Destruction

I have been enjoying immensely the time I have recently spent in the solitude of the wilderness, time that I spend walking and communing with the Almighty. Time I also spend seeking, experiencing and photographing His creation. The furry creatures whose paths I cross are always busy about their business of eating, drinking and occasionally caring for their young if they happen to have them. They are never threatening, usually just curious and sometimes afraid. Even the so called predators are normally just busy searching for food and completely uninterested in the lives and activities of humans.

Doe and fawns

Doe watching over her fawns

So another thing I wonder about as I walk in the creation is how can some people spend their lives caring for and protecting the creation while others can think of nothing but destruction. Some are intent on killing and maiming, others in their lust for money and power destroy the air and water. Politicians are bought and sold by the highest bidder to enact policies that remove any obstacles to their greed. Others dream up wars, sometimes to eliminate people who don’t believe as they do, sometimes to take territory that doesn’t belong to them and sometimes to just have power over others.

There are many activities God would have us busying ourselves with and as I commune with Him on my walks and hikes I have been wondering if my work trying to help the wolves, other animals and the environment honors Him. Is He only concerned with souls, or is He also concerned with the rest of His creation? As is often the case, the answers to my questions come from His written Word. At the end of the age, when those who seek to destroy for their own gain have overpowered the good in this world, His Word says: “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” Revelation 11:18.

To destroy them which destroy the earth. So God is watching over His earth, keeping track of who destroys it so as to put a stop to it before it is too late. But what is the earth? Is it just the dirt we walk on? Of course not, the earth is the planet and everything on it, the people, the animals, the environment that sustains us, the blue sky, clean air, clear water, oceans, fish, trees and the and the great beauty and magnificence that makes this world a pleasant place to live. God loves His entire creation and watches over it with great concern. So beware to those who think that they they are doing good by participating in the greed in the name of business, killing, maiming, polluting and poisoning in secret. God is watching and remembering, for it is also written: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord “ Romans 12:19.

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Photography Book

I believe this is some sort of record… 9 years to read one book. In my defense, it was lost for quite awhile, packed in a box in a storage unit. Extreme Digital Photography by Johnathan Chester. I still remember finding this book, not too long after I got my first digital camera. The book is about photography under harsh conditions such as weather, natural disasters and adventures in amazing places. I remember I was so excited, the pictures were magnificent, the stories fascinating and the information critical, or so I thought.

I started reading the book, and for reasons I can no longer recall, put it aside to put out all the fires that began cropping up in my life. Eventually we prepared for the move to the mountains by renting a storage unit and the book ended up in the aforementioned box which I then lost track of in the move. Years later I found the box and safeguarded it along with some boxes of important film and prints from the 90’s. Then of course came Tricia’s illness which allowed zero time for concentration on a book. Finally, after all these years, I am in the same place at the same time as the book with time to read it.

The book still feels good in my hands, the excitement to learn new things still smoldering and the pictures still magnificent. The information unfortunately is a bit dated. New cameras and chips are a good part of the discussion in the book, but at the time my Canon 10D was cutting edge. Two megabyte chips were out, but not all cameras could accommodate such awesome storage. Six megapixel cameras were the new standard, unless of course you were a real pro and could fork out the $7000 for the eleven megapixel pro model. Only one year earlier I had to pay $600.00 for a half a megabyte high speed chip.

Elk Herd

Elk Herd

Now of course very affordable DLSR cameras are in the twenty megapixel range. A thirty gigabyte high speed chip is only $30 or so and I just purchased a terabyte backup disk for only $40. It is breathtaking to consider how things have changed in a decade. The book recommends bringing along a film camera and one hundred rolls of film as a backup…  It might be difficult to even find one hundred rolls of film these days, who knows, I haven’t bought film in in a decade.

However, many subjects in the book are as relevant today as they were nine years ago. Electronics are still vulnerable to the elements as are our frail human bodies. Lenses still struggle in extreme temperatures as do batteries and backup equipment. The images captured by the writer are as awesome today as they were a decade ago, and I’m excited that I am finally getting the chance to read the book. Oh… one other thing… now in order to read the book I had to make a trip to the Dollar Store for some reading glasses so I could actually see the text…

Milestone

Well I finally did it. 3000 images on iStock by Getty Images. This has been my goal for a couple of years now, but one problem after another built a wall of resistance that I just could not climb. I uploaded my first image on July 31, 2006 after an article was published in a new magazine I was receiving called Digital Photographer Magazine discussing a new method of selling photographs that was catching fire at that time. I had been with a traditional agency for a year at that time without much success and was looking for something new. So I took the plunge and not much later images began to sell. Royalties were pretty skimpy back then, but having some images showing in the sold column was very encouraging.

