Native American Day

Yesterday was a good day. Early in the morning I consulted the web to see if there was anything going on in my town worth attending. Initial results looked promising, a big balloon festival going on in downtown, Colorado Springs and a few other events going on around the area. Colorado Springs seemed like a long way to go and I figured there would be all kinds of reporters there from the big newspapers. So I consulted my hometown web site and was somewhat interested in a Native American Day Festival that was going to be held at the Dinosaur Resource Center just a few blocks from me in downtown Woodland Park.

Native American Dancer from the Seven Falls Indian Dance Troupe

Native American Dancer from the Seven Falls Indian Dance Troupe

There would be colorful Native American Dancers to photograph, food and merchandise to purchase and a beautiful sunny mountain morning to enjoy in my picturesque town. But What really piqued my interest was the simple sentence, “get close to some wolves”. I have been wanting to get up to the wolf center for a long time and have been unable to work in the visit. Now it seemed, the wolves were coming to me! The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation was going to be at the festival with some visiting wolves.

Apache the wolf ambassador from the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation in Guffy, Colorado

Apache the wolf ambassador from the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation in Guffy, Colorado

As it turned out, only one wolf attended the festival, but Apache was an amazing animal, well worth the visit. And the Native American Dancers from the Seven Falls Indian Dance Troupe were amazing too. Be sure to read all about it in my latest article on the Examiner!

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Patience

Had to drive down to the city yesterday for supplies from the health food store. I hate going down there, it’s too hot in the summer and the drivers are insane. It is hard to understand why driving straight down the road at the speed limit while trying to obey the traffic laws regarding lane changes and stop lights enrages some people so. Finally after enduring two hours of people cutting in front of me three inches from my front bumper, horn honking and middle fingers I was headed back up the pass to my oasis in the mountains.

Of course that is not the end of it as there are still a bunch of city people armed with a new pay check headed for Cripple Creek in a great hurry to squander it and return back to the city with nothing to show for it. The lower part of Ute Pass through the canyon is quite curvy and everyone wants to make sure they are the first into and out of the curves. I just hang back in my truck hoping to make it through without some maniac running me off the road. About half way to Woodland Park Highway 24 leaves the canyon on it’s way to the top of Ute Pass. The traffic thins out there and and I always breath a sigh of relief as my muscles relax and the feeling of peace comes over me that only comes with being on top of a mountain. Yesterday I was reminded at that moment of my years in the city longing for a job elsewhere that would take me to the mountains and away from the stress. Four years have passed since I said goodbye to the hustle and bustle and the mountains have become my new norm. As I relaxed and crested the pass I wondered if the people in the city are that tense all the time. I think it would have to shorten your life span to be that uptight all the time.

But then I was reminded that stress isn’t limited to people in the city. There are other kinds of stress like what we have endured fighting Tricia’s cancer. I’m glad we didn’t have to endure the stress of city life and the stress of cancer simultaneously which led me to my thought on patience that I am actually getting to in this post. Four years of watching her slowly deteriorate has taken its toll on my faith and as I drove up the pass I wondered if I was losing my faith. After thinking about it for a bit I realized my faith has not faltered, only my patience. I realized that patience is what helped me endure and escape the city, a lot of years of patience. I wonder how many people confuse faith with patience and give up on God because of it? I will endeavor to keep both and patience and faith together will prevail and we will endure the cancer too.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

I have been following the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with great interest this week and today it is coming to an end. Stage 7 of the race will go on today and a champion will be decided. I was fortunate this year that the race not only came to my town, but Woodland Park was chosen as a host city for the starting line of Stage 5. My current circumstances don’t allow me to get to many events so I was excited that I was going to get a chance to go to such a big production.

