You’ve seen wild adventures from hikers attempting Mount Everest to the harrowing climbs of films like Free Solo. What we don’t see is the video and photo team who rough it in the wild to capture these moments for us to watch while munching on popcorn from the comfort of our living rooms.
One of these heroic and crazy photographers is the man, the myth, the legend... Jordan Rosen.
Jordan has been a photographer for Groove Life for 4+ years. He connected with us back when we were based out of Alaska and has been blowing us away with his fantastic work ever since. When he isn’t going on insane adventures or taking photos, you’ll find him mountain biking or backcountry skiing down local mountains.
Just a couple of months ago, Jordan headed out on a Groove sponsored trip to capture one of the most extreme expeditions through Iceland that has occurred to-date. While we are sworn to secrecy on the details, you might just see a big announcement about that trip in weeks to come so stay tuned!
Jordan’s unconventional journey into professional photography.
Jordan Rosen majored in finance at a school in New York and expected to put on a suit every day and work in banking or real estate. Life has thrown him a pretty drastic curveball over the last few years, and he’s not mad about it.
“I helped run a commercial real estate company six years ago,” Jordan says. “I quickly realized that I felt torn. I felt like I was successful in real estate but there was a piece of me that knew there was another option for existence.”
While Jordan did well in the financial world, he truly loved to travel, although he didn’t see it as a possible career at first. He says, “I traveled a lot. It was a passion of mine, even right after college. I had a job for a while and saved money up and went traveling. I got to meet these people in other places who were either guides or were living a different type of lifestyle.” On these trips, Jordan would take photos. On one particular trip to New Zealand, he came back with photos that didn’t spark any memories for himself or his friends. He says, “At a really basic level, the reason I take photos is so I can recreate a memory. I can put myself back in a place and I can get the same feelings I got when I was sitting on that deck in Venice… If I can get that feeling again, that’s a huge win for that photo. The second goal for taking photos might be to help someone else get excited about the same things you’re excited about. Those are the two goals for me: Recreate a memory for myself so I can look back on something, and then also just spark excitement in other people who look at it.”
When Jordan’s photos from New Zealand didn’t spark any memories in himself or excitement in others, he knew something had to change. “I took a photo class,” he says. “Jeffrey Davis who taught that class is pretty much my mentor. Since then, he has taught me most of the things I know about photography.”
Jordan took some photos for a friend who had a media obligation for a sunglasses company. That company ended up hiring him for the year. Jordan says, “I just kinda faked it ‘till I made it. I’m pretty sure most people who do big-time outdoor photography at some point worked for either a magazine or a newspaper or did their time in the editorial world, and I never did. It’s odd, a little bit.”
Why does Jordan love expedition photography?
“Expedition photography to me means you are able to operate as a professional photographer in an extreme backcountry setting.”
“I just consider myself a photographer,” Jordan says. “I can take pictures of a wedding, I can take pictures of food on a table, I can take pictures clipped into the side of a wall hanging in space in Yosemite Valley, I can be on top of a mountain cold and wet. I’ve done it all, but I market myself as an expedition photographer because for me that is the hardest thing to do - be extremely cold and uncomfortable and not be around your normal setup where you don’t have wall outlets and a table and everything is dry. Expedition photography to me means you are able to operate as a professional photographer in an extreme backcountry setting.”
Quality expedition photography, according to Jordan, involves some storytelling. “I take a landscape photo but I also want to show how humans or how something has interacted with that landscape, whether it’s a guy on a bike or a girl skiing or even if it’s an animal or a truck or something like that,” Jordan says. “You see these people or objects or whatever it is moving through a landscape and for me, that’s the story.”
How does it feel to make a living doing what you love?
Since Jordan started out in finance, it took him a while to get used to the idea of doing something “fun” for work. “Going full-time with a job that is so fun definitely terrified me because there was a piece of me that thought work is not supposed to be enjoyable,” Jordan says. “I would say the model for how I want to feel about my job, since I’ve now operated a lot of trips in Iceland and this is now my 8th or 9th trip to Iceland, comes from my buddies who are guides in Iceland… they love their lives. It’s a really different culture being a certified guide in Iceland or Switzerland or Patagonia or something… outdoor guides here [in the USA] kinda live van life. Out there [in Iceland] they make a decent living and living expenses are a little lower. They live a great existence and they’re really proud to do what they do. That made me want to feel the same way about my job and here I am.”
What are the three things Jordan would never leave behind on a trip?
As a photographer who goes on long, high-intensity trips fairly often, Jordan has grown to rely heavily on quality gear. “My theory on equipment is that it needs to be the cheapest thing that I will never have to replace,” he says. “I don’t want to buy a duffle bag again. I don’t care if they cost $250 per duffle bag. They just need to never break. That matters to me because I know it’s not going to break on me in some random place.”
This is also why Jordan loves his Groove Ring and belt. “For me, The Groove products fit in with my ethos, because they may not be the cheapest option, but I will never have to replace them,” he says. “Either they won’t break, or Groove is just going to give me a new one because they have that warranty for everyone.”
