I was shocked to learn the other day that Ken Schmidt died over the weekend as a result of a kayaking accident. Ken was the chief photographer at the Kerrville Daily Times when I worked there in the mid-1990s. He was also the long-time staff photographer for the Kerrville Folk Festival.
Ken was without a doubt the best photographer I ever worked with in my 15-year career as a journalist. Flipping through my portfolio of stories from that period I am amazed at how his photos stand out above all the rest. Every reporter wanted Ken to take the photos for their story. He could make a shot of a county commissioners meeting look interesting. He had an eye for framing a shot and/or picking out one person in a room and catching an expression on their face that would tell much of the story.
But Ken was all about action. He preferred to cover stories that were exciting - car wrecks, fires, sporting events, and so forth. I always felt privileged when I could get Ken to go out and shoot a photo for one of my stories. When I interviewed George W. Bush during his first run for governor, Ken took so many good shots that they decided to run a spread of them accompanying my story. There were many times when I would be working on a feature story and Ken would come out of the dark room and show me the photo he took for the story and I would think ‘Wow, now I have to write a piece that will live up to this.’
When I knew Ken, he was one of the most fun-loving people I had ever met. He was always planning his next outing or telling stories of his most recent adventure. I take some solace in the fact that he died doing something that he loved. He certainly packed more good times into his 41 years than most people do who live to be 100.
When most people think about dying they imagine spending eternity in paradise. But I imagine that if Ken had the choice he would choose to be reincarnated so that he could take another go around at life because Ken’s attitude was that he was already living in paradise.