I never wanted to live in the city, the mountains were my dream… And I did want to travel around the country and see new places but with no money and no real plan, the Air Force seemed to be a reasonable solution. Unfortunately that choice took me directly to the big city where I learned how to program computers. That of course landed me in even bigger cities, the Bay Area in California and eventually Denver, the place I called home for over a quarter of a century. Through it all though, I never got used to the city, the crowds, the traffic, the long commutes and the incredible waste of time required to accomplish the most mundane tasks, like going to the store or the post office.
Sunrise over Cripple Creek
Finally, after four decades of surburban hell, I am out and I’m never going back. Getting settled nicely in Cripple Creek now, although my progress has been slightly interrupted by car trouble. Which is what brings me to this post… Although I haven’t had transportation for a few days, I haven’t missed any work, only a 15 minute walk. Dropped off the truck for repairs this morning and only had a five minute walk home… This is how life should be, my life anyway.
One of those memories from one year ago popped onto my Facebook today, it was a great memory of a great day, breakfast with my beloved cousin whom I hadn’t seen for too many years to even count. However the good part of that day was overshadowed by the memory of the rest of the day after I received a call from a friend who told me, “Steve, all hell has broken loose here.”, a terrible day in which several lives were irreparably altered, and not for the better. It was also the day that resulted in me having the two dogs that I wasn’t planning on or prepared for by any stretch of the imagination. However as you can imagine, these two beautiful doggies have worked their way into my heart and now they go with me everywhere. One riding shotgun in the passenger seat of my truck and the other standing on the console in the middle making sure there is nothing unusual lodged in my right ear or my mouth and nose 🙂
I had to take a part time job unloading trucks to make ends meet and it is a job that is physically difficult for people 40 years my younger. Unfortunately a few months ago I sustained a serious injury from which I have not been able to recover and is getting worse. Each day at work is a new lesson in pain and fatigue and I am sure I’m not going to be able to endure it much longer. And Son Boy is starting to look so sad when I have to work, like he knows. I hate leaving them behind, hate taking time away from writing and photography. And I have been praying “Please God, don’t make me go back there…”, pleading and begging the Almighty to have mercy on me and my little family of fur babies.
On the upside, the economy must be turning around, my stock photography sales have been picking up substantially. After years of terrible sales I have actually made more selling than I have working in the last few days… and I think that too is a sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Also I had a vivid dream the other night of a house in the country… one of those dreams that you just have a feeling is significant, a sign even perhaps. And after a long time of feeling repulsed by writing and out of inspiration for my photography, ideas are starting to come to me and the words are once again flowing onto the page… Every storm has to end and my storm that has washed away a home, a wife to cancer, a family, a career and all my savings and plans for retirement and almost everything but my faith, has lasted a decade. It is a storm that I am hoping will soon be on the other side of the turning point.
“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” Psalm 107:29-30
Winters are long in the high country but I hope that this early May snowstorm will mark the end of winter 2017. Snow fell for 24 straight hours and the temperature dipped to 13 degrees on May Day Eve. Getting out the winter parka and relighting the pilot light on the furnace can be a bit dispiriting just when you are ready to get out the lawn chairs and lemonade.
However the snowy weather can also bring magnificent beauty. So on May the first, the day following the storm I arose early in the morning to take a peak out the window at what might be going on at 14,115 feet on America’s Mountain, Pikes Peak. And from what I could see it looked like I was going to hit pay dirt! There were some fluffy clouds gathering and hanging around just below the 14,000 foot level with just enough blue sky to add some color and interesting light to the scene.
So I grabbed the camera and my trusty Canon F4L 200mm zoom and loaded the doggies and camera equipment into the truck. We drove to the trail head and quickly marched up to the first clearing where there is an unobstructed view of the peak. Son Boy wasn’t too excited about stopping there for the picture taking and tried occasionally to convince me with his considerable power to do things his way and head up the trail. But I was able to hang around a while and get what I hope to be the last vestiges of the winter of 2017 as it receded from the massive monolith before me.
As I write this, on the sixth of May the first thunder of spring is rumbling through the valley and the mesmerizing sound of falling rain is providing the night’s music. The winter of 2017 and with it one of the most terrible struggles I have ever experienced in my lifetime is indeed behind me. Hopefully next winter will find my situation vastly improved, although from today’s standpoint it does not appear that it will. But I have hope for I know that it is written, “And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.“.
I have selected this image and one other as the best of the series and have made them available as stock and print exclusively on my Pixels.com website. These will not be available on any micro stock sites as I have determined not to make my best images available at the discouraging rates that images are drawing in that venue.
