5000 Images

Deer in Winter Wilderness

Saw this beautiful buck at the edge of the wilderness this morning. He was very cooperative in posing for a few captures 🙂 Also noticed this morning that somewhere along the line lately I blew through the 5000 accepted images at iStock / Getty! Two years ago I was looking forward to surpassing that mark but got so discouraged with the company that I stopped uploading. But a few days ago, much to my surprise I logged by best month there in a long time, enough payout to rethink my decision to ignore that portfolio. iStock / Getty was where my stock photography career began and it is my oldest portfolio, dating all the way back to 2006. It’s also a pretty good pictorial history of an entire decade of my life on this earth!

My First Metal Print

So excited… getting my first glossy metal print of my work 🙂 Actually it is going to be two prints, both of deer that I photographed back in the winter of 2010. One of the images I had to search pretty long and hard for on the backup drive, couldn’t remember where or when I had captured it and I haven’t even seen it in a long time. But the memory of one of my most favorite pictures has stuck in my mind all these years as something I would like to print one day. The second one was easier to find, I have kept it close by, foremost on my mind as the first one I would print when I got the chance!

Mule Deer Couple

As I browsed through the images on my backup drive I was somewhat taken aback at the size of my collection. I was only looking through pictures of deer and there are thousands, many of which I have never even processed or uploaded to my stock agencies. Got me to thinking, maybe I had better stop and think about what I am doing. Maybe I need to spend a little more time in front of the computer screen!

Well anyway, while I was going through the deer images I also came across this cute picture of a couple of baby bighorn sheep that I have not given near enough attention! Once again, there are hundreds out of the thousands that have slipped my mind and my attention that I need to go back and look at some more! With 2018 coming to an end and my last year of full time employment before retirement coming into view, perhaps now is the time to start that massive project! By the way, I have a bunch more of those baby bighorns in my bighorn sheep and goat gallery!

Baby Bighorn Sheep Playing on Mount Evans

One thing I did get done this morning is to create another gallery on my website, the “Deer in Snow” gallery. I have so many amazing pictures of mule deer interacting in the beautiful Colorado snow that I thought it worth separating them out so they are easier for my customers to find!

Well anyway, here is the other picture I am going to have printed… the one of the very surprised trio of does that I captured in a huge Colorado snowstorm. I don’t know who was more surprised when I popped out of the brush in front of these three ladies, me or the deer!

Three does in snow

A Dog’s Life

It was a long day, glad it’s over. Don’t know if I’m any further ahead for having suffered through it, seems the line of those desiring to separate me from my money grew ever longer than the line of those wanting to contribute to my bottom line. Thought about doing great things after work perhaps even solving the immigrant kid crisis, but in the end cracking a beer and hanging out with the dog seemed like a better use of my time.  Plus the little bald liberal dude in the suit that gets to hang out with the hot Fox News chicks appears to be sufficiently agitated about the subject  for the both of us. Either that or he just needs a pee break, not sure which it is.

Big DogNow the wife used to rail at me for doing nothing after work but I contend that hanging out in the back yard drinking a beer with the dog IS doing something. Or perhaps the dog was just better company… as time passes I’m leaning towards the latter. Come to think of it, looking back at my life I can’t think of a single moment that I regret hanging out with the dog… Plus now that I have moved to Cripple Creek, this is gold country and Big Dog loves to dig in the yard. I like to think of myself as prospecting, not wasting time 🙂

In other matters, stock photography sales this year are on pace to continue last years trend, which is 50% of the year before, which was 50% of the year before that and so on. The good news is as near as I can figure, if the trend continues my revenue will never reach zero… Still trying to come up with a sales formula that incorporates pi or maybe even pi squared. That would seem so much more awesome and make me sound so much more intelligent than just the boring 50% thing. In any case it has become difficult to justify even getting my camera bag out of the closet. However Donkey Derby Days are coming soon and I will surely want to have some memories of that epic event 🙂

Or maybe it’s just summer, maybe in the summer a dog’s life is more attractive than life as a human?

Dust in the Wind

Tremendous wind howling up from the Arkansas River Valley last night. Big Dog was startled out of a sound sleep at 5:00 a.m., leaping to his feet and letting out a massive woof that woke up the entire town I think. I looked around with the flashlight and didn’t see anything so I was going to just go back to sleep, but instead got to thinking I would like to see the sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo. Sunrise would not be until 6:30 though, so there was time for one of my favorite activities… morning coffee 🙂

Sangre de Cristo Sunrise

The wind overnight had created a dust bowl out of the valley making the mountains barely visible, but it was still an inspiring sight when the alpenglow band settled down over the peaks. The effect was only good for a few minutes and we were headed back home for some more coffee.

