Canon 1.4x and the Fox

Well my buddy gave me a little more time to play with the 1.4XL Canon lens extender and I finally got a decent day to take it out for some fun! Naturally Big Dog was ready to go at sunrise today so off we went into the early morning light. I scanned the open field for my intended subject, some sort of wild animal, a fox, coyote, hawk, eagle, deer… just about anything that a camera can focus on. As luck would have it I spotted a red fox frozen in the grass, intent upon some kind of prey, most likely a mouse I imagine. And just as I was ready to snap the picture he noticed me, turning a wary eye towards me and the big dog. Fortunately I was ready, zeroed in with focus right on his eye and I snapped the image. The lighting turned out to be amazing, the fox was facing the west and the sun was rising in the east right behind him. As he turned his head the light fell upon his face as if I was in a studio planning a portrait. Amazing 🙂

Fox in Grass

So the 1.4XL appears to pass the sharpness test, the fox’s eye from about thirty yards away is about as sharp as it can be. Of course with my 200 mm F4L Canon lens with a 1.4x attached is not going to give me much depth of field, so I can’t claim that anything other than the beautiful predator’s eyeball is going to be in sharp focus but the image is attractive enough for me to put up for sale on my stock site and gift item site. Also, the part of my totally unscientific testing that I was most interested in… Without the 1.4x, shooting the fox in the field at about the same range I only was able to render a 2×3 inch segment of the image, while with the 1.4x on this image, the final result was a 4×6 inch segment. While I am not going to be making any billboards with an image this size, it is at least a printable and saleable image. My website is showing that it is able to create a 7×10 inch unframed print of this image. I think I will redo it soon when I have more time so that it can be a more useful 8×10 print. Naturally if you are going to put it in a frame with matting any size frame can be used.

Well, hope you enjoy the image, and I hope that I can get out and shoot a few more with the 1.4x before I have to return it! Also I am hoping to be able to purchase the new Canon 100-400 Mark II before autumn 🙂 We will see ????

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Fun in Cripple Creek

A good memory from last year… had to go down to Cripple to look at a house so I went early to get my favorite 50 cent breakfast. I was seated in Bronco Billy’s restaurant by 10 enjoying biscuits and gravy with some scrambled eggs. Granted… that’s technically two 50 cent breakfasts but who is going to quibble 🙂

Then I needed to get the doggies some exercise so we buzzed over to Victor to climb Little Grouse Mountain and take in some scenery. Difficult to make out the Sangre’s today though with all the smoke from the fires but the doggies enjoyed the climb immensely 🙂 During the hike I could hear the mournful sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor narrow gauge railroad which reminded me of how long I have been trying to get a shot of it!

Victor Cripple Creek Train

I was thinking I had seen a good vantage point in Victor for getting a shot of the train, but if there is I could not find it. So back to Cripple we went, in search of the tracks. I could see the railroad bed beside the road for awhile so when I got to town I followed it using some rough dirt roads until I found a place I could park and access the tracks. Then all I had to do was find a comfy spot and wait a short time for one of the trains to go through. I discovered that the track there is a two way so it is a good place to get the train coming one way and then again coming from the other direction. It took me about an hour to gather all the views and angles that I thought I might need.

Sat down in the truck to look at my haul and the breeze was blowing, birds chirping and thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance, perfect recipe for shut eye! I guess the storm must have passed without dumping any rain though because I woke up a while later, boiling in the sun 😦 Still had about an hour though so I took the doggies over to the Double Eagle parking garage out of the sun and had a whirl at the slot machines. Didn’t do too well there, lost my $5 that I put in, but I got a free beer so I’m calling it a break even… close enough anyway 🙂

Checked out the house, which turns out not to be finished yet… no wall sockets or furnace of any kind. I’m suspicious that not everything is being done to code, so we will have to wait and see if there will be any financing available… Honestly I don’t really know why I am continuing to look… It’s been a discouraging 6 months looking for a place to live. Going down to the city is out of the question… so don’t even mention it! I spent my entire life trying to figure out how to get out of the city and now that I’m out I’m not going back! Who knows… maybe this one will work out after all, small but I did kind of like it and the location.

Herd of Elk

Then one final treat as I was on my way home… an elk herd in the high prairie land between Cripple and Divide. Unfortunately I was not able to get very close, but still got some nice ones of the distant herd. I thought of trying to get closer, but there was a fence and as other people began to gather the elk noticed and began to move further away. It’s not likely that I could have gotten closer even if I had tried.

