Third Day by Jeff Mitchum, 2010.
Photography is so much more than a technical skill; it takes artistry, persistence, timing—and sometimes divine intervention. For Jeff Mitchum, Third Day required an almost saintlike level of patience. The renowned fine-art photographer was willing to wait until nature delivered exactly what he was looking for. Shot in the Sierras, the photograph captures a thrilling landscape: aspen trees in the golden hues of autumn, snowcapped mountains rising majestically on the horizon, and the setting sun hurling wondrous shafts of light into a cloud-draped sky.
Third Day stuns even the photographer himself. “It took me over 15 years to get that photo,” Mitchum says. “I went back every year—shooting in the Southwest, circling back up to Tahoe. I knew it was coming. I could feel it.” In 2010, he returned to the site again and again, waiting for just the right balance between the color in the trees and the light in the sky. “The last time I went back, a storm was gathering,” he says. “The sky was full of energy. I set up the camera and waited. And then it happened. I couldn’t believe it. Even now I can’t believe it.”
Mitchum, who is mostly self-taught, says he fell in love with his craft at a young age, hiking around with Ansel Adams, shadowing the legendary photographer. While Adams is celebrated for his black and white landscapes of the Western US, Mitchum eventually became known for his color work.
“Every photo I take is unique,” he says. “It exists just here, just now, and then it’s gone. I’ll never take another photo, ever, at the same spot where I shot Third Day. Once I get the shot I’m waiting for, it’s complete.”
Valued at $1.2 million, Third Day is the standout piece in Mitchum’s spectacular new 4,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed gallery in The District mall at MGM Grand. Displayed at the entrance—in front of a 10-by-15-foot freestanding glass sculpture designed in partnership with Markian Olynyk—it ushers clients into the tasteful, trendy space. With more than 300 photographs, along with glass art and eco-friendly furniture made from sustainably sourced coconut wood, the newest Jeff Mitchum Gallery complements his first Las Vegas location, at Bellagio.
To fête the July 4 inauguration of the gallery at MGM Grand, the latest volume in his Portraits of Light series—a project five years in the making—was published. Another book, Portraits of California, showcases more than four decades of Mitchum’s work. “Each shot is about my love of nature,” he says. With 450-plus photographs divided among four volumes, each weighing more than 12 pounds, that’s a lot of love. Jeff Mitchum Gallery, MGM Grand, 702-304-0007
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF MITCHUM