Canon 1.4x and the Fox

Well my buddy gave me a little more time to play with the 1.4XL Canon lens extender and I finally got a decent day to take it out for some fun! Naturally Big Dog was ready to go at sunrise today so off we went into the early morning light. I scanned the open field for my intended subject, some sort of wild animal, a fox, coyote, hawk, eagle, deer… just about anything that a camera can focus on. As luck would have it I spotted a red fox frozen in the grass, intent upon some kind of prey, most likely a mouse I imagine. And just as I was ready to snap the picture he noticed me, turning a wary eye towards me and the big dog. Fortunately I was ready, zeroed in with focus right on his eye and I snapped the image. The lighting turned out to be amazing, the fox was facing the west and the sun was rising in the east right behind him. As he turned his head the light fell upon his face as if I was in a studio planning a portrait. Amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

Fox in Grass

So the 1.4XL appears to pass the sharpness test, the fox’s eye from about thirty yards away is about as sharp as it can be. Of course with my 200 mm F4L Canon lens with a 1.4x attached is not going to give me much depth of field, so I can’t claim that anything other than the beautiful predator’s eyeball is going to be in sharp focus but the image is attractive enough for me to put up for sale on my stock site and gift item site. Also, the part of my totally unscientific testing that I was most interested in… Without the 1.4x, shooting the fox in the field at about the same range I only was able to render a 2×3 inch segment of the image, while with the 1.4x on this image, the final result was a 4×6 inch segment. While I am not going to be making any billboards with an image this size, it is at least a printable and saleable image. My website is showing that it is able to create a 7×10 inch unframed print of this image. I think I will redo it soon when I have more time so that it can be a more useful 8×10 print. Naturally if you are going to put it in a frame with matting any size frame can be used.

Well, hope you enjoy the image, and I hope that I can get out and shoot a few more with the 1.4x before I have to return it! Also I am hoping to be able to purchase the new Canon 100-400 Mark II before autumn ๐Ÿ™‚ We will see ????

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Sangre Mountain Moonset

The plan this morning was to sleep in late, have a leisurely pot of coffee with the puppies and then go out with Big Dog to do some shutter speed versus f-stop testing with my #Canon equipment to determine how to get the sharpest image possible. Always trying to get that perfect razor sharp Ansel Adams appearance from my prints ๐Ÿ™‚

Moonset over the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado in the springtime

But you know what they say, “The best laid plans… “, I was up at 05:00 checking the cloud cover report on my phone. Partly cloudy it said, and I was wondering if I might get another shot at yesterday’s beautiful sunrise? So, one cup of coffee and the Big Dog and I were headed down the trail in the dark. The first thing I noticed was that the moon had not yet set. For the longest time the moon has already been hiding behind the mountains long before I felt like being out and about. In the meantime the sun was just starting to lighten the horizon to the east, just enough to add some pink to the clouds in the west which was creating a pretty cool scene! I wasn’t sure I was going to get a good sunrise so I just stopped to capture the sure bet, the scene that was before me at the moment.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Moonset

The sunrise never did develop and there was a pretty heavy layer of clouds and haze from the wind and dust hiding Sangre de Cristo range to the west, so the magnificence of yesterday did not present itself today. But it was an amazing experience to be the only person in the woods as the magical mood created by the moon set slowly evolved. This silent time alone with my Creator is my favorite thing as it seems like He is unveiling a work of art for He and I alone.

As the sun began to get stronger I also noticed that the alpenglow enhanced pink peaks of the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Range were visible through the mystical haze of a beautiful Rocky Mountain Spring morning.

Sangre de Cristo Mountain MorningI didn’t get what I was hoping for this morning, but I did get something new for my portfolio :) These pictures and more from the morning are for sale on my website as wall art and gift items as usual, along with quite a few new images that I have been collecting this spring. Commercial users can purchase image usage rights through the stock portal on my website as well. If you liked this article and want to be sure to be notified the next time I publish, please be sure to click the follow button at the bottom of the article so that you can receive an email notification every time there is something new!

Focus on Infinity

“Infinity: unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity : boundlessness”, according to Merriam Webster. A difficult concept under any circumstances, infinity in photography can be an even more elusive state. In photography, the definition of infinity includes “A distance between a subject and the camera so great that rays of light reflected from the subject may be regarded as parallel.”, and “A distance setting of the camera lens beyond which everything is in focus.”.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Recent travails in shooting distant landscapes has me studying the issue in more depth, and today was the day for some cursory field testing. The plan was to conduct a scientific experiment to determine if the auto focus mechanism on my Canon 70D with my 70-200 lens was handling infinity properly. Today was supposed to start with a beautiful clear morning, following days of snow and fog and I was glad to finally be able to get out and do some shooting with Big Dog.

