After 40 years as an Alaska resident, Jeff Jicha finally photographed a bull moose fight.
The symmetrical image of the two hulking mammals greets visitors on the front page of the website for his new business, 2 Loons Photography, which he started last year as a way to leverage his primary hobby into a more lucrative endeavor. Luckily, the state is full of opportunities that facilitate his specialty for capturing pictures of the wilderness and wildlife.
“There is always something going on in Alaska to take a photo of,” Jicha xaid. “My camera is with me all the time and it is ready to shoot.”
Jicha’s grandfather got his grandson interested in photography at a young age. Jicha now spends his free time hiking up to eye level with the sheep runs in the Chugach Mountains, and seeks out shallow streams to find spawning salmon. As much as he can, he said, Jicha tries to put himself off “the main highway.”
Jicha said the trick to striking images is finding subjects and moments no one has taken before, as well as timing and good equipment. At the end of the day, though, it comes down to the skills of the person holding the camera.
“He has always loved photography and he has always had a good eye,” said Camie Jicha, Jicha’s wife. “He takes fantastic photos. He sees things a little differently than just the average Joe.”
Camie Jicha has watched her husband’s hobby progress from a pastime to a main focus in his daily life. He is always pouring over other people’s work, trekking up trails looking for wildlife and going out into the bitter cold to capture the aurora, she said.
The couple says they are both occasionally made a little nervous by the lengths Jicha goes to get his photos.
On a recent trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, the couple’s friends, and even Jicha himself, felt he dangled a little too close to cliff edges sometimes to get the shot. Last year he spent full days on Feuding Lane, patiently waiting out moments during the Card Street Fire, until he was advised to evacuate the area.
“He doesn’t do anything really stupid, but yeah, I mean it is unnerving,” Camie Jicha said. “… He climbs up things, he climbs down things, he climbs out on the edge of things to get better pictures.”
The main reason Jicha is working to turn his hobby into a business is to fund the expensive habit of purchasing camera equipment. When he goes through baggage claim at the airport, his carry-on bag, full of Nikon pieces, is usually worth nearly $10,000, and can be quite heavy to lug around. Jicha’s favorite lens is a Nikon 600-mm, f/4,weighing in at 18 pounds.
“I don’t have to get as close to the bears anymore,” he said with a laugh.
He does not rely entirely on his accessories however.
“Equipment doesn’t make you a better photographer by any stretch of the imagination, it just makes it easier,” he said.
Jicha attributes much of his success, as he said many photographers would, to simply being in the right place at the right time, which is how he got his two favorite photographs of bears during trips to Sitka and Denali National Park. He said being regularly disappointed in missing the shot is just part of the experience.
Right now, he is working on making his art known. The community can see his work currently hanging inside the new Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna, right off the Sterling Highway through the month of June, a coveted time slot for local artists.
Creating a presence takes time and footwork, Jicha said.
Camie Jicha said it has been entertaining trying to help her husband figure out Facebook, which the two are slowing mastering. Building a customer base is a continuous process, she said.
“You are always continually learning, you are done when you stop,” Camie Jicha said.
Jicha said his wife’s support has been a boon for building the business, including the many long hikes she has accompanied him on while taking her own photos on a point-and-shoot camera or iPad. She also had the final say in the company name, 2 Loons. The couple mutually admires the species, which mate for life and are often quite solitary creatures.
Jicha said he is now committed to continuing evolving his skills for the rest of his life, including toying around with postproduction, which right now he tries to keep to a bare minimum.
“It is relaxing, the challenge of trying to get the better shot and taking something someone else hasn’t taken, and getting better perspectives,” Jicha said.
To see some of Jicha’ photography, comma visit 2loonsphotography.com.