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.

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Dust in the Wind

Tremendous wind howling up from the Arkansas River Valley last night. Big Dog was startled out of a sound sleep at 5:00 a.m., leaping to his feet and letting out a massive woof that woke up the entire town I think. I looked around with the flashlight and didn’t see anything so I was going to just go back to sleep, but instead got to thinking I would like to see the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo. Sunrise would not be until 6:30 though, so there was time for one of my favorite activities… morning coffee πŸ™‚

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

The wind overnight had created a dust bowl out of the valley making the mountains barely visible, but it was still an inspiring sight when the alpenglow band settled down over the peaks. The effect was only good for a few minutes and we were headed back home for some more coffee.

The old 1970’s song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind” was going through my mind as the wind whipped the dirt up into a veritable cloud around us. Got me to thinking about the truth of the song, “Everything is dust in the wind”. Everything in this life is truly temporary, jobs, houses, relationships… I was thinking back on my computer career realizing that all the software I had been paid to write is now gone, along with the very computers that it was meant to operate. Even the company I worked for is gone, like it was never there. The job seemed so important at the time, deadlines, overtime, status meetings to explain how it was all going to get done on time, weekends misspent at the office, and now that it is all gone it seems so silly to have been so stressed out, so stupid to have spent so much time away from family, to have lost so much sleep.

Even life itself is temporary. For some people, life is long and fulfilling. For others like my wife, life itself can be unexpectedly swept away far too soon. We never know when we are going to be struck down by illness, accidents or natural disaster. Cancer took my wife along with all the things she dreamed of, collected and worked so hard for. Everything we had together is now like the song, just dust in the wind. Her life itself is a faded memory in the minds of few, the fruit she and I measured our lives with now remembered by no one.

In the end it all comes down to the words spoken at the final judgement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” If we have lived our lives in friendship with Him we will never have to hear the bitter words, “Depart from Me, I do not know you.”, our legacy will live on in the afterlife and all we have done in this life will not be blown away forever, like dust in the wind.

Working for the Man

Famous marathon runner Bill Rodgers once said, β€œNo one who works 40 hours will ever beat me in a marathon.”. I always thought that probably applied to photography as well, thinking nobody who works a full time job will be able to compete in the world of stock photography. This of course was before Getty Images set out to single handedly destroy the stock photo market with predatory pricing combined with the worst royalty percentages in the industry, making a full time job a survival necessity

Now though, forced into working full time in a non related field of expertise, my original premise has become more reality than theory. My head constantly swimming from lack of sleep, problems at work that need solving and overwhelming time constraints. As I suspected so many years ago it is difficult to compete. When the moment comes I am doomed to miss it… I am at work when the awesome sunrises happen, at work when the clouds are at their most amazing, at work when the wildlife make their brief appearance at dawn and dusk and at work when my buddies plan their next mountain summit adventures. Ideas are few and far between as fatigue turns my brain into mush for days and my camera sits dormant in it’s Lowepro backpack for weeks at a time. There are no pictures to process, no adventures to write about and all the while my portfolio grows more and more outdated.

On the other side of the Catch 22 however, without the full time job there would be no money to finance an adventure, no money for a house payment…. no money to sustain life. So there has to be a way, giving up on our dreams just to work full time is unacceptable. I’m thinking the answer may lie in better planning, better time management and planning ahead for opportunities. I can’t wait for that moment when I can finally think clearly to dream up a plan. Ideas come and go and I hope that with some good notes some plans will formulate, maybe at lunchtime or maybe in my dreams at night. Definitely not the optimal situation but maybe it will be just enough for precious progress.

Maybe if I can dig deep enough I will find within the ability to carry on with my writing and photography despite the adversity.I know times are difficult for others trying to realize their dreams in many fields. I wonder if any of my readers are facing similar struggles and what you might be doing to overcome the obstacles of time and fatigue. Thoughts, leave a comment!

Cripple Creek

I never wanted to live in the city, the mountains were my dream… And I did want to travel around the country and see new places but with no money and no real plan, the Air Force seemed to be a reasonable solution. Unfortunately that choice took me directly to the big city where I learned how to program computers. That of course landed me in even bigger cities, the Bay Area in California and eventually Denver, the place I called home for over a quarter of a century. Through it all though, I never got used to the city, the crowds, the traffic, the long commutes and the incredible waste of time required to accomplish the most mundane tasks, like going to the store or the post office.

