Last Mile of the Marathon

I swear, these last few months crawling by before retirement from the regular rat race remind me of the last couple miles of a marathon. You’ve been running for three hours, you are exhausted, feet hurt, knees feeling like they are going to explode. Only two miles left but you still don’t know if you are really going to make the finish line, head down mind on that one singular moment in time…ย  when you see that white line pass under your feet.ย  But those last two miles feel like a whole new marathon ahead, like it is never going to end

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in winter

That’s what it’s like now… years of sleep deprivation, hundreds of hours of abuse from mouthy customers and managers bogging you down like an ocean of quicksand. I just want it to be over and I can’t seem to think about anything else ๐Ÿ˜ฆ It has even managed to affect my photography. The cold and the snow and the fatigue from the late nights of work have depleted my strength, my mornings now consist of trying to pry my eyes open instead of hiking on my favorite mountain.

But today, I looked out at the beauty of the Sangres and I found some strength in my legs, enough to go to my office and retrieve my camera. The morning sun on the snow was so amazing today that I had to go out and see it! I wasn’t sure I was going to need my snowshoes but I thought I would regret not lugging them along, the parking lot and the lower trail were dry and rocky but it looked like snow up in the trees. Sure enough, half way up the mountain, when I entered the trees the snow got deep and they became necessary. The surface of the snow was hard and crusty, impossible to get through with just boots, but a joy to effortlessly walk on top ofย  on with snowshoes!

Soon the summit and the anticipated view of the mountains… Tired and worn now, back in my office at the computer, but happy and proud that I was able to get it together and make the hike ๐Ÿ™‚

Stunning Sangre de Cristo

It’s not always easy to put down my coffee and go out into the cold with my snowshoes at sunrise, but if you want to get the pictures there is no other choice. There is nothing like first light on the mountains. However it does help to have an enthusiastic partner… Big Dog is always ready to go, well before sunrise if need be ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So off we went, to the trailhead while looking for any deer or elk we might find along the way. Past the overlook, it didn’t look like this morning was going to be anything spectacular and I saw no need to pull over for any photography there. At the trailhead… strap on the snowshoes and head up the mountain into the cold and the wind. My eyes scanned the edge of the forest for any critters that might be trying to catch some early morning rays, but there were none. I don’t know where the animals all went but I haven’t seen any stirring since the elk departed the other day.

It was looking like all we were going to get today was some exercise, nothing wrong with that though! There is no such thing as a bad day of snowshoeing! But as we crested the ridge I could see the tops of the peaks and something had dramatically changed! The sun was shining underneath the cloud cover right onto the Sangre de Cristo Range giving them a stunning soft early morning glow that would take your breath away! So me and the big dog began running, not an easy thing to do on back country snow shoes! But I knew the scene would not last and there was no shot from where I was. It was about a quarter of a mile to the edge of the mountain I was on and we had to get there before the light changed!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Of course Big Dog thought running in the snow was the bomb, but by the time we got there I was pretty out of breath and wondered if I would even be able to steady the long lens. But most importantly, we had made it in time and the soft glow of first light still shown magnificently on the rugged range in the distance. I dialed back the ISO to 200, down from the 400 that I was prepared to shoot wildlife with and decided upon a exposure compensation of +2/3. A little fiddling and I tried a few more with ISO 100 and a few with compensation of +1. As I look at the pictures on the computer I’m not sure which worked out better, but they all turned out beautifully ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll study the results more carefully later on, right now I’m going to have some more coffee and some waffles while I try to warm up!

Oh, here’s a nice tip… when you come in from the cold just leave your camera in the bag for a while. The camera is cold, the bag is cold and both will warm up slowly and safely. If you don’t expose the camera to the warm air right away there is a lot less chance of damage caused by condensation!

As always these images and more are available on my website in the “Sangre de Cristo Gallery” as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional framing and matting materials. #swkrullimaging pictures can also be purchased on a ton of cool gift, tech and household items such as t-shirts, gift cards, phone chargers, blankets, pillows and more!

