Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn 😦 Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do 😐 Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start 🙂 So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com 🙂

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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.

High Tech Photography Considerations

My time here in Cripple Creek has led me to reevaluate some fundamental rules I have used to get good images since my early film days with my manual focus Minolta X-700. Over the last decade and four Canon digital camera models, my circumstances and technology have changed considerably. The specific fundamental rule I am thinking of is the shutter speed versus focal length rule of thumb for sharp pictures, “minimum hand held shutter speed equals 1/focal length”. So, if you are shooting all the way zoomed in with a 200mm lens, your minimum shutter speed would be a 200th of a second.

The rule of thumb held true with my first digital camera, the original Canon 1D and my consumer grade 300mm Canon lens. That camera was only a 4.5 mp CCD sensor version, creating a native 300ppi image of around 5″ x 8″, pretty similar to the 35mm film versions of old. That guideline continued to hold through my 10D and then my 10mp 40D, although in the meantime I had purchased my amazing Canon 70-200 F4L lens with four stop F4L image stabilization technology.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Then came the 20mp Canon 70D camera body… However, Woodland Park is in a valley, everything I wanted to photograph was nearby and life was good. Even Pikes Peak was practically in my back yard, usually requiring no more than 100mm of focal length. However, the move to Cripple Creek has changed things considerably, at least for local photography projects. The Sangre de Cristo and Collegiate Peak mountain ranges are 60 to 100 miles away and I almost always shoot them fully zoomed at 200mm in the faint early morning light. As a stock photographer I review all images at 100% in Photoshop and I am starting to notice some disappointing results. So recently I have been conducting some focal length versus shutter speed tests, only to raise more questions than I have been able to answer.

After a good amount of research it has come to my attention that our high tech improvements have brought about the need for some changes in my shot planning. For starters, my 70D has a 1.6 crop factor. In other words, the sensor is only .6 the size of a full frame 35mm camera and that has to be taken into consideration, changing the shutter speed calculation to 1/focal length * crop factor. My 200 mm lens is now the equivalent of a 320mm lens, reducing the minimum shutter speed to 1/320. Of course the four stop IS can be taken into consideration, although I’m not sure I can count on always being able to reduce my shutter speed by four stops.

Also requiring consideration with the latest generation of cameras is the incredibly small pixel size required to fit 20 million of them on a sensor, not to mention what it takes to accommodate 50 million pixels that some of the more expensive models might be sporting! Such tremendous resolution not only shows the finest image details, it also reveals the most minute flaws and camera motion. I was not able to come up with a new and infallible rule of thumb, however I did learn enough to know that my old assumptions are out the window with yesterday’s technology. I also learned that it will be a good idea to lug my Manfrotto along a lot more often, and to make sure to keep my shutter speeds up when I am required to hand hold my camera during important projects. My new unofficial aspiration is going to be to try to shoot with 1/400th or maybe even 1/500th of a second when I am shooting at 200mm focal length. Of course that is not always going to happen, especially when I am shooting wildlife early in the morning. However I will be paying a lot closer to my ISO values during those shoots. Definitely don’t want any more of those 1/30th speeds!

Beautiful Morning

It was a beautiful cool morning today, a welcome relief to the scorching heat we have been experiencing here in Colorado this June. Lol.. I know we sound like real wimps when we get to complaining when the temps rise above 80 when the rest of the country is sweltering in 100 plus misery, but in our defense we are not used to it! There is no air up here to filter the effects of the direct sun so 50’s and maybe 60 are about all we can stand up here at 9,000 feet!

Fog on the PeakWell anyway I was up early and took the doggies on our usual stroll up the north side of Ute Pass which is when I noticed the beautiful fog bank rolling in from the east side over the north face of the massive 14,115 foot monolith to the south we call America’s Mountain. Thinking today might be a good day for wildflowers up there I loaded up the puppies and we headed for Bald Mountain, the highest point on the north side of the valley with an awesome view of the peak.

Unfortunately this appears to be a bad year for wildflowers. The mountain bluebell and columbine are all wilted with only the yellow daisy looking ones are in good bloom, whatever they are… Don’t have the patience anymore to try to figure out what they are for sure. The mountain was putting on a good show though, well worth the drive to the summit of the treeless vantage point.

