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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Getting Ready

Something weird I noticed this week, from my collection of random observations… I absolutely detest getting ready for work, getting cleaned up, looking for my dress pants, finding my badges, tool kit, ID, all the things I need for work. It takes me forever and It ruins an entire afternoon. It even annoys me to force myself to eat something so I won’t get too hungry during my shift… Sometimes I don’t even care and just let myself go hungry.


So I was wondering what it is about getting ready that irritates me so much when I realized it is exactly the opposite when I am getting ready for a photo trip. I love getting ready for that… I make lists, I check all my equipment, test batteries, clean lenses, format chips, put paraffin on my backpack zippers. And then I plan, print maps, prepare snacks so I don’t get a sugar low out hiking and create timelines leaving as little to chance as possible.

Lol, so I guess the moral of the story is I don’t mind preparing unless it is for something I don’t want to do in the first place. Which also brought me to another realization, I hate getting ready for weddings and even though I need the money, when presented with the opportunity my mind will frantically search for some excuse to get out of it. So my project this week wound up to be deleting my wedding site and any reference to my being a wedding photographer. While I was at it I also removed some other services I don’t really like either, leaving pretty much just sports and wildlife in my repertoire

Well I guess that’s about it for this week’s piece of random wisdom 🙂

Broken Memories

Finally resolved an issue that has been dogging me for years… The question, is highway 67 paved all the way from Woodland Park to highway 285. I know I was on that segment, probably 30 years ago… fishing with friends near Deckers, way too long ago to remember details, other than 285 from Littleton and then some dirt roads down to the Platte. I also have another vague memory of driving down past Sedalia, through the mountains to the river and then on to highway 285 and back. I’ve been looking at maps for a few years now, asking people who live here if they have driven it, just wondering…

Western Bride.jpgNow I have the answer… well, the short answer is no, it doesn’t. Highway 67 makes a sharp turn at Deckers into the mountains and up to Sedalia. If you keep going straight the road turns into highway 96 and is paved all the way to 285.  On my way up the pavement to 285 I realized I had memories of that stretch of road… I remembered that we had photographed a wedding at a pavilion in the open space park along that road. Must have been 20 years ago.

Which brings me to my title… broken links. I don’t know if the same situation applies when you are old and lose your partner, or if it applies to anyone but me, but it seems like it would. When you are middle aged and your partner dies, the trauma of having everything you were planning, all your hopes, all your visions for the future and your entire way of looking at life taken away, it causes a terrible rip in time. For a while you can’t think about the past… the pain is too great, so you just refuse to think about it. Finally you are left with a distant past, the present and a gap that you haven’t  acknowledged for a couple or maybe even a few years… Eventually you have to link it all back together though, or you are left with a very confusing mess in your mind.

Well anyway, as I was driving past the open space I remembered the wedding… Bobbie & Susie, a beautiful country wedding. I wasn’t even photographing weddings anymore, Tricia had gotten in a bad car accident on the way to the lab to process wedding film and ended up blaming photography for years of therapy, both physical and emotional, and had quit helping me. I had to work full time and was not able to keep up with all the marketing and phone calls and I was tired of the bitchy brides anyway, so I just quit the wedding business all together.

But one day there was a call and I happened to answer it… The sweetest voice I had ever heard on the other end, slight southern drawl, maybe Texas. Said she had been referred and wanted me to photograph her wedding. I said I really didn’t do weddings anymore, but she persisted and the voice was so sweet… It was going to be fun, and there was going to be beer and a barbecue… The BBQ sounded pretty good and beer is always hard to turn down and I found myself agreeing to do the wedding and even quoting a very low fee.

Now mind you this was during Tricia’s recovery from the accident and there were no kind words coming from her towards me…. just constant hatred, she blamed photography for her pain and associated me with the photography. Naturally I became distant and not too receptive to her constant nagging, about what I can’t even remember. So I told her I was doing the wedding and she was welcome to come along and be my assistant like before and a meeting was scheduled. I don’t remember all that was discussed at the meeting, just that Susie was so sweet I couldn’t say no about anything! Lol… afterwards Tricia said, “Damn… she has you wrapped around her little finger doesn’t she! I’ve never seen you act that way around a woman!”. She was so sweet and so pretty, and of course Tricia was furious with me but maybe should have taken the lesson in the art of persuasion! Later at the wedding Tricia met Susie’s father and told me that if she had a father like that she might have turned out sweet too…  so my brief foray into marriage counseling and advice to men, if you want a sweet wife, find a woman who had a loving daddy 🙂

It turned out to be a wonderful fun wedding, even Tricia had a good time. And we remained friends with them for a while… Susie even came to my 40th birthday party. And now I have a few more pieces of that period of my life linked back together, by a stretch of mystery highway in the Pike National Forest 🙂

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