Farewell My Friend

He was my best friend… He went with me everywhere, pretty much anything I did, I did it because of the pure joy I received from the great enthusiasm he had for life and nature and all that could be discovered in the great outdoors. I met him full grown in 2016 and it wasn’t long before we became inseparable. He was the smartest dog I have ever known and it wasn’t long before he figured out that our main goal on all of our excursions, whether it was a hike or just a ride in the truck, was to find wildlife. As we drove along the mountain roads his eyes would scan the hillsides and ridge lines looking for deer and elk. When he finally spotted something he would let me know by pointing and woofing. Out on the trail his nose was in constant motion, his ears eventually alerting me to the presence of wildlife long before my human senses had any hope of detecting them. At the end of our treks we would go to the grocery store and get a ham, egg and cheese sandwich that I would bring out to the truck to eat. I would give him a puppy treat while I ate my breakfast and he would wait patiently and expectantly for the last bite of my sandwich. By day he was at my side, by night he slept at the foot of my bed. His snoring put me to sleep at night and his whining to go outside would awake me in the morning. He asked for nothing other than to be at my side wherever I went and when we got home from our travels he would lick me on the cheek to show his gratitude as I reached for his leash to hook him up to his run in the back yard.

Son Boy waiting in the truck

Now, suddenly and without warning he is gone. Struck down in the prime of his life by complications from his Lupus Medicine. Monday began like any other day with a long hike in the woods. Monday afternoon he ate his food and a few hours later he was gone.

My heart is broken, I can’t seem to do anything because everything I try to do just reminds me of him and without him there is no joy in anything. I’m sure in time I will find the strength to go on, I always do. But for now I mourn with no desire to do anything so you all will probably not be hearing much from me for a while. My camera lies dormant in the corner along with my hiking boots, out of sight so that they cannot remind me of him. Without his hopeful eager eyes to spur me to action I have little incentive to reach for them.

Sooner or later my heart will once again yearn for the snap of the camera shutter, the sight of God’s creatures peering out from the woods at me and the smell of pine in the crisp Colorado mountain air. Eventually I will answer the call of the wild, but for now it just doesn’t seem worth going on.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he is running free in the tall trees on the other side of Rainbow Bridge where he will meet me some day and we can resume our adventures in eternity.

Majestic Snowcapped Sangre de Cristo

 

 

 

 

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Eleven Mile Canyon

Eleven Mile Canyon

The headwaters of the South Platte River, Eleven Mile Canyon, truly one of Colorado’s hidden gems. Finally made it after 10 years of effort 🙂 Almost made it last week but for one wrong turn that led me out onto the road from hell down to Eleven Mile Reservoir State Park 😦 But finally after two unintentional scouting runs I actually figured out the intricacies on finding the right road 🙂 The secret is to stay on Road 96 through Lake George which appears to go straight but actually veers to the right across the river.

Probably for the best to keep the ubiquitous Colorado riff raff and homeless pot heads out, the canyon is a fee area with a ranger station at the entrance to the park. After 8 a.m. there is a ranger there, but if you need to get in earlier there earlier  you can pull an envelope out of the self help dispenser and insert your $7 before continuing your journey.

Eleven Mile Canyon Deer

The dirt road along the river is fairly well maintained although the washboards did rattle my old Dodge truck pretty good in places! The trip is well worth it though with stunningly beautiful scenery, wildlife, campgrounds, picnic areas and some wildlife. Shortly after my journey began I spotted these beautiful mule deer heading back into the wilderness following a nice drink at the river. Had to quick put my big white lens back on and sneak past an embankment to get a decent shot of these ladies, but I thin it was well worth the effort 🙂 I need to get back at sunrise someday, I’m sure there must be a ton of wildlife that I didn’t have the opportunity to view due to being there in the middle of the heat of a Colorado summer day.

I didn’t check to see exactly how long the road is back to the dead end at the dam, but I would estimate about 7 miles of roaring whitewater, beaver dams, placid trout fishing pools and massive rock cliffs made of gigantic boulders the size of houses! About half way in I encountered the road to Wagon Tongue that I didn’t want to take my truck on last week, along with trails and short roads leading to campgrounds and picnic areas all along the way.

The road is quite narrow but there are plenty of pull outs where you can stop to take pictures, hike down to the riverbed and get out your trout fishing gear if that is your thing. I must have stopped a dozen times to take pictures of the magnificent roaring water and cliffs.