Thursday came and I was looking forward to the usual sunny morning on Friday when a huge thunderstorm rolled through in the night, spelling trouble for the morning weather. Friday morning came and as I feared the day was greeted with gloomy dark clouds, not a good thing for photographers. As the morning wore on the clouds started to spit a little rain and I pondered the possibility of having to use rain gear. With no break in the clouds I finally decided to put on the Aqua-Tech for the camera and Gortex for me. The silver lining? Maybe there won’t be so many photographers and I will get a shot that no one else will.

Down to the starting area in the rain I went. As I closed in on the podium I was confronted by a police officer. Race personnel and VIP’s only in the starting area. Undaunted, I looked around and spotting the media tent, I decided to give it a shot. The coveted press pass. I went in prepared to do battle for my prize, but a smiling face greeted me as the nice lady told me just to sign in with my name, email and affiliation. As I was already planning my Stage 5 Examiner story, I was well prepared. As I completed my sign in I was quickly awarded the green band for my arm. The lady said, “With this you can go anywhere, no questions asked.”.

So armed with my green band I strutted into the starting area past the officer who initially turned me away to get the pre-race pictures. Still cloudy and raining, I decided on ISO 400 to try to bring in some more light and get the shutter speed up a bit. There were racers signing in with the pretty girl on the stage and interviews with the radio guy to be captured for my story. There were also a few riders warming up on their bikes in the starting chute so I got some shots of them with the beautiful mountains surrounding Woodland Park in the background.

As start time closed in I decided to head for the west side of town on Highway 24 to capture the riders with Pikes Peak in the background. Unfortunately, the peak was enshrouded in clouds and fog at the moment and wasn’t too impressive. A few test shots revealed the fact that ISO 400 wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to have to go to F4 on the aperture because the depth of field would be too shallow. I didn’t like it, but  ISO 640 was required to be able to dial in an aperture of F5.6 which allowed a shutter speed of around 1000th of a second. Better some digital noise than a blurry picture I thought. Oh, and set up for  AI Servo focus… the riders would be moving fast. Made that mistake at the Motorcycle rally.

After a short wait and a cordial discussion with a motorcycle cop who was poised to lead the racers, I heard cheers and saw flashing lights. The racers were coming. I quickly positioned my camera and got some shots of the pack coming towards me. Soon they were past and I repositioned for the going away shots with the Peak in the background. By now the clouds and cleared a bit and the Peak was visible in all it’s glory once again.

Two minutes later and it was all over. By the end of today it will be all over for another year. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the conclusion!

Bikers Ride for Veterans in Woodland Park, Colorado

Saturday was a big day for S. W. Krull Imaging… I got my first “newsworthy” article published on the Examiner. Saturday was the day for the big annual biker rally for veterans called the Salute to Veterans Rally. I’ve written quite a few articles for the Examiner but up until Saturday had yet to trip the “newsworthy” counter.

So I woke up early on Saturday to check out my camera equipment. It has been a while since I have used it so I thought I’d better look it over. Sure enough, the battery was nearly dead so I found the charger and hooked it up. Cleaned the lens and checked the settings. It was going to be a bright sunny day and the bikes would be moving fast so I decided to go to manual with a 1000th of a second shutter speed. Aperture would have to be determined on site.

About a half hour before the mass start from the high school I headed down to main street to get some shots of the crowd and then off to the west side of town for a better view of Pikes Peak. Right on time I heard the roar of hundreds if not thousands of motorcycles and the police escort and color guard appeared, followed by huge procession of bikes heading for Cripple Creek and the main celebration.

The event was quite a sight and well worth the effort to attend. Soon the bikes dwindled to a trickle and I headed home to look at the pictures, 125 in all, and write my story. One of the first boxes to check is the newsworthy box. So I checked the requirements and after a little thought decided to go for it. The article went into the awaiting approval queue and all there was left to do was wait. It wasn’t long and I got the news… approved 🙂

 

Windows of the Soul

I was prompted to do a follow up on my previous blog post about the soulful gaze of animal eyes. Last night I was awakened by a racket in the tree on on the front porch. As I investigated the source of the noise I found myself face to face with with a pair of raccoon youngsters. As I stared into their eyes to see what they were going to do I was struck by the fact that they were staring back into mine.

