Last Photo Shoot of 2017

My last outing of the year… Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and miserable and I’ll be too tired anyway. It was beautiful out this morning and the sunrise was amazing so Big Dog and I quick loaded up and headed for the trail.

Today my diligence was rewarded with the amazing spectacle of a giant lake of fog between Grouse Mountain and the Sangre De Cristo. I hoped it would remain until we could get to the high spot for the best view of the rugged canyon and the high peaks of the Sangres. Fortunately it did and we got the shots πŸ™‚

It was a long trek this morning and both me and my four legged bud are worn out. But what a way to wind up a great year! I have a few more of these to process, but a couple are up for sale as wall art and cool stuff from coffee mugs to yoga mats! Click the menu buttons for products and pricing!

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Withdrawal

My favorite place in the world is the alpine tundra high above the treeline and it seems like forever since I have been there. Definitely feeling the effects of adventure withdrawal 😦 My last summit was Mt. Columbia in the summer of ’16. Since then it has just been one thing after another… Money, injuries, truck repairs, you name it πŸ™‚

Finally though, the settlement for the work injuries and the down payment for a house and a new start in a new town with a new job! With the hardship, problems and bad memories of Woodland Park behind me I was looking forward to exploring my new piece of the Colorado Rockies! But then, the fateful grinding noise from somewhere in the bowels of my truck. Best guess… Throwout bearing or flywheel bearings 😦

Looks like the snowshoes, micro spikes and poles will remain in the closet indefinitely while I wrangle up the funds for yet another repair. No trails within walking distance here, not that I can find anyway.

On the other hand, the economy is finally picking up and I am starting to see a pickup in print sales, my bread and butter when it comes to photography πŸ™‚ Maybe it won’t be so long! Maybe a view like this one from the summit of Mount Elbert will not be so distant after all.

Also my photo lab has added a ton of new products including some that would make for cool Christmas gifts including the latest, yoga mats custom made with one of my images πŸ™‚ just click the print sales button in the menu to bring up my image galleries and once inside a gallery just click your favorite picture to see all the cool products that are available!

Turning Point

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 πŸ™‚

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.Β  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

Solstice 2016

The new year holiday is meaningless to me, based on nothing but someone’s idea of a chronological date indicating an arbitrary division of time developed centuries ago. However, the Winter Solstice is real, something significant in the alignment of stars, planets, the sun and the earth. It is a mark in time that has a profound effect on my life as I squeak out a life here in the mountains of Colorado. It is the day when the hours of light stop becoming shorter, a day when I can count on more time under the beautiful light of the sun even if it is only a few seconds more than the day before. There is something psychological about knowing that the next day will be longer, perhaps warmer and without a doubt a bit lighter. It is also a day we can count on, a day that we can say without a doubt will be a division in time, the day that identifies an exact moment in time where something changes for the better.

Summit-HikerFor me, in two days it will be the new year… a time to reflect on the previous year and look with hope towards a new one. It is also a time to review whether the previous year will be a year in which I will receive the only thing that really matters, the words of the Almighty, β€œWell done good and faithful servant.”. I could not bear to hear the words in my mind… β€œOf him will I be ashamed… ”, speaking of those who were ashamed to speak His Name.

2016 was supposed to be simple, beginning with a trip to REI, my happy place, to invest my yearly dividend on some new bike riding gloves. A year when I was going to prosper, to enjoy life after years of caring for my wife of 25 years as cancer ravaged and eventually destroyed her body. A year that was going to be free from conflict and strife, pain and struggle. A year that began with a great victory, a winter climb to Colorado’s highest peak…

But it was not meant to be so… The war rages on, if not in my life in the lives of others. Early in the year I prayed to the Almighty, let the struggle be over let me just enjoy life now. Fortunately He did not listen to my prayer… the war is not over and neither is my part in it. As I look back it is hard to comprehend that the events in less than 365 days could be confined to just one year. You would have to go back and read all my blogs to gather it all in, but the short story is without my participation it is very possible that two lives and two souls may have been lost. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that as a result of my efforts some suffering may have been averted, a few lives made better and for some there will be new hope and a new chance for a future.

