After the Bomb Cyclone

What an incredible storm… a 24 hour whiteout with two feet of snow and 80 mph winds. Finally it is over and the beautiful blue Colorado sky has returned, albeit with 3 degrees above zero this morning! But I wanted to get out, I thought I might find the elk and I also thought the snow would be awesome for snowshoeing πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Well it turned out to be a pretty rough morning, first of all I awoke at 3 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep, probably anticipating the beautiful day I was going to have! Finally the sun came up and it actually warmed up to six degrees so me and Big Dog were out the door only to discover a snowdrift in the back seat of my truck, which remains a bit of a mystery. All the windows were closed except for a slight space in the back window which now appears closed. Well anyway my hat and gloves were wet, not a welcome development. Then I surmise because of the snowdrift in my backseat, the inside of the windows are just as frosted over as the outside so I got to scrape both while we waited for the defroster to take effect. Besides all of that, my tires were frozen to the mud which seemed risky to just drive out of, but I did it anyway and managed to survive which is better than you can say for the trash can that I ran over on my way out of the driveway, which did not 😦

Elk in Fresh Snow

The road to the trailhead was snow packed which is fine except that it was over a deep layer of solid ice which on a curvy and hilly mountain road was not fine. But there was nowhere to turn around so I just white knuckled it on to the trailhead. Once there I got out the snowshoes and began the trek. I immediately encountered a deep snowdrift so we stopped and strapped on the snowshoes. Then I had to take them off again, and put them on and take them off and put them on. The tremendous winds had blown all the snow off in some places and piled it up in others, very annoying. Finally the snow got deep for good right about at the cattle gate… which was frozen. Try as I might I could not unlock the gate. Finally I just unscrewed the big eye hook from the post and screwed it back in once on the other side. We were on the trail πŸ™‚

Elk in Fresh Snow

Getting onto the trail was not such a blessing on this day… in the trees near the top of the ridge, the wind had piled up several feet of fresh powder on top of a semi hard crust which was quite a challenge for me and the big dog. I managed to post hole about three times, plunging the lens of my camera into the snow. So three times I had to stop and remove the lens hood to wipe off the front filter while gasping for air from the elevation gain and deep snow. Finally we punched through to the top of the ridge where I spotted the elk herd. They had found one of the spots where the wind had blown the snow away and were enjoying the morning sunshine. I decided to take a few shots from afar with my 400mm lens, opting to not cause them to have to run into the deep snow.

Finally we had struggled back to the bottom and to the truck where I put my snowshoes down and opened the door for Big Dog before going around to get in myself. Unfortunately the windows had refrosted so I let the truck run awhile and scraped the inside again. There was another car abandoned in the parking lot so I took some care backing around when I heard a crunch, which turned out to be my snowshoes that I had put down to let the dog in 😦 I leapt out to recover and examine them, assuming that they were ruined… but fortunately my trusty MSR’s had survived with only a slight bend in one of the side rails which I should easily be able to repair. What a relief, these are some tough snowshoes!

Once leaving the parking lot we were able to return home without incident, so I’m hoping the rest of the day goes better than the start!

Of course as usual, these images are available for purchase on my website in the elk gallery as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, traditional framing and matting and stretched canvas. Also available are tons of cool gift, household and tech items with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them!

 

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The Blizzard

The weather has been miserable for photography these days, haven’t had my camera out in over a week. Summer is pretty rough for taking pictures in the mountains. Between the intense sun, haze and later on smoke unless we are very fortunate the mountains are barely visible. The wildlife spends the warm lazy days lying in the shade in the highest elevations, coming out only in darkness to forage for food.

Three does in snow

Which got me to thinking about winter and my favorite activity, snow shoeing πŸ™‚ I was recalling this photo shoot… the snow was just coming down so hard for several days without a break, we were just buried under several feet of snow. So much snow in fact that the wildlife was having difficulty moving around to get food. That year there was a herd of deer trapped in the mountains that was surely going to starve to death without assistance. The Wildlife Service was going to abide by it’s strict no interference policy and just let the animals die until there was a massive outcry from the public and they were forced to relent. Bales of hay were finally airlifted by helicopter to rescue the stranded animals, but the public was strictly forbidden to take matters into their own hands in other affected areas. Fortunately Coloradans are generally rebels and no one listened to the authorities, saving many animals that would have perished.

