Q&A with Photographer Jason Hummel

Photo: Jason Hummel

by Kate Hourihan

When I first moved to Washington State, I was struck by the vast beauty of the Cascade Mountains and the opportunity for year-round adventure there. Around the same time, I learned of photographer Jason Hummel. The deeper I dug into the skiing and mountaineering scene, the more I read articles and researched trip reports, the more I saw Jason’s name and saw his photos. And his photos, which I started to recognize everywhere, seem to capture the unique spirit of exploring the wildest parts of the Pacific Northwest like few others.

Jason stands out because, in addition to being a great photographer, he is also an athlete and adventurer. He carries heavy camera equipment to places most people don’t go. And he captures moments that people rarely see. His images are not only beautiful, but they inspire you to take your own adventures and to find your own moments, so you can see what he sees.

I recently had the chance to check in with Jason and hear about his introduction to photography and what inspires his work.

1) What sparked your initial interest in photography?

When I was a kid I read a lot. I lived life through the eyes of characters big and small. It was the bane of a bored country bumpkin at its core, I’d say. Reading opened up my imagination. In my quest to read everything at hand, I found National Geographic. Between the stories and pictures, I was hooked. I thought adventure was the highest form of living.

Many years later, after trying a conventional life as a Financial Advisor, I lost focus. The glue that held me together was my weekend adventures. The mountains were my savior. As the financial markets began their spin into turmoil, so did my desire to continue working a 9-5 job.

During that time, my best friend Ben Manfredi passed.  I took up his camera, which set me on this great adventure. Prior to my 25th birthday, I’d hardly taken a photo in my life, although I’ve been hiking and climbing since I could walk. How ever sad, losing Ben changed my life. Ever since, every picture, I still think of the adventure that camera has set me on.

Photo: Jason Hummel

2. What was your most memorable day of photography in the last year?

I was on Mt Rainier with a few friends for a late season ski in October. On the way out to the glacier, I saw a small snow cave. I stopped, dropped my pack and went exploring. I should’ve said something to the others, but I didn’t. Minutes later, there they were. They had come back for me, worried. I was still in the cave but climbing into another separate tunnel. That is when I saw it: Fragile arms of snow, arcing thinly through the air, were strewn above me. It was where the ice cave ceiling had melted. In these holes where the snow had collapsed, windows made of ice looked out into clear blue sky. This alone would’ve been a perfect image. What made it better was Hannah Carrigan walking with her skis across the creek through my viewfinder, looking for me. It was among my favorite picture-moments of the year and that felt amazing. After taking 60,000 photos a year, I get about 200-400 keepers. From that I get about six great ones. This image was one of those rare moments.

Photo: Jason Hummel

3. What are you most inspired by?

Nothing inspires me more than Ben. The next closest thing are sunsets, waves of wind casting snow devils, and lakes, which seem carved from the Earth like emeralds. Seeing these, among the plethora of other natural wonders, is what lights up my mind. They inspire me every day. That is why I love imagery; I get to share what inspires me.

4. If you could go anywhere in the world to photograph, where would it be and why?

My camera causes me to dream far too much for my own good. I was enamored by outer space as a kid. It infected me. My high school term paper was on NASA. So, if I could go anywhere to take photos, it would be into Earth’s orbit. More realistically (not that dreams ever should be), I really want to see more of Antarctica. Not just the snowy part, but the dry deserts that exist there, too.

Kate Hourihan grew up outside Boston, Massachusetts and began her migration westward after college in 2007. She spent five years in Utah, initially as a ski bum in the Wasatch Mountains and eventually as a professional telemark skier. She currently lives in Seattle and hopes to balance a career as a writer and graphic designer with skiing, climbing and exploring the Cascades as much as she can.