SummitIn spite of the struggles of life, the year also found me in two more of my greatest moments, summiting the three highest peaks in Colorado, counting the winter climb to Mount Elbert my buddies and I also summited Massive and Harvard in the summertime. The west face of Pikes Peak in wintertime has continued to elude us, but also resulted in an experience of a lifetime. Buddy Ralph and I were literally blown over by the strongest wind I have ever experienced… followed by a quick and desperate struggle for survival that will be fuel for stories for years to come! I wish we had some pictures of our frozen faces and beards but the sprint to lower elevations didn’t allow for time for that. However, now when we see the snow blowing a thousand feet in the air over the top of the Peak we can look at each other knowingly… well aware of what life is like on the Peak when that happens!

mariah-steve-summitThe year also yielded another first… my first drive to the summit of Pikes Peak on the Pikes Peak Highway. Barely squeaked that one in on a work day with my friend and co-worker Mariah. A beautiful day down at the base of the Peak was followed by a very cold and windy visit to the summit, but for sure it was a day I will never forget!

But the end of this year finds me tired, injured, and in doubt for my own future. For the next year I must depend on the blessed words of scripture, β€œBut without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”. I have to know that my efforts this year on behalf of others will not go unrewarded, and that β€œFor 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.”. I have to know that He is watching over me and that there are plans for my life that I am not yet aware of. This year saw the demise of the news company I was writing for as well as any hope for a future with my main photo agency iStock / Getty. I have begun anew with a fledgling portfolio at a newer agency hosted by well known media giant Adobe, but it is only hope at this point. At this time I am out of pictures to upload, out of ideas for new ones and left praying for ideas.

For the new year, I am devoid of ideas for my own plans… spiritually drained and wondering how to start over yet again, but I am confident that the Author of the Future is not taken by surprise, not discouraged and not deterred. I go into the new year knowing that the Blessed Hope has plans I don’t know about and that my best days are before me and not behind… Knowing in my spirit that the next year will be a better year than the last.

 

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

9000 Pots of Coffee

9000 pots of coffee. If a man’s life were measured in pots of coffee I guess 9000 is about what I would be. When I started drinking coffee they said it was bad for me. It would stunt my growth, make me jittery, keep me from sleeping and cause all manner of health disorder. Now they say coffee is good for you, a great source of anti oxidants that will prevent cancer and give me a long and happy life. This morning as I was making what very well could have been my 9000th pot of coffee it occurred to me that it may well have been the coffee, and a very merciful God, that have kept me going this long.

Coffee has been a constant throughout my life during the good times and the not so good times. It has given me the boost in the morning to get up and go to work. The aromatic hot beverage got me to roll call on time when I was a young man in the Air Force. The life giving caffeine kept me going all those years as a software engineer working in the dark of night to solve the hard problems that could not be worked on during the daytime when others needed the computers. I have had coffee before all the big events in my life. I consumed it early in the mornings before all my running races hoping it would induce the bodily functions to occur before the starting gun, not after.

The heavenly beverage helped me get through those black nights in the terrifying months following the cancer diagnosis. When sleep would not come I would just get up and drink coffee until I was too exhausted to stay awake any longer. Two or three hours of sleep was all I could count on in those early days of this battle when the unknown loomed so large.

There is nothing I like better than to just sit in a coffee shop sipping the beverage and staring out the window. One of my favorite life stories is from the Brew House in Parker where I used to live. I used to stumble in there on cold winter mornings after long tromps through the woods looking for deer to photograph for my stock photo business. There was always a sweet young lady at the counter who would show me a friendly smile and take my order. One day there was new guy at the counter who was grilling me with a million questions about flavors and drinks I had never so much as even heard of. As I was getting ready to order my usual black coffee I heard a familiar voice chime in from the back of the store with β€œHe likes his medicine straight!”. That little phrase was more accurate than she could have ever imagined and I have never forgotten my little friend behind the counter for remembering my preference. I remember her face, but not her name and she has since moved on to a higher paying job with a better future. Unfortunately the Great Recession has claimed many of my favorite haunts, including the Brew House and the Pikes Perk in Manitou. I hope my favorite places in Evergreen, Aspen Park, Georgetown and Leadville are still standing and I will soon be able to visit these beautiful places again.

