Wilderness at First Light

Last night I knew that there was a very good chance today was going to be a great day! The snow had stopped last evening and the storm had moved out into Kansas and Oklahoma. The temperature wasn’t going to be in the below zero or single digit range, and the mountains are always awesome after a big snow. So, tired as I was I dragged my butt out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get in a cup of coffee before the short journey to the trailhead 🙂

Frozen Gold Mine

Early fog and mist created this beautiful ghostly scene of one of the many abandoned mines in the Cripple Creek area and was well worth the stop for a capture. It turned out even better than I expected, which I’m pretty happy about. So many of these mine pictures just turn out to be so ordinary that I have almost given up shooting them! Glad to finally have one I am proud of 🙂

A deer was at the trailhead to greet me, although the lighting wasn’t too spectacular with the sun yet to clear the ridge on the east side. She showed some slight interest and gazed at me for a few moments while chewing some mountain grass. Cute mule deer

I was hoping to see a big buck mule deer on top of the ridge, but was excited to see that the elk herd was right out in the morning sun, well on their way to their hiding place in the dense pine wilderness. I don’t think they ever really saw me as they didn’t break out into a gallop like  they so often do, but just continued a leisurely stroll along the edge of the forest. They did stop and look my way, which is always good for pictures but I really am surprised they didn’t run.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

With my 100-400mm glass I was able to isolate groups of them on their way as well as capture the overall scene with my favorite tree in the background. I also had time to snap a few to make sure I at least got something on my sensor before switching to aperture priority mode and f8 to make sure I got a sharp rendering of all the elk, not just the ones closest to me, which was where I chose to focus.

Eventually all the huge beasts disappeared into the woods and the moment was gone. I saw a couple of deer along the road on the way home but nothing spectacular enough to include in this blog post.

Winter Morning Elk Herd

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and on many cool household, tech and gift items!

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

 

Winter Morning Elk Herd

 

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Frozen Ghosts

Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

A dense fog rolled in while I was ascending Grouse Mountain this morning, covering the pine and aspen trees with a thick layer of beautiful white frost. The billowing mist surrounded the abandoned mining district making the dead gold mines from the old west era look even more ghostly than usual. An eerie quiet enveloped the high country leaving me only with the sound of my breathing and the clinking of Big Dog’s chain. It was like we were on some kind of lonely expedition, like the travelers of old that had previously explored this amazing place.

Of course I had the camera, which I trained on a few of the old mines and some of the Frost on Abandoned Mining Districtmore picturesque aspen tree groves… I have taken enough pictures of the mines that I don’t even really look at them anymore, but in the fog there was a moodiness that I was determined to capture. Slowly the weather in the mountains is succumbing to the inevitable approach of spring and there won’t be many more chances this year to photograph the beauty of snow and ice in the mountains.

Frost on Abandoned Mining District

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Frosty Rocky Mountain Forest

Autumn Blitz Day 1

Do or Die… my most lucrative time of the year, autumn in the Rockies. Today was my first full day off in the midst of peak aspen leaf season and so far I have made the best of it.  Woke up early and took off for the trailhead with Big Dog. After a short analysis of the situation I decided on the polarizer to add some drama to the bright clouds and sky. Not too much of great autumn interest along the trail today, was kind of hoping for a deer or elk as a subject, or maybe a neat shot of the mining equipment against some golden aspen, but no such luck. There were a few trees changing in the direction of the Sangre de Cristo so I tried a couple of captures in that direction, time will tell if it was worth the effort.

Autumn Color on Historic Mines

After the hike we were off to the Goldfield mine fields where there was one nice view of a series of abandoned mines in the midst of a colorful aspen grove. That turned out to be one of my favorites of the day 🙂

Then it was off to an unofficial overlook at the top of Victor Pass for a view of the north face of Pikes Peak. Upon arrival there I was surprised to see a lineup of ladies in lawn chairs and umbrellas… looked like a picnic might be in the making! Turns out they were the local Cripple Creek painting club on scene to paint the magnificent view on such a beautiful morning. Lol, I needed to get in front of them to get the shot I needed but was hesitating… the ladies assured me that I would not be accidentally painted into their pictures if I quick jumped in for my photographs… Which cracked me up because for a second that exact thought crossed my mind! Guess I’m not used to seeing painters at my scenes 🙂

Autumn on Pikes Peak Colorado

After that I decided on the loop behind the Newmont mine to see if maybe the aspen were in peak form at the top of that pass. Looks like the trees in Cripple Creek are going to need another week or so to reach their full color so I didn’t bother to stop, deciding to hurry home to process the ones I already had.

