Im from. 🙂

  • Eric Calabos

    I wear glass for shortsightedness and astigmatism. if you want to know how I see the world with naked eye, look at the background of the second-last image (Ford logo)

    • Neopulse

      Have you tried Lasik? I had myopia of about -4.75 on both eyes. Took me 18+ months of checkups before doing it, and believe me it was worth it.

  • Maji

    Great work and also very good advice. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jeff

    Great photos! Thanks for the informative info!

  • GreG

    Héhé I made also some motion cars (no drift) but in the street here a citroen 2cv !

    • Mark

      I’ve always loved this little rascal. Thanks for the shot. It’s great because it suggests the little engine that ‘tried’. ;o)

      • GreG

        Thanks a lot 😉

    • JorPet

      That looks a lot like the one around here that has the bumper sticker that reads, “Well, my car thinks your car looks funny too!”

      And great article and drift pictures. Love some of them.

  • Ian Dangerzone

    Even though this type of shooting is not my thing, I really enjoy these guest posts, often more than the rumors themselves~!

  • delayedflight

    Being a fellow drift photographer it really tugs at my heart strings. Awesome shots and it reminds me that I need to get down to the racetrack more.

  • Joseph Li

    wow..amazing sharp shots at 1/10 sec~ great job

    • Drazen B

      My thoughts exactly. Achieving 1/15 with a non-VR lens like 24-70 f/2.8 is definitely a technique that requires some time and effort to master to get it tight as that.

      • Eric Duminil

        I’m not even sure he uses VR for panning shots.

        • Rocky

          Oh yes he does.

          • Eric Duminil

            You’re right. See his post below.
            That’s weird, my 18-200 VR kinda brought weird results with VR on. I’ll try panning with VR again.

        • cabalos

          They all do use VR. I use it as well when panning and suing slow-shutter technique, why wouldn’t I?

        • Armin H. Ausejo

          Yes, I do use VR on my VR lenses 🙂

  • AM

    Guest photographer, are you sure you didn’t use a D600? I see some dust and oil in some of those pictures.

    • Mark

      Might I see some of your work?

      • AM

        Well, I’m probably not good at cracking jokes or the sense of humor is lacking nowadays.
        When I mentioned dust and oil is because in most motorsports, there’s somewhat dust and oil involved. Never was my intention to insinuate that the sensors were dirty.

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      Very sure that I don’t own a D600 🙂 When you’re shooting on track with tiny bits of rubber flying everywhere, getting in your hair, and sticking onto your skin and clothing, it’s pretty easy to get dust on your sensor. I try to clean the best I can given the circumstances, but sometimes I can’t get everything.

  • Jan

    Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

    Great to come across these tips too as I have spent the last couple of weeks practicing panning, albeit with passing cyclists outside my window rather than racecars. I have yet to capture smoke from burning rubber, but am having a blast all the same.


    • Eric Calabros

      Thanks for making it B&W

      • callibrator

        Haha…I see what you did there…:-)

  • Drazen B

    Simply awesome stuff! This site is slowly becoming more of my favorite photo-related site rather than just a plain rumor site with gear-obsessed focus, with a great content provided by guest posters.

    Keep it up guys!

    • Thanks!

    • matan

      ‘Nuff said…spot on. Funny thing is I don’t come here anymore for rumours but to see if any guest photog posted something like this post.

  • Bonetti

    Does he uses VR? And what Mode?

    • callibrator

      My guess would be whenever they shot with the lens featuring VR they would have used it, almost exclusively. As for the mode, I use Normal mode instead of Active while panning motor and car races and I believe they did.

      • JakeB

        That would be my guess, as well.

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      I use VR in normal mode on my 70-200 and larger lenses. Active mode should only be used if what you’re standing on is also moving, such as on a boat. If you’re nice and steady on solid ground, you shouldn’t ever be using Active mode for VR. Of course with my Tokina 17mm and Nikkor 24-70, there is no VR so it really just comes down to practice.

  • areader

    what’s the point?

    • Mark

      areader, and you are publishing your more informative photos where?

    • Pablo Ricasso

      The point is to attract different type of readers to the forums like this in the future, while weeding out ones like you.

