Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself πŸ™‚ I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture πŸ™‚ Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

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Gear Test: B+W XS-PRO Circular Polarizer

In my quest for the perfect circular polarizer for my Canon 100-400 lens I finally settled on the B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter. Dang, that’s a mouthful but what does it all mean? For starters, Kaesemann is a precision glass company purchased by Schneider Optics of Germany in 1989. The high transmission designation refers to the ability of the glass to transmit light. This filter is advertised at 99.5% with a filter factor of 1 to 1.5 stops of light loss due to the darkened blue glass. The MRC feature is Multi-Resistant-Coating, which is a series of layers designed to prevent reflections and ghosting while the NANO designation refers to a hardened eighth layer that assists in keeping the filter clean. The B+W filter is constructed using a brass outer ring that provides an exceptionally smooth threading capability when affixing the filter to the lens. The rotating mechanism for turning the filter is stiff but very smooth. The construction of this filter is superb.

That’s all well and good of course, but does it work, that is the real question! Today looked like a perfect day to find that out as the sky is perfectly clear and the sun was beating down on the snow capped Sangre de Cristo at almost a perfect 90 degree angle this morning. Just looking at the mountains they appeared washed out and faded to the naked eye, perfect conditions for a polarizer.

So, I pulled into the overlook parking lot and shot one picture with no filter followed by another picture with the circular polarizer with the glass turned to maximum effect. I shot in raw as always, but applied no processing to these two images, as I didn’t want to pollute the results of the test with a bunch of Photoshop adjustments. Here they are, first the mountains with no filter and then with the filter:

Springtime Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Sangre de Cristo Range

As you can plainly see, the second image has significantly increased saturation and detail in the white highlights of the snow capped peaks with a much deeper blue in sky. The snow and trees just below the peaks are also much more visible in the polarized image.

I will also be trying the filter out over water when I find some! Not much water around here in this mountain desert, but sooner or later there will be a river or a lake in the sun where I will find the filter useful! All in all I would say I’m extremely happy with this purchase from B&H Photo Online and would highly recommend the filter to anyone using a DSLR camera.

Maiden Voyage

Well this is it… my first outing with the Canon 100-400 L Mark I. I have been wanting that 400mm lens for over ten years! I had a Sigma 100-500 back before the Great Recession that I had to sell and I always regretted that. At the time I didn’t have the money to do

Deer on the Mountainside Title

any traveling and didn’t need it to photograph the deer in my little game reserve near home, my f4L 70-200 was perfect for the trails in those woods. But like always, as soon as I sold it everything changed and I needed it again! Well anyway, my photo buddy found an entire camera and lens collection for sale on Craigslist, including a Sigma 150-500 that I was going to buy from him if he bought the set. But alas, the guy didn’t get back to him and sold the set to someone else.Β  I was pretty bummed because I thought I was going to at least have my Sigma back!

Well, bummed enough to make some calls anyway, and as it turned out my favorite camera store, Englewood Camera just happened to have the Canon 100-400 Mark I. This was late in the day on Wednesday so I wasn’t able to get up there but they were nice enough to hold it for me until yesterday. The lens is in perfect shape, looks like it has never been used so of course I had to have it!Β  It was a long drive, but I always enjoy a nice visit to the store and I am tickled to have the lens!

Canon 100-400Normally I wouldn’t take such a big lens on a long hike, but I had to test it out! So I loaded it up, along with the snowshoes and Big Dog and off we went to the trail πŸ™‚ I can tell you, lugging a heavy camera through the snow with Big Dog making his own decisions about which direction we should be going was a struggle! And we didn’t see a thing to photograph 😦 Until the end of course when I was exhausted, my heart pounding and my arms quivering from fatigue. But in the distance on the barren face of the hillside I thought I spotted something… Could be a few rocks or dirt spots, or maybe some deer or elk. So I brought up the big 400mm to my eye for a look and indeed it was a small herd of mule deer foraging for food.

I have to say I am amazed that I got this shot. As I said, my arms were shaking and I was tired. Lugging along the Manfrotto was out of the question so the shot is handheld, zoomed in all the way at 400mm, ISO 400, f8 at a 500th of a second. I could barely even see these deer at this distance and this lens has given me a salable picture! All I had to do is crop a little bit of pine beetle ugliness out of the pines on the right and this picture was ready to go. And this is without using my 1.4x lens extender, which would have pushed me out to 560mm, but I doubt I would have been able to hand hold that anyway.

So all in all I am so far delighted in the quality of this lens. I can’t wait to get out with a tripod where there is an abundance of wildlife such as in Rocky Mountain National Park, or maybe Waterton Canyon or the mountain goat viewing area in Cottonwood Pass and really give this thing a workout! But for strenuous hikes in deep snow where the weight I am carrying makes a difference, I’ll be going back to my old faithful, the f4L 70-200 with the 1.4x extender. I’ll have to concede the long distance shots in lieu of a more enjoyable hike.

As always, this image and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on metal, acrylic, canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household andΒ  tech items are also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture on them, including battery chargers, blankets and pillows, gift cards and much more. Just click on an image you like and you will see the full preview plus all the product options and pricing!