Sunrise over Cripple Creek

Finally, after four decades of surburban hell, I am out and I’m never going back. Getting settled nicely in Cripple Creek now, although my progress has been slightly interrupted by car trouble. Which is what brings me to this post… Although I haven’t had transportation for a few days, I haven’t missed any work, only a 15 minute walk. Dropped off the truck for repairs this morning and only had a five minute walk home… This is how life should be, my life anyway.

New Chapter in Life

Been house hunting for almost a year now and finally have one under contract. Financing is iffy though and I have been forced to document my sparse regular employment record. Apparently being a business owner does not count one iota when buying a house. th, 2015 when she passed… So there is a gap in my recent employment record which the loan guy is trying to explain to the underwriters who want some kind of proof of β€œmy story”.

So as I fight to put turn the page on this terrible chapter of my life in this town, I am being forced to dredge up old records and remember the time when I had to downsize 25 years of marriage accumulation to a 21 foot camper in three weeks. Pretty much all the records along with everything else we owned had to be disposed of and I left our cabin with the shirt on my back, the pets, my laptop, the camera and some pictures and DVDs. I really wasn’t wanting to remember that right now. The pets were old by then, so in the last two years they have mostly passed as well. Only Maggie and Fonzy my two black and white cats, remain of the original seven critters who made the journey to the mountains with me.

Fonzy

Fonzy

But as a reminder that life moves on I noticed that some beautiful wildflowers have bloomed in the little cemetery out back where four of my four legged friends are memorialized with pretty quartz stones I found on the hillsides here through the years.

Dot & Puppies

Dottie all grown up with her new pups

 

Also, little Dot that I met last year has had a litter of puppies that I went over to visit yesterday. They are only a week old, eyes not even open and so tiny they almost don’t even look like little doggies! Well, the cutest thing… When I knocked on the door and Dottie saw me she started jumping up and down and screaming with excitement as usual, but when I stepped inside instead of jumping on me she turned aside and stopped and looked at me. So I went closer and she went a few more steps… obviously wanting me to follow. And she had a look on her face like, β€œcome and see what I got!”. She took me right in to show me her new puppies πŸ™‚ Cutest thing I’ve ever seen!

In the meantime I have had to go to work full time to qualify for the home loan and even though I’m fighting it there is an interesting phenomenon that I don’t have a name for yet. When people ask me what β€œI do”, of course I always say photographer. But when you work full time, the job consumes you, a person becomes what β€œthey do”. You are either working, resting from working or getting ready to go back to work. So I’ve noticed that I don’t even feel like a photographer anymore and I’m taking fewer and fewer pictures. I still bring the camera along but I see things to shoot and I’m like… naaa, I already have one like that.Β  I also am having fewer and fewer ideas along with less and less motivation to continue. I am fighting hard against it but now I feel like an β€œunloader”, which is just a job, not even a profession and I don’t want to lose sight of my dreams.

Dot

Dot when she was a puppy

Well anyway, back to the point… I so badly want to start a new life chapter in a new town in a new home with new fur babies and new friends. A place where everything I see doesn’t remind me of some hardship. Perhaps then my inspiration will return, maybe this brief foray into the past will quickly be over and just a necessary step in putting a bookend on a lost decade with a whole new life in front of me πŸ™‚ Lol… or maybe it is like the song says, I have a “Gypsy soul to blame and you were born for leavin’.”.

As everything from thirty years of marriage and my life as a software engineer was passing away, this verse from the book of Ezekiel often kept me going, and continues to as I prepare to start over again … Ezekiel 36:11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”. The verse along with Dot’s new puppies seem particularly appropriate πŸ™‚

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


Picture Perfect

Pretty darn chilly here at 9,000 feet high in the Colorado Rockies today, enough to put on a hoody to type this blog post anyway! Not complaining though, this weather is the reason I live here, definitely not a fan of being hot. Tourist at the post office was complaining and hoping it was going to warm up. Nice post office lady at the desk just simply said, “It isn’t.”, lol. I knew it was going to be a good day when Pikes Peak came into view this morning. Storm clouds were already starting to flow across the north face. I love it when it does that, so picturesque πŸ™‚