I lived a short distance from a game reserve where someone had delivered a couple of bales of hay to our beloved herd of deer, but unfortunately the snow was so deep that they could not get to it. Since I walked that forest every morning looking for pictures for my stock photo business I knew the area like the back of my hand, including each and every game path throughout the entire area. So I got the idea to put on my snowshoes and pack down their paths so they could move around. The snowplows had been by once so the snow on the street was only about a foot deep and getting to the woods was pretty easy. However, once I hit the deep snow it was an entirely different story! But I persevered, diving into the waist deep snow with short steps so that there would be a good solid path for the animals. I remember the snow getting deeper and deeper until I was struggling through chest deep powder gasping for air and having to stop and rest after only a few steps. My snowshoes would plunge almost all the way to the ground and then become covered with all the snow on top of my feet. It was all I could do to lift each foot out of the deep trench for another step. For a while there I thought I was going to spit out my lungs!

Winter Deer.jpg

I could see the deer in the mist, looking on curiously. They were quite used to me walking through there with my camera so there was no alarm and they didn’t try to run. Mostly they were hanging out under the thickest trees to avoid getting buried while they slept. I of course had brought my camera, well protected by my Aquatech rain cover, in case I could get close enough to the deer to get some pictures. Multitasking I guess it was πŸ™‚

And indeed, I did get some of the greatest deer in snow pictures that I have ever managed to obtain! At one point I was struggling to get through some snow and brush when I burst into a clearing and found these three beautiful ladies staring at me like, “Hey, what’s going on?” I also found a few more cuties just hanging out, eating the bark and leftover leaves on the ubiquitous scrub oak trees prevalent in that area.

Doe-Pair

Most gratifying of all though was the sight of the deer beginning almost immediately to use the pathways that I had created for them πŸ™‚ They seemed very grateful for the assistance and I was grateful for the opportunity to have done my part in the great effort made by fellow Coloradans to spare the animals from great suffering. In fact it worked so well that I made it a habit from then on to don my snowshoes and keep their paths clear for the rest of my remaining time in the Parker area. It is now one of my fondest memories from my time life there πŸ™‚

Winter Photography, Shooting in the Snow

Snow is probably my favorite photo subject… If not the actual snow, maybe it is the beautiful transformation of vvour big brown rocks into an amazing  Rocky Mountain winter wonderland that captivates me!

Elk in a Colorado snowstorm

Rocky Mountain elk in a Colorado snowstorm

Today brings the first real snow we have seen in the mountains in a long time, so of course I had to go out in it πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure Big Dog loves the white stuff even more than I do so I had no trouble talking him into a trek! He seems impervious to cold and wind and was up for whatever we needed to do!

The wind is blowing pretty hard and those snowflakes sting! I decided on my snorkel parka today which was perfect. It’s not actually that cold so my Gortex Asolo light hikers were fine for protecting my feet. No snowshoes needed today, looks worse out than it is. Three or four inches is about all we are going to see out of this one.

For camera protection I prefer the AquaTech rain shield, good for rain or snow. It has to be a pretty rough day for me to need more than my REI glove liners, which are perfect for operating the camera controls in cold weather. The last time they were used as actual glove liners was on top of Mount Elbert!!!

The whiteout conditions make a mockery of the camera metering system and it is difficult to run the controls with the rain cover so I just set the ISO to 400 for the cloudy conditions with exposure compensation at +1.5. I also lock the control wheel so it won’t inadvertently change and ruin my day!

With that done I’m good to go and with any luck the deer and elk will be huddled somewhere I can find them!

Different Every Day

My wife when she was still with us used to call Pikes Peak a “Cantankerous Old Lady”, which may well be very true πŸ™‚ However she is also as beautiful as she is unpredictable and she can be counted on to put on a different face every day. I have to carry with me my camera at all times because I never know when she is going to decide to put on a spectacular show. This day turned out to be one of the better ones, the first hint of the storm that was rolling in from the south and spilling over onto the north face of the great monolith. Much of the time when it is cloudy there is no hint of color and all that you can see is a big brown rock peeking out from the clouds. This particular morning however, the Master Painter of Sunrises allowed the sun to barely shine on the north face enhancing the many colors that occasionally shine through.

