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
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Surreal Day

Stopped by the Garden on my way back from giving a friend a ride to the cancer Pavilion at Penrose to see if I could find the bighorn sheep. No luck there, but the view of Pikes Peak was kind of pretty. Well worth stopping at the visitor’s center for a few shots anyway.

Garden of the Gods Spring with snow capped Pikes PeakBeen about two years since Tricia passed, I guess the trip alone back from the cancer center reminded me of how much nothing has changed in those two years. Kind of feels like I am in that old “Groundhog Day” movie, the one  with Bill Murray. Only I am in the same routine with different people, waiting at the doctor’s office for cell count reports… snapping pictures on the commutes back and forth when I can, grabbing free coffee every chance I get.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing… I was going to hit the road the instant Tricia passed and start a new life somewhere else, but as I was cleaning up the remnants of the old life with her I became more and more entangled in a new life here. Almost exactly like the old life but with new people. This old beast of a camper trailer that was going to provide my deliverance from this place now feels like a shipwreck on some island I can’t get off of. Maybe that’s alright though, considering the beauty of this place, it’s hard to imagine where I would go that would be better.

Who knows, maybe like Phil in the movie I am doomed to repeat this scenario until I learn some profound lesson in life. Or maybe this is the place I am destined to spend my days in, brought here by God for some purpose which has not yet been realized. Long before I moved here I had begun receiving dreams and signs that this would be the place… Perhaps it is true what is spoken in the Bible, God is the one who sets our boundaries:

Acts 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

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

Dog Tired

Lol… there is nothing like a dog to get you going when you are “Dog Tired”. It has been a rough week so far. Four punishing nights in a row on the loading docks, two early morning dental appointments for a friend, another early morning appointment at the oncology center for another friend. Fighting off a cold to boot. Beautiful day though, record warmth for this day high in the Rockies.

Rocky Mountain Evening (edited)But tonight I was exhausted, the plan was to sit outside with the dogs and enjoy the cool evening breeze, but as luck would have it, the forest critters had the same idea and Son Boy wanted to go play with them… so we had to just go inside where he could not see them anymore. Was going to catch up on my computer work, but I was just too tired and the bed looked way more inviting. Climbed up and promptly fell asleep with the cool breeze and smell of pine blowing on my face through the open window. For a while I thought I was in heaven 🙂

Two doe mule deer in the Pike National ForestBut as the sun neared the ridge I was awakened by the pleading sound of a dog with his head on my knee who did not forget that he missed his walk in the woods this morning. “Shut up Son…” did no good at all. Finally I could not resist those huge  pleading brown eyes any longer and I dragged my tired butt out of bed to put on my shoes…  And off we went, up the mountainside towards the ridge overlooking Ute Pass.

It was an indescribably beautiful evening, no clouds and beautiful evening light bathing the Pike National Forest in a golden glow. The deer and other wildlife were out in number enjoying the evening as well and it was nice to get out and fill my lungs with some fresh air after spending the day in the truck and at the hospital.

Tonight I am thankful to have a dog that got me out of bed even though I was too “Dog Tired” to do it on my own! And I am also thankful that my friend has already received good news from the hospital, the chemo is working, tumors are shrinking and blood numbers are recovering nicely. I think she is going to beat this monster 🙂

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

Leading Indicator of Better Times

Before 2008 when the stock and housing markets crashed, there were indicators of the choppy seas ahead. My wife and I were involved in three businesses, unfortunately all non-essential to daily life. She had two businesses, mobile disc jockeying in the wedding industry and the online and physical sales of collectibles at a store we rented. I of course was a contributor in the stock photo industry in addition to employment as a software engineer at a major defense contractor. At least as far back as 2006 these once thriving endeavors began to falter… Now, ten long miserable years later, two of those businesses and my wife are  gone. She of course lost her battle to cancer and I was forced to liquidate her two businesses, which by that time were completely worthless and a storage expense liability only. And right when I needed it the most, the demand for photography was near zero.

large-line-item-1384383.jpgThe much touted economic recovery, mostly in minimum or near minimum wage jobs during the last decade has not resulted in an improvement in the business climate. In fact, looking at my print sales, it has been over a year since I made a real actual print sale, other than my mom buying gift cards from me of course 🙂

However, times may again be “a changin‘”, this time for the better.  The new year has seen a definite uptick in photo sales. I have always heard the stock photo business is a “leading indicator” of the economy. In other words, sales show the direction of business. When there is optimism and opportunity, businesses advertise. When they advertise they buy pictures for those advertisements. Another indicator of better times is a recent uptick in print sales. Like this one of the now defunct Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival, a longstanding Denver event which also did not survive the lost decade. When people are feeling confident about their position in life they spend money on non-essential things, items purchased mainly for enjoyment.

It is just a glimmer of hope at the moment that could easily be snuffed out by any number of natural and man made disasters but it is a glimmer of hope, something I have not  experienced in a long time. Maybe the good times are not “Gone for Good“, to which today I offer a toast to a promising future: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

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 Darkness and the Light

Interesting day… Sitting at the Donut Mill collecting my thoughts as I realized that it was this exact day that my wife went in to hospice down in Colorado Springs two years ago. The cancer had spread everywhere it seemed and there was no more hope. On March 5, 2015 she passed, ending six long years of her battle against cancer, and beginning my long dark battle to rebuild my life.

