Beyond The Focal Point

He looks through the lens of his camera, sees his subject, looks back at his camera, changes a few settings and begins to create something special.

Jerod Foster, Ph.D., is an editorial/commercial and natural history photographer. He is a professor at Texas Tech University, husband and father of two daughters.

Growing up on a cattle ranch south of Paradise, Texas, influenced Foster to attend Texas Tech University and major in agricultural communications. However, ag comm wasn’t his first choice.

One month before starting his college education at Tech, Foster was enrolled as a food technology major.

While visiting his cousin Brad, who was majoring in agricultural communications, Foster ran into a familiar face that changed his course of action. Several months before visiting the campus, he had attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship interview session. During the interview, he met Matt Baker, Ph.D., who was the chairman of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at the time. Foster ran into Baker at the college and wasn’t expecting him to remember him, but he did. Baker stopped and made sure to say hi and ask how he was doing.

“That solidified my decision to change from food technology to ag comm,” Foster said.

He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with the degree, but he had some things in mind. At first, he wanted to become a pharmaceutical salesman. Growing up, he was into music and was in a band in college.

“I thought it would be cool to go to law school and become a patent or intellectual property lawyer,” said Foster.

It wasn’t until spring 2005 his interest in photography was sparked. Foster was enrolled in the ACOM 2303 photography course that semester, which allowed him to be more creative again.

A ‘Junction’ in his Life:

After ACOM 2303, Foster was eager to learn more about photography. So, he enrolled in professional photographer, Wyman Meinzer’s well-known photography course at Texas Tech’s Junction campus.

It was that 15-day intensive course that changed Foster’s life.

“I was planning on attending law school after the next semester upon graduating that December,” Foster said, “I was planning on taking the LSAT that same summer I took the Junction course.”

“That one course flipped a switch.” Foster said

He threw all his law school plans out the window and decided to pursue a photography career.

While pursuing his master’s degree, Foster asked Meinzer if he could take the Junction course again. However, Meinzer wanted Foster to TA the class instead.

In 2011, Foster taught in Spain and had the chance to go back the next year; however, it was also Wyman’s last year teaching the Junction course. Foster was concerned for the future of the course and turned down the opportunity teach in Spain again.

“I saw a more accessible impact with Junction, because people could afford it more easily than study abroad,” Foster said, “I took over solely in 2012, and I have been teaching it ever sense.”

“One of my biggest teaching accomplishments is teaching that class,” Foster said, “I’ve run the whole history of it; I was a student, I was a TA, co-teacher, now teacher.”

Life After Junction:

One of the last classes he took as an undergrad that also helped him define his photography career was the senior-level course that allows students to run and produce The Agriculturist magazine. Foster was the magazine’s editor and photo editor.

The agricultural communications class, he said, did a lot for his career, because it gave him one of his first platforms to show off his work and build his portfolio.

Foster not only graduated Texas Tech with a degree in agricultural communications, but his masters as well.

“Communications is a part of every job; the agricultural education and communications college teaches its students how to communicate, work as a team, and articulate their thoughts,” Cindy Akers, Ph.D., and associate dean of Academic and Student Programs and professor in agricultural communications. “That makes our students very marketable in a job place.”

Foster said agricultural communications allows students to specialize in a particular field. It isn’t just a communications degree. It’s a very well-known field around the world that allows its students to adapt professionally.

“One of the things ACOM did for me was create a sense of diversity in my skill set,” Foster said.

One of the things ACOM did for me was create a sense of diversity in my skill set. Jerod Foster

Life Through the Lens:

As Foster was finishing his undergrad degree and starting his master’s, he began to build his skills in the professional world.

“Along the way, I started freelancing for magazines and different people,” Foster said.

“It was kind of like a waterslide at that point,” said Foster, “I just started picking up jobs and building my portfolio.”

Since then Foster has been featured in numerous publications and commercial jobs, including: New York Times, Pearson Education, Sports Illustrated, Texas FFA Association, Texas Highways, The Nature Conservancy, USDA, and Yeti Coolers.

Foster has seven published books as well.

“A big accomplishment in regards to photography is I was seen as a big enough contributor to not only photography, but also to the people who want to learn how to work in the industry or learn how to be better photographers, that I was very early on asked to write a book,” he said.

Foster has also developed a strong connection with the Nature Conservancy.

“I’m one of the go-to photographers for the Nature Conservancy,” Foster said, “I have a pretty healthy outlook on conservation practices and how conservation can be used to do a number of things, both with agriculture, the field of nature itself and also what it means for today’s youth.”

The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest conservation organization, and to be a part of that process and mechanism is a huge deal to Foster.

“That is a pretty cool accomplishment,” said Foster, “I love doing that kind of stuff.”

Besides doing freelance work and teaching the Junction course, Foster is also a professor at Texas Tech. He teaches photography, storytelling courses and study abroad.

This coming summer will be Foster’s fifth study abroad trip, He has taught in Spain, New Zealand, Scotland, and Ireland.

Foster has been recognized for all his teaching by being awarded the Presidents Excellence of Teaching award.

“It means a lot to win the award, because my job focuses on me being a good teacher, and being able to bring the industry into the classroom,” Foster said, “receiving that award so early on in my career as a faculty member means a whole lot to me.”

To broaden his job as a photographer and make him the great photographer he is, he travels the world.

“I believe in being worldly minded,” Foster said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to engage the world through photographs.”