 

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

We have had a beautiful springlike couple of days but this morning’s clouds portend a change… Snow and cold are on the way for later this week, temperatures will be dropping back to near zero for a couple of days. Big Dog and I were up early today so just

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

before sunrise we grabbed the camera and the snowshoes and headed for the mountains. I could see that it was going to be a beautiful sunrise and indeed it was. But the real show was not to the east, but to the southwest where the alpenglow effect was illuminating the Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peaks ranges in a beautiful pink glow. I found a good spot and pulled over for a few shots before going on to the trailhead where I hoped for another photo op with the elk herd. For some reason however, they were not there today, no sign of them at all. It’s like they have vanished off the face of the earth! Oh well… maybe this week’s cold weather will bring them back down to lower elevations. Lol… and by lower elevations, I mean 10,000 feet ๐Ÿ™‚

Alpenglow and Storm Clouds

Our snowshoe hike yielded nothing in the way of wildlife. Did get a few shots of the storm clouds gathering on the Sangre though, some of the nicest that I have seen in a long time!

As always these pictures are available on my website as wall art and cool gift items! Please give us a visit if you like what you see!

Dog Days of Summer

My photography really struggles this time of year. The landscape is all dried up and the lighting is harsh. Sunrise is way too early and by sunset I am so tired I’m ready to drop. Hence… not many pictures taken lately.

Sunrise Mine

But the time has not been wasted. I have had an Instagram account for a long time but it was pretty lame, only a couple of dumb pictures of myself taken with my phone. I briefly tried to use the laptop to upload a couple of better ones from my DSLR, but couldn’t find a button that would let me do that. So my account has languished for years, until now. I purchased a data wire so my laptop and my phone can work together and found a way to upload my best ones from my laptop ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t know if an Instagram portfolio is going to do me any good. I got off to a roaring start with tons of followers but they are slowly beginning to dwindle, probably in direct correlation with the number of images I am uploading. Time will tell, but I am having fun going through all my old best images, reminiscing about the adventures that I have undertaken ๐Ÿ™‚

Morning Bucks

Did pick up a couple of nice shots of this mine the other day though… Big Dog and I working hiking out in the mining district hoping to see some wildlife. As we were strolling along just after sunrise I happened to glance up at the mine and noticed the beautiful splash of color directly behind it. That was about it for the day, but sometimes one good one per outing is a pretty good day!

This image and more are available for purchase as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, and traditional frames. Tons of cool gift items are also available including beach towels, battery chargers, phone cases, greeting cards and more!

 

Sangre Mountain Moonset

The plan this morning was to sleep in late, have a leisurely pot of coffee with the puppies and then go out with Big Dog to do some shutter speed versus f-stop testing with my #Canon equipment to determine how to get the sharpest image possible. Always trying to get that perfect razor sharp Ansel Adams appearance from my prints ๐Ÿ™‚

Moonset over the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in the springtime

But you know what they say, “The best laid plans… “, I was up at 05:00 checking the cloud cover report on my phone. Partly cloudy it said, and I was wondering if I might get another shot at yesterday’s beautiful sunrise? So, one cup of coffee and the Big Dog and I were headed down the trail in the dark. The first thing I noticed was that the moon had not yet set. For the longest time the moon has already been hiding behind the mountains long before I felt like being out and about. In the meantime the sun was just starting to lighten the horizon to the east, just enough to add some pink to the clouds in the west which was creating a pretty cool scene! I wasn’t sure I was going to get a good sunrise so I just stopped to capture the sure bet, the scene that was before me at the moment.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Moonset

The sunrise never did develop and there was a pretty heavy layer of clouds and haze from the wind and dust hiding Sangre de Cristo range to the west, so the magnificence of yesterday did not present itself today. But it was an amazing experience to be the only person in the woods as the magical mood created by the moon set slowly evolved. This silent time alone with my Creator is my favorite thing as it seems like He is unveiling a work of art for He and I alone.

As the sun began to get stronger I also noticed that the alpenglow enhanced pink peaks of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range were visible through the mystical haze of a beautiful Rocky Mountain Spring morning.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain MorningI didn’t get what I was hoping for this morning, but I did get something new for my portfolio :) These pictures and more from the morning are for sale on my website as wall art and gift items as usual, along with quite a few new images that I have been collecting this spring. Commercial users can purchase image usage rights through the stock portal on my website as well. If you liked this article and want to be sure to be notified the next time I publish, please be sure to click the follow button at the bottom of the article so that you can receive an email notification every time there is something new!

