My primary objective of this shoot was to get plenty of car shots of legendary racer Rod Millen in his electric powered Toyota.
The day prior to shooting the test session on the mountain I headed out to Pikes Peak International Raceway, an oval track about 30 minutes from the mountain. It would be a good chance for me to check out the car up close along with shoot some shots of it.
Even had the time to set up a couple studio lights and shoot the car. Background was less than desirable but with other vehicles and stuff littering the garage area beggars couldn’t be choosers…
The schedule for the testing session required me to wake up at 2:30 AM, meet the video team I was partnering with and head out to the track for when the Park Rangers opened the gates at 3:30 for competitors and teams.
The night before I took Nyquil as the sun was still shining outside so I could try and fall asleep at 8 PM. #didntwork
The road they race up is actually a public highway so the early hours are necessary as to not disturb the public use that begins at 9am.
It blew my mind to get there that early and watch as the race teams literally parked on the sides of the road wherever they had just enough space to set up a mini pit area. No giant semis with the cars in them, due to the lack of space the teams use small enclosed trailers or even flat bed trailers!
With no street lights on the sides of the windy road, crew members all wore LED lights on their heads to be able to see as they unloaded the car.
The test session would begin at sunrise so I headed a few miles up the mountain to a spot that would allow me several angles without much movement.
Over the radio of the corner worker nearby I heard an official say, “green course!”
That radio transmission wasn’t even needed as I quickly could hear a car taking off and racing up the mountain.
The sound of upshifts and downshifts echoing through the forest as the sun rose above the trees was nothing short of magical. Such a cool thing to hear!
With the racing occurring between 5:30-8:30 AM it guaranteed some amazing early morning sunlight that I was eagerly anticipating.
With the electric cars, they actually are so quiet that you can’t hear them. With no security to keep people from crossing the track between cars it would be incredibly unsafe to have a silent race car heading up a mountain at 130 mph. With that in mind all electric cars are required to have a siren sounding as they run. Totally odd to hear what sounds like a police siren in the distance getting louder and louder until the car comes hauling ass around the bend past you. Then you hear the sound of the siren getting less and less until it disappears.
With each car that raced past me I would try and change up angles to have a good variety. I quickly learned its incredibly easy to get cool shots on Pikes Peak. Simply find a pretty scene without a car and find a way to incorporate a car into the scenery shot.
Less than 15 cars participated in the test so once they would all race up the mountain they would turn around and head back down the mountain.
While its not high speed racing, it still allows you double the chances to shoot each car.
Just by walking up and down the mountain looking around enabled me to find small slices of visible road through the trees. That plus a 400mm lens made for some cool shots.
The below photo was taken from the same position as the previous shot, 16 seconds later!
With no security telling me where I could and couldn’t stand it made for a really fun time working on the mountain.
Without all the sponsor stickers and rear wings on the cars, many could have passed as a simple motorist who paid their 12 dollars to drive to the top of the mountain.
Its weird to be done work by 9am yet the only thing you can think about is getting back to bed! Too bad thats not an option when you have a few hours of editing to do!
For the flight back to Phoenix I did what I always do and carried a camera with me to hopefully get some cool aerial photos during trip home.
Luckily I would get some good views!
That wraps up my first weekend at Pikes Peak. Beyond excited to go back up there for the actual race which is a for sure bucket list item for a motorsports lover such as myself!
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