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day… planning to leave the house by 4 a.m. to make Rocky Mountain National Park by sunrise. I will hit Bear Lake first I think to capture the sunrise on the lake, followed by an attempt at seeing some wildlife in Morraine Park. From there I hope to drive Trail Ridge Road followed by some more wildlife viewing on the west side of the park at dusk. Also hoping for my first visit to Fontenot’s Restaurant for some blackened catfish… back in the day the wife and I used to make a special trip up to Winter Park just for the pleasure of a meal at one of my favorite places 🙂

After that, who knows? I still have my sights on Quandary Peak in hopes of bagging at least one 14er this season! I would also like to make it up to Twin Lakes and maybe some fall colors along the river along the bottom of Independence Pass. Anyway, stay tuned, I’m just  getting started 🙂

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Autumn 2018

My favorite and most lucrative time of year for photography is getting off to a slow start… The flu, a lot of clouds and gloom, more truck trouble and too much working for a living are definitely a drag so far this season. Fortunately the truck is still running, just making a very annoying noise, perhaps a worn fan belt so at least I have been able to get around a bit, including the short drive over to my favorite trail where there are a few trees and sometimes even some elk and deer to shoot… Not going to rat out the location of my deer to hunters though! And finally after months of complete black out of the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks, the smoke has cleared enough to actually see them through the low hanging haze.

This herd of mule deer bucks have been hanging around the trail head and seem to be getting warmed up to me a bit so that I can get a few shots off before they run off into the wilderness. Looks like they are quite healthy going into autumn so they should have no trouble surviving the long rocky mountain winter.

Today I noticed the clouds moving into the Arkansas Valley between me and the Sangre de Cristo so I was thinking this might be the perfect time of year for a shot of the  Victor / Goldfield mines with the Sangre in the background. Well worth the short drive up there, this is one of the best images I have ever captured of these mines and the Sangre.Victor Gold Mining District

Some new snow on the distant Collegiate Peaks got me to thinking that there might be a new dusting of snow on Pikes Peak as well, so a short drive to the top of Victor Pass was in order. Indeed there was a light layer of fresh snow to behold along with a nice view of the massive grove of aspen trees that have barely begun to show off their autumn glory.

Pikes Peak AutumnLater today I am going to drive over to the repair garage and see if I can schedule an oil change and have them take a listen to the terrible squealing I have had to endure for the last couple of weeks… hope it isn’t anything too serious, thinking maybe the power steering pump might be going out but we shall see. Hoping to have all this done before late September, I’m getting my first vacation in three years to go shoot some fall color. Wouldn’t it be nice if I was so successful that I didn’t have to even go back to work! Lol, highly unlikely but it is hopes and dreams that do keep us going!

These images and more are now available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas, traditional frames and prints rolled in tubes. Also available are many cool gift and household items including t-shirts, battery chargers, shower curtains, towels, yoga mats, greeting cards and much more! Please visit my website for a complete catalog of images! Choose gallery mode to quickly identify your favorite categories of pictures!

Not According to Plan

Well that certainly turned out differently than I had planned. Got in the truck to go to my sunset spot when I heard a very unnerving noise coming from somewhere so I promptly parked and gave up the idea of sunset pictures tonight. But from my house I could see a hint of a good sunset and a possible view that I hadn’t noticed before. So I just started to hoof it down the road to see if I could maybe salvage some sort of successful evening.

Sangre De Cristo Sunset

Sunset over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains of Colorado

Well as I got closer to the view I was eyeing, I noticed that I might get a better view from a nearby dirt road so I set my sights on that. However as I neared the road the sun began to set and walking turned into running and before it was over I had covered a couple of miles on foot, and had to negotiate my way around a particularly difficult cattle guard that I could not get the dog to cross one other time when I was walking down this way.  Fortunately when I got to the dirt road I was able to see the Sangre De Cristo range  and maneuver into places where there weren’t power lines and buildings in my way 🙂

I wound up with no tripod and no remote release, but I still managed a few good captures at f11 before the color began to fade to darkness and I headed back down the hill where much to my amazement there was an impressive sunset scene going on over the town and over the big gold mine. I scrambled up the hill on the other side of the dirt road and steadied my camera on a fence post while getting my coat caught on some barbed wire. But I got the shots and as I am looking at them I am also noticing that there is a view of Pikes Peak in the distance from near my house.

Pikes Peak Sunset

Beautiful Pikes Peak Sunset

Well anyway, the evening was definitely not according to plan, but I got some shots and learned about some new spectacular views that I can walk to if need be. And I also found a way around the cattle guard so that I can bring Big Dog with me up the dirt road in the mornings when it looks so pretty over in this direction. Now my legs are exhausted, my arms are even tired and it is definitely time for a Fat Tire that I wisely purchased before all the trouble started 🙂

On Comebacks

Big step today in my return to civilized life… It wasn’t easy up in this little mountain town but I finally found an internet provider that could hook me up with 10mbps. This is a huge step in restoring my ability to conduct my photography and writing enterprises! I still remember sitting in my camper after the wife had passed from cancer, life completely decimated… no home, no family, no job, no savings left, camera broken and laptop on it’s last leg. Wondering, how does one come back from this?