Listening to a song on the radio about a guy who was thinking about ending it all because he was facing starting over with just his children and his wife. But according to the song he received his miracle of hope from a song on the radio and carried on. Same with the famous Lee Greenwood song, “starting over with my children and my wife”. Well thanks to cancer and life’s wicked twists and turns, songs like this make me wonder about people who’s greatest fear is considerably less than what many of us face, starting again not with our children and our wife but with nothing but the faith that there is a God who still cares about us even when there is scant evidence to indicate so. But for those in similar situations who are wondering, the Word says it is the righteous who “suffer many afflictions”, not the wicked. Some solace can be obtained in knowing that the enemy considers us worthy of so much attention.

Also in the area of random spiritual thoughts, recent headlines affirm another scripture… “Whosoever diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.”, Proverbs 26:27 also akin to “People in glass houses should not throw stones.”. Thinking of news headlines indicating new congressional interest in the infamous Bill Clinton / Loretta Lynch attempted clandestine collusion meeting on the tarmac and the Hillary Clinton illegal potty based email server not to mention new evidence that BHO knew about Russian hacking attempts long before the election, while he was still basking in the legend in his own mind glory… Just my opinion but it seems pretty stupid for the guilty to be screaming for investigations…

Dang… I was going to devote this blog to photography only. Oh well, I guess in life no one thing is totally disconnected from another. Well just in case some photographers do read this blog post, I did put some technical thought into this series of the peak. It did seem like f11 would be a good lens opening for this morning so I switched from program mode to Av and set the aperture to f11… Which reminds me, I need to set it back to P so that I will be ready on a moments notice for my next shot whether it be an action shot or a surprise amazing landscape.

 

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

Field Testing Keen Targhee II Hiking Boots

Hot weather is fast approaching and a pair of Keen Targhee low hikers looked like just the ticket for summer hiking comfort. The Targhee is a durable leather and mesh waterproof boot with just the right mix of protection, weight and breathability.

Keen TargheeColorado 14ers are my passion but summiting one of these beasts means many hours on the trail in every kind of condition that Mother Nature can throw at a person. Conditions can range from the heat of summer at the base of the mountain to the dead of winter above treeline.

The Targhee comes with the patented “Keen Dry” waterproof membrane, a material that keeps water out while allowing good airflow for comfort in the heat. The waterproof membrane also provides a decent layer of insulation as temperatures plummet in the high terrain.

I deliberately purchased these boots a half size large to make room for an extra layer of blister preventing sock liners and for a thick memory foam foot liner. After a few hikes and a couple full days at work on the brutally hard floors I have to say this may be the most comfortable pair of hikers I have ever experienced. The durable rubber toe shield provides excellent protection from rocks and the Keen Dry water proof membrane appears to perform admirably. After miles of constant wear I didn’t experience any blister causing friction points or toe curl, even with my somewhat wide foot profile. If you are an ankle roller, or if you are planning a lot of hiking on rock strewn trails, it might be a good idea to consider going with a mid or high profile boot.

At $125, this Keen hiker is a bargain. I highly recommend Keen hiking boots for rugged outdoor wear, whether in the rugged mountain terrain or on the flat dirt trails of the midwest.

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

Giving Thanks for Cyber Monday

I know, Thanksgiving would have been a much more appropriate time for a blog message… but I was working on Thanksgiving Day and was kind of bummed about that and didn’t really feel very thankful about it. Looking back though, it wasn’t so bad… way better than last year, which was the worst Thanksgiving of my life. Last year was my first Thanksgiving alone in almost 30 years and the first one since the passing of my wife. She loved Thanksgiving and always set up an amazing holiday, no matter what our circumstances at the time. So anyway, we all had to be at work to prepare for Black Friday, which was actually starting at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday evening. So the nice personnel lady fixed all kinds of food for us and we just celebrated in the break room. Most of the people I know are the people I work with, so it was actually a very nice holiday dinner. By about 4:00 p.m. we had all the merchandise ready for sale and on pallets wrapped in plastic and waiting for the 6:00 start.

Peak StormOur job then was to wander the store watching the pallets to make sure none of the merchandise got up and left before it went live on the computer at 6. We had a good crowd, by the end of the day, but people up here are pretty civilized so I spent the last half hour or so just chatting with the people crowding around the bed sheets pallet. Lol… had no idea bed sheets could cost so much! $25 or so for a set of the things, and I was thinking even the Black Friday sale was about twice what I would want to pay for those items! My bachelor solution was to spend $8 for a sleeping bag at Walmart and pretend I am camping 🙂 Oh wait, I am camping… every day of my life! Well anyway 6 p.m. came and I was ready with my trusty box knife to cut the plastic and allow the festivities to begin. Fortunately it all went down in a fairly orderly fashion, with some people actually helping other people to find and grab stuff. Cleaning up the plastic ended my involvement with the big day and I was headed for home.

