What the Heck Happened to Steve

Elk Herd on Snowy Mountain

It’s been more than a month since my last post and more than a few people have been starting to ask if I’m still alive. I’m happy to report that rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated and that I am indeed alive and kicking πŸ™‚ This month however has not been without it’s challenges!

 

On March 14th I finished my shift at my full time job looking forward to a week of vacation in which I had visions of photographing mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and maybe even a bear or two! By midnight after the swing shift it was becoming apparent that my plans were changing rapidly. Soon a 911 call, a new lesson in pain and an ambulance ride were in the works and my vacation plans were kaput. A couple of hours later I was in surgery for repair of a life threatening incarcerated hernia followed by a second surgery the next night which was necessary to correct some pesky internal bleeding. Now a full month later I am finally feeling like life could return to normal at some point!

Whiling away the hours discussing cameras and photography with my photo bud Kevin have revealed that I need to direct some much needed attention to unexplored camera functions that I have never managed the time to look into.Β  Especially in Waterton Canyon I have noticed the requirement to rapidly and extensively change camera settings for different subjects.

One moment I might be photographing a beautiful landscape along the river while the next moment might find me scrambling to capture a bighorn sheep preparing to leap into the clear blue water. This can be difficult and often the action occurs before the settings are changed and the moment is lost.

Enter Custom Modes 1 and 2, something I’ve never bothered to mess with in 18 years of digital photography. So I’ve decided to have one function for wildlife and the other for landscape photography. For wildlife I’ve selected Auto ISO with a cap of 1600 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. An exposure compensation factor of +1/3 of a stop seemed like a pretty reliable selection along with high speed drive mode, back button focus and AI Servo for a focus mode. Then you just go to menu settings and find the custom camera modes, select and then register settings. The menu will ask you if you want C1, C2…. or more if you have a camera with additional modes. Wildlife is now C1 on my Canon.

For C2 and landscape photography I selected aperture priority set to f6.3, ISO 100, slow drive mode and again exposure compensation of +1/3.

Now I can easily and quickly switch between wildlife and landscape modes with one quick turn of the main dial. No more missing the money shot! As for the video settings I don’t really care, I don’t make money on video and the camera seems to just do what I want as if by magic.

Now all I need is for somebody to come up with a cure for this blasted CoVid-19 so the stay at home order can be lifted!

If you would like an escape from the monotony of staying at home you might enjoy a visit to my YouTube channel for some nice footage of deer, elk and bighorn sheep! Please subscribe if you like the videos and want to be notified next time I publish!

My Thoughts on Good Enough Camera Equipment

I’ve been pondering the intricacies of image resolution ever since I heard the Canon 90D was coming out with the new 32mp sensor. Many lenses they say do not have the resolving power to make use the the new high pixel density sensor. So the question is, do you forego the upgrade if you are using a 70D or 80D for fear that your version I L series lenses “aren’t going to work”, that the new sensor is going to “make your pictures blurry”?

Bighorn Sheep in Waterton Canyon by the South Platte River

Well the fact is that it is physically impossible to decrease your overall image quality by increasing the resolution of one or more of your components. Would your images be better if you bought all new series II lenses, of course… unless you have managed to snatch the latest lens technology off the assembly line, there is always going to be a better lens. Given enough money you will always be able to find a better lens than the one you have now.

So the question you have to ask yourself is an important and very basic question, am I still getting the shot? Are your customers still happy with your product? If the answer to that question is yes, I am still getting the shot. My customers are still happy with the product I am delivering, or I am not losing sales to my competitors with newer gear, then you probably should not upgrade yet. If you find that you will benefit significantly from more megapixels and newer camera technology then go ahead and take the plunge. If you can use greater cropping ability, better low light capability, better noise reduction and higher dynamic range, not to mention 4k video, then go ahead and buy the new camera and don’t worry about if there is another lens out there that can give you even more amazing results. You can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Colorado Black Bear Family

For me I am finding that my results with the 90D and series I lenses are good enough for now. My large metal prints look beautiful on the wall, my wildlife pictures are sharper than they were with the 70D with the same lens, and I am having more success with image acceptance at the stock agencies, in fact 100%. Due to new low light picture quality and higher dynamic range I am able to shoot earlier in the morning and later at night, while capturing more keepers. From just higher ISO and faster shutter speeds alone I am capturing more salable images. If I can capture an elk’s whiskers at 70 yards using the 1.4x extender and my 400mm series I lens, which by the way I can now use with auto focus, I’m thinking… it’s good enough! Would I still like to acquire a couple of newer technology lenses? Of course, I am always striving to improve the quality of my gear but for right now, good enough is good enough!

This article is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used was purchased by me on my own volition.

One Deer and Wildflowers

Deer in the Rockies

Pretty quiet morning on the trail… Saw one lone deer peering back at me from a field of wildflowers and rocks. We were far enough away so as to not cause any alarm and were able to get this nice shot πŸ™‚ No more wildlife was seen on the trek, but there are a lot of nice wildflowers blooming. Don’t know what these yellow ones actually are, I’m no flora and fauna expert for sure… but they look nice and make for some nice pictures πŸ™‚

Also got to try out my AllTrails.com hike logger on my new Verizon phone. It’s only a

Mountain Wildflowers

Samsung J3 but I like it OK. Was extremely disappointed with my previous phone that didn’t work at all in the mountains. So I successfully recorded today’s hike and was rewarded with a cool map and elevation profile. Haven’t figured out how to share it yet though… maybe the information will only be for myself. But still pretty cool even though I’m not sure what it is going to be good for πŸ™‚

As always these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas or traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift, tech, apparel and household items are also available with a #swkrullimaging picture!