Jordan credits the Icelanders for his passion for quality gear. “This has been instilled in my head from the Icelanders because they are driving Toyota trucks, they are wearing Scarpa or La Sportiva shoes, they use things out of the fishing industry because they are cheap and they are strong,” he says. “The tarif is so high there that they manufacture their own pieces of whatever it is that they need.”
We asked Jordan which three pieces of equipment he would never leave home when heading out on an expedition.
An expedition photographer’s three must-bring items on a trip to Iceland.
- Quality Gloves
“Iceland is a unique place because it gets very cold but it is also very humid. A lot of times when you are in Colorado it is very cold but it is dry. Everything is super dry. Your skin is dry. Your clothes dry out quickly. In Iceland, especially in the winter, it can be 10 degrees and 95% humidity which is not a normal thing for any other place I’ve ever been. So sh*t never dries out, ever. I bring a lot of wool. Even in the summer, I bring a full winter kit. I bring an expedition down parka. I bring gloves. But I would say, the #1 thing is bring gloves. Like, think winter. I’m always hanging out waiting for the shot to happen so I bring three pairs of gloves. I have pairs of gloves coming out of different pockets all the time because I need my hands to work.”
- Durable Boots
“I bring boots. A legit mountain boot. I need my shoes to not bail. I need them not to be wet, I need them to not break. I need to not bring two pairs of shoes. I need to bring one pair of shoes and they need to work. Scarpa Mountain Boots... I’m a big fan.”
- Practical Backpack
“Picture this: I take my backpack off and I put it down in the dirt, I can access all of the contents of my backpack through the back panel. My backpack is facedown in mud or whatever but I can access all of the contents of my backpack that are in these neat little pods. I couldn’t do my job without that or Pelican Cases, honestly, because one of the big challenges is having your delicate camera systems survive this type of exposure, not only weather and sand and rain and wet, but also the constant in and out of vehicles.
Jordan also shared that there is a big difference between light clothing and durable clothing. While many adventurers choose gear based on weight, he has a different perspective.
“There are a few different types of outdoor clothing,” Jordan says. “There’s fast and light clothing, think of like your Arc’teryx Shell or GORE-TEX or whatever. It’s great, but at the end of the day, it is a really thin piece of material. As a guide, if you’re a helicopter guide or one who is constantly on and off snowmobiles, or a guide who is, for example, running ski trips out of a truck which is what I do, you’re getting in and out of vehicles so often that it is really hard on the equipment. Abrasions non-stop, and you’re also catching your equipment on different pieces of the door or on ski edges and stuff. So, the durability of equipment is way more important than the weight. I don’t like lightweight stuff. I want heavyweight stuff that doesn’t break because it’s much more important on week three of living in your tent that your gloves aren’t ripped and that your jacket isn’t ripped rather than if they weigh two ounces less. So, the idea of having really, really durable stuff is really important to me.”
What is Jordan looking forward to this year?
While Jordan’s year looks a little different than usual in 2020 and many upcoming projects changed, he is optimistic about the winter season.
“I’m really looking forward to this winter and skiing with my one-year-old,” Jordan says. “When she was three weeks old, I put her on my chest and we did a few really mellow laps. That was maybe dumb,” he laughs. “She’s way more durable now. [After having our baby] I definitely panicked as probably most parents do. Like, did my hobbies just evaporate? Am I still able to do this? My wife and I are constantly proving to ourselves that we don’t have to really change our lives that much.”
Jordan shared that his favorite way to hit the slopes doesn’t involve a ski lift. “I mostly do backcountry skiing,” he says. “So, hiking up mountains and then skiing down. Over the last four years, I’ve done ski trips to Iceland, too. Backcountry skiing is the most fun part of skiing for me because you get way fewer runs down but you just get to walk up the mountain. It’s not terribly difficult. Snowshoeing is harder in my mind than backcountry skiing. It’s fun and cheap! You don’t have to pay for a lift pass when you are walking up the side of a hill.”
Why does Jordan wear Groove Gear?
Jordan has been wearing Groove Rings ever since he got engaged when he was immediately drawn to the quality of the products. “Groove creates products that work,” he says. “That’s what attracted me to the brand in the first place. Four to five years ago, I was just looking for the best ring that was [silicone] because I didn’t want to rip my finger off. Between mountain biking and skiing, I’m always gripping a metal pole of some capacity and I’m always in a place where I’m moving quickly, if my ring got caught…” Yeah, we know what happens next. Bye bye finger.
“I thought ‘I’m probably just not going to wear a ring,’” Jordan says. “Someone said to check out [silicone] rings. I found Groove and I was like, ‘Oh, this is a cool brand... I think they’re going to be really successful.’ I ended up talking to Peter Goodwin when they were still in Alaska and he said ‘Yo, yes, we’ll send you some stuff!’ And then really quickly I got transferred onto George and George has been my guy. George has put a lot of trust in me and I have always felt really lucky. They don’t micromanage me and that makes me really, really happy. They just trust me a ton and that means a lot.”
Like we said earlier, we have some HUGE news coming up in the next week or two that we are super psyched to share with you! Stay tuned... you won’t want to miss this.