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)Today I received and notice in the email that it is once again time to register for the Leadville 100 “Race Across the Sky” and I am reminded of my most memorable comeback, my first Leadville 100 finish. I was relatively inexperienced at running that distance and by the time I had reached the Halfmoon aid station on the return trip about 70 miles into the race, I was physically and mentally trashed. If you want to drop out, you can ask  the aid  station and they will remove your medical stats wrist band, effectively eliminating you from the race. I was the first person I had encountered who looked so bad that the aid station people were asking me for my medical band. But for some reason I said no and managed to down some food and eventually stumble out of the aid station and continue the race.

I was moving so slowly though that race personnel were continuing to drive by and ask me for my medical band. But I continued to put one foot in front of the other while my mind argued with my body… With more than a marathon in distance to go there is no earthly reason to believe that it is possible to finish. In preparation for a marathon distance run most people get some extra rest, do some carbo loading and take steps to prepare their minds and body for such a distance. No one starts a marathon completely exhausted, sleep deprived and sick from not being able to eat a proper meal, cold and wet and in the dark of night in the mountains with an 11,200 foot pass to climb.

But even then, in complete denial of reality, I continued to put one foot in front of the other… why? Because I could. Because it is what I expected of myself, because it is what my crew who had worked so hard all summer with me expected of me. Because you can’t just drop out for being tired and sick, because you knew when you signed up for such insanity that you were going to be cold and tired and sick for over 24 hours. Cold and tired and sick is not a valid excuse for giving up, it is part of the race. Such as it is in real life, even in your darkest hour you continue on because that is what everyone does, because that is what is expected of you by your friends and family and people who are counting on you, because giving up is unthinkable.

Well as it turns out by the time I arrived at the Fish Hatchery aid station I was feeling a bit better and was able to down some more food. By the time I got to Hagerman Pass the food was kicking in and I could smell the finish line. There was still nearly 20 miles to go but some strength had returned and my body had warmed somewhat. I knew I was pushing the limit on cutoff times and I dug deep and hit the afterburner. Later my pacer told me if I had gone any faster over the pass he would not have been able to keep up with me. By the time I had gotten around Turquoise Lake I had made up considerable time against the cutoff limits and a finish was guaranteed if I could just continue to put one foot in front of the other.  I could no longer hold down any food or ERG but I just kept walking up the long four mile hill to the finish line. Finally, after 29 hours the old west mining town of Leadville was once again in sight. And at 29:15 my feet crossed the finish line and I received the coveted hug and finisher’s medallion from Merilee.

I have been involved with sports my entire life and am definitely a fan of great comebacks. I believe that sports can train people for success in life and this experience was no different. I was able to draw on the hardship and perseverance involved in finishing a 100 mile race in the mountains against impossible odds to carry on with life even after the terrible circumstances surrounding such a devastating illness and death in the family. I know others are at this time facing their darkest hour and I hope these words can in some small way encourage them to make their comeback in life.

 

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

Sangre De Cristo Winter Sunset.

The smoke and haze this winter has pretty much ruined the chance for getting suitable mountain panoramas but luckily the same problem has been making for some great sunsets. I don’t like shooting sunsets all the time because they can quickly get cliché and boring but there is definitely a time and place for them. I was thinking, there is only one time of year when the sun is setting at this angle, right over the best part of the Sangre and I don’t want to miss it and have to think about it for an entire year!

 ome promising looking clouds and some free time the other night worked together to provide the opportunity so I headed out towards Victor to my favorite Sangre De Cristo viewing spot. Well before the sun began approaching the horizon I could detect some promising color in the sky and I knew it was going to be a good night. When the sun finally began to set the color didn't disappoint. As the sun went down and the colors changed I moved around along the viewing area to get some different angles and some different exposures. When the sun was far enough gone to make sure I didn't burn out my sensor, I tried some shots directly into the light, rendering some interesting lens flare, which won't be useful as stock but might make an artistic print for someone who likes that effect.
Now in Photoshop working on the images I remember one reason why I don't like shooting sunsets! Even using all my tricks, sometimes there remains some unsightly Chromatic Aberration which requires a good amount of tedious hand painting to correct. Thought I would use my best one so far and also one with lens flare in it for this article. As always these images are for sale on my website, which you can view by pressing the links in the menu. In addition to the sunset images, there were a couple of abandoned mines in that looked kind of interesting in the light and I was hoping to have them on my site as well, but a plethora of power lines that were not visible in the evening light have invaded the pictures beyond repair. Oh well, maybe I will have to just go in search of a less public mine for those shots.