Snowshoes Changed My Life

They did… snowshoes literally changed my life. I have loved long distance running for as long as I can remember, probably from the time it was invented by Forest Gump back in the 70’s 🙂 In the 80’s I combined this passion with my love of the mountains to begin a long love affair with trail running. However, there was always one problem, winter. The magnificent mountain trails were inaccessible to me in the wintertime. So countless hours were spent boring myself to death on treadmills, stairmaster machines, and street running, dying for winter to end so I could get back on the trails.

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Don’t know why I had never really considered snowshoes at the time, it just seemed like a foreign concept and running in the winter in the mountains just hadn’t occurred to me. But that all changed on one particular day when I had to take my dog to see Doc Gurney in Aspen Park. Bear had to undergo a series of tests and then wait under observation for the results. In the meantime I had nothing to do and there is a set of trails nearby in a county park called Meyer Ranch that I had visited in the summer months while Bear was undergoing treatments. I thought oh, what the heck, maybe it’s packed down and I can run a little bit. Turns out most of the trail was packed down and I had a nice run through the three sets of loops. At the top of the high loop the snow was soft and a little deep for running shoes, but I plowed through anyway. As my feet were getting wet and snow was filling my shoes I was thinking, boy it sure would be nice to have some snowshoes or something!

Well, not too long after that we had a series of massive snows in Parker and my running trail was utterly buried under several feet of snow. Trail running in my neighborhood was out of the question, possibly for months. And all of a sudden it hit me. I was going to make a run up to REI to purchase snowshoes. And it was awesome, I went out every morning before it was even light to get my run in before work. I just loved it. Soon my running buddies were into it also and winter trips to the mountains became an amazing reality. A whole new world had opened up! I even got Bear his own set of snowshoes and he loved coming with me on our treks through the wilderness surrounding my neighborhood… Of course that was before they tore it all down to build mansions for all the city people wanting to experience the country life 😦

Finally the March sun ended my fun and I was sad to see winter go. And from that point on winter became my life 🙂 Of course the trails in the summer are still fun and I get out on them as much as I can, but the solitude of the winter trails is now my love!

Snow in the High Country

Today me and Big Dog ventured onto the mountain for our second trek since the big snows of last week. The snow has crusted over so it is no longer drifting and the trail we made a couple of days ago was still there. I took alternate steps today to complete a packed path in order to make life a little easier for the dog, giving him a place to step without post holing. He wants to be lead dog so cutting the trail the other day was a real chore for him!

As we crested the summit the sun was rising higher in the sky and these patterns in the snow caught my eye. I had the big camera but what was needed was an extreme wide angle to adequately capture this scene. Didn’t have a wide angle lens with me so the phone cam was the best I could do. The picture turned out pretty well though, pretty much what I saw!

I have to say, I sure do like my new MSR snowshoes! Back in the day snowshoe bindings were fairly primitive. You had to tie them on like a pair of shoes and they were hard to tie with frozen fingers, they collected ice and they would never stay tight. My MSR’s have a really cool strap that you just pull over and hook. It only takes seconds to get the shoes on and off you go! They never come loose and I have yet to have them freeze up with ice. Highly recommended. Also they are built on a solid piece of plastic so they don’t get ripped up on the rocks like the old soft rubber decking used to.

Well anyway, we had a pretty great morning and now I hear there is more white stuff on the way! Don’t forget to give my website a visit, I have bunches of new digital imagery for sale as wall art and cool household and gift items with a #swkrullimaging picture!

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Good Photo Fortune Today

Didn’t know if this was going to happen at all today as it looked pretty bleak prior to sunrise. The temperature was only 10 degrees and the weather page called for clouds. Seriously considered just taking Big Dog for a walk around the fairgrounds and calling it a day, at least as far as a photo shoot was concerned!

