My first encounter with Ken Marcinkoski was at the Big Valley rodeo in 1994 while on assignment for a small weekly newspaper that I was working for. It was literally my first rodeo. Little did I know then that Ken had already been a rodeo photographer for 25 years. I recall standing beside Ken inside the arena during the roping and steer wrestling events. Every time an animal escaped capture, it would frantically race straight towards us at blazing speed, and of course my initial reaction was to scurry back to the fence for fear of being bowled over. Ken just stood his ground with the knowledge that the animals would always veer away at the last minute. I learned something about rodeo photography that day. Of course one wouldn’t try that during the bull riding event.
Since that day I have photographed many, many rodeos and have stood next to Ken many times. One thing that stood out to me was that Ken always keeps it simple. From that day in 1994 in Big Valley to now, he uses one camera, one lens and a mono pod. Most other rodeo photographers, myself included, lug around a couple of camera bodies, a couple of heavy lenses and in my case, a mono pod and a tripod or two.
Despite our paths having crossed many times, Ken, now 76 years of age, and I never spoke much. I always assumed he was a man of few words. But, curiosity finally got the best of me and I needed to hear his story. It was a brief meeting but Ken was open to a quick chat before heading off to shoot an award ceremony.
Ken has been around rodeo all his life and had at one time considered a career as a competitor (he didn’t say what events he participated in). I think it is safe to say that if Ken had chosen that route, his career in rodeo would not have been so long lived. Luckily for a younger Ken, a teacher introduced him to photography, gave him a camera and the rest, as they say, is history. Ken’s career as a rodeo photographer is now in its 50th year. Despite dealing with knee injuries and carpal tunnel, Ken stated that he plans to photograph rodeos for a long time yet.
So, it’s not surprising that Ken is not only well known on the rodeo circuit, he is a well respected and award winning rodeo photographer. He has covered most of the rodeo associations as well as all of their finals in western Canada. He covered the first two British Columbia Professional finals in Penticton and has covered the Calgary Stampede numerous times. He is the only rodeo photographer to have covered all CFR (Canadian Finals Rodeos) in Edmonton. In 2013 the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association gave Ken an award for having covered all 40 CFR Rodeos to date. Ken is a founding member of the Canadian Rodeo Historical Association and in 2016 was awarded Gold for his lifetime of history to the sport of Pro Rodeo.
Earlier this year, Red Deer, Alberta was named to host the Canadian Finals Rodeo for the next 10 years. That event had been held in Edmonton during its entire 44 year history. I’m expecting to see Ken at the finals and maybe even get a place next to him if I’m lucky enough to be considered to photograph that major event. That event runs from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4. If you are in the area, the CFR should be on your list of events to take in.
You can see Ken’s work at his website: www.rodeophotos.ca