At one point I knew that a still photograph wasn’t going to do the trick so I did something I have never done before. I have owned this camera for over four years and I have never shot a video with it… And this was the time to try it out! The video lever on the back of my Canon 70D was a bit sticky having never been switched a single time in the entire years I have owned it, but I finally got it wrangled into the video position and was ready to go. A look through the view finder yielded nothing but darkness and panic 😦 Until I remembered that in order to shoot video the camera has to lock up the mirror to make the sensor available for uninterrupted video streaming. So I quickly flipped open the LCD viewfinder on the back and there it was… video on my still camera! Obviously this is not the most professional video you have ever seen, but at least you can experience the roaring whitewater that I was hearing and seeing  🙂

Eleven Mile Canyon

Finally I reached the end of the road at the dam entrance and turned around. I saw a couple of scenes on the return trip worth additional stops before finally reaching the end of the canyon. There was a photographer there with a big lens, so of course I had to get out and see what the interest was and there was an eagle nesting across the river. I may try to process that image with some hefty cropping, but  at first glance the bird was way to far away for a decent photograph, even with my 400mm zoom.

I highly recommend this day trip to Lake George. The scenery is stunning and there is nothing like a day spent in the beauty of God’s Creation! As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic and metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of gift items, apparel, tech gear and more area also available with a beautiful #swkrullimaging picture!

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.

A Better Start


Didn’t set the alarm this morning but was still hoping for an early enough morning to be able to get in on the nice lighting. Didn’t quite hit the perfect moment, but definitely better than yesterday! I awoke at 7:20 a.m. and took Big Dog out for his morning business just in time to notice that 7:20 was the perfect moment to have been down the trail a couple of miles to catch the early morning pinkness still available over the Arkansas Valley and on the distant Sangre de Cristo Range.

Hazy Sangre de Cristo Mountains

By the time I got going it was still the perfect time for some wildlife photography, so I was hoping to see some deer or elk, maybe a coyote or fox still out hunting or maybe even my favorite resident, the Rough Legged Hawk. Other than a few encouraging tracks in the sand, no luck at all in that department. But the mountains were still pretty, minus the pink morning light that I was hoping for. There was however still a hint of early morning color over the valley and on the snow capped peaks and I could not resist snapping a few.

Despite being another major disappointment, the day was not entirely lost… I obtained some good information that I can put to use tomorrow. I know when to set the alarm, 6:30 a.m. should be the perfect time to wake up, giving me plenty of time to be out the door by 7:00 and down the trail a couple of miles to my favorite vista. I need to get this done before the sun starts coming up even earlier later in the spring and summer. Also need to get those shots before the fires start and I can’t see the Sangre at all. It has been a very dry year and the specter of a summer of mountain wildfires is looming large 😦

Today’s picture is of course a very hazy view of the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Range over the Arkansas Valley with the layers of foothills leading up to the rugged range and the continental divide separating east from west. Always hoping my readers will take the time to view my website where pictures are for sale as wall art and royalty free stock.

Top of the Ridge

Winter was supposed to come early to southern Colorado and Cripple Creek last night… we got a little snow and some cold but the worst of the storm came in the form of some very dense and treacherous fog for anyone trying to drive through the darkness. It did make for a beautiful night in downtown Cripple Creek though with the lights of the casino district glowing softly through the snowflakes drifting lazily down from the frozen mountain air.

Sangre De CristoOften after one of these storms the action in the mountains the next day can be breathtaking. I awoke early and the doggy was ready for a hike so I decided to see if I could make the top of the ridge behind Little Grouse Mountain where there might be a good view of both the Sangre and the Collegiates. It has been awhile since I have hiked that far but I thought it would be well worth the effort in pictures if I was right.

It didn’t take long before I got a taste of what I was going to see if I could make it to theCollegiate View top of the ridge. I didn’t even know if there was going to be a trail up there but pressed on anyway, ghostly trees in the shaded valley below created an amazing wintry scene. About a half hour in I was at the base of the ridge and there was a faint wagon trail calling my name, leading up and around to the top. Have to say it was a tough climb after a month or two of taking it easy, a fourteener in the immediate future may not be in the cards! Looks like there might have been some gold there at one time, it appears quite a few of the original explorers decided to stake mining claims there. Only the ghostly remains of their hopeful efforts are visible now, a few rocks and some caved in digs.

Sangre ViewFinally we reached the summit and the view was indeed magnificent, the Sangre to the south and the Collegiate Peaks to the west. Looks like the Collegiate Peaks have been getting a bit of snow already, not so much further south. The remnants of last night’s fog filled the high plains between Victor and the Sangres, exactly the panorama I was hoping for 🙂

My legs are tired and sore and the dog is contently sleeping as I process the pictures and recall the beautiful morning. These images are but a couple of the pretty good sized batch I was able to capture this morning. Please be sure to visit swkrullimaging often so you don’t miss out on the wealth of imagery I have been able to acquire this fall!