Before 2008 when the stock and housing markets crashed, there were indicators of the choppy seas ahead. My wife and I were involved in three businesses, unfortunately all non-essential to daily life. She had two businesses, mobile disc jockeying in the wedding industry and the online and physical sales of collectibles at a store we rented. I of course was a contributor in the stock photo industry in addition to employment as a software engineer at a major defense contractor. At least as far back as 2006 these once thriving endeavors began to falter… Now, ten long miserable years later, two of those businesses and my wife are gone. She of course lost her battle to cancer and I was forced to liquidate her two businesses, which by that time were completely worthless and a storage expense liability only. And right when I needed it the most, the demand for photography was near zero.
The much touted economic recovery, mostly in minimum or near minimum wage jobs during the last decade has not resulted in an improvement in the business climate. In fact, looking at my print sales, it has been over a year since I made a real actual print sale, other than my mom buying gift cards from me of course 🙂
However, times may again be “a changin‘”, this time for the better. The new year has seen a definite uptick in photo sales. I have always heard the stock photo business is a “leading indicator” of the economy. In other words, sales show the direction of business. When there is optimism and opportunity, businesses advertise. When they advertise they buy pictures for those advertisements. Another indicator of better times is a recent uptick in print sales. Like this one of the now defunct Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival, a longstanding Denver event which also did not survive the lost decade. When people are feeling confident about their position in life they spend money on non-essential things, items purchased mainly for enjoyment.
It is just a glimmer of hope at the moment that could easily be snuffed out by any number of natural and man made disasters but it is a glimmer of hope, something I have not experienced in a long time. Maybe the good times are not “Gone for Good“, to which today I offer a toast to a promising future: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I believe this is some sort of record… 9 years to read one book. In my defense, it was lost for quite awhile, packed in a box in a storage unit. Extreme Digital Photography by Johnathan Chester. I still remember finding this book, not too long after I got my first digital camera. The book is about photography under harsh conditions such as weather, natural disasters and adventures in amazing places. I remember I was so excited, the pictures were magnificent, the stories fascinating and the information critical, or so I thought.
I started reading the book, and for reasons I can no longer recall, put it aside to put out all the fires that began cropping up in my life. Eventually we prepared for the move to the mountains by renting a storage unit and the book ended up in the aforementioned box which I then lost track of in the move. Years later I found the box and safeguarded it along with some boxes of important film and prints from the 90’s. Then of course came Tricia’s illness which allowed zero time for concentration on a book. Finally, after all these years, I am in the same place at the same time as the book with time to read it.
The book still feels good in my hands, the excitement to learn new things still smoldering and the pictures still magnificent. The information unfortunately is a bit dated. New cameras and chips are a good part of the discussion in the book, but at the time my Canon 10D was cutting edge. Two megabyte chips were out, but not all cameras could accommodate such awesome storage. Six megapixel cameras were the new standard, unless of course you were a real pro and could fork out the $7000 for the eleven megapixel pro model. Only one year earlier I had to pay $600.00 for a half a megabyte high speed chip.
Now of course very affordable DLSR cameras are in the twenty megapixel range. A thirty gigabyte high speed chip is only $30 or so and I just purchased a terabyte backup disk for only $40. It is breathtaking to consider how things have changed in a decade. The book recommends bringing along a film camera and one hundred rolls of film as a backup… It might be difficult to even find one hundred rolls of film these days, who knows, I haven’t bought film in in a decade.
However, many subjects in the book are as relevant today as they were nine years ago. Electronics are still vulnerable to the elements as are our frail human bodies. Lenses still struggle in extreme temperatures as do batteries and backup equipment. The images captured by the writer are as awesome today as they were a decade ago, and I’m excited that I am finally getting the chance to read the book. Oh… one other thing… now in order to read the book I had to make a trip to the Dollar Store for some reading glasses so I could actually see the text…
Today I feel like Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away at the crossroads near the end of the movie when he was starting over with nothing and could take any direction he chose. Yesterday a quarter century ended with the passing of my beautiful wife Tricia. It was nearly a year ago that the cancer had invaded her spine and robbed her of the strength in her legs, resulting in a surgery in March, actually on my birthday in 2014. They wanted to put her in a nursing home, but I told them I would take care of her. So that is what I have been doing, twenty four hours a day seven days a week for a year. Fortunately we found a program that allowed me to work for a medical company and receive a little pay for the work. So today finds me out of work looking around at a quarter century of the remnants of our life together.
In memory of Patricia Krull
What to keep, what to let go of. I must find a way to fit everything I need or want into a twenty one foot camper trailer. I wish I could just take a few weeks off to rest and wrap my brain around the enormity of what has happened but I have only three weeks to do it in so I will have to get started immediately.
It appears the cat has barfed up a hairball on the carpet. I guess that will be as good a place as any to start.