Memorial services were held recently for Micron Chairman Steve Appleton, killed in airplane accident earlier in the year. A stunt pilot, scuba diver, surfer, off road racing enthusiast, and a black belt in Taekwondo, he pushed the limits on a pretty continuous basis. “The older you get, the more risk you should take,” he evidently told a reporter once during an interview.
I met him, briefly, in Mexico. I was hired by Micron (who makes Lexar digital media cards, which have been a staple in my bag since I picked up a digital camera) to shoot (briefly) the Baja 1000 back in 2006. I have to suspect that it was Steve’s enthusiasms and urgings that got Micron involved in this crazed ritual of off road driving prowess held every year in very rough country. It was a massive undertaking involving dozens of crew, multiple cars, mechanics, tractor trailers, helicopters, and of course, teams of drivers. I had exactly one day to shoot the race, which meant I riccocheted around the dusty back roads of northern Mexico, shooting what and when I could. I think I intersected with the race three times, and shot the Micron cars as they zipped past me in seconds and vanished in the flying dirt. For my part in the actual race coverage, I saw the Micron vehicles for less than a minute. Steve, of course, piloting one of the cars, won his division.
Pretty amazing accomplishment given how nutty the race actually is. As you can see below, the cars get air quite frequently, and there are no guard rails or crowd controls. Lots of spectators are drunk by, say, 9am. I made the below while dodging beer bottles filled with pebbles that were being thrown at the photog guy who was standing in front of everyone.
I abandoned my fruitless quest for the Micron cars at a pit stop lit with torches in the interior of Mexico, around midnight.
Also managed to squeeze a camera inside one of the Micron cars, and it made the 1000 mile trip.
Given the dearth of race coverage I could provide, the impromptu portrait session Steve graciously agreed to loomed large in my coverage. We went driving together, and when he was rocking that car over hills and rocks and through the blinding sands of Mexico, I saw his face come alive. Not the typical CEO portrait session. Not the typical CEO. Godspeed.