There is a light at the end of the dark tunnel of cancer in the family and, and I have a new favorite coffee shop at the base of magnificent Pikes Peak. I don’t get there much but when I can get to the Donut Mill I love their black coffee and a couple of their awesome homemade chocolate covered donuts. No matter what, Father Time keeps rolling along and the black coffee keeps flowing.

The Road Ahead

Day three of radiation therapy. Can’t see any improvement yet, but she needed less pain medication yesterday so that is a good sign. Three down and seven to go. The beauty of autumn is quickly passing as the wind and the hail are taking their toll on the brittle golden leaves. The mountains will be barren until they take on a fresh mantle of white that comes with the cold of winter. Meanwhile I am given some time in the waiting room to reflect and look ahead.

In the ebb and flow of the photography business I’ve had to change focus many times and these times are no different. Many years ago wedding and portrait photography were abandoned for stock photography which more suited my desire for the peace and solitude of the wilderness. Stock photography has had it’s ups and downs as well and adjustments have been made there too. In the early days of digital stock, such simple subjects as solitary trees and isolated fruit sold like hotcakes and life was easy. However it wasn’t long before word got out and cameras got better. The picture world has become flooded with imagery and it has become more and more difficult to stand out and make consistent sales. Agencies have experimented and made improvements and mistakes. By the end of the Y2K decade I was finding nature photography and the Royalty Free model to be on the wane so in 2008 I concentrated almost exclusively on sports photography and the Rights Managed license model, giving up my exclusive crown at iStock and having my most prolific year ever at the Alamy Agency.

Then came the Getty acquisition of iStockPhoto and with it some great benefits for exclusive photographers. Such cool opportunities that I had to backtrack and get the crown back. It has been a great ride since then but I sense the tide beginning to change again. Upload limits at iStock have been removed and the ensuing massive influx of imagery has once again cut deeply into contributor profit.

Lead-Pack

So in late 2014 I am considering another major change in focus. For me the pendulum has swung back to producing more exclusive editorial imagery and reportage. So to begin my move forward I will be looking back to the beginning of the year at the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series. The rest of my time in the Radiotherapy waiting room will be spent scouring the year’s events for suitable editorial images for my Rights Managed portfolio on the Alamy agency. However I will never tire of the solitude of the woods and the communion with wildlife and nature high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Spring Again

The storms of early April have finally abated and sunshine has returned to Ute Pass. I am getting a late start today and even though I knew that all the wildlife would have already finished their morning feeding and bedded down for a nap, I need the exercise and the climb up the mountain as conditioning for adventures later this summer.

As I strode along the rugged trail I contemplated my future. Her recovery at the hospital is progressing slowly and not all of the news is good. Cold hard reality is settling in as I confront a future completely different than the one I had planned. How does one come to grips with the possibility that all of our hopes and dreams and plans may not be possible after all?

The mountain was magnificent this morning with a brilliant white coat of fresh snow and I managed to stop and snap a few pictures that I was looking forward to sharing. After returning I went about my usual exercise of exchanging the camera chip with one from the bag, putting the new chip in the reader and the old one in the camera. For the first time in almost 10 years of digital photography I elected not to hit the view button before formatting the chip. As I watched the chip in the reader load onto my laptop I was mortified as I realized that this was also the first time in 10 years that I didn’t actually put the new chip in the reader. I now have two copies of the April 3 snowstorm on my hard drive and no pictures of the magnificent mountain today.

Oh well, I’m glad I learned my lesson on common images. The mountain doesn’t look any different today than it did last spring so it was no big loss. And I did get the exercise that I went up there for in the first place.

Just so you can see what it was like, here is an image from last spring πŸ™‚

Fresh Snow

Fresh snow on Pikes Peak