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"Ski Bum" Turned Pro Photographer Chase Jarvis Captures the Best of Both Worlds



It wasn't long ago when if you were looking for Chase Jarvis all you had to do was find the slope in Steamboat, Colorado, with the freshest powder. Sure enough, if six to 10 inches of the white stuff had fallen the night before, Chase was probably up on the mountain clamped into a pair of downhill skis getting ready to make "first tracks."

An admitted ski bum who relocated to the powder Mecca in the mid-1990s after doing the post-collegiate backpacking thing in Europe , Jarvis was just then beginning to discover the magic of photography that would transform his life. He had inherited a 35mm camera from his grandfather and put it to good use in Europe , shooting hundreds of rolls of film of the people and places he'd seen.

When he moved to Steamboat after returning from Europe though, most of his time was split between being a waiter, working as a ski technician, and squeezing in as many runs as he could on some of Colorado 's finest downhill terrain.

In the midst of it all, he photographed his friends doing what they enjoyed most-outdoor sports. "My buddies were all skiers, mountain bikers, and fly fishers. That's what I enjoyed seeing so that's what I photographed," Jarvis recalls.

Word of mouth about his photos spread through Steamboat and soon the ski industry and outdoor marketing executives who passed through got a glimpse of his talents. They were impressed.

After moving back to Seattle -his hometown-in 1996 to pursue a Master's in Philosophy, Jarvis started selling single images to magazines for editorial use. His big break came when outdoor retailing giant REI became interested in his work and cut a deal to use his images in their marketing materials.

"I had gotten a good chunk of change from REI for my photos, so I was like 'wow,' this is, all of a sudden, a very viable career for me," Jarvis remembers.

Having said goodbye to Philosophy and hello to Photography as a full-time pursuit, he had to turn that slow trickle of image sales into a steadily profitable business venture.

"I needed to find a way to make more money while still doing what I liked. So I started to look at the advertisers in the magazines I had photos in-the sunglass companies, the ski companies, the travel companies."

After landing gigs with goggle and sunglass companies Spy Optic, Scott U.S.A., and Smith Sport Optics, Jarvis realized something about shooting advertising: "I quickly found out that the rates were much, much broader."

In addition to getting paid better-which isn't entirely surprising, considering his high-end clients also include Subaru, Patagonia, Volvo, and Horizon Airlines-he has discovered something else about shooting advertising: he really enjoys it. "I treasured the change. I used to love shooting editorially for the freedom and the open air, but now I really enjoy having goals and reaching them."

Jarvis adds that the allure of independence in editorial is actually a double-edged sword. "I love that niche, but it got to be very limiting." These days with larger advertising budgets, more time, and a bigger crew, Jarvis feels he's better able to stretch his creativity.

Speaking Different Languages

So while you can probably still find him up there on the biggest hill with the freshest snow, these days he'll have brought along 10 cameras, 20 lenses, a lighting setup, and a cast of attractive models.

Having experience as both an outdoor sports enthusiast and a photographer has helped him bring the best of both worlds to his work.

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