2007 was probably my most prolific year at iStock and a fun year for Tricia and me as a couple. We had an antiques booth at a mall in Arvada and I would run up to Boulder and Golden while she was stocking and pricing and shoot everything I could find. I think I had over 1000 images accepted that year, which was pretty good since image inspections were pretty rough back then. I think in those days it wasn’t unusual to have 30% rejected. 2007 was also the year I wisely abandoned my EOS-1D and began to use the inferior 10D. It wasn’t nearly the camera that the 1D was, but it produced a large image while the 1D only had the chip for a medium, which at the time resulted in significantly less revenue than sales of a large could bring.

In 2008 I purchased my 40D and a better lens. I would have uploaded more to iStock, but I was getting a bit disillusioned by the miniscule royalties and infrequent payouts so I cancelled my exclusive contract with iStock to start uploading to Alamy. I still remember the day I gave up my exclusive crown… I regretted it the second I hit the cancel button. I called them and begged them to reinstate me, but they said it would take 30 or 90 days or something like that. Anyway, I figured I might as well give Alamy a try as long as I was already committed. So that year I ended up sending about 1000 images to Alamy. Unfortunately 2008 was the year the economy blew up so that effort was for naught.

2010 brought big changes to iStock when Getty Images bought it and began to sweeten the exclusive pot for exclusive artists. So I began the long journey back to exclusive by removing all royalty free images from all the places they had been sent. Eventually I got my exclusive crown back and began to upload in earnest. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before Tricia’s illness took precedence over everything and I was about 500 images shy of meeting my next self set milestone at iStock of 3000 approved images.

Stone Quarry

Finally this spring, with my new hiking opportunities and all my running around to Colorado Springs to take care of business, I have been piling up some images again. And today was the big day… my 3000th approval. Yesterday’s hike up the Red Rock Canyon Trail put me over the top. It isn’t showing yet since the data base indexing doesn’t run everyday, but I know I have made it. I’m sure no one else really cares and there won’t be any awards or fanfare for it, but I know. That’s good enough for me 🙂

On Euphemisms and Trophy Hunting

According to Wikipedia,“A euphemism is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.”. As a writer, I often go to great effort to discover the word that most precisely represents the idea that I am trying to convey. Here I’ve used the word precisely, which means exact and accurate. Euphemisms are the opposite, they are words used dishonestly to manipulate the reader into buying into an alternate reality.

That said, the reason I’m so fired up this morning is because of the use of two particular words that has been disturbing me for some time and they surfaced again yesterday when I was reading the rebuttal from the woman who killed the giraffe and then posed smiling beside it’s dead body. I have no need of mentioning her name or continuing the discussion about her and her actions, others are fully engaged in that war of words. What I am interested in is the repeated use of a couple of words by trophy hunters in general to make what they do sound more palatable in an effort to limit controversy so they can continue depriving the rest of us of the beauty and diversity of life in the wilderness.

I have picked this particular case to write about because the woman in question deftly used two commonly used words in her rebuttal to manipulate readers. First of all she claims to have “harvested” the animal for the villagers, which is ridiculous on it’s face. Who would spend thousands of dollars to go kill an animal to provide food for starving villagers when it would be much more economical to just send some money to have canned food shipped to them which would have lasted much longer than the meat from one animal. Secondly and more disturbing to me anyway, is the use of the word “harvest”. That particular word is used to convey the idea that the animals were placed there for the sole purpose of being used by human beings for their possible products. Like a field of wheat just sitting there waiting for a combine to come by and collect it for the food it can produce. According to Merriam’s Free Dictionary, the first three definitions of the word harvest refer to the gathering of a crop that has been planted. The word was not meant to be used to describe the killing of animals.

