Carmel Valley resident wins top prize in international photography competition


By Karen Billing/Staff Writer

Kimball “Kim” Andrew Schmidt rarely goes anywhere without his Nikon camera slung over his shoulder. He can think of nothing worse than spotting a shot and not having a camera to capture the moment.

“I feel naked without my camera,” Schmidt


Recently, the Carmel Valley photographer’s photo “Shelter from the Storm,” a dramatic image of lightning striking near buildings in downtown Denver, was a co-winner of a global “City and Nature” photography competition. National Geographic Sweden photographer Mattias Klum sponsored the contest, along with Swedish company SWECO, Nikon and Air France.

His work was on display in Sweden and in the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China, which Schmidt won an all-expenses paid trip to attend. Because Air France sponsored the contest, he had to fly to Shanghai via Paris, which took about 24 hours in the air each way. Although it was a long journey, the trip was well worth it.

“It was really an honor because they get thousands of entries worldwide and, on top of that, the photo that won has always been a signature shot of mine that never got recognition,” Schmidt said.

His work will grace the cover of the Bainbridge Island 2010-2011 phone directory and was featured in the 2010 Bodie Ghost Town calendar. “I’m Mr. April,” he jokes.

Last year, his was also selected to be among the shortlist in the “Digital Camera Photographer of the Year” competition. His image of Yosemite was selected in the top 100 out of 101,000 entered.

Although he’s received many accolades, Schmidt has never “quit his day job” in economic development and corporate site selection. At 54, he eagerly looks forward to retirement and spending more time on his art.

Originally from Denver, Schmidt has been an amateur photographer for more than 30 years, snapping around 100, 000 photos. Since he was a child he has carried a camera—he said his first “nice” camera came in college when he bought a 35-millimeter.

He took it with him overseas as he studied abroad in England, in what he calls his “first taste of international travel.” He has since traveled to 35 countries throughout Europe and Asia, capturing cathedrals in Lisbon, Portugal and busy street scenes in Paris and Tokyo.

“I like cities but I also like nature,” Schmidt said. “A lot of my photos are humans and nature side by side and how they interact.”

He loves finding old treasures—grounded sailboats and abandoned cars, the battered wooden doors and faded paint of aging cities, a sagging schoolhouse in the middle of a picturesque plain.

In his mind, Schmidt has created a photography “bucket list,” places he’d like to see and shoot, hopefully in that eagerly anticipated retirement. He’d love to see Southeast Asia, Albania, Butan, and the volcanoes and 18th century Spanish architecture of Ecuador.

“I’d like to see all the old things before they fall down,” Schmidt said.

A highlight of his travels was a 1976, pre-revolutionary trip to Iran and Afghanistan—his black and white photos of Afghani people and Kabul mountain passages are stirring.

“It was a fantastic experience,” said Schmidt.

His job in economic development, which requires him to go on location, allowed him the opportunity to live in Tokyo, Japan, for two years in the late 1980s, where he met his wife Naoko.

The family moved around quite a bit for his job, last living on Bainbridge Island, Wash. (a ferry-ride from Seattle), before moving to Carmel Valley three years ago, drawn in by the great schools. Their children, Erika and Alex, attend Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy.

“We’d like to stay put for awhile, we like it here,” said Schmidt. “We’ve tried to make the most of moving around a lot by seeing things we would’ve never seen and meeting people we would’ve never got to meet.”

Until three years ago, Schmidt was still shooting everything with his film camera, refusing to go digital.

“I was kind of a hold out,” Schmidt said. Although he loves digital photography, nothing compares to the magic of getting film developed and seeing your shots for the first time—“It’s like opening a present.”

Check out Schmidt’s work at