    • Jer

      The top of your head

  • Mark

    Thank you, Armin, for an inspiring example of brilliant shots. Do you use a mono-pole? The 30th of a second shots are outstanding.

    And thank you for taking time to explain them. I’ve been a steady-fixed-shooter most of my life and traversing a shot has been very difficult. Now that I know what can be achieved, I’m ready to take up the challenge of experimenting. Thank you, Armin.

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      Thanks Mark! I used a monopod/pole when using the big 300mm f/2.8 lens, but for everything else I don’t. It’s much easier to pan without using one, provided the lens isn’t too heavy.

      • dpmartin

        Great post Armin. Can you give us any more details on your panning technique?

        • Armin H. Ausejo

          Thanks! First thing I do is pay attention to my feet. I space them out a little bit so that I feel solid and balanced. Once that’s set, I turn my entire torso as I pan, and don’t just pan by moving my shoulders and arms. My whole upper body turns and supports the camera, and is supported by my solid footing. I also hold my breath as I press down on the shutter release. When you practice all of this over and over, it becomes second nature.

  • Armin H. Ausejo

    Thanks everyone for your kind words. I’m honored to have a guest post here and I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions you might have!

  • viktor522

    Awesome photos and article. I also utilized this technique on photos of motorcycle stunt riders.

    • StarF

      woooow, amazing moment!

  • Andrew Hollywood

    I really enjoyed this work. The photographer should be very proud of his work.

  • Neopulse

    Awesome pics. So glad to see Signal is still competing, using to be a fan until one of the drivers got into a nasty crash several years back :-/

    Nonetheless, your pics are amazing. Very good technique you have, something not easily mastered.

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      Thanks! That Signal Skyline photo was from way back in 2006. They’re not competing here in the United States anymore, but I’m sure they’re still doing well in Japan.

      • Neopulse

        Ah thanks for the info and clearing that up. I’m a fan of their SR20 tuning. There’s a garage as I recall in Japan and another in California. Hope it’s still there.

  • Guest 0069

    This is the first time I’ve seen no negativity out of anyone on this site. Congrats fellow NRers and these are probably the best group of photos that I have seen on NR. I’ve been lurking for years. This is my first post. I’m very proud of y’all.

  • I am truly impressed with your technique and obviously, your results.
    On the other hand, I confess I haven’t the least idea of what (this kind of) drifting is. maybe here in europe it’s not as popular? could you elaborate a bit on the subject?

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      It’s not quite as popular in Europe, that’s true. The best way to describe it is like figure skating with cars. The drivers are judged on their speed, angle, style, and aggressiveness, rather than just being timed to beat the clock or cross the finish line first. Check out this video from Justin Swain that summarizes last year’s Formula DRIFT season…in my opinion, it’s one of the best drift videos you’ll find anywhere, and it really shows off what those of us on track experience:

      It’s all about the amount of smoke you can make, the angle you take around each corner, and how well you can imitate the lead car in front of you.

    • Vocko

      It’s very popular in Europe, almost every country has at least one championship. The two biggest are and , they are not country related as they drive on tracks in all of Europe.

  • atr212
  • Tom Foulkes

    This technique, is just that a technique – it requires a lot of skill, the problem with the images above IMHO is they look too Post-Produced, this maybe the style – a la Initial D (and others) but the result just makes me wonder how much real skill is going into the shot themselves…ask yourself this, with unlimited shots and unlimited time in PhotoShop could a monkey not have taken these?

    …check car brochures and hi-end motorsport photography from the 80’s and 90’s and you’ll see very similar images – cars in sharp focus, background a beautiful blur and a distinct feeling of speed (albeit without the smoking tyres!). These shots were taken the same way on long exposure, whilst tracking the camera to the cars movement.


    There was no VR back then. The whole lot was shot on Mamiya or Haselblad (or similiar) medium format cameras (Canon EOS1 for the motorsport press), test shots were taken on polaroid to check levels and then quite a few rolls of film shot…and what’s more you didn’t know what you had until you got the prints back from the lab days later…shots were picked, hi-res scanned, levels adjusted – but what you captured in camera is what ended up in the brochure.