Light falls on the north face of Pikes Peak for the first time this year.I was being paid by the state through a medical home care company to provide care for her, income that allowed us to rent a nice cabin in town. However, on the day she died it was a triple blow… in one day I lost my wife, my job and my home and to top it off, my main camera had recently died as well. I don’t think I have ever been more unprepared in my entire life for something I knew was coming. My first task, in order to get out of the cabin before another month’s rent was owed,  was to get rid of almost everything we owned … from the cabin and storage. Donated most everything rom the cabin to Storehouse Ministry and took the rest up to an auction house in Denver, quite an adventure in its own right! Didn’t take long, and I was able to get a new camera, my  Canon 70D.

Driving down the pass still contemplating those dark years, I noticed that for the first time this year the sun has gotten close enough to the Vernal Equinox to shine some light on the north face of Pikes Peak. I couldn’t help but appreciate the dichotomy, the joy of light returning to the mountain on the day of my darkest memory.

Speaking of light… it has been over 9,000 times that the light of some scene that I deemed worthy to capture has fallen on the 20 megapixel sensor of the camera I selected for the continuation of my stock photo business two years ago. Since then I have captured a collection of new memories, new friends, new experiences and new aspirations. I have experienced never before seen, by me anyway, valleys and mountaintops, wildlife, rivers, lakes, cities, events and people. The dark memories of this day two years ago seem like a lifetime ago, or maybe even someone else’s life.

I thought it very appropriate for the Almighty to remind me on this day that the darkness is only for a while. If we can hold on He will lead us through every valley and back onto another mountaintop.  As King David promises in the book of the Psalms “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”.

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 Road Ahead

Day three of radiation therapy. Can’t see any improvement yet, but she needed less pain medication yesterday so that is a good sign. Three down and seven to go. The beauty of autumn is quickly passing as the wind and the hail are taking their toll on the brittle golden leaves. The mountains will be barren until they take on a fresh mantle of white that comes with the cold of winter. Meanwhile I am given some time in the waiting room to reflect and look ahead.

In the ebb and flow of the photography business I’ve had to change focus many times and these times are no different. Many years ago wedding and portrait photography were abandoned for stock photography which more suited my desire for the peace and solitude of the wilderness. Stock photography has had it’s ups and downs as well and adjustments have been made there too. In the early days of digital stock, such simple subjects as solitary trees and isolated fruit sold like hotcakes and life was easy. However it wasn’t long before word got out and cameras got better. The picture world has become flooded with imagery and it has become more and more difficult to stand out and make consistent sales. Agencies have experimented and made improvements and mistakes. By the end of the Y2K decade I was finding nature photography and the Royalty Free model to be on the wane so in 2008 I concentrated almost exclusively on sports photography and the Rights Managed license model, giving up my exclusive crown at iStock and having my most prolific year ever at the Alamy Agency.

Then came the Getty acquisition of iStockPhoto and with it some great benefits for exclusive photographers. Such cool opportunities that I had to backtrack and get the crown back. It has been a great ride since then but I sense the tide beginning to change again. Upload limits at iStock have been removed and the ensuing massive influx of imagery has once again cut deeply into contributor profit.

Lead-Pack

So in late 2014 I am considering another major change in focus. For me the pendulum has swung back to producing more exclusive editorial imagery and reportage. So to begin my move forward I will be looking back to the beginning of the year at the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series. The rest of my time in the Radiotherapy waiting room will be spent scouring the year’s events for suitable editorial images for my Rights Managed portfolio on the Alamy agency. However I will never tire of the solitude of the woods and the communion with wildlife and nature high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Unsung Heroes

It was a particularly rough day in oncology today and I am utterly humbled by the dedication and compassion of the oncology nurses. The oncology doctors are great with their amazing scientific words of hope in new advancements and medical technology that they provide on their long lap through the most hopeless ward in the hospital. However it is the nurses and techs who do the heavy lifting here.

While the doctors make their one round the nurses make their rounds with countless interruptions. Cancer patients are in unimaginable pain and their cries can be heard up and down the hallways. The nurses know their patients and are acutely aware of the pain medicine schedule of each one. Needs must be juggled, who needs something right this minute, who can wait another five minutes? Accidents are frequent and messy. Helpless patients must be assisted but maybe immediate attention will prevent another accident and the terrible humiliation that goes with it. Hundreds of decisions must be made every day, day after day, night after night. No one sleeps well in the oncology ward.

There are quite a few male nurses throughout the hospital, especially in the rehab center. But to my knowledge there is only one in oncology, and a great one at that. I think oncology nurses may need a strong motherly instinct to care for patients who have often been reduced to the physical abilities of children. I cannot imagine doing the things they must do for someone else but the oncology nurses clean up over and over while never letting a patient feel like they have become a burden.

I know tomorrow will be another difficult day, but I also know we won’t be going through it alone. We will go through the day confident that every time we have to punch the red button with the cross on it that it won’t be more than a couple of minutes before the beautiful face of a compassionate and professional angel in white appears.