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MTI At 25: Leigh’s Fresh Florida Keys Perspective

In a few months when Lake Havasu City, Ariz.-based photographer Tom Leigh packs all his camera equipment in preparation for shooting the MTI Owners Fun Run in the Florida Keys, which is scheduled for March 14-18, 2024, and limited to 40 entries, he’ll be gearing up for his fifth visit to the Keys for the Wentzville, Mo., company’s customer appreciation event.

John Caldwell didn’t mind photographer Tom Leigh shooting over his shoulder while driving his 48-foot MTI with twin Mercury Racing 1350/1100 engines in the MTI Owners Fun Run to the Florida Keys. Photo by Tom Leigh/Tommy Gun Images

It sure doesn’t feel like we’re approaching five years since Leigh took the captivating image above of Texas performance boater John Caldwell at the helm of his then-new 48-foot MTI with twin Mercury Racing 1350/1100 engines. It’s a shot Leigh had practiced and accomplished in other settings, but never before in South Florida—in this case somewhere between the friendly confines of Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo and the next stop: Key West.

Besides the beautiful blue colors and the sun’s reflections on the water and the horizon, this picture was impactful as Caldwell’s 48-footer, which was powered by twin Mercury Racing 1350/1100 engines, was one of MTI’s featured new boats at the Miami International Boat Show a few weeks earlier.

Leigh, who had a blast riding with Caldwell and his wife, Danylle, said he was completely comfortable getting the shot.

“We were running 80 to 90 mph on the inside and I was in the back,” Leigh said, recalling his experience at the company’s fifth annual Owners Fun Run. “I set up my camera with a slower shutter speed, kneeled in the seat and leaned out over the gunwale and snapped a few shots. I always love photos that illustrate speed. And the 48 MTI has plenty of speed!”

Indeed it does, as Caldwell and so many others can attest. There’s a reason MTI announced it was building a new sterndrive-powered 480 cat that is expected to debut at the Miami International Boat Show next February.

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