Picture perfect Vic Schendel
One picture is worth 1,000 words? If so, and by doing the math, Vic Schendel’s pictures add up to those of a wildly wordy, wealthy man.
This esteemed professional photographer’s work stays in high demand, particularly for his wildlife and other outdoor subject matter. To date, more than 400 of Schendel’s photos have appeared as national and regional magazine covers.
Among those publications using his stunning pictures are “Field and Stream”; “Petersen’s Hunting” and Petersen’s Bow Hunting” magazines; “Sports Afield”; “Bugle Magazine”; “Fur, Fish and Game”; “Colorado Outdoors Magazine”; “Wyoming Wildlife Magazine”; and Sierra Club’s calendars.
Schendel does additional photo work for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the owner of “Bugle” Magazine, to help bolster its efforts to preserve elk habitat.
Although the 66-year-old Fort Collins, Colo., resident is no longer a hunter, past adventures include African safaris during which he stalked kudu, oryx and wildebeest. Eventually exchanging his gun for camera equipment, Schendel continues pursuing elk, mule deer, Montana mountain lions, and other creatures stateside and beyond. And then there’s that very photogenic Alaskan bear scratching his very itchy rump on a fallen log…
FROM THERE TO HERE — A GRAND CAREER
Born on Halloween 1954 in Houston, Texas, 6-year-old Schendel moved with his family to Colorado where he grew up in Golden, attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and then moved to Littleton. A longtime career in the insurance field meant additional relocations but he ultimately settled in Fort Collins in 1994.
By 2007, Schendel had tired of the corporate world’s high-pressure lifestyle. He proclaimed so with one grand declaration: “I’m done!” And he left.
A self-taught artist, Schendel had always seriously dabbled in oils (now likely called a side hustle) throughout his insurance years; so much so that he rode along on Wyoming cattle drives to take reference photos for some of his Western-themed paintings.
Schendel had no formal art training, unless you count high school classes. And he admitted he took those electives only because he figured they’d be the easiest to ditch! So — after cutting class time — he merely submitted a couple of paintings for his sophomore, junior and senior years and aced them all! Genius.
With his 2007 “I’m done!” pronouncement, multi-talented Schendel instantly set aside not only his corporate career but also paint brushes/canvasses/easel, trading in the lot for full-time camera work. Not surprisingly, he sold nothing for a full year.
That’s because Schendel was then a rank amateur photographer; but a wise one. He hired two consultants to tutor him in color management and computer skills. Even with no money coming in, he knew he’d made the right decision and self-gifted himself with new camera equipment to punctuate the choice.
That significant investment paid off in 2008 with the sale of his first back cover photo, of wood ducks, to “Colorado Outdoors Magazine.” From there, his work began getting more and more interest from additional prestigious publications.
Avid outdoorsman Schendel focused (yes, pun intended) on shooting wildlife, hunting/fly fishing, landscapes and general nature photos. He said he particularly loves to photograph elk, noting a special picture he took about a decade ago. Set during a Colorado sunset after a fresh snow, and silhouetted against pink cliffs, the portrait of the big animal has already been featured on five magazine covers.
For any artist, regardless of medium used, the magic happens by seeing, capturing and sharing a subject’s intrinsic value. In animal photography especially, a mystical moment can be so fleeting as to be won or lost in the click of a shutter. Schendel got it oh so right with that elk. Magical.
Schendel photographs sites for the Colorado Lottery, depicting recreational and natural locations that receive funding from lottery revenues. Scenic spots include the Cortez City Park; Aspen and Grand Junction bike trails; and Tolland Ranch near Nederland.
For informational brochures and other state park advertising, Colorado Parks and Wildlife also employs Schendel photos.
For three successive years, Schendel limited edition prints and fine art posters graced Greeley Stampede memorabilia: 1997, a rodeo Saddle Bronc rider; 1998, celebrated rodeo clown Leon Coffee; 1999, chuck wagon races.
REWARDS, AWARDS AND ONWARD
Perhaps Schendel’s greatest reward is carrying the title of father to two daughters and four grandchildren. However, wins over manifold rival contestants at shows is also a source of pride.
Vic Schendel’s fly fisherman photo merited him first place in the Professional Division in the 2016 Yellowstone Forever competition. Following an acceptance speech, he was honored to have his work displayed for a year at the Smithsonian.
Sometimes honors come as a complete surprise. Schendel was totally gob-smacked to see some of his photos appear on Walmart’s website.
“I was shocked,” he recalled. “Someone, I thought, had obviously stolen my work! What should I do?”
After calming down and further pondering the possibly sticky situation, he contacted the agency that markets some of his photos. Design Pics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, reassured him that all was well. Yes, they said, they were indeed working with Walmart to sell Schendel photos to the public. Surprise!
In January 2021, Schendel wrote articles for “North American Elk” and “Predator Nation” magazines. He’s currently in the process of authoring a book about his photography adventures in the U.S. and abroad. Several previous books, as well as additional information about his work, are available at http://www.vicschendel.com. Prints of his photos can be ordered there, or through Walmart’s website.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, currently tops Schendel’s photographic itinerary. He spent 16 days there this past May chronicling the area’s colorful culture. Coupled to a shoot earlier in the year photographing impressive humpback whales, his total time looking through the lens in Puerto Vallarta is thus far five weeks. And, he’s planning a third visit for December 2021.
One picture truly is worth 1,000 words. For photographer Vic Schendel, that’s a picture perfect equation.
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