“He’s a cowboy photographer, and a whole bunch more.”
That’s a true statement. Yet, clarification and more complete description is required to give adequate and appropriate credit.
“The Foto Cowboy” is likely most widely known for his work in rodeos arenas and livestock events throughout the country and around the world.
However, “I’m a professional photographer featuring all types of photography. A full service, fulltime, extreme photographer. And, yes, rodeos too,” emphatically clarified Kent Kerschner of Hutchinson.
“I’m a photographer,” he repeated. “With all of the modern cameras on phones, and computerization where pictures can be changed and manipulated, people claim to be photographers, but that’s not the same. The picture I shoot with my camera is the image that is printed on the photograph. I’m a photographer.
“I travel everywhere to shoot rodeos, horse events and livestock shows, so people just started calling me the ‘Photo Cowboy,’ and I put a twist on it: ‘Foto Cowboy.’
“That’s become my icon, and some folks wrongly get the idea that cowboy-related photography is all I shoot. I’m just as at home shooting weddings, gatherings, special attractions, school and family portraits,” added the lifelong camera enthusiast, who admittedly still does also have a part of his heart in the arena.
“Kent Kerschner Photography – Foto Cowboy” started before Kerschner was even a teenager
“I got a Kodak Brownie camera when I was nine-years-old. You looked down into the camera, and the image was projected onto the screen, and I was intrigued by that. Photography has intrigued me ever since and continues to even more all of the time. The more I do, the more I love it,” reflected Kerschner, as he squeezed a brief phone visit into his very tight work schedule.
“I’ve been at home trying to catch up with orders. I spent five days at the American Royal in Kansas City, will be home two days, and then am off shooting a barrel race in Nebraska four days,” Kerschner said.
Childhood enthrallment expanded when Kerschner enrolled in high school photography classes. “I got a better camera, a Canon AE-1, and learned more about importance of focusing, shutter speeds, lighting, background, resolution, and how each is essential to a final quality photograph,” he emphasized.
Interestingly, the reflection of black and white days, brought a fond memory to the obviously heart-and-soul-photographer. “Mom found my old Kodak in the basement, and there was still a roll of black and white film in it that I’d taken in 1969. There were only 12 negatives on film in those days. I took it out of the camera, licked it shut, had the film processed. It was still good after all of those years, and there were pictures out at the farm, our cat, dog. That was so special,” Kerschner smiled, quite apparent through the phone line.“Back then, most everything was done in black and white, and I learned to develop and print photographs. Seeing the image appear on the paper in the developing tray continued to intrigue me even more,” revealed Kerschner, with a certain level of adult excitement apparent in his expression.
However, there was cowboy in his blood, too. “Like many young people, I dreamed of being a cowboy and wanted to prove myself in the rodeo arena. I started riding bucking bulls at amateur rodeos, and it was fun. But, no matter how much I wanted to ride, I was still more enthralled with taking photographs of the action,” Kerschner qualified.
Hobby turned profession when Kerschner put out his photography shingle in 1977. “I gave up bull riding and started following the rodeo circuit watching the other photographers from the sideline, so I didn’t step on anybody’s toes. I was self-taught and learned everything I could about taking photographs that the cowboys and cowgirls would want to buy as lifetime memories of their rodeo successes,” the photographer explained.
“My Dad was never a photographer, but he said ‘why take a picture of anybody if you can’t see the expression on their face?’ I learned that from him, and always remember the expression on somebody’s face will determine if they like the photograph, and whether they’ll purchase it for perpetuity,” Kerschner emphasized.
Kent Kerschner Photography has become in such demand that the Kansan has been called throughout the country and world, as far away as Spain, Dominican Republic, Canada and other faraway places. Obviously, there are thousands even hundreds of thousands of photographers, who could have been asked to shoot those special occasions.
But, dedication to quality, different and always better than another, made Kerschner the one in demand and receiving the invitation to produce his work above all others.
“I’ve had encouragement from a lot of people, my parents and family included, but basically I’ve been self-taught. I’m continually learning and working to improve,” he contended again.
“My objective is the most quality image possible that stands out among all others,” Kerschner insisted.
It’s an initiative met with unmatchable success and demand. “I’ve been contracted to photograph the Professional Bull Riders Finals a number of years, do Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competitions throughout the Midwest, major barrel races including the Barrel Bash in Lincoln, Nebraska, this weekend, weddings, family pictures, personal and school portraits. This is the 18th year I’ve photographed the Kansas High School Rodeo Association Finals,” Kerschner tallied.
What’s the real reason Kent Kerschner Photography – Foto Cowboy has such a vast acceptance and demand to keep his work calendar booked years ahead?
“It’s the quality difference,” Kerschner summarized simply.
“I do all of my own camera settings manually, based on years and years of my experience. Nothing is on automatic. I have learned and know how and where to position myself, set my flash strobe attachment for best lighting and timing. I know how to set and run my camera. I’m a photographer,” Kerschner repeated for the fifth time.
“I shoot individual shots of the action, never using the motor drive. I get the picture I want, and don’t spend all of my time going through images editing. It would take forever,” Kerschner explained.