Beautiful Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

But the sun finally came up and the sky was pretty so off we went, me and Big Dog to the trailhead. The cloud show going on over the Sangre de Cristo was amazing and I was eager to clear the ridge so I could get the full view and some cool pictures. So we were double timing it up the mountainside when all of a sudden a couple of large critters meandered into a clearing where I could get a pretty clear view. At first I thought, based on their gate that they were wolves, but of course I know that is nearly impossible here in Colorado. So I took a better look and ascertained that it was just a couple of bull elk. Their senses must be amazing because me and Big Dog were being as quiet and stealthy as possible, peeking out from a grove of trees, hopefully well out of

Beautiful Bull Elk in Snow

the sight of my subjects… But as soon as they had a visual angle in my direction they stopped to stare and soon they became nervous and headed up the hill. I figured there would be more animals around somewhere so I waited a bit to see if any were following. None came into view so we sneaked up the hill behind another tree for a view of the top of the ridge to discover a whole herd of the huge beasts.

Snapped a few captures of the distant animals, but they were so far away that I don’t think any will be salable. Still… nice pictures and a visual record for reminiscing 🙂

Elk Herd in the Rocky Mountain Snow

After that we just took a long leisurely walk in the snow during which I was thinking how wonderful today’s high tech hiking gear is. Back when I was a kid, clothing and boots were just dismal… If I had been wearing what I had to wear then my hands and feet would have been frozen and the whole experience would have been miserable. Today I just had my summer light hikers on, Gortex Asolo model of some kind and my feet were toasty warm. A pair of polypropylene glove liners was plenty to keep my hands warm. Nice 🙂

Oh and by the way, I thought I would try out a new framing method on my pictures… The above version is an emboss effect in Photoshop. It makes my work flow a lot faster and I think it still looks nice. I might try just a black border as well. The drop shadow just requires too many steps and it takes forever to prepare a picture for publishing. What do you all think?

These pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art and cool gift items on my website! Just give a click on the gallery you like and then click on an image! The prices and product availability will then appear! Well, that’s about it for today… time for some lunch!

Dumb and Dumber Photography

That scene in the movie when they were headed back across Nebraska going in the wrong direction… “I thought the Rocky Mountains would be much higher”… “Yeah, that John Denver is full of sh*t!”. Lol, that’s about how I feel right now after a previous blog post. I was looking at the google map on the weather site a couple of days ago when I realized I was no where near the mountains that I thought I was. At the Royal Gorge I turned north on Highway 9 assuming that I would be driving along the Sangre de Cristo Range… thinking, “I thought the Sangre would be much higher!” Well it turns out I was no where near the Sangre de Cristo Range… there was an entire ridge of smaller mountains between me and them and the Sangre were not visible at all from the valley I was cruising up 😐

Mule Deer Bucks

Oh well, that just means I still have a road trip to look forward to! Not today though, feeling very tired and was even going to forego my planned hike with Big Dog. But he was having none of that so I relented and we got in a couple of miles in the high country before the heat was too much for him. Saw a pair of awesome looking buck mule deer off in the distance that I got these nice shots of. Was kind of wishing I had borrowed the 1.4x lens extension from my buddy, but still, a nice shot and a great experience. After I got this capture in the brush they kind of moseyed towards me in the prairie grass a bit before disappearing into the dense pine forest on top of Grouse Mountain. I will put a couple of those in the wildlife gallery on my website when I get the chance.

Also had this red sunrise… I have never seen the sun look like that before. It took a little bit for me to convince myself that it was the sun and not the moon due to it’s subdued brightness. Kind of weird, had me wondering if maybe it was one of those biblical signs or something.

Red Sunrise

Picture taking was followed by a nice cheese omelet and a frosted donut. Looking forward to processing my pictures to include with this blog post!

These pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website! Available on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional framed prints, plus many cool household and gift items!

A Good Ride

Wasn’t too sure what I was going to do today… getting back in shape at my age is no easy task and I just felt tired this morning. But I resolved to get on my mountain bike with my camera backpack and head down the hill for a 50 cent cheese omelette at the casino. Figured I could just call it good from there if I decided to, but thought maybe at least having the camera along I might be inspired to go further 🙂 And when I got done with breakfast it was so beautiful that the idea of just going home became unconscionable 🙂 So off to Victor it was!

