Recently I had the opportunity to cover the 95th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for the first time. I was part of a team that consisted of Larry Chen and Louis Yio as the Official Photographers for Pikes Peak. Quite an honor. The race is known as being one of the toughest hill climbs in the world because of the altitude that it’s run at. The start line is already at 9,390 feet and by the time you finish the race after 12.42 miles and 156 turns, you’re up at 14,115 feet.

Be sure to click on all the photos to see them full size!

The famous Big Red Camaro makes a practice run near the top of Pikes Peak. Amazing that in the middle of summer there is still snow on the ground.
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So much beauty on the mountain its hard to take a bad photo.
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Over the course of the week I took nearly 5500 photos on the mountain, documenting the race for Pikes Peak and their archives. Our goal as a team wasn’t to just photograph each racer going up the hill, anyone can shoot a tight shot of a race car going around a turn, but we wanted to tell a story and explain in photos what the race is really about. Paint a picture for the people at home.

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Its about the racers, the teams, and the families who work all year towards this one race, but its also about the mountain, and the beauty that surrounds the 12 mile course. There are so many turns in the race and with such a rapid increase in elevation literally every corner paints a new picture.
One of my favorite photos, this is shot from the top of The W’s looking down at Double Cut which is 1.5 miles down course and almost 1000 feet down. Shot when the sun was coming up I love how the rocks are lit up by the morning light, and that you can also see all the way down to the base of the mountain.
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Up near the top at 13,380 feet is Boulder Dash where nothing grows except some small grass patches.
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156 turns as you zig zag your way up the famous hill climb.
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Oxygen is at a premium on the mountain and the farther you go up the harder it is to exert yourself. Lugging around all your camera gear along with food, water, warm clothes and rain gear (since the weather can change minute to minute) can make for a tasking time covering the event all week.

The mountain always has a way to show you who’s boss.
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You can always find things on the mountain to incorporate into your photo.
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One of the toughest parts of the week is the lack of sleep, as the four practice days we woke up at 3am to be able to get up the mountain and to our photo spots before they close the road down. The benefit of that and practice starting at 5:30am is that you are given a beautiful sunrise each morning. Being up that high there is less atmosphere for the sun rays to go through so you get purples, reds and oranges that you just don’t see farther down.

The sunrises alone are worth the trip, where else can you get photos like these 4 days in a row?
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For race day the wake up time was 1am in order to get to the base of the mountain by 2am to beat the crowds of spectators as they head up the mountain to watch the race all day. My day would be spent in the middle section starting at almost 13,000 feet near Devils Playground, the highest spectator area on race day, and work my way down to Glen Cove about 3 miles down and 2,000 feet lower in elevation.

The Pikes Peak race has some dedicated fans, what other race has people camping at 13,000 feet to watch a race all day?
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One cool thing about the race is after all the drivers make their run (they all have to stay at the summit until all runs are done) they parade down and the spectators are allowed on the course to shake their hands.
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The middle section is a favorite for photographers to shoot at because from there not only is there beautiful scenery to shoot, but also you can see so many other sections of the race course the photo possibilities are endless. It really gives you a great view of a large portion of the course.

All of these photos were shot on different days, with different focal lengths, but were all within the same 500 feet section of the race course.
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Coming from mainly shooting offroad racing it was a nice change in pace to shoot a little pavement action. Not having dirt flying or a car jumping in the air makes you work a little harder to get creative with composition to make a good photograph.

Acura came out with three cars for the race and all were very photogenic.
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Cars would reach speeds over 100mph on the mountain but some of hairpins turns they would have to slow way down.
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Early days were a regular thing. On practice days the road has to be reopened for the public at 9am so early starts are mandatory.
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Romain Dumas was your overall winner with a time of 9 minutes and 5 seconds.
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Shooting Pikes Peak for the first time was a great experience and while you know what the race is you really can’t put it into words until you are there to experience it.

Love how the dust trail behind the car is lit up by the sunrise.
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Going through all my photos I’m already planning where I want to shoot next year. You can shoot the same corner four days in a row (my photo ADD won’t allow that) and because the lighting is different each day come away with four different photos. Also just standing 10 feet over in either direction can change the photo all together as well. Thats just one more reason why this is a great race for photographers to shoot.

One of my favorite photos from the event, the last practice day I was up at the top and some amazing clouds came in. This photo really shows its a race to the clouds.
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It really was a great honor to shoot this prestigous event for my first time as part of the official photographers, big thanks goes out to Larry Chen and Pikes Peak for having me along. Until next year!

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Check out some more or our favorite photos from the week! Also be sure to check out Larry Chen’s photo gallery up on Speedhunters HERE!
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Also check this quick time lapse I did of the amazing clouds that came in on the fourth day of practice. This was up at 13,000 feet.