 

Archives

Well that was easy, recently noticed that many of my favorite blog posts had been archived and are unavailable. So a quick review of the help section gave me the idea to attempt to add an archives section, which I thought was going to be a major undertaking. However it turned out to be quite easy using a free widget that is provided to the business theme my site uses πŸ™‚ So now if you would like to see posts that have been archived you can easily go to the bottom of my main site page and review them by month and year!

Swimsuit Model

Speaking of archives, while technically this isn’t a blog archive it is definitely one of my favorite mental archives πŸ™‚ One of my first attempts at photographing models and one of my favorite images of all time! This one was of course captured back in the days of film, long before instant feedback on a digital screen and long before there was such a thing as ISO 3200 available to capture images like this in the waning light of dusk and an approaching rainstorm. I shot this one with 100 speed Fuji Reala film and an off camera flash unit with a gold reflector. I hope you like it as much as I do πŸ™‚

Don’t forget to visit my site for recent blog posts with pictures and also my new section at the bottom of the menu pointing to my archives!

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway πŸ™‚ For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.

Freedom Ride for POW / MIA

Hard to believe, a whole year has passed since I photographed this event, but here it is, the 2017 Veteran’s Ride for Freedom for the POW and MIA soldiers who are unaccounted for in all wars. Riders assemble in Woodland Park Colorado and ride en masse to Cripple Creek where a cheering crowd of thousands greets them with an amazing Colorado style festival. I’ve had numerous opportunities to photograph the riders leaving Woodland Park, but this was the first real chance I have ever had to actually go to Cripple Creek and capture them coming into town. Almost could not drag myself out of bed this morning but fortunately the doggies know the meaning of the alarm clock and were not having any part of going back to bed πŸ™‚

Veteran's Ride for Freedom to Cripple CreekI couldn’t figure out from the website what time the riders would actually arrive so I wound up getting there way too early, so I thought… Anyway it seemed like an opportune time for another 50 cent breakfast at Bronco Billy’s which upon arrival looked like a no go when I saw the crowd. Luckily I received a tip from someone in the know that I could go to one of the bars and order breakfast from there instead of sitting in the cafeteria. Cool! The bar was empty so that worked out just right! The bartender filled me in on the schedule and I was happy to discover that there was going to be a parade in less than an hour so as it turns out I wasn’t so early after all.

Miss ColoradoThe parade was small but quaint and I didn’t notice until tonight, but I captured an image of Miss Colorado, which I think is pretty cool πŸ™‚ This year was also the last year for the Vietnam era Huey displayed on a trailer in the parade so I was glad to have gotten the opportunity to see that as well. A traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall was on the other side of town but I managed to miss that somehow.

Then I took up a good vantage point in front of the Brass Ass which was also where a couple of Teller County’s finest were stationed as well. So I chatted with them and listened to the play by play of the riders progress on their radios πŸ™‚ Finally I heard the roar of probably hundreds of Harleys making the turn from the base of 14,115 foot Pikes Peak on Highway 67 into the downtown area. It was especially important to me to capture the front runners carrying the flags. Such a cool sight, so I made sure I was in the middle of the road for that! Just in time for the arrival of the riders a big ugly cloud rolled in overhead to spoil all the colors but I got the shots and got out of the street in time to get them going west down into the massive crowd at the festival and towards the beautiful flag flying over the street.

 

Then I captured a few more sights and sounds, including a video from my phone, which never ceases to disappoint me with it’s lack of quality… My camera does video as well, but for some reason I can never remember to figure out how to use it until it’s too late. Something about switching a still camera to video just doesn’t seem natural!Veteran's Freedom Ride to Cripple Creek

The heat today was oppressive, which was another reason to get there early. I was able to park in the Double Eagle parking garage, so I made sure I lost a few bucks to the one armed bandits there to make up for using their garage. Tried to take the doggies for a hike, but it was way too hot and we only went a few yards before they did their business and wanted to get out of the sun.

As I work on the pictures tonight it occurs to me that it was at this event one year ago that I received the first hint that there was something seriously wrong with my 70-200 F4L lens. Weird… parts of the picture in focus and other parts in the same plane not in focus…. After grieving about it for a couple of months I took it in for repairs and now I have it back as good as new πŸ™‚ It needed a tune up anyway after a decade of hard use!

I thought it was great to see all those thousands of people cheering and waving flags, everyone fully in support of the rider’s mission, especially in this time of such strife when so many are so bent out of shape over everything under the sun. There was not a single fight the entire time I was there, no protestors to ruin the event for everyone else, just thousands of people being happy and polite. I wish there was more of that in this country now!

These pictures and more will be for sale on my website as wall art on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, framed and matted prints and also as novelty items including t-shirts and coffee mugs. Commercial editorial stock versions of the images is also available at the image licensing portal of my website.