As usual though, my experiment didn’t turn out to be all that scientific or even informative, but I had fun and got some good usable shots ๐Ÿ™‚ What I did find out though was gratifying in that I believe that my lens is performing exactly as it should. My method was to take two shots of every scene, one with the auto focus and the second identical shot with the lens set to manual and the focus set to or near the “infinity” mark focused on the distant Sangre de Cristo mountain range as sharply as possible. Then, in front of Photoshop a 100% view of the two images side by side was going to tell me which method is better. I had recently watched another photographer on Youtube who claimed that manual mode focused on infinity was the way to go.

Now the really confusing part of the experiment is that many professional lenses have the capability to focus “beyond infinity”… where nothing is actually in focus. Apparently the equipment can compensate for micro expansion and contraction of the metal due to temperature changes and may require that space slightly beyond the infinity line for that purpose.

Fox with Prey

It was indeed a beautiful morning and we were awarded a couple of bonus shots for our effort ๐Ÿ™‚ Along the way I spotted both a fox hunting and then later a coyote hunting in the beautiful fresh snow. The fox was already heading for home with a tasty morsel in his mouth and the coyote was still hunting but paused to cast a wary glance in our direction.

Coyote in Fresh Snow

Coyote in Fresh Snow

The mountains were magnificent as usual and the clear day was perfect for my little test. My scene is perfect with some nearby pine forest covered foothills backed up by the distant peaks of the Sangre. As I conducted my tests I noticed some curious behavior exhibited by the equipment. When focusing on the nearby mountains the camera on auto focus chose to focus exactly on the infinity mark, while the distant mountains resulted in a focus slightly beyond the infinity mark. I thought I was onto something there, a possible malfunction in the auto focus mechanism perhaps. But the follow up shots using manual focus proved the auto focus to be exactly correct based on what I was focusing on.

These findings were very good news for confidence my equipment, but also raised a new question that I have no definitive answer for. Why are the close mountains which are at infinity focused differently than the distant mountains which are also beyond infinity. I guess the simple answer to that is that the close mountains are at a sufficiently varied distance and angle to result in a slightly different infinity value from the vastly distant Sangre de Cristo range more than 60 miles away. In any case, the idea of just setting the camera to the infinity mark is out of the question, at least for a 200mm lens. This practice would probably work fine for a wide angle lens where the infinity point is only a few feet from the camera. Each scene is going to require evaluation to determine what exactly is the most important feature to render the most sharp in the image. If the entire image needs to be sharp, focus stacking in Photoshop might be required.

All in all, the day was a success, important knowledge acquired, some nice images to work with collected, and now in the last couple of hours some more great shots of the little fox family that I found the other day ๐Ÿ™‚ Please be sure to visit my image website to see all the new pictures that have been made for sale as wall art, cool household items and royalty free stock!

Making a Life vs Making a Living

Another in a jumbled pile of random thoughts that has been prodding me lately… Finally after half a year of grave yard shifts, next week I get to move to the day shift. Apparently there is an odd soul who despises working days who is more than happy to take my place ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, I don’t sleep well or even at all during the day so I have basically gone pretty much without sleep four days out of the week for this entire time. On the nights I work I spend the entire day trying to sleep and worrying about the next day… by the time the week ends I am so trashed that I am completely disfunctional until it is time to go back to work and do it all over again.

Deer in Wildflowers

So… for all these months I have been making a living, but not a life. However, I am finally getting put together the things that help make a life, things like a checking account, internet service, a routine and friends. I am looking forward to once again having a life, not just living to make a living.

As I was working on my laptop today which I have largely neglected since I didn’t have internet service I noticed that all my accounts, my agencies and my blog have the wrong phone numbers, address and various other details that require my attention. Not terribly surprising… but I also noticed that I haven’t shot many pictures worth uploading lately. So I decided to take a look back at last year, especially since with my latest photo shop updates I have acquired the Adobe Stock publishing button available right in Adobe Bridge ๐Ÿ™‚

Misty Peak

What is surprising to me though, is an apparent inattention to uploading that plagued my photography last year… I wonder what was going through my mind to just shoot these images and not upload them? When I look back a few years at some of my older photo shoots I can remember the very day that I captured the pictures… What I was doing, thinking, and where I was at that exact moment. As I look back on last year I don’t remember these pictures or how I came about getting them.

Interestingly last year was the same as this year… working late at night at a physically exhausting job. No energy for anything but work, no strength to make a life, just a living. Anyway, now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I am glad I had the mental acumen to keep my camera with me and keep shooting because some of these pictures are amazing! I just wish I could remember having fun shooting them!

