Guest Blogger – US Motorsport Photographer – Jamey Price
Pikes Peak is an event I have wanted to photograph for years, I got close this year but it just didn’t happen.
So I asked him to write a guest blog post so you can read about what it is like to cover Pikes Peak, and to hear how the two wheel racers tackle the event.
You can see more of Jamey’s work by checking out his links and sites below.
Website – http://www.jameypricephoto.com/
Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/jameypricephoto
Follow him on Twitter – https://twitter.com/jameypricephoto
Now sit back and enjoy his story after the jump
“Pikes Peak is like NOTHING I’ve ever been asked to shoot. Words cannot describe how physical it is to be a working photographer on the mountain. Your emotions, your senses, your body all seem to be pushed the absolute maximum.
2012 was my first time going to the race. It’s one I’ve always known about, but its something I’ve not had the opportunity to cover. That is until Ducati asked me to cover their team’s attempt at the freshly paved 12 mile, 159 turn access road which winds it’s way to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,110 feet.
The first thing I’ll never forget is the early mornings. I can count probably 5 or 6 times during the 10 days I was in Colorado that my alarm went off before 3am. On two days, we were meeting in the lobby of the hotel at 230a. Your body is running on fumes. And no matter how hard you try and how tired you may be, you still can’t fall asleep before 10 or 11pm (for me anyway). Why so early in the morning you ask??? Pikes’ access road is still open to traffic, so competitors have to be the first ones on the mountain BEFORE they open the road up. It’s a closed one way course split into thirds. The earliest morning of the week is when the cars or bikes you’re covering will run the top third of the mountain. You have to be the first ones on the hill so as not to be stuck in any traffic and get the maximum amount of time to prep the cars/bikes and shoot them to tell the whole story. The road is officially closed to all traffic going up it at 5:15a and at first light, the cars and bikes start making their first exploratory runs.
Though those early mornings are brutal, the sunrises on the peak are WELL worth getting up for. Because you’re so high up in the atmosphere, you get a clear view of the sun rising over the horizon and the gorgeous pink and purple light starts to fall on the mountain and about that same time, you can start hearing the cars and bikes working their way up the road.
For three hours a day, the competitors get to run practice. But because it’s not a track, it’s simply a road, the vehicles have to go up, wait for everyone to get to the top of their section, then they are all led down by a pace car or pace bike, to do it all over again. The process is tedious. As a photographer, you have two or three chances to photograph each car during practice each morning. Bikes get a few more runs. The most we saw the bikes was nine times during one practice session. Think about that for a second. Those of you that have shot motorsport before, it might take you five laps to nail the exposure framing, or the pan you really want. You get that chance because five laps on a circuit only takes 10 or 15 minutes.
On Pikes Peak, if you miss the shot the first time, you will be waiting potentially up to an hour before you see the cars or bike again. Maybe more if there is a crash or red flag during the session. So timing is everything. Experience is everything. If you don’t nail the photo, you aren’t guaranteed to get another one like it. The light changes fast too. I remember one morning the light was unbelievable. The purple light falling through the trees created such dramatic images that I couldn’t wait for them to come up the mountain again to shoot it more, but by the time the bikes got down to the bottom again, and then turned around, made their changes and came back up, it was almost 45 minutes later and the light had gone from beautiful to harsh, very quickly. That’s just life shooting at Pikes Peak.
Something else not everyone takes into account is the altitude. I have been an athlete my entire life, but Pikes Peak is something else. The higher you go the more you feel it. At base camp, it’s not so bad. Feels almost normal. But halfway up, every step you take gets harder and harder. Oxygen is thin and your body isn’t used to it. Multiply that at the summit, and you feel drunk. You have almost no spacial awareness. I clean walked into one woman nearly knocking her to the floor because I had no idea where my shoulders ended. It’s a strange feeling and one that lots of water and a lot of aspirin only help to manage, but never take away. It is a physical place to shoot. Walk uphill 10 or 15 feet and you’re panting like you sprinted a quarter mile with camera gear at sea level. You learn to deal with it, but it is exhausting and makes a long day even longer.
But is it all worth it? Absolutely. The sheer raw energy of the hill climb is still very much present. It’s changed a lot in recent years, but it is still extremely dangerous for both spectator, driver and photographer. No one is safe. You have to keep your head on you at all times. Many times you’re leaning off the edge of a slope that is 80% grade. But the vistas are stunning, the cars and bikes are so much fun to watch and photograph and there are 159 corners to choose from. I think I could shoot this race for the next 30 years and never do the same thing twice. that’s what makes it fun. It’s a throwback to the days classic racing. It’s still very dangerous. Still more about ego and the ability to say “I challenged the mountain and beat it.” For me, that is the kind of thing I dream of photographing. And I am so thankful I had such an amazing client that wanted me to cover it for them.
Thanks Jamey for taking the time to put together the photos and story to make this post happen – Joel