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

 

Little Grouse Mountain

Woke up early this morning with no real plan for the day, but as always I threw my camera in the truck… just in case. The doggies both did their business quickly, which is a good thing, and a big time saver! So instead of my usual trip to the gym I decided to head for the high country in hopes of seeing some wildlife, especially perhaps some bighorn sheep. I have heard rumors of sightings along the route to Cripple Creek and the 50 cent breakfast at Bronco’s was appealing to me as well, so that’s where I headed.

Curious BurroUnfortunately no bighorns, but I inquired as to the possible location of the burro population in town in hopes of seeing them for the first time in the wild in Colorado. So after breakfast I took a couple of roads to the outskirts of town in hopes of spotting the herd. No herd, but while on the hill I did see a big commotion and some ambulances at a casino… probably one of the ancient decrepit souls with oxygen tanks smoking a cigarette that seem to so often frequent those places. Lol I don’t know, just a guess but that is what came to me when I saw the scene. Then as I was on my way back down the hill I heard a big fight going on around some pickup trucks and motorcycles with lots of yelling and cursing, followed by sirens and cop cars. Another foray into the countryside revealed more cop cars and some sort of biker gang having a meeting. Certainly not my idea of a day photographing wildlife surrounded by the peace and solitude of the Colorado Rockies!

Eventually I decided to give it up, but on my way back down Bennett I spotted a burro, then another… hanging out at the jail museum west of the casinos. I wondered, will they let me just walk up to them and take pictures? I had heard they were used to people so I put on the wide angle and sauntered up. Sure enough, they paid me no attention and I started snapping some pictures. About that time a guy came of of the museum and told me they had burro treats inside. So I went in and made a donation and got a little bag of treats to reward them for being such good subjects. In fact they were so good the wide angle was definitely required to get any kind of shot of them due to their curiosity about the camera and determination to put a nose print on the lens! They like to be petted and also like the treats and were happy to eat all that I could give them. Eventually they lost interest when I was out of the treats and moseyed on over to the water tank that the museum provides for them. A big shout out to the museum for taking such good care of them!

Unfortunately, having to have an extra job is taking a toll on my concentration, my body and my photography skills. I knew something was off by the sound of the camera, but paid no attention to my instincts. Turns out the camera had been accidentally set to TvΒ  at a 20th of a second. I’m lucky I got any pictures at all of the burros, very disappointing… But just the same I am happy this one turned out, it was one of my favorites. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back soon and see those sweet natured beasts again πŸ™‚

Upon returning to the truck I discovered that Son Boy had found a hitherto forgotten packet of BBQ sauce and had managed to explode it all over the inside of my truck 😦 Actually it was a big relief when I finally ascertained what had happened because when I first saw him I about had a heart attack, thinking he was bleeding from his mouth!!!!!!!!!! Luckily the packets don’t hold much so I was able to clean up in short order and be back on the way. That reminds me… there is still sauce on the ceiling that I need to deal with 😦

Collegiate Peak Mountains in ColoradoWell then, off to Victor… There were a couple of spots along that road I wanted to photograph in the morning light… On the way I spotted an overlook I have never noticed before, so I pulled in to check it out and discovered a nice hiking trail to a small mountain appropriately named β€œLittle Grouse Mountain”, just short enough for the doggies including 14 year old Kitsu to come with πŸ™‚ Nice little hike with all sorts of historic landmarks and interpretive signs along the way. Turns out Grouse Mountain is rich in mining history and there are a number of abandoned sites to study along the way. At the top there is a magnificent view of the Sangre De Cristos and the Collegiate Peaks to the west and northwest.

Finally I had escaped the hubub of a tourist invasion in Woodland Park for β€œfree fishing day”… which reminded me of Tricia. After she was diagnosed with cancer she said she just wanted to go fishing. She had never been and finally decided she would like to just retire and spend some time along a stream fishing. Unfortunately she kept finding too many things to do and never got to go. My advice on that subject? If there is something you really want to do don’t delay, there are no guarantees for a tomorrow in this life. As I wandered the summit of the little mountain and took in the magnificent views I wondered… did the miners appreciate this solitude as much as I was on this day? Were they as appreciative of the stunning views as I was this morning, or were they blinded by greed and the gold dust. I could sense their ghosts as the breeze whispered in the pines, occasionally accompanied by the mournful sound of the historic Cripple Creek Victor narrow gauge railroad train whistle. It had to have been a brutal lifestyle, I wonder if it was worth it? All the work and suffering for that gold only to leave it behind on the journey into the afterlife. And I wonder, am I just like they were? Only with a camera, prospecting for a different kind of gold in the harshness of life in these mountains two miles above sea level. I don’t know, but just the same I thank the Almighty for the legs and the lungs and the opportunity to be able to climb to a place like this and the eyes to see the magnificence of His Creation.

I was so enjoying the solitude, the happiness of finally getting to climb a mountain even if it was only a little one, a place all to myself save for the critters who call that mountain home. But sprinkles soon made my decision for me and it was raining steadily by the time we made it back to the truck. The puppies gladly hopped out of the rain into the camper topper and I decided it was time to return to the madness of the city. But it was a good day in the mountains, not what I had planned but that is ok with me.

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