Back home now processing the pictures while listening to the sound of thunder and hail rattling my roof. All in all an excellent day I’d say 🙂

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

The Blizzard

The weather has been miserable for photography these days, haven’t had my camera out in over a week. Summer is pretty rough for taking pictures in the mountains. Between the intense sun, haze and later on smoke unless we are very fortunate the mountains are barely visible. The wildlife spends the warm lazy days lying in the shade in the highest elevations, coming out only in darkness to forage for food.

Three does in snow

Which got me to thinking about winter and my favorite activity, snow shoeing 🙂 I was recalling this photo shoot… the snow was just coming down so hard for several days without a break, we were just buried under several feet of snow. So much snow in fact that the wildlife was having difficulty moving around to get food. That year there was a herd of deer trapped in the mountains that was surely going to starve to death without assistance. The Wildlife Service was going to abide by it’s strict no interference policy and just let the animals die until there was a massive outcry from the public and they were forced to relent. Bales of hay were finally airlifted by helicopter to rescue the stranded animals, but the public was strictly forbidden to take matters into their own hands in other affected areas. Fortunately Coloradans are generally rebels and no one listened to the authorities, saving many animals that would have perished.

I lived a short distance from a game reserve where someone had delivered a couple of bales of hay to our beloved herd of deer, but unfortunately the snow was so deep that they could not get to it. Since I walked that forest every morning looking for pictures for my stock photo business I knew the area like the back of my hand, including each and every game path throughout the entire area. So I got the idea to put on my snowshoes and pack down their paths so they could move around. The snowplows had been by once so the snow on the street was only about a foot deep and getting to the woods was pretty easy. However, once I hit the deep snow it was an entirely different story! But I persevered, diving into the waist deep snow with short steps so that there would be a good solid path for the animals. I remember the snow getting deeper and deeper until I was struggling through chest deep powder gasping for air and having to stop and rest after only a few steps. My snowshoes would plunge almost all the way to the ground and then become covered with all the snow on top of my feet. It was all I could do to lift each foot out of the deep trench for another step. For a while there I thought I was going to spit out my lungs!

Winter Deer.jpg

I could see the deer in the mist, looking on curiously. They were quite used to me walking through there with my camera so there was no alarm and they didn’t try to run. Mostly they were hanging out under the thickest trees to avoid getting buried while they slept. I of course had brought my camera, well protected by my Aquatech rain cover, in case I could get close enough to the deer to get some pictures. Multitasking I guess it was 🙂

And indeed, I did get some of the greatest deer in snow pictures that I have ever managed to obtain! At one point I was struggling to get through some snow and brush when I burst into a clearing and found these three beautiful ladies staring at me like, “Hey, what’s going on?” I also found a few more cuties just hanging out, eating the bark and leftover leaves on the ubiquitous scrub oak trees prevalent in that area.

Doe-Pair

Most gratifying of all though was the sight of the deer beginning almost immediately to use the pathways that I had created for them 🙂 They seemed very grateful for the assistance and I was grateful for the opportunity to have done my part in the great effort made by fellow Coloradans to spare the animals from great suffering. In fact it worked so well that I made it a habit from then on to don my snowshoes and keep their paths clear for the rest of my remaining time in the Parker area. It is now one of my fondest memories from my time life there 🙂

Facing Fear

I have been wanting to ride my bike to the overlook near Victor along highway 67 for some time now… I started up the road a couple of weeks ago, but I have to admit… I chickened out. Not a big fan of cliffs and dropoffs and even less a fan of miners in their pickup trucks angry that they are on their way to work 😦

Victor Mining DistrictRode my bike down to breakfast this morning with the intention of contemplating the ride again, but still not too sure about it. After a nice egg sandwich and hash browns I buzzed over to the bank only to discover that it was not going to be open for another hour. From the bank I could see my nemesis, the highway winding around the mountain towards Victor. With an hour to kill I didn’t have much choice so I turned my headset towards Victor and started to pedal. Then I thought better of it and turned around, before getting mad at myself and turning around again, LOL. Well, I finally just headed down the highway, what could it hurt to try it out?

It has been a long time since I was riding regularly in Woodland, but after a half a mile or so it was old hat again, “Just like riding a bike” I guess 🙂 The hill really wasn’t that steep, small sprocket in the front and somewhere around the middle sprocket on the back had me gliding up the hill at about 10mph with no trouble. A few trucks roared past, but it was no trouble to just get on the shoulder for a minute well out of range of the disgruntled blue collar mayhem. It was probably only about a 20 minute ride, far quicker and easier than I had conjured it up to be in my mind 🙂

Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see from there on this day. Clouds and fog almost completely obscured the view of the Sangre de Cristos, and there was no wildlife in sight. No need at all to open my backpack and get out my big #Canon. But I did take a shot with my phone camera, if only to prove that I was there today 🙂 This picture is the beauty that can be seen from this overlook on the right day!

