The Year Through My Lens

As I’m sat staring at a blank page wondering exactly where to start with explaining what this whole year has meant to me, it’s made my mind think way back to right where everything started. Why? Because this year has undoubtedly been a giant leap towards what I had hoped to achieve when I was sat in this same position exactly a year ago. I wasn’t writing an article for Wangan Warriors at that time, which is why I believe 2014 is where it truly started, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to come on-board with the team. It’s been a hectic one, no doubt – and for that reason I’d like to take the opportunity to not just talk about the craziness that has made this year, but also to go back and introduce myself properly as part of WW.


This article features my favourite shots of the past year, not necessarily my ‘best’ shots, they may not have the best compositions or subjects but they capture my year how it has felt to me. Sit back and enjoy the year through my lens, along with my views and feelings I have experienced – which may be completely unrelated to the shots!


Since it’s about time I made a real introduction, I’m going to start right at the beginning – way before the camera became involved. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Japanese car culture, and I remember years ago being on old file-sharing networks with dial-up attempting to find drift videos online. After days of waiting and countless disconnects and irritating beeps, the file would arrive. To look back over these videos now, they looked barely visible in comparison to the quality we’re treated with these days, but that was irrelevant – the content was always well worth the time and remai glued to the screen for the duration of it.


As the years went on, videos became more widespread and available, technology was evolving and more footage was appearing. It finally started to feel a little more real and not just a mythical culture that took place on the other side of the globe. I started noticing some videos from the UK scene popping up amongst the Japanese content and figured that if I wanted a true fix, it was time to take my search closer to home.


I knew my expectations would be high having mainly been spoilt with the content from the motherland, but I wanted to check out the UK drift scene for myself. I decided to wait for a big event to go down that I could get myself to. I didn’t expect it to be anything like I had seen, but I needed to be there to experience the tyre-shredding chaos with the trails of smoke billowing from the tyres without being sat behind a monitor.


29th July 2011 was the date, and I had opted to take a journey to see exactly what UK drifting had to offer. Driftworks were holding an event called Awesomefest at Mallory Park, I’d seen a big build-up beforehand and it looked like it was going to tick a lot of my boxes. Alongside a full weekend of open track drift time and camping there was also BMX, Skate and MotoX.


Upon turning up and walking out to appreciate the track action, I was immediately surprised by the level of driving and the style and effort that people had gone to with the cars that were out there. It was like nothing I’d actually had a chance to see before and went above and beyond my expectations. I felt right at home being next to the track, and I immediately felt an urge to capture what I was witnessing despite only owning a point and shoot camera at the time. It was an absolutely incredible event, and one that I’ll definitely never forget.


I was actually looking to buy a ‘new’ car at the time, amongst all the awesome Japanese metal, something took me by surprise – a BMW E46 M3. I’d never even considered owning a German car, but they had a track-spec one as the camera chase car for the weekend, and after seeing how well it held up against the huge powered drift cars I knew I wanted one.


I already had someone who wanted to buy my current car from me – a Jap import Toyota Starlet Glanza V. I was extremely attached to the car, I’d put in countless weekends getting it exactly as I hoped, but I said that if I ever got the price I wanted for it I’d be willing to sell. I got the price I was after, and went on the hunt for an M3 – it was time for me to get my RWD fix.


I found the perfect M3 and whilst it was an amazing car to drive, it didn’t come without its problems. After 18 months and spending thousands on repairs I realised it wasn’t worth it for me. I was getting to more drift events and realising that perhaps having an expensive car wasn’t the best idea right now – perhaps I may prefer to be the person shooting cars from behind a lens?


I decided to put the M3 up for sale, and head out to my local camera shop in the hunt for a DSLR. Having never even held a DSLR, nor having any knowledge about them whatsoever I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself a camera. I left the shopping centre at 11pm with an empty wallet and a big grin on my face.


I’ll be honest, I expected at this point that the novelty would wear off rather quickly, I’ve been known to have a lot of short-lived hobbies – but I’m also a firm believer of trying all things that you have an interest in at least once.