The old 1970’s song by Kansas, “Dust in the Wind” was going through my mind as the wind whipped the dirt up into a veritable cloud around us. Got me to thinking about the truth of the song, “Everything is dust in the wind”. Everything in this life is truly temporary, jobs, houses, relationships… I was thinking back on my computer career realizing that all the software I had been paid to write is now gone, along with the very computers that it was meant to operate. Even the company I worked for is gone, like it was never there. The job seemed so important at the time, deadlines, overtime, status meetings to explain how it was all going to get done on time, weekends misspent at the office, and now that it is all gone it seems so silly to have been so stressed out, so stupid to have spent so much time away from family, to have lost so much sleep.

Even life itself is temporary. For some people, life is long and fulfilling. For others like my wife, life itself can be unexpectedly swept away far too soon. We never know when we are going to be struck down by illness, accidents or natural disaster. Cancer took my wife along with all the things she dreamed of, collected and worked so hard for. Everything we had together is now like the song, just dust in the wind. Her life itself is a faded memory in the minds of few, the fruit she and I measured our lives with now remembered by no one.

In the end it all comes down to the words spoken at the final judgement, “Well done good and faithful servant.” If we have lived our lives in friendship with Him we will never have to hear the bitter words, “Depart from Me, I do not know you.”, our legacy will live on in the afterlife and all we have done in this life will not be blown away forever, like dust in the wind.

Morning Reflection

Slept a bit later than I anticipated this morning… although I do like the rest I am always a little disappointed if it is already light when my eyes first open because it means I have missed a potentially amazing sunrise, oh well. Sat up and checked the weather on my phone and discovered that it was already a balmy 38 degrees with no wind. Turned on the coffee pot and took Big Dog out for his morning duties. As I wandered around with him looking for just the right spot, I looked down the valley towards the Sangre de Cristo. It was a beautiful morning and there was a layer of clouds behind the rugged mountain range that helped paint an amazing pastel colored picture that I knew I was going to have to capture.

One cup of coffee later my four legged buddy figured out that today is not a work day and began his victory dance at the front door, which is a bit difficult to ignore! Grabbed the camera and filters and loaded up the pockets of my military field jacket with all the things I might need and we hit the road. It was such a pretty morning I really didn’t care if I got any pictures or not. We just strolled down the trail casually looking for any critters that might be out doing the same.

Turning 60 last month has changed my entire perspective… I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not but the two year countdown to early retirement has really brought the finish line into focus. I just read an article that people who retire too soon don’t live as long as people who work longer, probably because of the loss of sense of purpose and connection with society. Don’t think that will be a big deal for me as I have tried my best for most of my life to avoid connection with society anyway 🙂 For me it just means I will have more time to spend out in the mountain landscape doing what I love. Although the money that a regular job provides is nice, I have always been resentful of being cooped up inside a building I don’t necessarily want to be cooped up in.

As I was strolling down the trail thinking about the finish line my mind reflected back upon the starting line. I still remember opening the box and exploring my first real camera, my Minolta X-700. Up until that point I had been using one of those ridiculous c-110 cameras which left me perpetually disappointed in the results. I remember the amazing little red LED lights informing me of my shutter speed and aperture settings, important things I had never been able to control before. This of course was pre auto focus and I was fascinated with the little prism that would even out when focus had been achieved, and with the little digits on the lens that would inform me what was in focus and what was not. It was 1984 and I had no idea of the life long journey I was beginning with the love affair between man and gadget.

My mind drifted further back as I realized how long I had been fascinated with cameras, and upon my regret that I had not participated in the photography class in high school. I remember feeling the urging to check the box on the classes list, but something held me back… don’t remember what, perhaps the fear of the unknown. I had never used a real camera before, only the 110 with the flash stick. Perhaps the dial and button laden 35mm cameras of that era looked intimidating. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have taken an entirely different road had I taken that course? I would have discovered that a my love for the gadget and it would not have seemed like something so out of reach that it was not worth pursuing. I wonder if I could have avoided thirty years in a cubicle inside a windowless building, glued to a computer screen and strangled with a tie around my neck? Plus I have always regretted not having a good camera during my four year stint working in northern California after the Air Force. I saw so many magnificent landscapes from the Pacific to the Sierra, and my pictures from then simply do not do the beauty of that place justice 😦

Waterfall in the Black Hills

It was then I realized that was not the beginning… my fascination with cameras began further back in time to when I was about 12 years old with an old Brownie box camera. I didn’t get a lot of practice in those days, I was on a tight film budget… one roll of black and white film per year! Well I tried to get the most bang for my parents buck, shooting my one roll of film on our yearly camping trip in some amazing mountain location. So this is one of my very first pictures, a shot of a waterfall somewhere, maybe in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

By now me and Big Dog were nearing our wilderness destination and the Sangre came into view. A bit hazy today but the beautiful pastel colors had persisted through the long walk to the vista point and I brought my Canon up to my eye for a look see. I usually zoom all the way in with my 70-200 to get in close to the mountains but today I could see I needed to get some sky in the image. I wanted to get all the beautiful pastel clouds in the picture, all the way to the brilliant blue Colorado sky above the layer of cloud cover. Big Dog was passing the time trying to dig to China, or maybe just unearth some subterranean critter that his extraordinary senses were detecting.