The incident got me to thinking about the eyes and the soul and the intelligence of various animal species. Many animals, from our kitty cats and dogs to lions and tigers and monkeys at the zoo look deeply into our eyes as if trying to understand what we are thinking. So on the subject of oddball things to wonder about, I am wondering how these animals of supposed limited intelligence know to look into the eyes of another. Why do they look into the eyes? With their limited brain power why is it that they don’t just look at the chest of another, or perhaps arms and hands that may be moving about, sometimes in a threatening manner?

I think the answer lies in the fact that our furry friends know a lot more than we think. Perhaps they are aware of the universal notion that the eyes are indeed the windows of the soul. Just like people, they can look into the eyes of another and discern intent, good and evil.

I think the lesson to be taken away here is that humans are not as far above the rest of the inhabitants of this planet as we would like to think we are. It also means our responsibility for compassion and kindness must extend beyond our human brothers and sisters to our four legged brethren as well.

Soul of a Bear

Yesterday I was profoundly saddened as I was listening to a conversation between some hunters as they discussed their excitement at the approaching hunting seasons. They spoke of being unable to sleep the night before a hunt from the opportunity to get out in the woods and enjoy nature and the feeling of freedom from standing on ground that may have never known man’s feet before.

Black Bear

I was thinking that I have those same feelings before a photo trip. I hike to the same places, see the same mountains, trees, lakes and wildlife. But then they spoke of the thrill of killing an elk or a bear and I was reminded of a picture of a bear that I was able to snap some time ago. I was excited to finally get a shot of a bear. What I was not prepared for was the feeling that came over me when I saw the animals eyes through Photoshop. They say the eyes are the window to the soul and the beautiful spirit showing through this bear’s eyes was truly moving.

This little family of bears was not threatening in any way. They were just meandering about their business of being bears. They stopped to look at me to make sure I wasn’t a threat and seemed to be a little curious as to what I was up to. This has been true of all the animals I have encountered in my adventures in the mountain wilderness. Some of the more timid animals have run at the sight of me, but many just stood there and looked at me, completely unaware that I could be any kind of threat to them. Just as the bear family, they all were just going about their business of being deer, elk, and coyotes.

When I encounter these animals and briefly become part of their lives, the peace and solitude I experience is hard to describe in words. I cannot imagine breaking the silence and peace with the sound of a gunshot and watching one of these beautiful souls drop into a lifeless heap. I wonder at the kind of spirit that enjoys the sudden disruption in the solitude of nature’s tranquility and the end of a life that was previously minding it’s own business unaware that it was a target in a game for someone’s entertainment.

I can only think that such people have not seen these animals the way that I have. They have not looked into their eyes and seen the spirit I have seen. They have not looked through the window to the soul in this beautiful part of God’s Creation.

Time Flies

Wow… hard to believe, it seems like summer was just getting started and I was looking forward to reporting on the summer running activities. The better part of summer is now behind us and I am looking forward to autumn events.

There is that moment every summer when there is a sudden twinge of cool in the air and you know that summer is starting to lose it’s grip. We had a cool spell this week and I felt that twinge. However I think it was just a cool spell and the blast of cool air was just a coincidence. I think there is plenty of hot summer fun yet to enjoy before we start to feel the crisp cool air of autumn in the mountains.

That moment is coming though, and the way time is flying this summer the moment is probably coming quicker than I would like. The Pikes Peak Road Runners have their fall running schedule posted and it is chock full of events for everyone. Autumn is still a few weeks away but it isn’t too soon to start looking ahead.

Watch for my full report on the fall schedule on my Examiner Outdoor Recreation news column! It’s going to be a good one! Click the subscribe button beside my profile picture in any of my articles for a free subscription to the Examiner and to my articles and updates!