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

 

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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™‚

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.

Glamorous Job

I am fortunate to have a brother in the field of Canon Photography to talk with at work, and to exchange equipment when the need arises… The plan today was to test out the 1.4x lens extension he had loaned me for the weekend. When I looked out the window at first light as I was pouring my first cup of coffee I noticed what a pretty morning was shaping up in the beautiful light of sunrise. So I swigged down my coffee and grabbed the camera and the 1.4x. Then it was out the door with Big Dog but much to my surprise, in that 15 minutes a heavy bank of fog had rolled in and I could barely see my hand in front of my face! Needless to say a 200mm lens and a 1.4x extension are not much good when your field of view is only 10 feet 😦 But Big Dog was not about to be deterred from his walk by a little fog so into the pea soup we went.

Swimsuit model at sunset

I mentioned my friend at work, well this week we were comparing our experiences with portrait photography back in the day and I ran across this one from a photoshoot from the days of film. I still remember going through the prints the next day after receiving them back from the lab. I was at my favorite coffee shop sorting out my favorites when a guy went by and asked me if I was a photographer which led to a short conversation about the business. He commented what a cool job it must be to take pictures of beautiful girls and how glamorous it must be. Of course the story is long, but I just smiled and agreed.

The next day however was a completely different matter… Earlier in the week I had received a call from a lady in Iowa who was in charge of a jewelry show that was going to be conducted in the convention center in Denver. The assignment was to shoot portraits of each one of the approximately 150 event participants. She informed me that there was going to be a backdrop provided with the name of the show on a sign above that I was supposed to include in each picture. She told me to be sure to bring extra lighting. How much I wondered? She didn’t know, but I was definitely going to need extra lighting.

So I showed up early at the event center to be sure to find a parking place and get set up in time. I had no idea what I was in for, trying to imagine what I could possibly need all the lighting for that I had packed just in case. Well I found a parking place in the parking garage which appeared to be free… Grabbed my three Bogen light stands with umbrellas and soft boxes, three flash heads in their suitcase style carrying cases, two cameras complete with portable flash and battery packs and headed for the stairs.

Well the stairs were not that easy to find, but I made my way down to the lower floor of the parking garage when I noticed a pay kiosk. I had no idea how to run the damn thing, didn’t remember my exact parking stall number, or even if the kiosk on the bottom floor was applicable to the parking place on my floor. I looked around a bit to see if there was someone in charge and saw no one. In fact I saw no one at all, at the convention center on Broadway Avenue in the middle of Denver. It was like a ghost town 😦 I wondered if I even had the right day, what if I had already missed it, maybe the Rapture had occurred and I was the only one “Left Behind?” ????

The exit I took had me out on foot on Broadway Avenue, still not a soul to be found. I had no idea how to get to the room where the show was so I just kept walking, carrying my light stands, two cameras, three flash heads and God only knows what else. I walked and walked and walked looking for some kind of sign, some kind of door to go in, or even a person who might know… and I was getting more and more tired carrying all that gear. Finally I was sweating profusely and I could only go a few feet at a time before having to put all the gear down to rest. I thought I was going to die, I remember thinking to myself, “So this is how it ends, right here on Broadway Avenue…”.

Well, after walking all the way around the entire building I finally found a bunch of people and a door… This has to be it and lucky for me it was and I found the lady in charge with no trouble. After surveying the situation I quickly ascertained that the three light stands, umbrellas and flash heads were completely unnecessary. One camera with an off camera flash would be just fine. I could have made that walk with 10 pounds of gear instead of 75. Grrrrr…

So I completed the shots of all 150 or so people without a hitch. Except one lady who could not smile. I took six shots of her, each time her smile resembling more the look of terror that one might experience while witnessing a train wreck or car accident. Finally I gave up said “next”. Finally the job was complete and I told the lady I was done. She informed me she wanted the pictures the next day and gave me a bunch of Fedex account stuff. Well Fedex was a long and difficult trip for me so I offered to just get them developed in time to return to her before the end of the day. The pictures turned out fabulously and I made it back in time to give them to her before she left. She flipped through every one of them without saying a word… that is right up until the moment when the previously mentioned severely traumatized woman’s image came into view. She said, “Wow, she looks scared!”. Then through the rest of the images and without a word and she handed me my check and said “Thanks.”. That’s it, no more feed back from my day in hell. I remembered the guy from the coffee shop the previous day and thought to myself, “Yeah, some glamorous job 😦 “.

Lol… oh well, I’m sure it was nothing that a green chili burrito and a couple of beers could not cure at the Brewery Bar, my favorite Denver watering hole. Actually about a month later I received an email from the lady with a formal thank you for all the beautiful pictures. Apparently they were a big hit and I have to say it made me feel a lot better about the whole affair πŸ™‚