Sangre de Cristo Spring Morning

I worked the scene for awhile, trying various focal lengths in an attempt to fully explore the beautiful vista before me. Finally the rising sun was lighting the haze so much that the mountains were beginning to fade and my job for today was done. We began the long trek back home, looking in vain for some elk or deer along the way.

These pictures and more will be available on my website as usual in the form of wall art and many nifty household and gift items, including apparel, coffee mugs, pillows and blankets and more. If you like my articles, please be sure to click the follow button and you will receive an email notification each time I publish.

Working for the Man

Famous marathon runner Bill Rodgers once said, “No one who works 40 hours will ever beat me in a marathon.”. I always thought that probably applied to photography as well, thinking nobody who works a full time job will be able to compete in the world of stock photography. This of course was before Getty Images set out to single handedly destroy the stock photo market with predatory pricing combined with the worst royalty percentages in the industry, making a full time job a survival necessity

Now though, forced into working full time in a non related field of expertise, my original premise has become more reality than theory. My head constantly swimming from lack of sleep, problems at work that need solving and overwhelming time constraints. As I suspected so many years ago it is difficult to compete. When the moment comes I am doomed to miss it… I am at work when the awesome sunrises happen, at work when the clouds are at their most amazing, at work when the wildlife make their brief appearance at dawn and dusk and at work when my buddies plan their next mountain summit adventures. Ideas are few and far between as fatigue turns my brain into mush for days and my camera sits dormant in it’s Lowepro backpack for weeks at a time. There are no pictures to process, no adventures to write about and all the while my portfolio grows more and more outdated.

On the other side of the Catch 22 however, without the full time job there would be no money to finance an adventure, no money for a house payment…. no money to sustain life. So there has to be a way, giving up on our dreams just to work full time is unacceptable. I’m thinking the answer may lie in better planning, better time management and planning ahead for opportunities. I can’t wait for that moment when I can finally think clearly to dream up a plan. Ideas come and go and I hope that with some good notes some plans will formulate, maybe at lunchtime or maybe in my dreams at night. Definitely not the optimal situation but maybe it will be just enough for precious progress.

Maybe if I can dig deep enough I will find within the ability to carry on with my writing and photography despite the adversity.I know times are difficult for others trying to realize their dreams in many fields. I wonder if any of my readers are facing similar struggles and what you might be doing to overcome the obstacles of time and fatigue. Thoughts, leave a comment!

Balance

Working on the right life / work balance… I’m finding that four nights on the loading dock and a 14er on the weekend may be just a little bit much for my chronologically challenged body … So I asked my boss to cut me back to three loading dock marathons per week and thankfully it appears my wish was granted 🙂 This should be the perfect balance of steady money and physical exertion. More time to make money with my photography and less time and less money unfortunately, trying to keep up with the young whipper snappers on the docks!

SunriseSo it turns out that I now have this next Saturday off and the next adventure is being planned as we speak. Talked to Ralph tonight about pushing an Oxford / Belford 14er 2fer up to this next weekend with something else for the 20th, maybe Columbia. The Oxford trailhead is on the dirt road to the ghost town of Winfield, which will be heavily populated by Leadville 100 crew vehicles on the 20th, so I’m thinking the smart money might be on doing that this weekend instead of during the race.

So we are looking at two peaks on one trail, three actually since we will have to climb back over Belford again on the way back. 6000 feet of elevation gain over 11 miles or something like that, a daunting challenge for sure. We may have a good sized group for this one, three or four maybe from our little Divide, Colorado group of hikers 🙂 Spent tonight looking over my gear, only to find out that I forgot to clean my water bottles after the last climb and had to tackle a sticky Gatorade mess 😦 Better tonight than Friday night though!  Thinking it might be a good idea to leave my big zoom lens home and replace it with an extra 32 oz Gatorade. Another balance to worry about, liquids versus weight. I’ll still carry my filter pump though, just in case.

Tomorrow is a day off… will I carry through with my planned day doing laundry, or will I blow it off and get in a day of training in preparation for the big weekend. Hmmm… Probably no one ever on their death bed said, “I wish I had done more laundry.” 🙂

Life’s a Beach

The nightmare week of snow is finally over with, the sun is shining and it appears spring may be trying to make a comeback. I have to say, it was not a pleasant week, the snow was wet and sticky, horrible for snowshoes or ice trekkers. The colors were too dull and gray for anything but black and white pictures and the fog and snow removed any semblance of contrast from the landscape. I did venture out a couple of times to see if I could find the wildlife and a brief encounter yesterday did yield a not too impressive image of a deer herd that looked a bit curious as to why a human would be out in that mess.

