Snow Shooter: Jason Hummel

Photographer Jason Hummel and his twin brother, Josh, have a ski streak lasting 203 months. This means Jason and his brother, age 36, have been skiing every month since they were teenagers. While this is an impressive feat, it is just one of Jason’s many achievements.

We learned of other feats and mishaps in a recent interview at home in Washington.

The brothers Hummel on their day off with the family. | Photo: Hummel Family Portrait

The brothers Hummel on their day off with the family. [Photo] Hummel Family Portrait

Backcountry Magazine: What drew you to photography as a profession?

Jason Hummel: I basically started when my best friend passed away in a kayaking accident. We used to go on these crazy adventures, and he would take photos, and we would write stories. After he passed away, I still wanted to continue what he started so I picked up his camera—my first camera. At the time I was a financial adviser; I did that for my entire 20s. When I was 30, in 2009, the market was crashing and I ended up quitting for a year and I went on a trip into the Picket Range in 2010. I spent something like six or seven days in the mountains and made $10,000 without even trying. In 2010, I ended up making $25,000-$30,000 and I was like, “Holy crap, I think I can maybe not go back to work! I’ll do what I did in college and live off top ramen.”

I had a great job working for a small bank, but I would stare out of my office and the mountains would be staring right back at me—that was really frustrating. I only had ten days of vacation a year, and I would maximize those ten days of vacation. I would spend weeks preparing.

BCM: What was it about action photography that called to you over other genres?

JH: It goes back to how I grew up, climbing and hiking. I had my first pair of crampons when I was six years old. I started backcountry skiing when I was five years old. So I wanted to tell stories of these places in the Cascades that I love, and my way of storytelling was through photos.

Gabriel Ciafre leaps a cornice in Iceland. | [Photo] Jason Hummel

Gabriel Ciafre leaps a cornice in Iceland. [Photo] Jason Hummel

BCM: Where is your favorite place to work? Why?

JH: My favorite place to work is the North Cascades. Washington has these very unique mirco-environments. You can go into these little valleys with these sharp, wild peaks just smashed in there. You can go to a place 100 times and see it in a different way each time.

BCM: What is the best part of being an action sports photographer?

JH: That’s hard because a lot of times I wish I weren’t. When a guy is on top of a cool line and I am at the bottom, I am like, “God damnit!” But the best part is that you get to be outside. Your office is where you make it. You get to meet cool people, too.

When I am going on a long trip—and I go on a lot of long backpacking and ski trips—people ask, “How many days are you going to be out?” And I say, “Until I run out of food.” When I had a job, I had to be home at a certain time, so usually I was out for five days because I had five days of vacation. But now it’s a question mark, and that’s what I love.

BCM: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while shooting?

JH: So, I was doing a photo shoot for Salomon, and I was getting into the perfect position and I sat on a cactus. So I am sitting there, the light is fading, and I am picking thorns out of my ass. Those cacti are no joke. The thorns are like six inches long and they went in a couple of inches. It was pretty funny, actually. I lost the photographs because I was picking thorns out of my ass.

There was also this one time I was taking a photograph in Olympic National Park. You know how you try to lean over just a little bit further? And I literally fell off the bank and off of a 10-foot drop into the river with my camera gear. I ended up holding my camera above my head and only the bottom of it got wet. My whole arm went under but I was able to keep my camera above.

Kyle Miller hikes in view of the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo] Jason Hummel

Kyle Miller hikes in view of the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo] Jason Hummel

BCM: What is your least favorite part of being an action sports photographer?

JH: I mean, one of the unique things about being an action sports photographer, especially being specialized like I am, is that as the photographer you are as good or very good at the sport that you are photographing as the athlete, so it is hard to watch people do things you want to be doing.

The business side is hard, too. You sit in a room and edit and talk to companies and organize websites. You want to just disappear for a couple months, but all of a sudden you are becoming this creative entity where you have to be pumping your stuff out there.

BCM: Do you have any trips planned that you can tell us about?

JH: What I want to do is ski every named glacier in Washington. It is going to take me years, it is going to be thousands and thousands of miles, and I have already done half of them. There are 212 named glaciers in Washington. There are probably thousands of other smaller ones, but I am going to focus on the named ones.

BCM: How would you describe your photographic style?

JH: Unlike most other photographers, I am not often taking photos of professional athletes. I am out there going on an adventure—a lot of times a local adventure—and telling a story through my photography. No one image really stands out so much as the whole grouping for me. It really tells a story—my photography is like a journal of all of my adventures.

 Ben Starkey carves a beautiful turn on Mt. Rainier. | [Photo] Jason Hummel

Ben Starkey carves a beautiful turn on Mt. Rainier.  [Photo] Jason Hummel

BCM: In what way has safety been a concern for you?

JH: Safety is always a concern because what we do it inherently dangerous. I am 37 years old and I didn’t start as a professional photographer. I guess what I bring to the table is a lot of experience in the mountains, and I try to share that experience with the people I am with. In my 15 lives I have managed to keep coming back. I try to share this and keep and open mind.

BCM: What is the most spectacular thing you didn’t catch on camera?

JH: What comes to mind is the most incredible day I had in the mountains. In Washington you can ski Mt. Adams in the spring and you can ski the north side, which is an incredible ski descent. I was with two other people, and we get up and see the most incredible sunset going off. As dusk approached a huge lightning storm was developing to the north of us around Mt. Rainier, and I was sitting there with my camera ready. We had blue skies above my head but right in front of us was this huge thunderstorm.

When you try to get lightning at night in a photograph you have to take a long exposure. I thought I had my focus dialed, and there was lightning with red clouds. I was so stoked and then I looked at my camera and I had been pointing not at the lightning but at the clouds to the left of it. I missed Mt. Rainier in the thunderstorm.

See more of Hummel’s work on Facebook and check out his book at


Speak Your Mind