Herd of Mule Deer

Saw a small herd of mule deer along the way so I had to get off the bike and get a couple of shots. Unfortunately by the time I had my camera out of the backpack and ready to go the deer were getting nervous and headed off to other parts 😦 But I still thought this one turned out kind of nice, even though they were already a ways away. It appears a few mountain wildflowers are beginning to bloom up here at almost 10,000 feet of elevation!

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Next stop, just short of the bridge in front of the mine I found an abandoned mine site that had an awesome view up the valley all the way to the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, and it appears that there is some new snow blanketing the high peaks. By then the sun had begun to light up the haze a bit too much for good pictures so I thought it might be a good time to try the polarizer on my #Canon F4l 70-200 long lens. The scene through the viewfinder was much more dramatic with the dark glass in place, so this last one of the day is the one I chose for this blog post. I have many more to process, including some of the alpenglow effect on the range before sunlight that I shot while taking Big Dog for his exercise and morning constitutional 🙂

Now back home after a good hard ride up and down the hills of the Cripple Creek mining district. Glad I didn’t let the early morning negativity defeat me today 🙂 Hoping all my readers enjoy the pictures, please check my website for new prints and gift items that will becoming available in the coming days as I get around to processing them!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

First Light

Did three things before first light today that I was not planning to do… The first was to get out of bed before first light. I had the day off and was planning to sleep in and catch up on some shut eye, but apparently I am used to arising at 4:30 a.m. now and that is just the way it is. I was also not going to take any pictures and the third thing I was never going to do again, ever… was to ride my mountain bike! After I tried it last week for the first time on these hills that was going to be it forever. My legs were quivering when I got done 😦 The reason I was not going to take any pictures is because I am tired of shooting from the same location all the time and also I watched a Youtube video where the title and theme were, “Nobody cares about your photography.”, which is probably true but just the same, a very discouraging thought.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

So unfortunately I was awake at 4:00 and Big Dog as eager to go for a walk. So without the camera we headed down the trail for his morning duties. Saw some deer in the darkness running towards the hills and then I noticed that there was an odd white glow coming from the direction of the Sangre de Cristo range. In the darkness I couldn’t tell if it was a new mantle of snow or clouds or fog or what. I could tell the sky was clear though and that the red band of alpenglow was descending upon the mountain range. So I thought, well… I’d better not miss this, it could be good!

Took the dog home, grabbed my backpack and jumped on the bike. I was not going to make it back there in time on foot and the mountain bike was the only way I was going to make the show. Fortunately my legs seem a bit stronger this week, maybe my decision to quit the bike riding was a bit premature? As I neared the overlook to the mountain range I could not believe my eyes, the fog bank and cloud action was some of the most amazing that I have seen in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre.

Sangre de Cristo Lake of Fog

I sat on a rock at the best spot and watched it all unfold. The alpenglow effect descended upon the mountains and the fog began to blow around building into tall spires almost as big as the mountains they were obscuring. I put into effect all the information I have been gathering about the best way to photograph this valley at the base of the Sangre, trying various shutter speeds and even my B&W circular polarizer for a bit. Finally the sun crested the mountains behind me and the fog began to burn off. As the mist turned to vapor in the air the Sangre became too obscure to get good pictures and I headed for home.

Lol… as it turns out though, my bike riding was not yet done for the day… Big Dog saw something he wanted to chase and snapped his wire cable in a bid for some temporary freedom. It wasn’t long before he had me on mountain bike along with two of Cripple Creek’s finest circling the blocks in their black and white SUV’s. After about an hour of chase he finally blundered into a fenced yard and decided to visit the people having a hitherto relaxing morning on their deck. Knowing him he was probably hoping for some burgers and fries, but they corralled him and I was able to give the police a thumbs up and they too went about their business.

Now I’m working on the pictures… have to say the scene was pretty amazing! Hope you enjoy them too 🙂 I will soon be putting these on my website for sale as wall art and RF stock so stay tuned!

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway 🙂 For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.