The ride back down to Cripple Creek was nothing like the terrorizing downhill plunge that I had envisaged, and was in fact kind of fun 🙂 So I guess FDR was right, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 🙂 Now I’m looking forward to riding all the way into Victor and up into the mining district where I can do a photo study of the historic abandoned structures with the greatest view of the Sangres of all in the background. Stay tuned!

Tunnel Quest

One of my favorite projects was my train tunnel finding adventures. This took all summer a few years ago to locate and photograph with an actual train in the picture! The tracks west of Denver are quite busy though, so it often took only up to an hour of waiting before a train came through, one direction or the other. The real fun was the hiking in, many times on rugged trails or along the railroad bed itself. Don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I wanted to photograph the trains for my stock photo business and finding the tracks and the tunnels was a fun way to do it I guess 🙂 The complete set of print and gift pictures from my adventures can be found here and the commercial stock version of those images can be seen here.

Rollins-Pass

For railroad buffs there is no better place than the Colorado Front Range mountains with tracks winding through the valleys through dozens of tunnels. Union Pacific, BNSF, Amtrack and the Santa Fe lines share the tracks as they haul freight, coal and travelers between Denver’s Union Station and the west coast.

Beautiful Union Station in downtown Denver is the railway hub of Rocky Mountain west. From there the trains head west through Denver towards the Front Range foothills. When train watching always remember to respect the boundaries of the train engineer. The engineers are responsible for the safety of their trains and don’t need the headache of worrying about an over zealous train enthusiast standing on or near the tracks. I recommend a vantage point at least 30 yards from the tracks, safe for the viewer and distant enough to keep the engineer from being nervous about your safety as well.

map_coalcreek

Tunnel #1 is one of the first places to catch a view of the massive steel snakes as they make their journeys to and from the great American West. To reach the the tunnel take Highway 93 north out of Golden to Highway 72 and head west. On the north side of the road look for the first huge knoll which is the formation that the tunnel passes through. Hike through the meadow to the north to see the north side of the tunnel or up the steep embankment to view the south entrance. Generally the wait shouldn’t be more than a half hour to an hour before a train comes through.

Tunnel #2 is on Plainview road, a dirt road that heads north from Highway 72 just east of Tunnel #1. The road is unpaved but easily passable with a passenger car. Proceed along the road and find a place to park when you come to the tracks. The tunnel is north of there and can be approached on foot by hiking north at a safe distance along the tracks. Watch locomotives proceeding in and out of the tunnel against the beautiful backdrop of the Boulder Flatirons.

Divide-Train-5

The tracks then proceed into the foothills through El Dorado Canyon State Park with Tunnel #10 being accessible from the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail. El Dorado Canyon is one of the most beautiful places this writer has ever come across. I have done a lot of hiking and climbing there but have never made the climb to Tunnel #10, which remains on my train watching bucket list.

Tunnel #2 Map

Another great place for train viewing is on Gross Reservoir Road near the town of Coal Creek on Highway 72. Follow Gross Dam Road to the tracks and find a suitable parking spot. Tunnel #19 can be found by hiking west along the tracks for a half mile or so, while Tunnel #18 can be viewed by hiking east. Fantastic views of the trains and the peaks of the Colorado Continental Divide to the west can be experienced by climbing to the top of the bluffs east of the road and north of the tracks. Trains can be viewed breaking through the foothills from El Dorado Canyon as you look to the east.

map_crescent

The little mountain town of Pinecliffe further west on Highway 72 is the next good viewing location. From there you can hike east along the tracks across a little bridge to view Tunnel #29 and the massive cliff above. This is a nice place to visit when the aspen trees are clothed in their golden autumn glory.

map_rollins.jpg

Mountain wilderness limits accessibility to the tracks between Pinecliffe and Rollinsville but Rollins Pass offers some of the most spectacular train viewing imaginable with beautiful mountain scenery, trestles, bridges and the crown glory of the Eastern Slopes, the Moffat Tunnel. Completed in February of 1928, the Moffat Tunnel

Moffat-Tunnel

cuts 6.2 miles through the solid rock of the mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the Colorado Continental Divide. The tracks and road leading to the tunnel entrance offer wonderful nostalgic photo opportunities and a journey into American history. Rollins Pass Road is a rough ride but well worth the trouble. The engraved concrete Moffat Tunnel entrance set against the massive mountains of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is quite picturesque and the railroad activity there fascinating to watch. For the more adventurous, a hike to Crater Lakes in the high peaks behind the tunnel is worth the climb.