Sunrise on the PeakI have a 30 year history on this mountain, and can attest to the ever changing conditions visitors might encounter. One time as I was scrambling back down the mountain to avoid the approaching storms, I encountered a group of tourists at the A-Frame wearing and carrying nothing but shorts and t-shirts. One asked me, “It’s only three miles to the top from here right?”. I replied, “Yes, but it is the hardest three miles and a storm is coming, I recommend you go back down.”. They looked at me like I was an alien and headed up the trail. I supposed they must not have perished as there were no tragic news reports later.Β  I used to train for the Leadville 100 Mile Run by spending every Saturday making the trek from Manitou to the Peak and back on the Barr Trail. The trail is only accessible for a couple of short months but in that time you might encounter anything from a clear crisp morning to blizzard conditions in the same day! Above the tree line thunderstorms and lightning strikes are regular visitors along with teeming wildlife, if you are paying close attention to your surroundings.

The beauty of the Old Lady often belies the harshness of life at 14,000 feet. One time on a glorious winter day I was attempting to summit the west face on snowshoes with my buddy Ralph. We were having a perfect day and had just cleared the ridge and made it a bit past the Pikes Peak Highway intersection when we decided to take a break and enjoy some nourishment for the push to the summit. As we stood contemplating whether we would reach summit in time to make it back down safely before the short winter day would end quickly in darkness, in an instant we suddenly found ourselves fighting for our lives. The mountain decided to blast us with a massive wind gust which we later found from weather reports was probably in excess of 100 mph. The burst actually knocked us to the ground and a complete whiteout raged around us unabated. We made sure not to lose contact with each other and from the look of our frozen beards and skin we knew we had to get off the mountain fast. Our trail was already covered but an outcropping showed us the way and we ran as fast as we could towards it. Soon we were down a few hundred feet in elevation and life was back to normal. At the trailhead it was a beautiful warm afternoon and pools of water were forming all over from melting snow. Now when we see the wind sheer and snow blowing hundreds of feet in the air over the back side of the summit… we comment, “Now I know what it is like up there when that happens!”.

There were no such hardships on this particular photo shoot though, only the beauty of a magnificent summer sunrise. These photographs and others including some beautiful deer that I recently had the pleasure of photographing are available for purchase as prints and royalty free stock on my website. Beautiful wall art products such as prints on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas and traditional frames and mattes can be seen on the regular website while stock images can be purchased from the image licensing portal.

 

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

A Time to Shoot

Unquestionably, the most enjoyable part of being a stock photographer is the shooting. For a photographer there is nothing quite like planning a shoot, looking at the maps, researching the wildlife and getting the equipment ready. Sometimes a special event will bring me out, like a bike race, music festival or a big storm in the mountains. But sometimes it is not the time to shoot and this is one of those times. This isn’t a very pretty time of year in the southern Colorado Rockies. There isn’t much snow on the high peaks, the leaves are all gone and the landscape kind of just looks like a lot of dirt.

stormy-peakThe election is over and the hopeless business climate caused by the previous administration will soon be history. Sales are finally starting to pick up again after the longΒ  dry spell and there is once again some reason for hope. By last winter the business climate for photography was so bad that it didn’t even seem worth uploading the pictures I was capturing. Getty Images was busy running the once vibrant iStock agency into the ground and I was off to my worst year of sales since I started this business many years ago.

Finally last spring I decided to give up my exclusive contract with iStock / Getty and branch out. A few months later, I am quite happy that I did that as iStock continues to flounder and new announcements of commission cuts and lower prices seem to be coming out every month. I am now hearing of subscription sales for non-exclusives with commissions as low as nine cents. It was just a couple of blog posts ago that I was starting to think that iStock was going to recover, but the new announcement coupled with a a previous announcement that uploads cannot be deleted from iStock without permission from the admins has made it very difficult to find a reason to continue uploading there. So for my clients who wish to find my new work, don’t bother looking on iStock. You will find my new stuff on my Pixels.com and Alamy agency portfolios.

deerWell anyway, back to what was saying. With business just picking up and funds low from years of a terrible business climate in this country, I find this is not the time to shoot. Instead I have been looking back through last winter and I was amazed to find this shoot of a mountain blizzard almost untouched. I had uploaded maybe two or three and then given up, considering the pointlessness of uploading to iStock at the time. So it would appear, now is the time for uploading like a madman… Pictures don’t put themselves up for sale! It is the hard part of the business, the editing, photoshopping and the uploading. It is the part of the business that is work. But, hopefully it is also the part of the business that pays the bills πŸ™‚

 

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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