Best Sunrise Ever

Almost missed it all too. I wasn’t planning on anything except some rest for these old tired legs but Big Dog was having an emergency so out the door we went, DSLR still in the house in the bag ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Luckily my phone was still in my coat pocket so I was at least able to get these to remember the day! As we walked down the trail and the Sangre de Cristo came into view I was just sick that I didn’t have my 70-200… A small herd of deer was grazing in the meadow and the colors in the clouds and on the mountains were beyond description. Did the best I could to capture the scene with my phone, but I don’t think you can even see the deer or the mountains because the field of view is so wide ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

But… I am still thankful that I am alive on this perfect spring morning in the mountains and that I am able to get outside and witness such magnificence!

Zombies

I was thinking of naming this post Zombie Portfolios, but just plain Zombies had a better ring to it. Well anyway, morning for me came well before sunrise today with a quick check of my email on my phone, which also doubles as the first light I can reach when I wake up. For the second month in a row, the much anticipated payment from my formerly most profitable agency has not arrived ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Hard to believe it has come to this but I should probably just close that zombie port, it’s just competing with my own website anyway.

Alpenglow sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo

Thought about just going back to sleep, but Big Dog was wide awake and ready to go so I grudgingly got up, got dressed and turned on the coffee pot. A quick jaunt out the front door with the two dogs for their morning duties and I figured I was good for a few minutes for a cup of coffee. Soon however, the allure of another beautiful alpenglow sunrise urged me out of my chair and onto the trail. As we made our way through the woods in the pre dawn darkness I could see the telltale red band working it’s way down the sky towards the horizon and, it looked like my timing was going to be perfect if I just kept walking at the current pace.

Just as I had hoped, the beautiful red band of alpenglow effect converged upon the Sangre de Cristo just as Big Dog and I arrived at the overlook. It was a nice sunrise with beautiful color and very even contrast for a change. Fifteen minutes later the show was over and we were on our way home. The morning light was shining on the mountainside to the north and I spotted a herd of mule deer traversing the summit, way too far away for a good picture. But the barren aspen trees near the top were kind of cool so I’ll be taking a look at those captures for use on my stock site. I’m a bit slow today getting these images posted today, but please be sure to check my image site for recent arrivals!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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.

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Alpenglow

โ€œIn 1719 the Spanish explorer Antonio Valverde y Cosio named the Sangre de Cristo (“Blood of Christ”) mountains after being impressed by the reddish hue of the snowy peaks at sunrise.โ€œ, according to Wikipedia.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Alpenglow

The beautiful red glow in the morning on these mountains is from an optical effect called Alpenglow that appears as a reddish glow on the horizon just before sunrise. The glow emanating from the solar disk appears as a band of colored light across the sky or mountains reflected by ice crystals or precipitation at these high elevations. I’ve seen the red glow countless times since having moved to Cripple Creek but have never quite found the right time to get out and photograph them. Yesterday I noticed that the effect was most pronounced at exactly 7:20 a.m., so today I awoke at 5:00 to prepare.

Sangre de Cristo Alpenglow

I figured it would take us about a half hour to get down the trail to a point where I have an unobstructed view of the entire range. It was clear and cold this morning as we strode through the darkness, a perfect morning to photograph the Alpenglow effect. As we neared the overlook I was able to barely make out the snow capped peaks through the darkness, with no sign of the anticipated red glow in sight. A few minutes later however, I noticed that there was a band of color forming across the predawn sky, which I surmised was the expected glow from the sun’s curvature still hiding below the horizon.

We arrived at the overlook at about 7:00 as the glowing red band was moving down towards the mountain peaks. Then at 7:15 just as I had planned, the red glow from the rising sun descended upon the rugged range. It was still quite dark however and I was concerned that I was not going to have sufficient light to create usable photographs, but I proceeded with my shooting plan anyway. I chose ISO 200 so as not to get too much digital noise in the images and some I shot on auto for a higher shutter speed while others were shot in Av mode with aperture f8 in hopes of getting some depth of field. Now that I am looking at the images, it appears I was successful and have a good collection of usable captures.

By 7:30 a.m. it was all over, the pink was gone and the beautiful mountains shown in the bright morning sunlight. I hadn’t noticed while shooting, but by this time I was pretty darn cold! My fingers were tingling even with glove liners on and my shoulders and back were aching from the bone chilling cold. So me and the big dog decided to pack it in and make the trek homeward, hoping to see a few of the deer or elk that had left so much evidence in the sand the night before. No luck there, but now back in the warmth of my home I feel privileged to have stood in the presence of the mountains named for the blood of my Savior.

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