By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN There’s not much photographer Mitch Kezar of Delano wouldn’t do to capture that pristine, flawless image that jaw-dropping, heart-stopping slice of life that forces the viewer to stop and say, “Wow.”
“Sometimes, it’s really easy,” Kezar said. “Other times, it’s like chewing your arm off.”
Kezar isn’t one to settle for “good enough,” whether it’s adjusting the lighting for a riflescope ad, or trekking through the savannahs of Africa in search of a herd of wild elephants.
“Anybody can take a picture,” he said. “You have to make something out of nothing.”
Most of Kezar’s work is outdoor-sports related, and he is a regular contributor to Outdoor Life, Bowhunting World, Sporting Classics, and many other hunting and fishing industry publications.
His photos are also featured in ads for Remington, Cabela’s, Leupold, Bushnell, Nikon, North American Hunter, Federal Cartridge, and Mathews Archery, among others.
A rugged occupation
Kezar describes photography as an “athletic event,” explaining that it requires the ability to climb mountains, hang out of trees, and lug heavy equipment through knee-deep snow.
Once, while shooting in Alaska, Kezar slipped and broke his foot. He had to make it through nine more days before the trip was over, but he wasn’t about to complain.
“Sitting around and crying about it won’t do any good,” he shrugged.
In all his years of photography, Kezar’s only cancelled two shoots.
“Every bit of my gear is intended for rugged use and harsh environments,” Kezar said.
Despite days of “sweat in your eyes and mud up to your knickers,” Kezar has no plans to switch occupations.
“Why would I quit? I’m having more fun than anybody I know,” he commented. “Ninety-nine percent of people would kill to have my job.”
Many of Kezar’s action shots are taken on hunting trips that he organizes.
“I get the elements together,” he said. “A lot of photography is making something happen instead of waiting for it to happen.”
A snapshot of life
When Kezar was a boy growing up on a dairy farm in northern Minnesota, he hunted for images using his mother’s Kodak Brownie.
“I still have that camera,” Kezar said, gesturing to a well-worn piece of equipment in his studio.
He joined the Air Force after high school, becoming a combat photographer for a few years.
Then, Kezar began building his career as a photojournalist, working at The Tampa Tribune and the Minneapolis Star (which later merged with the Minneapolis Tribune to become the Star Tribune).
“Back in the ‘70s, I used to chase politicians around,” Kezar said. “Don’t really want to go back to doing that.”
Kezar’s experience as a photojournalist taught him to anticipate opportunities and shoot fast.
“On those kinds of jobs, it just happens,” he said. “The camera’s just an extension of your hand. You’d better be ready, because you’re not going to get a second shot at it. It comes in a blistering second, and then it’s gone.”
Despite tireless efforts, however, Kezar said it’s impossible to catch everything.
“I’m tortured by all the ones I missed,” he admitted.
In 1982, Kezar became a freelance photographer, shooting for publications like Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic.
“After awhile, I decided I wanted to tighten my niche and specialize,” Kezar said. Now, only five of his 200-plus clients are not related to hunting and fishing.
Twelve years ago, Kezar also started Windigo Images, a stock photo company featuring more than 150 of the world’s top outdoor photographers.
The site, www.windigoimages.com, is constantly updated with fresh, creative shots taken throughout the world.
To learn more about Kezar, go to www.kezarphoto.com.