Crater-Lakes

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Happy Memorial Day

Ok, now I’m angry… I was going to pay my respects on this day quietly, to the courageous men and women who have given their lives and some who have given limbs so that we can live free in this great land we call America. But now several of my so called friends have decided to desecrate the day by coming out in favor of the despicable NFL children who dishonor the flag that much greater men have deemed worthy of their very lives.

By voicing support for these degenerates you disrespect all those who have given their lives, their grieving families, their descendants, and all those who have faithfully and selflessly served.

There is a difference between right and privilege, yes you have the right to disrespect the flag if you choose, but you do not have the right to be an NFL football player. That is a privilege just like anyone else has who works for a large enterprise. When you are working you are representing your company and make no mistake, if you were working in the real world and your behavior at work cost your company 10% of it’s annual revenue you would be summarily fired on the spot.

Grow up and show some respect for those greater than you. To the rest who support those players, show some respect for this day and the men and women who have made this life of freedom possible.

And to the vast majority of people who love this land, Happy Memorial Day and thank you for your service to those who have given all!

Sheer Joy

I got my first camera over 30 years ago… it was a Minolta X-700 35mm camera, well before the advent of personal computers, camera phones, Photoshop… and even before auto focus. It was state of the art gear at the time though, with auto exposure, aperture priority and shutter priority modes and a sync socket for professional flash units. I didn’t buy the camera to make money, only to finally have a camera that didn’t disappoint me every time I got my film back from the lab. I wanted to have clear pictures of my kids and pets for me to look at and enjoy. I got the camera to experience the sheer joy of photography.

Red Fox Napping

Red Fox Napping

It never occurred to me that I could make money with a camera until I was going through a divorce… a guy at work admonished me to be sure to keep the camera, that I could make money with it! I didn’t really think too much about it at the time but I knew that I wanted the camera anyway, so it was the one thing that didn’t go out the door with the ex along with everything else I owned 😦 But… as it turns out, child support is expensive and so was photography at the time. Buying film was pretty low on the things to do list and the camera remained unused in the bag for years, except on special occasions like trips to visit the kids and my rare trip to Phoenix with my buddies for the first annual Phoenix Marathon.

In he early 90’s, the computer business was changing rapidly and I could see the writing on the wall… there wasn’t going to be much use for mainframe operating systems analysts much longer. I wondered what I was going to do for a living if my computer career went completely south. People kept telling me that the pictures I took were better than the ones they hired someone to shoot and I recalled the words of my friend about making money with my camera. So I thought what the heck… a little research about how to go into business and I put out my shingle. A decade of senior portraits and wedding photography later I purchased my first digital camera, the Canon EOS-1D. It was awesome and without the cost of film and processing to consider I could finally consider my dream of becoming a stock photographer. Those were great times, not many photographers had made the transition to digital, prices for images were good and the internet was exploding along with the need for quality imagery. The future looked bright!

But then the price of the cameras came down, image quality at all levels improved by leaps and bounds and it wasn’t long before everyone was getting in on the action. Not long after I started submitting images I had a large enough portfolio that I could count on receiving a check every week and I was making plans for a new career. But it wasn’t long before the industry was awash in imagery, prices were crashing as big players cashed in trying to corner the market with profits on volume and razor thin margins.

Now I’m lucky to get one minuscule check in an entire month. Photographers are treated like dirt by the agencies who profit from their work, some taking as much as 85% for themselves and their stock holders while often paying the photographer just pennies for an image. Stock photography has become barely worth the effort, in fact it has become little more than an insult to the artists.

So today I almost left my camera behind, what was the point in bringing it along? But as I strode along through the woods I was glad I had it with me. I love the feel of the cold steel in my hands, the sound of the lens jumping to attention in it’s effort to quickly focus and the clack of the mirror scrambling to get out of the way in less than a thousandth of a second to make way for the light to come pouring in through the lens and onto the sensor. Today I didn’t see much, the mountains were the same, the trees the same, the lighting the same… but I was still happy to be carrying the camera. Then I spotted the distant fox sunning himself in the prairie grass. The animal was way too far away to get a salable shot but I stopped to shoot anyway, I couldn’t resist. As I shot the images I thought back to the days of my clunky manual Minolta X-700 and the joy that it brought me to just create for the sake of creation. Not that long ago I would have passed the fox by knowing that he was not going to make me any money… but now I realize, I still love photography and I still love creating for the sake of creating.

Once again, it may be time for a change in philosophy, from a mind focused on business to simply a camera focused on the sheer joy of making pictures. Mr. Fox here could be the turning point, the first sign of a new life focused on joy instead of profit.