My first events were down at Lydden Hill in Kent, it takes a little over an hour to get there and they seem to host more drift events than just about anywhere else in the country. With monthly practice days, British Drift Championship and numerous other events, it was the track that would soon become my second home.


As the photography bug got stronger, I found myself attending more and more events and getting even further afield. I wanted to keep up the momentum and get as much variation in my work whilst also attending as many events as I possibly could. For me, this is where it really began…


I entered 2014 feeling more confident than ever behind the camera – something which had been so alien to me had now become completely natural. I knew in my mind what I wanted to do with this year and it was going to take a lot of time, effort and also money. I knew that if I approached 2014 with an all-or-nothing mentality then I hoped by the end of it I’d know whether I’d want to be in the motorsport/automotive photography game for the long run.


As the year kicked off, it was time to see what people had been doing during winter. To me it’s always fascinating to see how the cars will look and what people have done during the off-season. Some cars come out looking like they could’ve just left the showroom…


Whilst others continue with where they left off with the ‘no f**ks given’ attitude.


With the season beginning to get into full swing, I decided I wanted to follow the British Drift Championship and discover the tracks I’d missed out on so far. It felt like a good opportunity to see more of the country whilst also getting the opportunity to shoot in other places and look for varied coverage.


This was the point where I got on-board with Wangan Warriors. I had been friends with Maurice for some time and I had also been talking to Rens. They were both hugely helpful with offering both praise and more importantly – criticism of my work. Photographers will know just how helpful some honest feedback can be, and they gave me a huge boost whilst filling my brain with knowledge and advice for the season ahead.


After shooting a few of the BDC rounds, I’d had some great times and captured some of my best work to date. I’d met a lot of new people and gained a much better understanding of the UK drift scene.


Wanting to shoot something different, it came at perfect timing the Drift Allstars was heading back to the UK – it would be held on a purpose built track with concrete walls in a location previously used as a car park. This would be entirely different to the luxuries of shooting at smooth tracks that I’d experienced before, and I looked forward to the challenge.


Little did I know at the time, this track wasn’t just going to be a challenge for me, but also for some of Europe’s most talented drivers. It was without a doubt the craziest event I attended this year – I’ve never seen so much carnage in such a short space of time, but it made for an insanely exciting weekend.


After witnessing just how crazy drifting can be on the European level, the temptation to take things to the next level was constantly nudging me. I had yet to meet any of the WW crew – Maurice mentioned that I should head over to Holland to shoot King of Europe at Zandvoort as it was fairly local to him. This was an offer that I couldn’t resist so I booked the trip.


Sadly, after I had booked the trip KoE ran into some issues with hosting the event at Zandvoort and eventually it had to be cancelled. This was obviously a huge blow given what I had set out to do, but every cloud has a silver lining. Maurice told me that the Nürburgring 24H was taking place on the same dates, so we could attend that instead. Determined to make my journey worthwhile, Maurice sorted everything we needed for the weekend. Rens and Noud also managed to make a brief appearance during my visit, it was awesome to get to spend some time together and exchange some stories. Another highlight would have to be getting a ride in Noud’s crazy RB25 S13!


Just like every petrolhead, I’d intended to hit up the German Eifel at some point, but I hadn’t dreamed that it would happen this year. Maurice and I joined a few of his buddies walking the entire track. Although it was madness looking back on it, I’m really glad we put the effort into doing so as it meant that we got to see all 14.2 miles, even if it was mostly darkness! It’s certainly not something I’ll be doing every year, but once again it’s certainly something I’ll never forget! Being in motoring heaven was an unreal experience, I know I’m not the first WW member to say it – but it really is something that each and every person needs to experience at least once in their life.


Right after landing back in the UK it was time to prepare myself for what I had initially intended to witness for the first time: King of Europe. One of the reasons I was so keen to go to Zandvoort was so that I could get some feel for this competition before it headed to my local track. It was the first time they’d ventured to the UK, and it sure didn’t disappoint. They came with a slightly revised layout from what I’m used to seeing run at Lydden – it made for some great driving and also a great opportunity to witness some of Europe’s craziest smoke machines.