Mountain Wildflowers

 

Elk in the Sunshine

These elk appear to be having a relaxing morning! I saw them grazing on the mountain

Elk Herd in the Wilderness

grass near the edge of the dense pine forest. For some reason they saw me but did not retreat into the safety of the trees, but slowly walked along the edge of the wilderness while I snapped away using my big 400mm Canon lens. Usually they disappear like ghosts into the forest the moment they spot me. This was my favorite one with the rugged snow capped Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the backgroundΒ  πŸ™‚

Elk Herd and the Sangre de Cristo

As always, this image and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Cool household, tech and gift items are also available with #swkrullimaging artwork on them! Click the link if you want to see more!

Magnificent Mountain Morning

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

Sun shining, wildlife leisurely strolling through the Pike National Forest, fresh clean air… it doesn’t get any better than this πŸ™‚ I couldn’t get very close to this beautiful deer herd, but maybe this distant shot is better anyway! And the blue sky and cloud mix over the snow capped Sangre de Cristo was simply sublime.

As always, these pictures and more are available as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, handy household goods and tech items like battery chargers are also available!

Beautiful Snow Capped Sangre de Cristo Range

The Heavens Were Shining Upon Me

Dogs woke me up early this morning… so at o’dark:30 I thought I might as well take advantage of the early start and get some sunrise pictures.Β  After a quick glance out the window and a check of the weather site on my phone, I decided otherwise. Freezing fog, light snow and 25 degrees were enough to send me back to the coffee pot. Even Big Dog wanted back inside to catch some more zzzz’s. So I just relaxed with some waffles and steaming black coffee with puppy dogs for a blanket. Three hours later I awoke again feeling considerably more rested, and it looked like the sun was going to shine a bit as well!

Herd of mule deer in the morning sun

Dense fog still filled the Arkansas River Valley so the Sangre de Cristo were totally obscured, but as we cleared the ridge I could see some unusual objects on the hillside, must be deer or elk I thought. Closer inspection with my big Canon glass revealed a small herd of deer grazing on a beautiful hillside, bathed in the warm Colorado springtime morning sun. I snapped a couple from a distance assuming that the deer were going to run as soon as they noticed us, before stealthily meandering closer. As luck would have it the trail approached them at an angle… proceeding directly at wild animals is usually a recipe for photographic disaster. They looked up with a small amount of interest but fortunately they didn’t run.

Ever so quietly, I found a place to sit in the lovely sunshine and just shoot for a while while the deer were

Herd of Mule Deer in the Sun

occupied with their morning feeding. Finally they began to wander around the hillside in search of better grass I suppose, but by then I had accumulated 150 amazing images and was ready to finish hiking with the big dog anyway.

This afternoon the clouds cold and fog are back along with a few flurries now and then, perfect weather for processing pictures on the computer! I thought the day was going to be a bust but the Heavens were definitely shining upon me and for that brief period the Almighty split the skies and gave me a shot at a better day than usual πŸ™‚

As always these images and more are available on my website as wall art and cool gift, tech and household items. Just click a gallery that you are interested in, click an image and wait for all the products and pricing to become available! You can also browse by product category if you already know what you are interested in!Β 

Herd of Mule Deer in the Sun

 

On the Run

Morning Sun Deer Herd

Not much to say about today… we woke up and hit the trail early. We found the animals and tried to get close for some good captures. But all things don’t always go according to plan and as you can see all we have to show for this morning’s work is the backside of some deer running away from us 😦

Hopefully tomorrow will be better, another trip to Waterton Canyon is planned and with God’s grace my camera chip will once again be filled with images of majestic bighorn sheep! And hopefully maybe some deer and a bear πŸ™‚

New Snow

Snow was falling steadily when I finally turned in last night. I knew it was going to be amazing this morning so at first light me and the big dog went out to investigate. With all the fresh powder from the night’s snowstorm the snowshoes came in handy! Big Dog was bounding through the new snow like a puppy, and the receding storm clouds over the Sangre de Cristo range were breath taking πŸ™‚

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

And I have to say, this 400mm Canon lens is amazing, the magnification, the exposures, the contrast, all stunning. And for big 400mm glass, this lens is quite easy to carry around. The tension ring is a beautiful piece of engineering, easy to loosen when you want to zoom and easy to tighten when you don’t want the lens extending while walking or running. Plus you can lock your lens in place at any focal length and it won’t creep in or out while you are shooting.

This shot was taken from the top of the ridge where we finally turned around to head back to the trailhead, my favorite picture of the day. One day when I have more time I will go back and process some more of these captures for the stock agencies.

As always this image and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, and with traditional framing and matting. Cool gift, household and tech items are also available with one of our images! Just click on your favorite picture to see all the product options and pricing!

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!

 

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™‚