Sunrise StormThe deer also seemed to be happy about the cool wet weather, the vegetation is so lush this summer, better than it has been in years. Got this shot of one of the doe mule deer. Haven’t gotten one this nice in a while! She stood still and I had time to focus and steady the camera for quite a few good shots with my 70-200 zoom lens. As I look at the picture I am happy to see such awesome definition, even the hairs on her face standing out and she has such a beautiful neck. Even the sun was in the right place shining through the clouds for those perfect catch lights in her eyes. Picture Perfect πŸ™‚Beautiful Doe

As I climbed high onto the ridge on the north side of Ute Pass I was surprised at some of the aftermath of this summer’s abundant rain. Many parts of the trail have been covered by rocks and mud. I’ve been hiking these trails a long time but I have only known drought, fire, evacuations and way too much afternoon sun! Back in the day when I was training for the Leadville Trail 100 on the Barr Trail I could count on rain and storms at 2:00 p.m. like clockwork. Of course this had to be factored in to the training runs, you never want to be on the peak when the lightning starts striking! In fact today reminds me of the weather on my first attempt at running 100 miles in Leadville. It started raining early in the day that day and rained all day and all night, finally clearing early in the morning as the last of the finishers were approaching the finish line.

Hoping then that the long drought is over and the cool rainy weather pattern is returning to the parched mountains. Maybe the long drought in my life is coming to and end as well. I had a productive day, lining up homeowners insurance for the house I am hoping for in Cripple Creek. Also made it through a complicated process to provide salary verification to my prospective lender. My agents are all telling me things are progressing smoothly, but still for me it seems like too much to hope for, like a surreal dream that I never thought would be possible again.

It’s going to be a perfect evening to get some rest… the occasional sound of light rain falling on the roof, a little hot chocolate, some nice music and my furry friends all snuggled around me πŸ™‚

These photographs and others including some beautiful deer that I recently had the pleasure of photographing are available for purchase as prints and royalty free stock on my website. Beautiful wall art products such as prints on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas and traditional frames and mattes can be seen on the regular website while stock images can be purchased from the image licensing portal.

 

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

 

Turning Point

One of those memories from one year ago popped onto my Facebook today, it was a great memory of a great day, breakfast with my beloved cousin whom I hadn’t seen for too many years to even count. However the good part of that day was overshadowed by the memory of the rest of the day after I received a call from a friend who told me, “Steve, all hell has broken loose here.”, a terrible day in which several lives were irreparably altered, and not for the better. It was also the day that resulted in me having the two dogs that I wasn’t planning on or prepared for by any stretch of the imagination. However as you can imagine, these two beautiful doggies have worked their way into my heart and now they go with me everywhere. One riding shotgun in the passenger seat of my truck and the other standing on the console in the middle making sure there is nothing unusual lodged in my right ear or my mouth and nose πŸ™‚

I had to take a part time job unloading trucks to make ends meet and it is a job that is physically difficult for people 40 years my younger. Unfortunately a few months ago I sustained a serious injury from which I have not been able to recover and is getting worse. Each day at work is a new lesson in pain and fatigue and I am sure I’m not going to be able to endure it much longer. And Son Boy is starting to look so sad when I have to work, like he knows. I hate leaving them behind, hate taking time away from writing and photography. And I have been praying “Please God, don’t make me go back there…”, pleading and begging the Almighty to have mercy on me and my little family of fur babies.

On the upside, the economy must be turning around, my stock photography sales have been picking up substantially. After years of terrible sales I have actually made more selling than I have working in the last few days… and I think that too is a sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Also I had a vivid dream the other night of a house in the country… one of those dreams that you just have a feeling is significant, a sign even perhaps. And after a long time of feeling repulsed by writing and out of inspiration for my photography, ideas are starting to come to me and the words are once again flowing onto the page… Every storm has to end and my storm that has washed away a home, a wife to cancer, a family, a career and all my savings and plans for retirement and almost everything but my faith, has lasted a decade.Β  It is a storm that I am hoping will soon be on the other side of the turning point.

“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” Psalm 107:29-30