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Coveted National Parks photographer position filled

November 2016 issue

Coveted National Parks photographer position filled

Channeling Ansel Adams

Tens of thousands applied for the position. One got the job.

In August, Jarob Ortiz began work as photographer for the National Parks Service, a position that pays up to $100,000 a year and involves traveling to America’s national parks to capture large-format photography, a la Ansel Adams.

“All the way from the get-go, I never thought I would get this job,” says 33-year-old Ortiz. In fact he nearly didn’t apply because he thought it so far out of his league. But friends and a photography instructor who knew his dedication to large-format photography urged him to complete an application. “They said, You have to apply for this job because you’ve done so much work with the 4x5 camera; you just have to do this,” he says.

The position requires the photographer to use large-format film exclusively, as images are submitted to the Library of Congress as official historical records. Since digital photography can be more easily manipulated, film still reigns in the realm of historical archives. 

Lucky for Ortiz, he’d already spent plenty of time behind a 4x5 camera, setting up zone systems, developing in a dark room, and properly storing large-format prints—all requirements of the job. Even so, before his final interviews with NPS, he spent five to six days, six hours a day, boning up on large-format technical terminology to ensure he didn’t so much as drop in a slang word that might hurt his chances. He was so anxious after his first interview that he retreated to the woods to hike and fish to remove himself from any chatter about the position.

“This is my dream job,” he says. “I wrote a paper about this in school—about how my dream job would basically be to follow in the footsteps of the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. And this is basically a continuation of that administration.”

The next phase of Ortiz’ career after this monumental undertaking? Nothing. “I’m here to stay,” he says. “You will have to tell me I’m too old to do this to get me out of here.”

Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer. 

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