    Now that’s talent (and pressure!).

    • Armin H. Ausejo

      Ahh yes, the eternal Photoshop debate. I’d challenge you (or anyone else) to try to replicate these types of photos in Photoshop and/or Virtual Rig Studio/Bleex. You might be able to get close, but it’s still not going to look the same.

      Just to put things into perspective, here’s a drift photo that I shot with a Fuji disposable camera that I purchased at a gas station last year:×662.jpg

      And here’s one that I shot with my HTC One cell phone:

      Post-Processing? Nope, don’t need it, but it sure makes things pop 🙂

      • Tom Foulkes

        I’m not sure I understand your point.

        Both of your photo’s couldn’t be more different from those at the top and really go to show the need for good technique at a properly slow shutter and a decent camera and lens (they also look dull and really show how much more ‘hyper’ the images get when PS’d). After all a HTC One takes photo’s at between 1/48th and a disposable usually captures at about 1/125th.

        The more I look at the images at the start of this thread the more I am certain they have relied heavily on being manipulated. Some of them I believe have been shot at super high shutter speeds and the blur added later. As for your challenge just a quick google around would direct you to this:

        But I think we both agree to do this properly you need technique and practice, I just don’t think any of the photo’s in the thread have relied much on either of those things and instead have relied heavily on technology.

        • Armin H. Ausejo

          I’m sure I understand yours. You’re obviously just trolling at this point if you honestly believe that any of my photos here “have been shot at super high shutter speeds and the blur added later.” All you need to do is look at the EXIF at all of these photos:

          The link you posted proves my point even more. It’s nowhere near viable to go through all of the steps and spend that much time when you have to deliver over 100 photos per assignment, not to mention deliver that number of photos only a few days after the event is over.

          If you want to question my use of Photoshop to enhance my photos, that’s fine, but that’s a totally different argument. Every photo can use some enhancing, as evidenced by the examples from the disposable camera and cell phone that I posted above. At this point, you’re questioning not only the skills that I developed since I first started shooting on track, but also my integrity by claiming that I’m lying about my photos above. The proof is in the RAW files, but I’m not going to keep feeding the troll by posting one, nor will I be replying to your ridiculous accusations anymore.

          • Tom Foulkes

            Trolling? I’m not sure I even know what that is…I’m sorry to offend you, that’s not what I meant.

            The photo’s at the top are great…the photo’s on your website are great too…there’s no trolling just an analysis of technique.

            There’s no shame in using technology – we all do nowadays and it has made the ability to capture images like those you have posted available to all people pretty much regardless of talent…my original point was that back in the day your only option was to capture in camera making those guys pretty epic…

            To lighten the mood – i’ll tell you a story about an epic fail in those days…as it wasn’t all good and why tech should be welcomed with open arms, as no one should have to go through this.

            A friend of mine was doing a shoot for a car company. It was his biggest commission ever and was a pretty big deal by anyones standards. It was for the launch of a new ‘global’ car (ie. a car that would be on sale in all continents) and was to feature the car alongside a cruise-liner, the orient express and Concorde. As you can imagine it was a matter of some epic organisational skills (and budget) to get these three modes of transport in the same place at the same time. It was my friends job to photograph the car alongside these other forms of transport as a metaphor for how good the car was.

            Because it was such a big important shoot my friend opted to borrow a Mamiya 6×7 camera for it, as he judged it to be better than his Bronica.

            He hadn’t used a Mamiya before but was shown how it worked and as is the case with all of these cameras it was pretty straightforward to use. He took a polaroid back with him as well as the MF back and was satisfied looking at the polaroids that he was getting what his client needed having shot over 500 frames.

            Once he got back from the shoot, he had all his film produced. About an hour or so after he dropped off the film he received a call from the lab…they told him they thought he might have dropped the wrong film off as what he gave them hadn’t been exposed at all.

            Turns out he loaded all the MF film in back to front. The back of the film doesn’t expose.


            Luckily he had the polaroids still (as he kept them as his memento) and so got them professionally drum scanned and this is what ended up in the adverts.

  • Andrew Cimbal

    My Photo in Ukraine

    Andrew Cimbal, M’city, Ternopil, Ukraine

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