Animals are not wheat. A wheat field has no emotions, it feels no pain and has no place in the natural order. It would not be there unless man had deliberately put it there for no other reason than to be harvested by humans for food. The environment would not know the difference and would not be adversely affected by it’s absence. In contrast, animals have families that will be disrupted by their destruction. If they have young, it is likely that their offspring will suffer the prolonged agony of starvation and thirst. Some animals, such as wolves are members of a complex social structure that will be severely disrupted by the destruction of one of their pack. In the case of the destruction of predators, the entire environment can be thrown out of balance by the unchecked proliferation of another species.

The precise word for the killing of animals for food or products is “slaughter”. This is exactly what the trophy hunters are doing, they are slaughtering the animal for it’s fur, horns, antlers or often just it’s head so it can be placed on their wall as a testament to their great courage and skill. In the case of shooting a giraffe, it seems to me that sort of hunting requires about as much bravery and skill as going into a field and shooting a cow or a horse. In any case, crops are harvested, animals are slaughtered.

The second word twisted 180 degrees by this person in her rebuttal is the word “conservation”. She states that she has a “passion for conservation”. The word conservation comes from the root word conserve, which means to provide safekeeping, protection or preservation. Everyone knows that the magnificent wildlife of Africa is disappearing at an alarming rate, due to poaching, hunting, and habitat loss. It is difficult to understand how someone could actually believe they are safeguarding an animal by destroying it and it’s offspring. The idea that she is somehow preserving the environment from this one giraffe is ridiculous. This is once again the deliberate misuse of a word to plant an idea in the reader’s mind that isn’t true. The word conservation has been hijacked by hunters as a nice way of describing the destruction of wildlife.

If what the trophy hunters are doing is so righteous, why do they need to resort to linguistic acrobatics to make it palatable to the public? They are fully aware that what they are doing is upsetting to everyone else so they employ the dishonest use of words to manipulate readers. So next time you see the words harvested and conservation used in reference to killing an animal, just keep in mind that you are being manipulated. Animals are not harvested, they are slaughtered and usually for large sums of money paid by the killer for their own selfish use, usually to the detriment of everyone else including the animals and the environment. Trophy hunting is rarely conservation, and when it is it is the result of previous hunting and poaching of the predators that were keeping the environment in balance. Don’t be fooled by euphemisms.

Spring Snowshoeing

Took advantage of the big spring snowstorm to get in a snowshoe hike. If you count a Colorado winter as the months from September to May, this was almost the first year since I began snowshoeing a decade ago that I didn’t go at all. I was pretty sure I was going to miss the entire season until this morning when I awoke to another eight inches of the white stuff.

Spring Peak

North Face in April

I can still remember the trip to EMS to purchase our first snowshoes. The previous winter our dog had gotten some sort of strange blood disease and had to go to the Aspen Park Vet Clinic every day for something like two weeks and spend the entire day for testing and treatments. So I would drop him off and head over to Meyer Ranch for a trail run before heading off to work. But the snow season was getting underway and soon the snow was too deep for my running shoes. By then I was hooked on winter trail running and was seriously wanting some snowshoes. But winter came to an end in the front range and the idea was shelved for the summer.

Then came the huge winter snows of 1997. Three feet of snow in October buried my running trail in my woods near Parker. Just as it was beginning to melt, we got a couple more feet on Thanksgiving. I knew that wasn’t going to be melting anytime soon, so I jumped at the opportunity to get the snowshoes. Tricia thought it looked like so much fun that she wanted some too. So every morning I would head out into the darkness for a couple of hours to romp through the woods, and then again when I got back home for some more exercise with Tricia and Bear, who still liked to go walking, but wasn’t able to go running with me anymore.

Mule Deer

Doe in deep snow

So an entire winter with no snowshoeing had me feeling pretty low.  Every year I had managed to get in at least one snowshoe run, so this morning when I saw the snow I knew I would have to get it done. The snow was so deep I just sat in my chair in the front yard and strapped them on, which turned out to be a mistake because the snow was already melting furiously on the streets and I had to walk in the ditch all the way to the trail. Once on the trail I could really feel the year of inactivity. On the steep climb to the first level I thought I was going to spit out my lungs, but I survived and the view of the snow covered north face came into view. It wasn’t that great, but by the time I got to the trail back down some more interesting clouds had moved in. The trip down was a lot more fun than the trip up the mountain, with some snowshoe skiing down the switchbacks and a deer that came to see what I was up to.

