The Original Speedhunter

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Drive-by Snapshots   |   Published at

Have you ever set yourself a goal for the upcoming year on New Year’s Eve? Eat less and healthier, go to the gym more often, or finally clean out the garage this spring?

More than two decades ago, I set myself a goal to visit (at least) one new country every year. Living right in the middle of Europe makes this endeavor a little easier than in many other regions of the world, but it still takes some commitment.

With 365 days ahead every year, there is plenty of time to actually get out and travel, making this goal achievable for even the most hardcore procrastinators.


20+ Years, 20+ Countries

Automotive photography comes in many different flavors. Some love to shoot action at race tracks, some at the hustle and bustle of car meets and shows, some in the silence of a museum or studio with perfect lighting. All of these activities involve some sort of planning ahead, and who doesn’t love the anticipation coming with that?

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However, what I love most can’t be planned in advance. Going to places where chances are high to find interesting vehicles certainly helps, but most often it happens unexpectedly, where you least think of it, without prior notice. Walk or drive around a corner and there it is, triggering that instant grin.

These moments are the drug I’ve been addicted to for more than two decades, and I’ll never get enough of. My host family in the USA coined the term ‘drive‐by snapshots’ for these pictures, and this expression has stuck ever since 2001.

Most of the times it’s not possible to locate the owner of the parked vehicle and therefore the stories often lack details and are more focused on how, where and in which condition the car was found.

Lacking the ability to move the car and having to work with whichever background it is parked in front of, provided a steep learning curve (and lots of frustration). It taught me to always make the best of the given circumstances.

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Car People Don’t Care About Language Barriers

If there is somebody around, I usually just go and ask whether it is okay to snap a couple of pictures. The worst thing that can happen is that somebody says no, but experience shows that most people either don’t care or are positively excited and want to show something that is hidden in the garage or around the house.

Not speaking the language should never stop you from traveling to a foreign country. A friendly smile goes a long way and if you have the basics like ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ covered, you’re usually off to a good start.

The car language is universal and like-minded people always understand each other by pointing at things, smiling and laughing.

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Being in the right place at the right time made meeting these awesome people possible, and I’m more than thankful for the time we spent together. Some of them may remain fond memories forever because I forgot to ask for contact details and couldn’t keep in touch. Others became friends, thanks to email, forums and social media.

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Expensive Kit Not Required

It is by no means necessary to travel to the other end of the world in order to find opportunities for interesting pictures and stories. A true gem might be hiding right around the corner from your home, just keep your eyes open.

Never think: ‘I’ll snap a picture on my way back.’ The chance that the object you desire to take a picture of might be gone by the time you return is 50/50.

Whichever device you have on hand is usually good enough to freeze a moment you’ll have fond memories of in the future. Every time you look at the picture, it will bring a smile to your face. None of the pictures in this post have been shot with a full‐frame DSLR and fancy glass.

If your budget is limited, spend it on traveling instead of expensive kit and gain experience. The pictures may not be technically perfect, but they always tell a unique story worth remembering and sharing.

Sebastian Motsch   |   Instagram drivebysnapshots

[This story was published on in September 2019.]