3 Questions with Adventure Photographer Jimmy Chin

Photography provided by National Geographic/Cheyne Lempe

Oscar-winning adventure photographer (not to mention Minnesota native) Jimmy Chin’s adrenaline-fueled career has taken him across the globe in pursuit of the world’s most incredible experiences and images. We asked him three quick questions about chasing thrills, taking risks and more.

What has been the greatest thrill of your career to date?

It’s a tossup: skiing Everest, climbing the Shark’s Fin on Meru, shooting my first cover for National Geographic, or winning an Oscar.

Photography provided by National Geographic/Cheyne Lempe

How do you continue to find excitement in all your adventures?

Going to places I’ve never been is really thrilling to me; the more remote and less traveled, the better. I love visiting new cultures, learning and seeing the world through different perspectives. The simple things I’ve always loved and pursued early in my career — being in the mountains, climbing, hiking, skiing, just being out there, whether it’s near home or far away — still keep me motivated and inspired.

Photography provided by National Geographic/Matthew Irving

What advice do you have for someone considering taking a risk?

There are two great risks in life: risking too much and risking too little. Make sure you’re contemplating both sides carefully. I also always think that every day you go to bed, your life is one day shorter, so make the most of every day.

Adventure Photographer Jimmy Chin Shares His Favorite Photos

Photography provided by National Geographic/Cheyne Lempe

Minnesota native Jimmy Chin’s sense of adventure was first sparked in his youth during a family vacation to Montana’s Glacier National Park, where he was awestruck taking in the surrounding mountainscape. Since then, his adrenaline addiction has only grown: He’s scaled and skied Everest, trekked 300 miles across Tibet’s Chang Tang Plateau, and ascended Meru Peak via the treacherous Shark’s Fin — earning a Guinness World Record alongside his climbing comrades. 

The 45-year-old’s career in adventure photography happened almost by accident, when he nabbed a friend’s camera to snap a photo of El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park; his pal submitted that shot to an outdoor clothing company, which opted to purchase the image. Emboldened, Chin bought his own camera and hasn’t looked back, his work since featured in such powerhouse publications as National Geographic and The New York Times. It’s only fitting that all these years later, El Capitan continues to captivate Chin, who earlier this year won an Academy Award for his documentary Free Solo (co-directed with his wife, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi), a vertigo-inducing account of climber Alex Honnold’s successful free solo ascent of the iconic granite monolith.

Photography provided by National Geographic/Jimmy Chin

Yosemite National Park

May 10, 2016

Alex Honnold contemplates the vertical relief from Glacier Point to the valley below. About a year later on June 3, 2017, he free soloed the 3,000-foot Freerider route, graded 5.13a, on El Capitan.

Photography by Jimmy Chin

Canadian Rockies

Alberta, Canada
March 28, 2015

During a down day from skiing, professional skier Kalen Thorien explores the Athabasca Glacier and ice caves in the Canadian Rockies.

Photography by Jimmy Chin

Great Arch

Getu Valley, China
April 17, 2017

Felipe Camargo climbs Corazón de Ensueño, an eight-pitch sport route, graded 5.14b, on the Getu Great Arch, considered one of the steepest routes in the world. 

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