Endurance

This time of year always reminds me of the big endurance races here in Colorado, the Pikes Peak Marathon and the Leadville 100 Mile “Race Across the Sky”. Although it has been a long time since I have run the race I know the trials and tribulations of attempting to run 100 miles at an average of 10,000 feet of elevation have permanently changed my mindset regarding what the mind can force the body to accomplish.

Steve & Dad Leadville (wordpress)When my buddy and I were on the descent from our winter summit of Mount Elbert last year, we knew we were nearing the parking lot but it was getting cold and dark and we were really tired from 10 hours of hiking in snow. That’s when your mind starts telling you that you aren’t going to make it, or you are on the wrong trail, or that you didn’t prepare and train enough to accomplish what you are trying to do. He said to me, maybe we should just stop and camp… I’m sure I was just as exhausted and miserable as anyone could be but I said no, we can make it… I said we could go another 50 miles feeling this miserable! Lol, sounds funny but it’s true.

The Leadville 100 is an out and back race from the town of Leadville, Colorado to the ghost town of Winfield at an average of 10,000 feet over three mountain passes including Hope Pass at 12,600 feet. And I can tell you when you summit Hope Pass the second time after 12 hours of running with your legs feeling like two pieces of useless rubber, sick to your stomach and heart feeling like it is going to explode inside your chest, there is no earthly reason why you should believe that you are going to be able to run another 45 miles over two more mountain passes… in the dark.

But somehow all the training, past experience, determination and pure force of will come together to keep you going, just because you can and because you can’t bear the thought of living another year with the specter of failure hanging over your life while you train another twelve long months for another shot at it. And once you stagger across that finish line you are somehow different and the change applies to many aspects of life. Things you thought you would never be able to accomplish become possible. Things that cause others to shrink in fear are small in your mind now. In your chest beats the heart of a champion and no one can ever take that away from you, ever.

The picture is of me and my dad nearing the finish line in Leadville. My dad was a runner too and I always liked having him pace me for the last section from Twin Lakes on into town… He was my life coach when I was growing up and while others might have felt sorry for me and maybe allowed me to give up so close to the finish line I could always count on kind words of encouragement from my dad… Lol… like “oh shut up and get going, we’re almost there!”… 🙂 I always liked this picture, not because it is the most scenic or dramatic but because it is the one that shows the sheer magnitude of the race. The mountains in the background towering over the skyline are where the war takes place. Looking back now it is hard to even imagine crossing those mountains twice, but I did and I am a better person for the experience. Good luck and Godspeed to all who are facing the monster this year!

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

 

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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If This Jacket Could Talk

If This Jacket Could Talk

As luck would have it, I got a really good deal on a new Gor-Tex jacket the other day. Later that day as I went to zip up my old one it didn’t feel right, looked down and the zipper was broken… zip all you want, but it isn’t going to close. The shell is starting to rip out in places too so it is looking like it might be time to retire this old garment. I’ve been looking for a replacement for it for about a year now, so I was a bit surprised to have found the replacement on the day that I needed it! Although I shouldn’t be, I can’t count the number of times Providence has filled my need at the exact instant it was required. The words of the Apostle Paul, “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in Glory.”

Summit Elbert Steve.jpgWell anyway, that jacket has served me faithfully for many years. Not too long after we were married, probably springtime in the mid 90’s, Tricia and I were grocery shopping at the Whole Foods on Colorado Blvd. in Denver. There was an Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) right beside it back then and they were having and end of season sale that we could not resist. That is when we got a really good deal on matching Gor-Tex suits, the blue jackets and black pants. That would make my jacket over 20 years old this year if my memory is correct!

So if that jacket could talk, it would have some stories to tell! Countless snowshoe treks through the woods together with our dog Bear outside our home in Parker. Those were our best years together, enjoying prosperous life in the horse country south of the city. Since then the forest that we hiked in has been plowed under by a developer and is no longer accessible, a heart breaking story on it’s own of an unsuccessful bitter and protracted battle by residents to save pristine forest land.

The jacket kept me warm through countless training runs, snowshoe races in Breck, Dillon and the Eldora ski area, treks through Chautauqua Park and up Bear Mountain Fern Canyon, Mallory Cave and the Arch. The jacket has been on top of Pikes Peak, and 14ers Elbert, Yale, Massive, and Harvard. I can’t count the number of times it protected me from the snow on the Chicago Lakes Trail on Mount Evans and on countless treks to the summit of Bald Mountain in all kinds of weather. And of course it was my constant companion during the capturing of some 6,500 stock photo images, keeping me and camera safe and warm during photo shoots in snowstorms every year for the last two decades.

The jacket was with me in the hard times and the good times. I can’t count the number of times I had to wear it in winter bike rides up the pass, getting to work to try to save money to get the truck fixed. The jacket saw blizzards, hail storms, torrential rain, wind and every sort of mayhem that these mountains are capable of throwing at a person. I was wearing that jacket pretty much every time over the last few years during the funerals and burials of two dogs and three cats that made the journey to these mountains with me. I don’t remember for sure, but I can imagine the jacket was with me two Marchs’ ago as I waited for the outcome of our final trip to hospice. Tricia never got the chance to wear out her jacket… too many health problems to count kept her indoors way more that she would have liked.

I believe though, that this image shot by my buddy Ralph sums up the greatest moment in this jacket’s long history. The winter summit of Mount Elbert, Colorado’s highest peak. I’m not sure I can throw this coat away… think I might just hang it in the closet as a reminder, a trophy commemorating the best moments of two decades of adventure. For sure, my new jacket has a lot of living up to do to exceed the adventures of my first one, but I am ready for a run at it!

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

Best of the Best

My Alamy stock image portfolio doesn’t get a lot of attention in my pages, perhaps because it is the smallest of my image portfolios. But I’m thinking it should get more love! I have been with Alamy for nearly a decade now, and during that time I have carefully selected only the best images from each photo shoot to place there. So although I only have a few over one thousand images there, they are the cream of the crop.

And that’s not the only reason my clients might want to purchase stock imagery from the Alamy agency. As one of the oldest digital image pioneers, Alamy is also the most fair to photographers, paying the highest commissions of any of the major players. In addition, Alamy is also a major contributor to charity, helping to find a cure for cancer. Alamy was founded in 1999 James West, along with his uncle Mike Fischer, who “By this time was also involved in research: medical and education. So the agreement was that in lieu of dividends for the major shareholders, payments would be invested into Mike’s medical research charity. A charity which is investigating and, hopefully, developing vaccines against cancer.”.

My contract with another agency states that if I submit an image there and it gets rejected the image cannot be used anywhere else for any other reason. So for each photo shoot, I look through the images and look for the best and most unique and I ask myself a question, “Will I lose sleep if this one gets rejected and taken out of circulation?” If the answer is yes and the exposure is of the exceptionally high standard required by the Alamy editors, I will submit it to Alamy instead of another place where it is more likely to have a high volume of low priced sales.

So if you want to take a tour through my cream of the crop over the last decade, please have a look at my Alamy image portfolio! And if you are a stock buyer, I urge you to look with an eye cast towards your next advertising or publishing campaign!

The Last Shall Be First

Smokey, our new feline addition has been with us about a month now, just happy to have some food and to be in out of the cold. He has made himself at home, finding a place he likes to sleep and always at the front of the line when it comes to feeding time. Sometimes there is nothing like our furry little friends to lend understanding to some spiritual truth and Smokey has stepped up to give me some heart warming insight. The Bible says, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”. Smokey has only been with us a short time while his little friends here have been with us over ten years. Yet he thinks nothing of marching right to the front of the line at feeding time and making the same demands of attention from his master that his older friends enjoy. And his confidence is just fine with his master who has no problem with treating him the same as his buddies 🙂 In other words, the spiritual truth here is that there is no difference in God’s eyes between spiritual veterans and new arrivals.

TiggerTime is flying and we are grinding through this Rocky Mountain winter. January is almost over, the days are getting longer and the north face of the big peak is beginning to see some light. Soon it will be time to train my camera lens back on the temperamental old rock for some new new views of her many moods. For now though my writing continues to be of winter. The Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series is half over, but the competition is just beginning as foul weather spoiled the running of the first races in the series. Snow is continuing to fall regularly and is still my favorite photographic subject for this time of year. As I look out this morning there is a fresh blanket of white and it looks like I will be doing some shoveling if I want to get anywhere today. On the other hand, it looks cold and gray and like a good day to just stay home and watch movies while my closest friend in this world recovers from another painful and unfortunate bout of pneumonia. As we roll into February I am looking forward to more hours of light, slightly warmer temperatures and more winter activities to photograph and write of. Be sure to subscribe to my news feed on the Examiner so you don’t miss out on any of this Rocky Mountain winter!

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.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge

I have been following the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with great interest this week and today it is coming to an end. Stage 7 of the race will go on today and a champion will be decided. I was fortunate this year that the race not only came to my town, but Woodland Park was chosen as a host city for the starting line of Stage 5. My current circumstances don’t allow me to get to many events so I was excited that I was going to get a chance to go to such a big production.

Thursday came and I was looking forward to the usual sunny morning on Friday when a huge thunderstorm rolled through in the night, spelling trouble for the morning weather. Friday morning came and as I feared the day was greeted with gloomy dark clouds, not a good thing for photographers. As the morning wore on the clouds started to spit a little rain and I pondered the possibility of having to use rain gear. With no break in the clouds I finally decided to put on the Aqua-Tech for the camera and Gortex for me. The silver lining? Maybe there won’t be so many photographers and I will get a shot that no one else will.

Down to the starting area in the rain I went. As I closed in on the podium I was confronted by a police officer. Race personnel and VIP’s only in the starting area. Undaunted, I looked around and spotting the media tent, I decided to give it a shot. The coveted press pass. I went in prepared to do battle for my prize, but a smiling face greeted me as the nice lady told me just to sign in with my name, email and affiliation. As I was already planning my Stage 5 Examiner story, I was well prepared. As I completed my sign in I was quickly awarded the green band for my arm. The lady said, “With this you can go anywhere, no questions asked.”.

So armed with my green band I strutted into the starting area past the officer who initially turned me away to get the pre-race pictures. Still cloudy and raining, I decided on ISO 400 to try to bring in some more light and get the shutter speed up a bit. There were racers signing in with the pretty girl on the stage and interviews with the radio guy to be captured for my story. There were also a few riders warming up on their bikes in the starting chute so I got some shots of them with the beautiful mountains surrounding Woodland Park in the background.

As start time closed in I decided to head for the west side of town on Highway 24 to capture the riders with Pikes Peak in the background. Unfortunately, the peak was enshrouded in clouds and fog at the moment and wasn’t too impressive. A few test shots revealed the fact that ISO 400 wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to have to go to F4 on the aperture because the depth of field would be too shallow. I didn’t like it, but  ISO 640 was required to be able to dial in an aperture of F5.6 which allowed a shutter speed of around 1000th of a second. Better some digital noise than a blurry picture I thought. Oh, and set up for  AI Servo focus… the riders would be moving fast. Made that mistake at the Motorcycle rally.

After a short wait and a cordial discussion with a motorcycle cop who was poised to lead the racers, I heard cheers and saw flashing lights. The racers were coming. I quickly positioned my camera and got some shots of the pack coming towards me. Soon they were past and I repositioned for the going away shots with the Peak in the background. By now the clouds and cleared a bit and the Peak was visible in all it’s glory once again.

Two minutes later and it was all over. By the end of today it will be all over for another year. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the conclusion!

Time Flies

Wow… hard to believe, it seems like summer was just getting started and I was looking forward to reporting on the summer running activities. The better part of summer is now behind us and I am looking forward to autumn events.

There is that moment every summer when there is a sudden twinge of cool in the air and you know that summer is starting to lose it’s grip. We had a cool spell this week and I felt that twinge. However I think it was just a cool spell and the blast of cool air was just a coincidence. I think there is plenty of hot summer fun yet to enjoy before we start to feel the crisp cool air of autumn in the mountains.

That moment is coming though, and the way time is flying this summer the moment is probably coming quicker than I would like. The Pikes Peak Road Runners have their fall running schedule posted and it is chock full of events for everyone. Autumn is still a few weeks away but it isn’t too soon to start looking ahead.

Watch for my full report on the fall schedule on my Examiner Outdoor Recreation news column! It’s going to be a good one! Click the subscribe button beside my profile picture in any of my articles for a free subscription to the Examiner and to my articles and updates!