“I do not manipulate the photographs I take. With the computer age, photographs can be changed accordingly many ways, even young children can completely maneuver an image, so it almost doesn’t even vaguely resemble what the actual picture was.
“When I take a photo, it’s ready to go, ready to print. I never change anything whatsoever. I really don’t have the time,” defended Kerschner, noting that smoke or smog, and the like, can be removed in photograph backgrounds, when desired and necessary, but nothing else, period.
More than 2,700 images were recorded at the American Royal, and Kerschner expects that more than 3,200 images might be taken at the upcoming weekend barrel racing event.
Especially important to potential customers, within a short time after conclusion of an event, the images are displayed and available for public viewing on Kerschner’s website: www.fotocowboy.com.
“I do have a portable lab to make prints when I’m working events, because like at this weekend’s barrel race, the cowgirls want them before they leave the grounds,” said Kerschner.“I have every image cataloged by name, event, and date, so there is never confusion, and generally orders typically start coming in shortly thereafter. But, because of my dedicated filing system, prints can be ordered days, weeks, even years later,” he stated.
“However, printing photographs is time consuming, I use a professional lab for the majority of my orders, because it’s more efficient and economical. Quality is always of essence, and I always demand the very best service there is.
“My quality from my own portable lab is as high as possible, or I absolutely would not offer it,” Kerschner qualified.
Ink jet printers used by “box stores” to make photographs in volume are considerably lower resolution, 75ppi, compared to 300ppi in prints purchased from Kerschner.
“They’re cheaper, but that’s exactly what they are, ‘cheap reproductions.’ They aren’t as clear. The poor quality is obvious. But, even more importantly the prints will fade, generally in a short period of time, and you will be very disappointed that your valuable photograph is a blank sheet of paper,” Kerschner pointed out.
Orders can require two or three days turnaround sometimes, when Kerschner is unable to take his personal printing equipment, also has full days of demanding work and therefore must get back to headquarters for use of the commercial printing lab.
Criticism has been received by the photographer sometimes when he seems to be aloft and not acknowledging a person when they meet or walk by when he’s at work in the arena.
“I’m not being rude. I have to pay attention to what’s going on. The arena is my office, and if I look the other way, I could miss a 99 point ride, and a true photograph of a lifetime. I have to make sure the photograph is good, the best every time,” Kerschner explained.
There are many cameras available, and Kerschner has several. “I’ve used a Cannon ever since I got my first one. My main camera is a Mark 4, with an L series lenses. It does what I need in the rough environment it’s exposed to,” he verified.
Taking more than a quarter of a million images annually, Kerschner gets value out of his cameras. “This Canon Mark 1 D was one of the first big professional cameras on the market, and I’ve taken more than 2million images, 2 million plus clicks, and it hasn’t been to the shop. It’s a good camera,” Kerschner evaluated.
Vast transition has been seen by Kerschner in five decades of close involvement in photography. Of course in capabilities of cameras, but even more so in processing and production.
“People think digital photography has made my work easier, and it may have to a certain extinct, but there are still the same basic requirements to produce a top quality photograph,” Kerschner stated.
“With the internet, Facebook and similar social media capabilities, my photographs become readily accessible to everyone. People think because they see an image on the Internet or Facebook, it becomes available for public use, and that’s definitely not the case. That is outright stealing.
“Every photograph I take is copyrighted. Nobody has the right to use it without payment, or my permission. I get very upset about this. I make my living as a professional photography, and if I’m not paid for my work, I don’t eat,” Kerschner exclaimed.
Emphatically, The Foto Cowboy continued in detail: “Photo copyright logo(s) must remain with the photo at all times. Removal of copyright logo is prohibited by law. Photo ‘credits’ are not accepted at my bank for payment of my work. If you.
“Do not ask for free pictures for publications. This is my living, my income. You will need to purchase a commercial use license to a use a photo I have taken,” Kerschner repeatedly stipulated.
However, Kerschner has been congenially professional in permitting use of photographs he’s taken to accompany stories about events where he served as the official photographer, and stipend is not received by the writer.
Yet, when supplying images for such, Kerschner has enforced: “Any photographic image(s) attached to this email are solely intended for the agree upon usage of the addressee only. No other usage is implied nor granted. All Rights Reserved, Kent Kerschner and Foto Cowboy.
“If any unapproved usages are found, the party involved will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and billed a minimum of triple my usage fees up to the maximum allowed by law. To use any image without the full permission of the image creator, is a violation of U.S. Copyright law, USC 17.” Kerschner averred.
Unable to accurately calculate just how many photographs he’s taken in his lifetime, or his photofessional career, Kent Kerschner, The Foto Cowboy, has sold more than a million images, and he’s still intrigued by the art itself.
When the bull bell rings from the bumper of his pickup truck notifying everyone the arrival of The Foto Cowboy onto the rodeo grounds, or any place where a photo will leave lasting memory, it is accompanied by the most apparent dedication and love of being the very best professional photographer in the world.
A picture might be worth more than a thousand words, but when it’s a Kent Kerschner Photo, work of The Foto Cowboy, the past lives for eternity.
Sampling of the Kent Kerschner Photography – The Foto Cowboy’s works can be viewed at http://fotocowboy.com.