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Meet Jacob Raab, Photographer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob Raab.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jacob. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I originally hail from the flatlands of Indiana, and despite the relative lack of high-end outdoor recreation in the Midwest, I’ve always been drawn to exploration and adventure in wild places. I grew up hiking and backpacking, and I started rock climbing whilst pursuing a music degree in Indianapolis. Eventually, the flatlands grew too uninspiring and the call of the mountains too strong to resist, and I moved to the west coast back in 2012, picking up photography to share my travels shortly thereafter.

The first trip I documented was a two-week stay in Moab, Utah, and from there I was hooked. Over the last five years, I’ve improved my skills with a camera and built a broad skill set in the alpine realm, which enables me to safely access terrain most photographers can’t – and to capture images and stories most climbers can’t. In December 2016, I moved into my car and have been driving around the country ever since; I spend my time climbing rock and ice, running mountain trails, shooting photos, and playing my trumpet at every stop along the way.

I’m currently in the U.P. of Michigan at the tail end of a winter circuit of ice climbing festivals, which has spanned four months, a dozen states, two countries, and countless frigid days with great friends; after I finish that up in the next couple weeks I’ll be headed to Montrose, Colorado for a gallery exhibition of my climbing photography!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge for me as a self-supported freelance creative-type has been financial, without a doubt. I occasionally stop for a couple weeks and work construction labor jobs to help supplement and keep myself on the road, but ideally, I’d like to get to a point where my photography and my music are enough by themselves to sustain my travels. My expenses are low – gas, car insurance, food, phone, and that’s about it – but income is a bit harder to come by when I’m only in any one place for a week at a time, and I’m finding that (as with anything) the first couple of years on this path are all about establishing oneself and learning how to best make things work.

Beyond that, I think my experiences in climbing and backpacking have hardened me to any discomfort along the way, and my jazz roots have helped me embrace the improvisatory nature of a nomadic lifestyle. Sleeping in my car isn’t any more uncomfortable than sleeping in a tiny tent high on a mountain while a snowstorm is blowing, and I have literally everything I need within arm’s reach at any given moment. I’d trade the minor inconveniences of road life for the freedom it brings any day.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Jacob Raab Photography – what should we know?
As a photographer, my specialty is the vertical world. I’m fully competent with rope systems and am perfectly comfortable hanging in space on a cord to shoot photos of climbers from above or across, and my experience in ice and rock climbing have enabled me to feel confident on a wide variety of terrain. I’ve climbed peaks as high as 6000m in Peru, and I have experience in alpine areas across the Lower 48.

I’m flexible and laid-back almost to a fault and am always stoked for an adventure. Where most photographers have a studio and/or regular schedule to commit to, my lifestyle is free enough that I’m always open to ideas or proposals, and I’m usually available to travel anywhere around the country on short notice for an adventure.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Improvisation! In jazz, in climbing, in photography, in life, improvisation is the most essential characteristic of my life and my relative success. Improvisation isn’t just making things up as you go along; it’s creating something using what’s conveniently at hand. In music, you take what you know (notes, keys, tone centers, licks, etc) and you combine all that to improvise a solo.

In climbing, you have your gear and the techniques you’re familiar with, and you combine those things to safely ascend a route on rock or ice. With my entire life in my car, all of my decisions are made with the knowledge of what I have conveniently at hand, and I improvise my schedule and my plans on a weekly – even daily – basis.

Contact Info:

  • Website: jacobraab.com
  • Email: j@jacobraab.com
  • Instagram: jacob_raab
  • Facebook: jacobaraab

Image Credit:
Andrew Knight [IG: @thginkwerdna]

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