It’s 2 AM and I’m headed down I-25 toward Colorado Springs after getting a few hours of sleep, with a full cup of coffee and Kurt Vile’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze on repeat.
It’s now 3:30 AM and I’m meeting the media contact from Toyota Racing Development in a hotel lobby before we caravan through the dark, up endlessly winding roads until we reach the bottom of the course at the 91st Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. I meet the rest of the Toyota team who I’ll be shooting that day, including Rod Millen who’s driving Toyota’s electric racecar that weekend.
After getting some shots of the car and the team making some last minute adjustments for that morning’s practice, Rod’s son Ryan lets me know we need to get moving if we have any plans of shooting on the course. We get through the gates just before they close around 4:45 AM so the course can be cleared, and cars can start running time trials as soon as the sun starts to rise.
We’re sitting on the edge of a road around 11k feet above sea level as I take some test shots and the sound of an engine grows louder making it’s way through the valley below, up the 12.42 mile long course toward us. The sun is burning orange across the early morning sky. A few cars later and the sound of the siren coming from Toyota’s inherently silent electric racecar lets me know it’s time to work. A streak of white comes around the bend and in a few seconds it’s over, with the smell of rubber and a siren steadily dropping in pitch indicating Toyota’s car just drove by.
It’s 9:45 AM and after another run up the course the Toyota team decides they’ll pass on making a third practice run, and instead take the car about 50 miles south of Colorado Springs down to Pike’s Peak International Raceway. I meet up with the team there a while later so I can shoot some images of them working on the vehicle, as they analyze the turn-by-turn performance from that morning’s practice via laptop. The car ‘refuels’ when a van with a giant power supply in it pulls up and unwinds a power line and nozzle that plugs in to the side of the car as if it were gasoline powered. The mid-summer Colorado heat is unforgiving as we’re in a garage space with the almost 100 degree temps slowing everyone down.
After getting the shots I needed at the raceway I head to The Broadmoor, where a media event is scheduled to start at 2 PM with all of the event’s drivers and media buzzing around, capturing video and impromptu interviews. I’m scouting different locations around where the media event is happening for a space that would work as a portrait background, but The Broadmoor’s orange/pink exterior isn’t doing much for me and I know my time with Rod will be extremely limited at this point, as he’s tied up with media interviews.
After deciding the rock wall of the hotel’s restaurant would be the best choice for a portrait, Toyota’s media contact stands in as a light test model for me before going to get our driver. Rod makes his way to my sidewalk portrait studio and I nervously ask him if he can put on his thick, flame retardant driving suit over his jeans and button down in the 100+ degree afternoon heat. Without hesitation he disappears and comes out a few minutes later ready to shoot. I try to keep it quick and about a minute later we have a number of portraits to work with, as I let him know we’re finished and everyone goes their separate way.
I pack up my gear and I’m on I-25 by 4 PM, headed back up to Denver to start editing the shots which will later become the cover story.
More of my favorites from this shoot can be seen here.