Jeff Mitchum's philosophy is simple: capturing the stunning beauty of nature and dramatic landscape through the use of natural light and bringing it to people's everyday lives through his world-class panoramic photography.
With a special affinity for capturing the intricate wonder and infinitely miraculous aspects of nature, Jeff’s perspective and unique style in print is an extension of a commitment to perfection, rarity and inspired by men such as Ansel Adams and John Muir who have influenced him with perfectionist detail.
In fact, in fine art photography circles, Jeff is known as the "Ansel Adams of color."
Have you had any near death experiences?
Which one do you want to know about? (laughing). One year when I was working with the Grizzlies in Katmai National Park, (the place where Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Anne Hugenot were eaten by that old bore a few weeks later) and photographing a momma and her two not
so little ones along the river. The moon was rising over the river and my two friends from England Matt and Josh were getting some really images of reflections. It was about 10pm and the momma and her not-so-little kids finally get out of the water so we can walk down the trail.
They disappeared into the tall grass and I gave them 10 minutes to clear the area before walking down that pathway. As soon as we start walking, guess who's coming for desserts? She sees we have closed ground and changed location and with her head down, charges us.
She was so close I could smell what she had for dinner.
In my calmest voice, I shared with her that it would be a
really bad idea to eat me because if she did, I’d die, and then they would have to shoot her. I mean they are God’s perfect killer of man, since they can out run our fastest human at
35 mph, swim faster than an Olympian at six mph, and climb trees like an ape.
Later, Matt and Josh asked what I would have done if she decided to sample one of us. They were shocked that I simply planned to out run one of them. Last man loses and I live. Besides, they don't have kids. In college, situational ethics of philosophy taught me to think like that. College is good for things like this.
What piece of clothing should every man own?
A pair of leather Birkenstocks! Look, Moses and the children of Israel owned one pair for 40 years and they still had tread. I still don't know why Nike hasn’t captured this ad campaign. Forget Jordan and Tiger, you have Moses! You can wear them in a semi casual event to running around town, or wander nomadically for a generation in them. They go with practically everything and if you wear them often enough
you never get athletes foot!
What do you think is the secret to a long life?
Never believe your press releases! As soon as you do, your humor is left behind. We’re blessed in unique ways. Every one of us are a once in a lifetime uniquely created individual. When your mind is free you can live without the burden of being something you'll never be.
Do you have a favorite model for business?
Bert Boeckmann, the owner of Galpin Ford, Jaguar, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Honda and a whole lot of others. Let me say this… He is California’s most successful businessman. Think about this, his dealership has been the number one volume dealership not just in California, or the United States, or North America, but the entire world for over 30 consecutive years.
Think about the Lakers being world champions for over 30 consecutive years? A great thought, but Bert has done it. He should run our country. On top of all that, he once told me he never has had the flu in his entire life. Talk about a business role model!
Who is the toughest guy you know?
My late step dad. I just called him "The Captain". He had kidney cancer and he never once complained about all the procedures and intense pain. I remember working on this ingrown toe nail and making him soak his toes in hot water and epsom salt. This nail was embedded and I work on it for an hour and he sat there and never winced.
He was protecting all of us, especially my mother. They had this unrivaled marriage of love. It was storybook in every aspect. He was the toughest because he was truly selfless in love. He never considered his own needs to protect the ones he loved most. The "Captain" was manhood defined.
What advice would you give to the younger you?
Travel in the world of your creations and imagination.
What is the greatest complement you receive?
As a photographer, nothing makes me more proud than to have someone say to me, or even to overhear someone saying, that one of my images makes them want to go to the location and visit for themselves. Bringing Nature’s great wonders to people is what I love to do, but there is a much more important component to it all that is much bigger than me, or the photography itself. What is especially wonderful is the emotional response my pieces can elicit from people, and as a result, the bond that develops between us and Nature’s great wonders. These locations are truly great gifts for us and for future generations, and when people fall in love with them enough to take them home and make them a daily part of their lives, they also want to protect and preserve them.
That’s the higher purpose; the real, lasting mission. My photography is my life’s work, but the role that it can play in protecting the locations I was blessed to be able to shoot is so much more. That’s a legacy, and it’s a special honor.
What's the best way for kids to impress their parents?
Ask my 8 year old little girl. Little girls have a lot of power over their dads. Michaela walks in during a very busy meeting and, "Daddy, would you help me with…" And just like that they learn how to not play fair and learn control at my expense. The other one is, "Oh daddy…!". My son Luke, he grabs anything that moves and then crawls into your lap and just hangs out.
Tell us a story
Once I was in a float plane hugging the glaciers of Mt Redoubt on the way to the coast. The winds and weather were horrific. The pilot was ashen white. The whole situation seemed like it was going from bad to worse.
I remember an old Roman saying that “when death comes to visit, laugh in its face because you can't do anything". So, I came to the conclusion to just enjoy the ride. If the plane goes it goes, and people pay a lot of money for these roller coaster rides. That one flight cured me of the fear of flying. Float plane psychology!
Who would you like to mentor in photography?
Lance Armstrong! Not that I feel I could give him advice, I mean he is Saint Lance. He is probably the greatest athlete of our lifetime and knows what to do with his success: help others. That's a rare attribute, but a transferable one. When you consider what he battled through with cancer and went on to win 7 Tour De France races, he has the qualities to be great at anything.
His focus, preparation, mental discipline and believe it or not Lance is quite teachable. He would be a great protégé that would teach me more than I would him. By the way, I am picking him to be top ten at Ironman Hawaii 2011.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Yes, I’m an accomplished matchmaker! Seriously, I believe I have actually set up about 7 couples who have gone on to marry.
What would you do if you were God?
That's laughable! I am a finite being asked to do an infinite work that no one can comprehend. That is a recipe for major mistakes, and I do not want that type of responsibility. But, if I could have one wish fulfilled it would be to eliminate cancer. So many wonderful and amazing lives are touched by this disease. We have to find a cure and support organizations involved in the battle.
What’s the best survival technique you possess?
When I am snowshoeing with a ton of camera equipment on my back and need to get down a hill fast, I am extremely skilled at being a human bobsled. You find a long snow filled chute that's not an avalanche issue. Take your snow shoes off and secure to your backpack. Then with your pack on, you launch yourself down the chute and when you
start getting out of control, lean back on your pack and lean on your tripod like an ice axe.
It's crazy survival fun. You can cover several thousand feet in less than 2 minutes. Gets you down fast, safe and, no lift ticket is required!