Leading Indicator of Better Times

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.

large-line-item-1384383.jpgThe 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

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

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Pikes Peak or Bust

Pikes Peak or Bust, my motto lately, became one step closer to reality today. Under contract for a house in the old west mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. Sketchy start to the day however, as creepy stalker woman somehow managed to be out working in the yard in March at 7:00 a.m. so as to be sure to be able to make snide remarks as I passed by with the dogs on their morning walk. As of this morning I was not sure that the sellers were going to accept my offer, so the words of stalker lady were all the more unbearable. Prayed a long prayer when I got back home that the long dark valley I have traversed over the last decade might finally be over and that He would finally allow me to shake this town and all it’s harsh memories.

Independence gold mine in Victor ColoradoAs I sat once again contemplating life with coffee and a donut at the Donut Mill in Woodland, I got the call that I was waiting for! Go down to the bank and get the earnest money, the sellers are going to sign! So off I went to pick up my friend and take the check over to the real estate agent 🙂 Once that was done, we decided that today would be a good day  for a road trip to Cripple for another look at the house and maybe some shots of the historic abandoned gold mines that I have been planning for a while now.

Pikes Peak or Bust was of course originally the motto of the gold miners pouring into the Cripple Creek and Victor Colorado gold mine discovery district. The area has a rich old west history and has somehow managed to retain that old west small town feel, despite the invasion of Las Vegas Casinos that have largely taken over the old town area. According to the website and organization,  MiningHistoryAssociation.org, “The Cripple Creek mining district lies on the southwestern flank of 14,115 foot high Pikes Peak. Gold was discovered in 1890 by ranch hand-turned-prospector, Bob Womack. Relatively meager placers led to the discovery of rich vein deposits. The rush was on as thousands of would-be prospectors and miners again accepted the challenge of the 1859ers, “Pikes Peak or Bust.” By 1900, 500 mines had been discovered, the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor had been established, and rail service had linked the district to the outside world.”.

Independence Gold Mine in historic Victor ColoradoAfter a short visit to some colorful Cripple Creek establishments and a drive past the prospective new abode, we decided to head over to Victor to photograph a couple mines I have been eyeing for some time now. The afternoon lighting was just right, the weathered wooden ruins of the mines against the amazing Colorado high elevation blue sky. The old Dodge truck took us up the rough gravel road to the base of the mines for an amazing photo session to capture this important era of American history.

So once again, a day that started out a bit sketchy became a day of hope… Reminding me of the words of the Almighty, “I will give you beauty for ashes.” and “I will turn your mourning into dancing.”.

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

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, “Well done good and faithful servant.”. I could not bear to hear the words in my mind… “Of 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, “But 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 “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.”. 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

Peace

Today in my walk through the woods with the doggies, I pondered a question posed to me, “How can there ever be peace”, in reference to the chaos which has beset my life as of late. Peace is of course a good thing, something that should be sought by everyone. I even had a wise pastor one time give the advise to “seek after peace” when trying to figure out how to handle difficult situations. So I’ve been thinking about that lately and it is a bit of a continuation of my previous revelation on faith and taking on life’s hard problems.

The answer lies in determining what exactly is peace… Some people’s lives have the appearance of peace, good jobs, nice looking families, nice homes and stable lives. I once had this, nice house in a beautiful subdivision near Denver. Looked great, but it was far from peaceful. A bully for a boss at work, rich neighbors fighting over everything imaginable, home owners association constantly harassing people. For about a year towards the end of that mess I couldn’t sleep… As I lay there in the dark, in my mind all I could see was the bleakness of a cubicle and a workstation, something that after 30 years had become more of a prison than an office. I would lie awake staring into the darkness, wondering if there really was going to be a Heaven, and if I was ever going to get to do any of the things I really wanted to do. 50 pounds overweight, suffering from chest pains and wondering if I was going to die in that cubicle. During the day in the cubicle it felt like I was going to die. Every time I sat down at the computer my heart rate would start to climb, I would start to sweat and finally I would run out of the room and walk around the little pond in the office complex, only to sit back down and repeat the scenario.

Obviously this is not a sustainable situation and I finally just turned in my resignation. We had a few side businesses that were sustaining us before I got that position and we decided to work harder on those to get by. Unfortunately, the crash of 2008 came along and the music stopped. The short story is, we wound up in the mountains, right where I wanted to be anyway 🙂

Now I don’t have the stability of the nice home and big job, but I sleep like a baby at night. In the daytime I see the magnificence of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, wildlife, and breath the fresh mountain air. But my life doesn’t have the appearance of peace. In doing God’s will for me I have stepped into chaos and conflict with some seriously low life people in my neighborhood. You can’t plant the Cross on a hill of demons and expect to find the peace that the world recognizes and pursues. Yet I look forward to every day and sleep like a baby at night.

So what is peace?

Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Peace is between a man and his God, knowing that you are on the path He has set forth for you. Knowing that He is there in the midst of the storm. Knowing that all He has to do is say to the storm “Peace be still.”, and the storm will have no choice but to obey. The answer to the question is that peace is from within, not from without.

 

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.

The Gift

As I have been going about the business of moving on I have also been stopping in at all the places Tricia liked to make sure everyone has been informed of the sad news. In doing so I have been continually astonished at the effect her life, her suffering and her passing have had on all those who came in contact with her.

Everyone who knew her was impressed by her faith, perseverance, hope and joy. Her Christian friends say that she taught them how to be a Christian, how to believe and hope when it looked as if there was no hope. Her non Christian friends remember her big smile and thumbs up trademark that were never dampened by her suffering and never subject to her circumstances. It is apparent from the looks on their faces and in their eyes that they know that her spirit was being carried by a force greater than anything this world could throw at her.

Her life and her death have changed people. Her friends see the world differently now. Many have commented that they now regard their own problems as small and I can quote many as saying “When I think of my problems I think of you and it makes my problems seem like nothing.”.

So the gift she left us is the gift of faith, an ability to look beyond the problems of the day and to something greater. A closer connection to the life beyond and a closer bond with everyone who participated, from the one who opened a door for the wheelchair to the one who came and sat with her in our home, to those who took timeout to call or email and pray and to those who were able to help out financially. And most of all to our church family who provided the solid rock to stand on when everything else was being shaken.

Dreams

Today’s sorting through the chaos of the last few years was a journey through the dreams we had together. Tricia was always up for some new venture and we tried a lot of them! And as I was combing the cottage looking for things I would need I ran across remnants of all of them.

Tricia running her sound mixer

Tricia running her sound mixer

There was the wedding photography business in the early 90’s memorialized by boxes of prints, glossy previews and piles of negatives. I found office supplies, flyers and advertisements for the photo studio that we ran in Denver for awhile. There are CD’s, costumes and props from the mobile DJ service we tried in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I loved that business and will never forget some of the beautiful parties that we had the privilege of MCing. She was so beautiful all dressed up in character for the sock hops, the disco parties, and in her tuxes for the weddings. The house is filled with trinkets left behind from our attempts at the collectibles business. I can still remember her scurrying around the house packing sold items and running off with armloads of stuff to take to the post office. Don’t miss the days of dealing with the post office and once when they lost something Tricia furiously told the postmaster that she was going to sue the post office, to which he sanctimoniously informed her, “You can’t sue us… we’re the federal government!”.

We came to Woodland Park filled with hope when we found a commercial property for an antique store. I think she would have succeeded if the cancer had not begun to take it’s toll. But it didn’t work out and we turned our minds to retirement. She dreamed of parking our camper trailer by a stream and going fishing, something she had never done. She excitedly asked me, do you know how to fish? I had to laugh since my dad worked for Berkeley Fishing Company his whole life and I was probably fishing before I could walk 🙂 Her idea sounded fine to me and I hoped we would get the chance. Today as I was digging through the past I was saddened when I found my rod and reel stashed in a corner, knowing that she would never get the chance to try it out.

Fishing on Crystal Creek Reservoir

Fishing on Crystal Creek Reservoir

On the other hand, what would heaven be without some pristine streams filled with trout, or mountains and the smell of pine trees? I will see her again there and maybe she will be fishing, accompanied by wolves, bears and our beloved dogs and cats that have already made the journey. As for me, the dreams have not died and I will carry on. She would have wanted me to.

Unsung Heroes

It was a particularly rough day in oncology today and I am utterly humbled by the dedication and compassion of the oncology nurses. The oncology doctors are great with their amazing scientific words of hope in new advancements and medical technology that they provide on their long lap through the most hopeless ward in the hospital. However it is the nurses and techs who do the heavy lifting here.

While the doctors make their one round the nurses make their rounds with countless interruptions. Cancer patients are in unimaginable pain and their cries can be heard up and down the hallways. The nurses know their patients and are acutely aware of the pain medicine schedule of each one. Needs must be juggled, who needs something right this minute, who can wait another five minutes? Accidents are frequent and messy. Helpless patients must be assisted but maybe immediate attention will prevent another accident and the terrible humiliation that goes with it. Hundreds of decisions must be made every day, day after day, night after night. No one sleeps well in the oncology ward.

There are quite a few male nurses throughout the hospital, especially in the rehab center. But to my knowledge there is only one in oncology, and a great one at that. I think oncology nurses may need a strong motherly instinct to care for patients who have often been reduced to the physical abilities of children. I cannot imagine doing the things they must do for someone else but the oncology nurses clean up over and over while never letting a patient feel like they have become a burden.

I know tomorrow will be another difficult day, but I also know we won’t be going through it alone. We will go through the day confident that every time we have to punch the red button with the cross on it that it won’t be more than a couple of minutes before the beautiful face of a compassionate and professional angel in white appears.