K-State’s Dustin Schmidt competes in the men’s pole vault on May 30, 2003.
Recently, I was reunited with Dustin Schmidt, a former K-State men’s pole vaulter, after I stumbled across his blog at Old Hat Creative, a production company in Norman, Oklahoma. Dustin is now a professional photographer who works for several clients including the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Dustin wrote a post (oldhatcreative.com/blog/blast-from-the-past) on May 10, 2012 after he saw a photo of himself in my book, All Access – The Photographs of Kansas State Athletics. I thought Dustin’s story would make an interesting post for my own blog so I emailed him a few questions.
When did you graduate from K-State and what was your degree?
I first graduated K-State in the spring of 2003 with a degree in Kinesiology. I enjoyed it and thought about continuing on that career track but 2004 was an Olympic year and I wanted to stick around Manhattan and see if I could make a run at an Olympic Trials qualifier. I enrolled in grad school to pursue a degree in Athletic Administration, mostly so I had an excuse to stick around and train. Alas, my ego outstripped my athletic talent and I never jumped higher that next year, but Coach (Cliff) Rovelto’s acceptance of me continuing to train that year allowed me to figure out a new career path that led me here. After 2004 I quit my grad classes and enrolled in art and design classes to pursue a BFA in Graphic Design. I finally finished that degree in 2007.
How old are you now?
I just turned 31 this July.
How did you get started in photography?
I took an intro photography class at K-State but almost all of my learning came from shooting as much as I could once I got out of school. I really didn’t start taking photos seriously until I started my graphic design job at Old Hat Creative. I bought a used Nikon D70s off eBay, some cheap lenses and speed lights, and I spent my evenings photographing in my apartment.
Tell me about the evolution of your career.
I started out doing just graphic design at Old Hat. We didn’t have any photographic jobs coming in when I first showed up, but I thought if I started to push for some then it might be possible to start shooting as part of my job here. I probably did design for about a year and a half before we started to get legitimate photography jobs. Since we were already doing design for a lot of clients we had a platform to stand on and basically say, “Hey, we do photography as well. Want us to come out and shoot?” It was up to me at that point to take care of business and make sure we pulled anything off that we promised. I continued to practice in the evenings and weekends. I bought equipment, read books, and just shot as much as possible. There was a natural progression at that point from stills to video. I was granted a legitimate photo budget to buy equipment and I decided to purchase a Canon 5D Mark II so we could start to shoot video as well and things have snowballed from there. I spend most of the summer and fall now on the road, traveling to shoot intro videos and commercials for football, basketball, hockey, gymnastics, etc.
What are your goals for your photography career?
I always quote something Milton Glaser said in response to a similar question about design, saying that none of us have the ability to understand our path until it’s over. I hope I can put something out there that people can appreciate the way I appreciate seeing the photograph you took of me. I hope that I can stay interested in what I do and not become indifferent to the amazing opportunities and things in front of me. I hope I can continue to learn. I know that I still have a long way to go. If I can put just a few good pictures out there once in awhile then it makes it worth it to keep shooting another day and see if I can do it all over again.
Are you married? Do you have kids?
I’m not married and no kids right now, but if you know of any nice girls. . .
What is your favorite memory of K-State?
My fondest memories involve hanging out with my teammates on the track team. Going to meets, traveling on buses or planes, hitting the weight room in the morning and practicing every evening. The guys and girls on that team were like family for those four years and it’s fun to see the same thing now when I go out and shoot student-athletes at various institutions.
How did you learn about All Access – The Photographs of Kansas State Athletics?
My sister bought it and gave it to my dad for Christmas. I think she may have seen it at Varney’s the last time she was in Manhattan. We’ve been attending K-State football games since the early 80’s and we’re big K-State fans in general so it seemed like something he would like. I don’t think she even looked through it, she just thought it would be a cool book full of K-State sports photos. It surprised all of us to see me in it as we flipped through it on Christmas Eve.
What was your reaction when you saw yourself in my book?
Initially I was pretty surprised. I had a good career at K-State and jumped decently high but I was never an All-American or anything. I just figured there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff out there with me in it. After thinking about it a bit, I feel more pride and gratitude than anything. I’m extremely proud of the time and effort I put in while I was pole vaulting for K-State and I’m happy there’s a record of that out there for everyone to see. Years from now I can point to that photo in the book and tell my kids or grandkids that “Yeah, your Dad was pretty athletic once.”
Dustin’s work can be seen on Old Hat Creative’s website: oldhatcreative.com