Oh well, no great words of wisdom on what to do about it but at least if you read this and find yourself making a living and not a life, perhaps you might recognize it and hopefully make a change… Sometimes it is all out of our control though and all we can do is pray for the strength to get through it.

As always there are many new images for sale on my website which you can view by clicking the links to the left, or by bringing up the menu if you are on a smart phone!

Further Exploration

The day started out in a tizzy when Photoshop informed I had one day to log into the Creative Cloud or my subscription was going to be closed. I had no idea, I am used to Photoshop managing the subscription and updates automatically. So I checked and sure enough, no updates have been applied and I had to go in to help, manage subscriptions and was prompted to log in and download the updates. Mental note to continue checking for updates.

Once past that crisis, a nice breakfast at Broncos killed enough time for the sun to come out and make a trek into the woods tempting. Been meaning to get a bit further down the trail towards Little Grouse Mountain and this was looking like just the right day for it. 

It was pretty windy at the trailhead but Big Dog didn’t seem to care so we forged ahead. Not far around the first bend the mountains began to block the wind and it turned into an amazing beautiful Colorado winter morning!

So onward we went, through the beautiful historic countryside of the Cripple Creek Victor mining district past the many failed dreams of the area’s earliest pioneers. I imagine we made it well past where there have been any people recently as the trail was getting pretty rugged. 

Finally we emerged one valley from what I believe to be Grouse Mountain and the view was amazing! It looks like the trail will take me to the base and hopefully right on up the mountain. I’ll have to pack some more supplies for that journey though, including some water for the dog. 

In the picture you can see the rugged valley, the mountain and the magnificent Sangre De Cristo range in the background. Please be sure to click the links in the menu to bring up my image galleries where you can purchase wall art and many cool household items with my mountain art!

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 Tvย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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 โ€œLittle Grouse Mountainโ€, just short enough for the doggies including 14 year old Kitsu to come with ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 โ€œfree fishing dayโ€… 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

Deer Herd Adventure

This morning the Almighty was smiling on my photography endeavors ๐Ÿ™‚ Thankfully I got a good night’s sleep and awoke before first light and before the doggies had any interest in departing from their comfortable slumber. So… there was time for a healthy breakfast of coffee and some discounted do-nut balls from Walmart that I snagged yesterday for $1.50 ๐Ÿ™‚ Fortunately the internet wasย  back up after a full day of downtime due to an “incident” which has yet to be divulged by my provider, and it wasn’t long and I was caught up on all the news, weather and latest Facebook rumors.

Two does in the wildernessAs it started to get light I loaded up my equipment and the dogs and aimed the old Dodge at the trailhead. As I neared the closest trailhead I detected some excess canine excitement… A quick visual assessment revealed a pretty good sized herd of deer grazing right where the trail begins. Obviously a problem for a hike with 100 pound Son Boy, who would like nothing more than to join the deer in a good frolic and cannot understand why they don’t have the same enthusiasm for him. So, off to the second trailhead… Saw a few deer here too, but at more of a distance and slightly over a hill, hopefully out of range of the doggy’s senses.

On our way up the mountain I noticed yet another small herd of the deer grazing in a clearing. Fortunately Son Boy was looking the other way and failed to notice them. I made a mental note of their location so I could come back and hopefully get a few shots in the beautiful morning light.

Two or three miles later my first loop through the woods was done and the doggies were resting in the camper topper while I prepared my equipment. Hoping the deer were still grazing, I made a second climb on to the mountainside. Unfortunately the herd I was looking for had already moved out and gone behind the mountain. So I turned back down, intending to try a new trail back to the trailhead. Much to my surprise, it was only a minute and yet another herd was making it’s way down the trail towards me.

Doe mule deer in the wildernessSo I switched on the camera and quick got off a shot, something I like to do in case everything goes south, at least I have one shot to prove I was there! Then I resisted the urge to move towards the deer for a closer shot. I thought since they were coming my way, maybe if I just stood still they wouldย  keep on coming. My little gamble paid off as the deer seemed to remember that me and my photographic antics were not a threat to them. Soon a trio of the beautiful fur babies were coming directly to me.

Here I appreciated my efforts to switch my camera to “back button” focus mode. It worked splendidly and exactly as I hoped. A quick hit of the back button will focus on stationary deer and allow me to shoot at will until there is movement. Then when the animals began moving towards me at a faster pace, holding the button down basically switches the camera to AI Servo mode, re-focusing for each shot as the animals close in.

Now as I’m reviewing the images, it appears as though all the shots are tack sharp. The best will be uploaded to my premium print and stock photo site on Pixels.com while I ponder whether it is even worth it to upload to micro stock anymore. ROI from there has become so minuscule I am questioning whether it is cost effective to continue doing so. So for my stock image customers, at least the two images shown in this blog will only be available as stock on licensing.pixels.com

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