I had no Black Friday shopping to do… Last week I was in need of a new laptop, but wisely decided to take care of that ahead of time to make sure I actually got one without having to get into a fight over it! Cyber Monday finds me up and running on my Lenovo with my new version of Photoshop CC for Photographers. Haven’t gotten a new version of Photoshop since CS2, so the new interface was a bit bewildering at first, but since I have pretty much figured out all the things I need to do, written my action scripts and forged ahead. I’ve pretty much learned all the ins and outs of the new Raw interface, but haven’t even begun to try to figure out what Lightroom might do for me.

Today I’m thankful that I have the job that took me away from normal Thanksgiving activities… I’m thankful for good health for myself and my family scattered all over the country and for another year of living the dream in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. But I’m also thankful that the big sales killing holiday is all over with… and this is my opportunity for a shameless Cyber Monday plug for my S. W. Krull Imaging website on pixels.com that I use to sell prints and gift items, some of which would make great Christmas gifts 🙂 My lab sells traditional prints on museum quality paper, shiny metal and acrylic sheets, and stretched canvas. Also available are Christmas cards, T-Shirts, phone cases for iPhone and Samsung devices, and many other handy items suitable for displaying a photograph.

I’m also thankful that the shortest day of the year is almost upon us. In just a little over three weeks the sun will reverse it’s journey southward and the days will start to get longer. That’s always a big day in my life… When my thoughts can begin to contemplate the end of the long Rocky Mountain winter with it’s cold dark nights and way too early sunsets behind the ridges. I also would like to take time out this morning before the hustle and bustle of the new week begins to pray for some friends who will be facing the possibility of some life changing and terrifying news this morning. I also pray for the homeless and for those who aren’t blessed with big families to celebrate Christmas with, and for the troops overseas who will not be able to make it back for this special time of year.

 

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

Teach Us to Profit

Again today I awake early in the morning just as I did yesterday, stunned that it is possible to feel so terrible so early. It has been a long dry spell in the picture taking business, so many miles on the trail with so little to show for it. I have heard it said many times, “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” and I am starting to believe that! It seems to be getting harder and harder to get up that mountainside in search of elusive wildlife for the stock photography portfolio. Decided maybe it would help to start the day with a prayer and my morning prayer reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Isaiah, “Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.“. Good words I thought.

Gloomy-PeakYesterday I could not face the climb, and I remembered the words of the great Ansel Adams, “Do not confuse hiking with photography, a picture from the road is as good as one you’ve hiked miles to get.”, or something close to that anyway. More good words of wisdom to live by, maybe I should find a less strenuous method of getting pictures once in a while to give these old bones a rest! It was weights day, so I wandered into the gym to complete that regular activity, hoping that I would find some inspiration afterwards.

Still nothing, but I had some time to kill before lunch and decided to stop in at the library and look at the latest “Outdoor Photographer” Mag to get caught up on the latest equipment and  techniques, plus I enjoy sitting in the reading room and looking out at the awesome view of the big mountain available from there. The effects of an approaching storm were already enveloping the peak yesterday morning as snow and fog had begun to roll in. Nothing too earth shaking in the world of photography, the Canon 80D is out, but not significantly improved over the 70D I’m already shooting with, not enough anyway to get excited about purchasing a new camera.

So I wandered over to the book section to see if there were any new photography books, the photography section at the Woodland Park Library is woefully under stocked 😦 On my way out of the section I noticed the writing section, particularly the 2014 Writer’s Market Handbook. I’ve been an avid reader of the Photographer’s Handbook but I’ve never looked at the version for writers, so I thought, “Why not?”! The book is huge and I didn’t get a whole lot out of it, other than the realization that I am clearly not putting enough emphasis on profit from my writing. As of late, from my site statistics I have discovered that my writing receives way more attention than my picture posts do so it occurred to me that I need to put some thought to this matter and resolved to do so at the earliest possible convenience.

Well as it turned out, yesterday was an incredibly slow day and that opportunity presented itself in the afternoon. I have long been intrigued by a phrase I saw a while ago, “monetizing your blog”. Monetizing sounds good… I’m definitely in need of some monetizing.  So after some cursory research it became apparent that my “free” WordPress account was probably not going to be adequate so I took the major step I’ve been kicking around for awhile, which was to get a custom WordPress domain name and with it the capability of installing some income stream plugins, the first of which I applied for immediately.

So even though the old body is still feeling the effects of too many miles on the trail, I start out this day with new hope that one of my favorite passages in the Bible will be applied to my life and that yesterday was a day when “the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.“.