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.

Advertisements

The Clearing

Continued my exploration of the new trailhead and trail system that I have been working for the last couple of weeks. After encountering “the gate” I had to branch out in a new direction and the cool cloudy morning we are having seemed just the day to do that. So early this morning the puppies and me forged ahead further than before, hoping to find a route up to the top of the ridge and maybe yet another view of the majestic mountain across valley.

Sunset on Pikes Peak

Beautiful summer sunset on Pikes Peak Colorado

By then little old Kitsu looked like she was getting tired so I decided we would just keep going back to the beginning. Just as we were getting ready to head back up the switchbacks I noticed a car driving in the woods! I watched to see what it was going to do when I figured out where exactly we were, at another trailhead parking area that I have used before.  It is also the place I came down to the time I descended the back side of Bald Mountain, and swore I would never hike again, incredibly steep there! Well anyway, I know where I am there and from my new trailhead I am happy to discover that I can go anywhere on the entire ridge from there, from inside Woodland Park all the way to Rampart Reservoir if I wanted!

Black-Bears-4I wonder how many miles and how many hours I have spent hiking that trail system? I have hiked it in summer, winter, fall, rain, snow and near darkness. I have seen deer, elk, bear, coyote, bobcat and all kinds of birds including eagles and hawks. The trails and the forest on this little patch of the Pike National Forest have been an amazing source of peace for me for almost a decade now, I feel so fortunate to live so close to such solitude. Countless pictures I have taken along the way, many of which can be viewed in my Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak fine art image  gallery. The commercial stock version of those images can be found by clicking here. Many more can be found in my wildlife gallery.

Definitely looking forward to many more miles of trail, changing seasons and abundant wildlife on this ridge now made accessible by my new favorite trailhead 🙂

 

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

Back in the Groove

Wow, what a tumultuous summer… Certainly hasn’t turned out according to plan! Was not expecting my best photo agency to become my worst in a matter of a couple of months, and wasn’t expecting to have to be working a regular job to make ends meet. But here it is, almost August and I have done almost no photography or writing this summer. However I do seem to be getting used to the new reality and managed to go on a couple of hikes and take a few pictures in the last week or two.

Goat-PeekingBut much to my surprise, when I went to write my usual articles about the hikes and the new trails, I discovered that the news company I write for has been taken over by a new company and I am no longer a contributor there! Oh well.. easy come easy go. I never did like writing for somebody else… too many restrictions. I was also surprised to receive an email the other day from agent iStock / Getty saying that we will no longer be able to delete our own content. In the near future, permission will be required from admin to delete a picture. Earlier in the summer I had already rescinded my exclusive contributor contract with them in anticipation of expanding my sales base. However it was my plan to continue uploading the less special images to iStock. Now however, I think it unlikely that I will be contributing to iStock / Getty anymore at all. Never thought that would be the case.

So now I’m  trying to get back in the groove… My writing will be done in this blog, with accounts of my adventures such as this one about our hike to the summit of Colorado’s second highest peak, Mount Massive 🙂 I have already uploaded a few stock and print images of that hike to my new image websites, Alamy and Pixels.com. It has taken some getting used to and a little bit of adjustment, but I think I’m finally back in the groove 🙂

Teach Us to Profit

Again today I awake early in the morning just as I did yesterday, stunned that it is possible to feel so terrible so early. It has been a long dry spell in the picture taking business, so many miles on the trail with so little to show for it. I have heard it said many times, “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” and I am starting to believe that! It seems to be getting harder and harder to get up that mountainside in search of elusive wildlife for the stock photography portfolio. Decided maybe it would help to start the day with a prayer and my morning prayer reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.“. Good words I thought.

Gloomy-PeakYesterday I could not face the climb, and I remembered the words of the great Ansel Adams, “Do not confuse hiking with photography, a picture from the road is as good as one you’ve hiked miles to get.”, or something close to that anyway. More good words of wisdom to live by, maybe I should find a less strenuous method of getting pictures once in a while to give these old bones a rest! It was weights day, so I wandered into the gym to complete that regular activity, hoping that I would find some inspiration afterwards.

Still nothing, but I had some time to kill before lunch and decided to stop in at the library and look at the latest “Outdoor Photographer” Mag to get caught up on the latest equipment and  techniques, plus I enjoy sitting in the reading room and looking out at the awesome view of the big mountain available from there. The effects of an approaching storm were already enveloping the peak yesterday morning as snow and fog had begun to roll in. Nothing too earth shaking in the world of photography, the Canon 80D is out, but not significantly improved over the 70D I’m already shooting with, not enough anyway to get excited about purchasing a new camera.

So I wandered over to the book section to see if there were any new photography books, the photography section at the Woodland Park Library is woefully under stocked 😦 On my way out of the section I noticed the writing section, particularly the 2014 Writer’s Market Handbook. I’ve been an avid reader of the Photographer’s Handbook but I’ve never looked at the version for writers, so I thought, “Why not?”! The book is huge and I didn’t get a whole lot out of it, other than the realization that I am clearly not putting enough emphasis on profit from my writing. As of late, from my site statistics I have discovered that my writing receives way more attention than my picture posts do so it occurred to me that I need to put some thought to this matter and resolved to do so at the earliest possible convenience.

Well as it turned out, yesterday was an incredibly slow day and that opportunity presented itself in the afternoon. I have long been intrigued by a phrase I saw a while ago, “monetizing your blog”. Monetizing sounds good… I’m definitely in need of some monetizing.  So after some cursory research it became apparent that my “free” WordPress account was probably not going to be adequate so I took the major step I’ve been kicking around for awhile, which was to get a custom WordPress domain name and with it the capability of installing some income stream plugins, the first of which I applied for immediately.

So even though the old body is still feeling the effects of too many miles on the trail, I start out this day with new hope that one of my favorite passages in the Bible will be applied to my life and that yesterday was a day when “the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.“.