Next up, it was back to travelling the country witnessing what the BDC had to offer. This was also to be the first time that Marc Huxley showed his RA28 Celica to the world. I had intentionally avoided this build as I wanted to see it in the flesh and I knew that I was going to get the opportunity to eventually. Needless to say, the car really didn’t disappoint! It really wasn’t to be my weekend though, I went through the pleasure of a 6-odd hour drive in crazy temperatures and more roadworks than I’ve ever witnessed. Later that evening I fell horribly ill and only ended up with about 2-3 hours’ sleep before the day ahead. It’s frustrating when you plan things and spend a lot of money trying to get to something just to fall ill – but these things happen!

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My next event was back ‘home’ at Lydden; BDC had opted to use the circuit twice on the calendar. This time however, there were some interesting rumours floating around the day before the event on social media. Lydden were to run the event backwards for the first time ever, completely flipping the usual lines that the drivers take. Naturally, this was met with mixed reactions, but one thing that no-one could argue was that it was certainly going to be different!


Not only was it a challenge in itself for the drivers but it actually claimed a couple of cars and put them out of action for the remainder of the season. It also made it an extremely challenging prospect for photographers. Initially I was really excited to see this take place, but it quickly became apparent just how hard this event was going to be to shoot. And that was before the heavens opened, which is actually a huge understatement. With Teesside being the wettest event I’d attended before this, Lydden was about to give us a reminder of how the small track in the Kent countryside is capable of the most extreme weather patterns I’ve ever witnessed.

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After my last two rounds of BDC which hadn’t really gone to plan, I was due to go to Angesley in Wales to shoot the final round. I looked at the 6+ hour route that was planned for me on Google maps and had started to wonder if it was where I wanted to end my season. If anywhere is notorious for bad weather, its Wales. Combined with my previous experience when visiting in 2013, I knew just how challenging this track was to shoot at. Shortly after that I realised that it clashed with the KoE final in Valencia. With fuel and hotel prices added up, it seemed like a no-brainer, and next to the beautiful weather that Valencia has to offer it would also be a chance for me to witness KoE once more.


I was once again heading to Europe to watch what I loved, except this time there would be no-one meeting me at the other end, which was a weird yet strangely satisfying feeling. Arriving in Valencia I realised that very few people actually spoke much English so it was a fair challenge to get around! Upon arriving at the track, I knew I’d made the right decision, despite it being a little too hot for lugging around a whole load of camera equipment I knew it’d be worth it.


As the weekend went on, the long journey to the track and back took its toll and I ended up with some of the worst blisters I’ve ever experienced. I had never carried quite that much in heat like that, but it was an experience in itself. Would I change absolutely anything if I had the opportunity? Definitely not. Witnessing KoE once again, and also getting the opportunity to meet Vaughn Gittin Jr, but this time with all the craziness of the event taking place on a polished MotoGP track in scorching sunshine was an entirely unique experience.


I expected to be sat here at the end of the year saying what I wished had done better, but I can quite honestly say that I learned so much that I don’t regret a single thing. Anything that I wish I hadn’t done was nothing more than a learning curve, and it made me realise where I want to be enjoying my time next year and what I should see. Sure, I missed events like Gatebil, but they’ll be around next year. At this stage of the game my full time job still comes first – it’s been a huge challenge to fit all this travelling, photo editing and article writing around it, but it’s been a challenge I would take on time and time again.


I’ve experienced illness, extreme tiredness, extreme wetness, extreme coldness and extreme heat all in my first season. I doubt any of that will change next year, but when you sit back at the end and see what you’ve captured, it’s worth every minute of it. There’s always room for improvement and 2015 is going to be my year for that. I had set a lot of personal goals, a lot of them were achieved in 2014 so now it’s time to set myself even bigger and better ones for the season ahead!

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I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone who has believed in me this year, everyone that’s given me that little bit of advice or done something for me that they may not have thought to be that big. Even those of you who have liked my articles, shared my photos or who have just sat down and read what I have to write. Everything helps and I really hope 2015 will be a great year for me, but more importantly for all of you too.


All the best!

– Bill Jefferies