Winter Jam (Drifting) at Sonoma Raceway


I had the chance to check out drifting in person for the first time earlier this month at Sonoma Raceway - it was super cool. It was also my first time at Sonoma, so I wasn’t really familiar with the track layout and where the good non-press vantage points were or anything, but I think I still got a few decent shots. I think I’ll be shooting a track day there later in the year for a semi-local club, so it was good to get some scouting in before that event.

In any case, I found drifting to be pretty tricky to cover - Unlike in racing, where the cars are pretty predictable and stable, following generally the same (racing) line each lap, you can often just manually focus where you want to get your shot and grab it as the cars come into position. For drifting, especially at a big event like this with hugely varying talent, individual skill varies so much that speeds/angles/lines are just all over the place, and I was having a hard time keeping up. :laughing: Predicting action and framing a shot beforehand were tough, especially when you weren’t sure who was coming over the hill - was it one of the sponsored super-talented Falken Tire guys coming over the hill? Or the guy that just bought a junker so he could hit the track? Like I said, all over the place. Either way, it was super fun to watch and shoot!

Still working on the final culling - dropped ~2k or so images down to about 100 “keepers” - still trying to prune those down to what I’ll actually post or share anywhere, but here is one of my favorites from the day so far, now that I instigated having this subforum made. :blush:

X-T2 with 100-400mm at ISO200, ~230mm, f10, 1/50s. Most of the photos from the day were with this camera/lens combo, though I did grab a few with X-T1 + 35mm f2 at one point, since I had food in one hand and couldn’t hold the tele lens. :laughing:


Cool! How did you find the focus tracking on the XT2? Were you using the continuous tracking mode? I don’t know what they call it - on my Canons it’s AI-Servo.

With a long enough lens Sonoma has some good vantage points even outside the fences because it’s basically surrounded by hills. I live nearby and club raced motorcycles there for a few years. Now I get back and shoot motos there when I can. Most recent stuff is here:

My only Fuji is X100T with 23mm so anything on-track is gonna be Canon. Hopefully I can still hang out on the forum. :slight_smile:



Tracking is pretty solid overall, but it’s far from perfect, and still really lags behind a well-done DSLR. I had X-T1 -> X-Pro2 -> X-T2 and then switched to Nikon for a bit where I used primarily D3s and D500 (back to X-T1/X-T2 now). The D500 really is firmly at the top of that heap as far as focus/tracking performance; it’s an incredibly impressive tool. X-T2 was significantly faster than X-Pro2 (before the current firmware; I had my X-Pro2 about a year ago; so this may have changed recently), and is miles ahead of the X-T1.

Where it gets murky is between others, like the D3s and X-T2 where it’s harder to name a winner, since their performance is just different. D3s isn’t always super “snappy” but I would call it much more consistent of the two (and in my limited low-light experience with the D3s, I’d call it a winner there, but I didn’t have a ton of opportunity to compare, so take that ), as long as the dreaded micro-focus adjustment (or whatever Nikon calls it) is dialed in. X-T2 is often lightning quick, and is usually super solid at tracking in my experience once it locks, within reason, but sometimes it will get really confused and just refuse to grab the target - and you’re stuck staring at a blurry mess in the EVF just hoping it will sort itself out before you miss the shot. It can be really frustrating. Never experienced that with the D500, and while the D3s may not jump to focus as quickly, it also never seemed to get quite as lost. I see it happen more often when I initially start to try focusing when there’s reflections on the car(s) - it seems to trip up the AF algorithm and doesn’t seem to want to recover until you release and half-press to trigger a new AF attempt. It also seems to be more sluggish when using back-button AF for some reason I couldn’t figure out - still need to play around. It is so nice not having to deal with the AF fine tuning, though, due to the lack of mirror. Issues with that were one of the big motivations for me to jump back to Fuji. :wink: Only thing worse than staring at the out-of-focus EVF waiting for the camera to lock focus, is taking a picture thinking it’s in focus and finding out when you get home that everything at 300mm is focused 10 ft in front of the subject, and everything at 120mm is 10ft behind and all those shots you thought were great are actually blurry and gross on anything larger than the screen on the camera. :cold_sweat:

That’s a lot of semi-complaining, so I don’t want to make it sound like it’s a slow camera; it’s not. I was just spoiled a bit by the D500. :laughing: I don’t have much Canon experience (shot an original 5D for a while a long time ago, and borrowed friends’ T2i and 6D a couple of times, but nothing recent), so I can’t really compare to what you’re working with, but the X-T2 is a serious performer that just has a couple of quirks and some room to grow. AF point coverage is HUGE on X-T2 compared to D3s.

I was using AF-C (C for continuous) for most shots if I couldn’t predict exactly where the car was going to be for the shot I wanted, or the car was coming towards or moving away from me. When I could predict (pretty often for the panning shots), I’d use AF-S (Single) or manual focus and focus on a spot on the track where I want to get the shot, then leave it there - usually works pretty well for pans since you’re stopped down to lower the shutter speed anyway.

Great moto shots, that’s awesome! I’ve really got to make it to a 2-wheeled race one of these days. I was all set up to go to Laguna Seca for Superbike last year, but something came up last minute, sadly. How often do you make it out to Sonoma these days?

I love the X100T, so you’re good in my book - I won’t tell if you don’t! :wink: :laughing:

Here’s another shot from basically the same location as the first, but X-T1 and the 35mm this time: