Winter Storm in May

Was looking forward to a couple of days of photography in the pleasant Rocky Mountain springtime weather… until I looked at the forecast. Snow starting today and continuing all day tomorrow! Figured whatever hiking I was to get in was going to have to be early today and then that is going to be it until next week 😦 So the plan was set… off to Woodland Park for supplies and the rain forest trails on the north side of the high walls of Ute Pass.

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak Colorado

As we crested Victor Pass I could see that the weather was already in full swing on Pikes Peak with fresh snow on the summit and storm clouds and fog rolling in. It was a beautiful scene though, made all the better with a circular polarizer on my 100-400 Canon Zoom.

When I neared my intended trailhead in Woodland I could see that as hoped,  there were mule deer running around all over the place 🙂 Me and the big dog dismounted my blue Dodge and headed into the pungent atmosphere of the beautiful springtime wilderness. It wasn’t long before I spotted a herd of deer, unfortunately they also spotted us. They quickly moved away from the trail, but stopped a few yards into the woods to see if we were actually going to pursue them. When they discovered we weren’t they just stopped and  and kept a wary eye upon us. One of them I see is a buck just starting to grow antlers for his battles in the autumn rut!

Wilderness Mule Deer

I snapped a bunch of those guys… due to the dark gray clouds above I was forced to use ISO 400 which I would rather not have to do at a distance. I’m really happier with the detail I capture at ISO 200, but I figured I was going to need at least a 200th of a second for a clear picture!

It wasn’t long before I started to see snow flakes beginning to fly so I had to cut the hike short and finish the supply run. Now the snow is falling steadily but we are back home safe and sound ready to just watch the snow action from in front of my computer screen!

Wilderness Mule Deer

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Some Serious Snow

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

Seems like it is snowing every day these days… good for photography. It was snowing when I got home last night so I knew that there was a chance for a good show in the high peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range 🙂 That’s actually a good photo tip… always look for some good captures right before or after a storm!

As expected, the mountains were stunning today and a quick hike to top of the ridge has paid off with these beautiful images. It was still a bit hazy this morning and it just seems like black and white brings out the mood of the scene better than the color  versions. And that snow is really piling up on the Sangre… haven’t seen this much snow in a long time. Hope you enjoy!

Clouds on the Sangre de Cristo

 

Trail Ridge Adventure

Been waiting for this outing for a long time! Vehicle repairs, too many hours at work, too many life commitments… This trip to Rocky Mountain National Park has been on delay for an entire decade! Finally, yesterday was the day… truck running in tip top shape, camera equipment all working and autumn in full swing 🙂

Set my alarm for 2:30 a.m., in fact I set two alarms… didn’t want to miss this event because I didn’t wake up in time! 1:30 a.m. came around and suddenly I was wide awake. Thought about rolling over for another hour but my heart was already pounding and more sleep was just not going to happen!

It’s been hot lately, in fact I heard Colorado Springs set a record for most days over 90 degrees in September. But as I sat in the dark sipping my Morning Joe it felt unusually cool and there was a strange sound of water dripping. Thinking that the kitchen faucet might be dripping I wandered in for my second cup to notice that the dripping sound was coming from outside, a cool rain was steadily drenching the southern mountains. My first inclination was to call my buddy and suggest we pick another day… Second thoughts reminded me however that weather is my friend, some cool mist can turn an ordinary mountain meadow in to a spectacular moody mystical masterpiece!

Soon I was off and on my way to pick up my buddy at the planned time of 4:30 a.m. in hopes of entering the park at about sunrise. It was not until we were on our way did we finally decide to enter the park from the west side in hopes of catching some wildlife in the western meadows during the rain while exploring Bear Lake on the east side after the rain had hopefully ceased.

We hit Winter Park just as the sun was rising in the east with a fog bank in view to the north, probably hovering over Grand Lake but it had mostly dissipated by the time we arrived at that point. The sun was gaining in strength as we entered the park, unfortunately maybe a little too much strength as there was no wildlife to be found 😦 We eventually encountered a small herd of elk hiding in the shade of the dense forest along the road, but nothing like the large herds we were hoping for.

Autumn Tundra on Trail Ridge

Soon we were past the bottoms and on our way up to the lofty elevations of Trail Ridge Road, The drive wasn’t as long as I remembered and soon we were above tree line looking at some of the finest scenery Colorado has to offer!

The visitor center was the first place that looked worthy of a stop along the “highest continuous motorway in the United States“. It was cold there at 12,300 feet of elevation and the wind was blowing hard. We grabbed a couple of cameras and made a beeline for the gift shop where I was hoping for a nice heavy hooded sweatshirt as my prize for reaching the summit. Unfortunately I didn’t find just what I was looking for so I left the gift shop empty handed. As we made our way outdoors the unmistakable sound of a bugling bull elk filled the crisp thin air, so we ventured onto the observation deck to see if the source could be located. Far beneath the visitor center in the colorful valley below the huge bull elk was visible. Clamped on my long lens and steadied the camera on the wall for a few shots of the distant beast hoping that this would not be the closest I was going to get to the majestic animals.

Storm Clouds on Trail Ridge

Soon we found ourselves traversing the pinnacle of the drive, hugging the yellow line all the way! It looked like the clouds were going to clear and a magnificent warm afternoon was in the offing… Lol, soon Colorado struck back and it was snowing in earnest as we explored  one of the many trailheads on the way down the east side of the drive. A quick look back at the high peaks revealed an angry looking snowstorm enveloping the rugged range, well worth taking the time for a few shots of the action high in the majestic western mountains.

By the time we got to the lower elevations of the east side of the park the snow was but a fond memory. The sun was beating down and the Gortex had to come off. We did begin to encounter a few small herds of elk and deer but in fact it was so hot by that time that the animals were hiding in the shade. Hard shade surrounded by bright sun makes for impossible wildlife photography.

So I was thinking that Bear Lake is surrounded by tall mountains, a location that might be enhanced by some direct light from above so I turned the blue Dodge to the south towards the lake. Along the way we tried our hand at some motion blur whitewater along the creek, but getting to a location where the water was even visible proved to be a daunting task. In fact it soon became apparent that getting the water shots was more than daunting… it was downright impossible! Back to the task at hand, photographing the lake and mountain scenery. Soon we neared the the lake and encountered an unwelcome packed parking lot but by some miracle we managed to snag a spot, albeit the most distant one possible.

Bear Lake Peaks

Knowing the price that would be paid in footsteps for leaving some necessary piece of equipment behind, we loaded ourselves up with four camera bodies and probably twice that many lenses. That plus lens filters, extenders, maps and sustenance for a long hike made for a pretty heavy load! The arsenal of camera equipment proved to be well worth it though, as the location demanded nearly all of it’s use. Wide angles to take in the lake and the magnificent scenery beyond, long lenses to capture the rugged mountains surrounding the water and polarizers to enhance the water and filter out bright sunlight! Of course all that gear also serves to encourage the tourists to run up and hand you their phone cameras in hopes of a professional looking free portrait 😦 Oh well… what do you do. Should have had some business cards handy! Live and learn.

Finally we were satisfied that we had sufficiently captured the lake scene and headed for the truck. The sun was still beating down making good wildlife photography unlikely, so we decided to try our luck with some lunch in Estes Park. After some quick reconnaissance we decided upon some nice barbecue at Smokin’ Dave’s. We still had a lot of work to do in the park, but I was confident that one pint of Smokin’ Brunette was not a bad idea 🙂 At least I think that’s what that particular brew was called! I tried to make a post at the time but my phone wasn’t cooperating 😦 Anyway, great place, great beer, I’ll definitely be returning for more!!!

Finally by 5:00 p.m. the sun was losing some of it’s power and we ventured back into the park. I had once encountered a huge herd of elk in Morraine Park in a snowstorm so it seemed worth a check to see if the elk might also like that park on a sunny autumn afternoon as well 🙂 As we neared the meadow it quickly became apparent that my instincts were correct… at least by the sheer number of vehicles that had gathered along the road! It seemed like we had to drive forever to reach the end of the line where we could finally find our own place to park… once again, the long walk back meant that we were going to be packing everything from the previous hike, plus tripods for shooting in the inevitable darkness that was soon to be upon us.

Pair of Rocky Mountain Elk

As we neared the scene, the reason for the large crowd became apparent. A huge bull elk in perfect late afternoon light and his harem were enjoying the mountain grass on the west end of the meadow. Unafraid of the people and unconcerned by their antics, the elk were just going about their business of being elk. The majestic bull appeared to be posing for pictures, stopping occasionally to rear back his head and voice his loud opinion. Here we tried every conceivable combination of camera, lens and filter in hopes of the perfect capture. This one was my favorite of the day. There were many that I really like, but this one with the young cow in the scene seems to best depict the moment.

Finally darkness fell and the the elk began to meander off to the east further from the throngs of people with their big lenses, phones and ipads. We were tired but happy in the knowledge that we had made the best of the day and would be coming home with even more good images than we could have possibly hoped for 🙂 Already we are plotting a return to the park, and possibly one of the nearby campgrounds in hopes of capturing the activity that is sure to occur in the park at first light. One day in the park was good… but two would be even better!

These images and more are available on my website as wall art, available on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional mat and frame. Also available are tons of cool household and gift items including t-shirts, phone cases, battery chargers, yoga mats, shower curtains, throw pillows and more! Images can be viewed there from newest to oldest, or by category. In gallery view just click the category that you are most interested in and the appropriate images will be displayed. Click the images you like and receive product possibilities and pricing will be displayed! Businesses requiring commercial use of my images can view the stock portal for licensing information.

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.

Royalty Free Licensing Prices

S.W. Krull Imaging is pleased to announce a major restructuring in royalty free licensing prices. While the prices on many products continues to rise, prices on royalty free stock imagery continues to fight for a bottom with the big players leading the charge to the bottom.  As a result I have determined that my pricing on royalty free images was no longer competitive and have hopefully created a new more competitive pricing structure. Rights managed images will retain the previous premium price structure.

Deer in Wildflowers

Beautiful doe mule deer

S.W. Krull Imaging has a large collection of royalty free images, including mountain landscapes, sunsets and silhouettes, wildlife and more. If you are in the market for commercially licensed images for your advertising needs I hope you will take the time to browse my images. I am confident there is something there for everyone in the outdoor sports and nature industries!

S.W. Krull Imaging also offers a wide range of art products with the images in my galleries including wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional frames plus tons of cool household and gift items!

Healing comes in different ways

Radical Road

IMG_8602

Life can change in an instant. My life changed 7 months ago when I was raised up from my sick bed and able to walk again. How?? Well, healing comes in different ways. Medicine, prayers, treatment, doctors… ALL of it is God. All those things are how He is choosing to heal me. The past 3 days I faced the possibility of being back in bed 24/7.

I have a blood/heart condition called POTS. Mine is neurological, one of the most severe cases they know of. Whenever I stood up, or even sat up, I lost all the blood to my brain and passed out. My heart rate would also race to the 180s (which is equivalent to what your heart would do if you were sprinting as fast as you can). This made it so I had to live my life from bed, FLAT on my back. I crawled…

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Mountain Freedom

Was watching the newest version of the story of the worst disaster on Everest when I heard an interesting quote that I had never noticed before. The scene was early in the movie when the group was resting and making small talk in their tents getting mentally prepared for their run at the summit. Beck Weathers commented that “When I’m at home there is a big black cloud following me, you know like a depression. But when I’m out here on a mountain, any mountain, it’s like it is a cure.”.

Summit Mount Elbert Colorado

Summit of Mount Elbert Colorado

The quote kind of struck a chord with me because I kind of get that. I think about the mountains all the time, of course that isn’t difficult when you can see them all the time! But when I haven’t been able to go anywhere for a while, or climb up high in a while I get the black cloud too. Like now for example, I started a new job in September working the graveyard shift, something that isn’t particularly good for me. I never get enough sleep, I’m tired all the time and there is no energy for a mountain adventure.

Finally though, I am done with the graveyards and going to day shift.  Even though I’m exhausted today, I hope to be able to  get out tomorrow, maybe on Little Grouse Mountain, to start getting back into 14er climbing shape. Don’t think I’ll be getting in any winter climbs this year, but the idea of an early summer climb on Quandary is starting to take seed in my mind. It looks like a fairly easy one as far as 14ers are concerned, and it is one I have never done. Looking forward once again to the freedom on the mountain!