It was a great time despite one face plant and one shoestring turned into a giant ball of ice from the melting and freezing that was going on in the shade of the pines. And now I can still say I haven’t missed a year of snowshoeing since I started, for whatever that is worth.

Spring Snow

It was about this time one year ago in a big April snowstorm while I was snowed in up in the mountains that the hospital decided to release Tricia to a nursing home following the surgery on her spine to remove the cancer in hopes that she would be able to retain the use of her legs. I remember she called me in distress because it had been four hours since she had gotten any pain medicine and she was really starting to freak. To make a long story short, the nursing home didn’t even have her pain meds and didn’t really care. After they hung up on me for trying to get it straightened out I made some calls and eventually she got a police escort in an ambulance back to the hospital. Needless to say there is one nursing home that I badmouth every time I get the chance 🙂

Aerial Garden

Aerial of Garden of the Gods from Mt. Cutler

So anyway, here it is, the middle of April and I’m snowed in again. I’m sure I could get out if I really had to, but I don’t like driving in the snow in the mountains. Even Fonzy, my die hard outside cat has decided to come in out of the cold and is sacked out on the bed sound asleep. So today I am taking the opportunity to get caught up on my stock photo uploads and my Examiner writing. I have been on some new hikes in Colorado Springs these days as I try to finish up my business with Tricia’s passing. I have been on a number of trails in the Garden of the Gods and now one in Cheyenne Canon. I have been wanting to explore the canyon for a long time so I am excited to finally get to do it. I made the Mt. Cutler Trail hike the other day and got some nice pictures of the views around there as well as some of Helen Hunt Falls, a nice place just up the road from there.

So now I have about a dozen photos ready to upload when I can get to the library to use their fast connection and a new article on the Mount Cutler Trail published on my Examiner account. What I’m going to do the rest of the day, I don’t know. I guess it’s time to look through the DVD’s and see if there is anything that trips my trigger. The forecast is calling for snow through tomorrow, so here’s to hoping they are wrong. I’m ready to see the sunshine again.

Bald Mountain

The trail to Bald Mountain is only a few blocks from my house, a five or six mile round trip journey to the highest point in the local vicinity. I used to like to climb up there at least once a week to see all the birds and enjoy the tranquility up there. From there the traffic can no longer be heard at all and almost no one ever  goes up there.

Bald Mountain

Bald Mountain

It was about one year ago that Tricia lost the use of her legs and I had to care or be within a short distance in case there were problems, unless of course I could get someone to sit for her. But people are busy and a sick person hooked up to oxygen hoses is a scary prospect, so I pretty much just sat on my butt for a year. Getting  back into shape this month has been a challenge. Weak and stiff muscles and bones don’t want to respond to the challenge as quickly as they used to.

But I have been diligently hiking the lower trails and my strength is coming back. There is a saddle between two peaks that is the next step from the lower trails and is on a pretty steep incline. Successfully made that climb a few times recently, so yesterday when I got there I felt pretty good and decided to just go for it. Yesterday was the first time in over a year that I had been there, I did it. I made it to the top of Bald Mountain. And I think it was some kind of breakthrough.

I didn’t spend the entire time on the hike thinking about the past, only of the tranquility of the present and some of the future. I noticed that I was just enjoying the fact that I had no place to be, no one calling me on the cell phone, nothing to hurry back down the mountain to take care of. In fact, feeling no guilt at all, I just turned the stupid phone off. There was peace to be found on the mountainside yesterday and my nature therapy seems to have finally paid off. For some, a lot of talking is the proper therapy. For me, some quality alone time in the woods is the best therapy.

The view from the top is magnificent and teeming with wildlife, albeit mostly quite diminutive, especially during the day. The birds were singing loudly and happily and hawks soared high above. The sound of the breeze in the pines is very soothing and the solitude therapeutic. The Mosquito Mountain Range is visible off to the west and Pikes Peak looms overhead to the south. The Rampart Range and Devil’s Tower provide the panorama to the north. The exercise was great and I’m looking forward to many more treks to the top of Bald Mountain. It makes me want to say to the world, “I’m back!” 🙂