Beach-Walk-2.jpgThe time was not wasted though, I took the bad weather opportunity to scan some prints of models that I had previously produced and uploaded them as prints and Rights Managed Stock on Pixels.com. It was an enjoyable journey through better times as I looked through my portfolio for the best images to scan. Life seemed easier then, summers longer, springs much more pleasant. Each image I reviewed held a story, a moment of fun, joy and a testament to good times. Unfortunately in the chaos of our cancer battle waged over the last few years I have lost track of my model friends that I worked with to create these images. Prior to FAA it was a real struggle to market these images, which is how they wound up in a box in the first place, but I’m sure they would get a kick out of seeing them published now!

So this morning in the pre dawn chill I have uploaded a few more to my FAA and Pixels.com site, but it is warming up quickly outside now and I will need to give some thought to other activities. Don’t think the melting snow and mud will make for very good hiking, but it might be a nice day to go to the gym for an indoor workout as I prepare for a spring and summer assault on higher ground not accessible in the dead of winter! Last year after an entire year of inactivity I was not ready for the higher elevations until fall. This year I am hoping for a much more active summer 🙂

Day One

My blog post, “the Interview” continues to dredge up some great memories, particularly our first day on the job at the test lab at Control Data in Arden Hills. Our crew in Denver had written software to expand the amount of memory accessible to the mainframes to the equivalent of 40mb in today’s terms. Which doubled the amount we could previously use and was a very big deal at the time since the new hardware was already available and our operating system could not yet use it.

Well the software was almost ready to test and my boss approached me, of course at happy hour one Friday night so I was sure to be in a good mood, to travel to Minnesota to run the tests. And she offered me my choice of analysts to make the trip with me on the two week journey. For some reason at the time I thought it sounded like fun so I consented and I told her I wanted my buddy Dan to assist me there. Well Dan had not actually worked on that project, but he was an expert with the operating system and I knew he would be a great asset… So I convinced him, “Come on, it’s only two weeks, we’ll run some tests, go to some Twins games, drink a few beers and we’ll be back home before we know it!”. Reluctantly he agreed and the details for the trip were finalized.

So it was June when we arrived in Arden Hills and checked into the Shorewood for our two week stay. Our first task was of course to go in during the day to check in and get badges and briefings, etc. Then it was off to some dinner, which is when I imagine we discovered the mother lode of free tacos at the hotel bar 🙂 Then it was off to work… Now in those days computers had no permanent memory. Everything that we did was stored on tapes and removable disks, but the removable packs weighed about 20 pounds each. Our first task was to go to the tape library to check out our tapes and disks that we would be using. LOL.. up until now I had forgotten about the trips to the tape library… we would return with probably a dozen tapes worn around our arms like a giant bracelet and a disk pack in each hand. We looked kind of like the Michelin Man carrying all that junk probably a quarter of a mile through the building 🙂

Finally we make it through to the test lab to begin the testing… We step into this giant open room and there are desks strewn everywhere, covered in spare computer parts, wires, terminals, tapes, write rings, manuals and boxes of junk and floor tile pullers. There were cables lying around all over the place, sometimes hooked up on one end to something, sometimes to nothing. And there were also mainframes everywhere, and banks of tape drives and more banks of disk drives the size of small washing machines. And the only instructions we had were that we had mainframe #xx for the night, don’t actually remember the number. And we just stood there looking around in stunned disbelief. To this day I remember my initial highly technical analysis of the situation… As we stood there surveying the mess, I just said “Sh*t!”.

After the initial shock wore off we started poking around and discovered a piece of paper taped to something that sort of looked like a map of the room. We quickly learned that everything had a number and you just had to figure out what numbers went together and you could assemble a functioning computer system. It wasn’t long before we were crawling around on the floor, and under floor with the best of them, hooking and unhooking cables and after a couple hours we had a mainframe, complete with tapes, disk drives and a printer and a Deadstart Panel. Now the Deadstart Panel is an adventure in itself, a panel with a series of up/down thumb switches that are actually the first 12 or 16 instructions that the computer executes, there was no such thing as a BIOS in those days! And it has it’s own map in a manual that you had to look at to set the switches so that the computer can find the channel that the boot disk is on, device numbers and things like that. Kind of feels like you are getting ready to take off in a 747 or something!

Finally we are ready, and we sit down at the mainframe console. The console for those mainframes was the size of a huge old console television and it came with it’s own cabinet on wheels. Right in the middle under the screen was a recessed red button, the deadstart button. It was recessed so you could not accidentally push it and boot the computer. So, Dan was at the console and I was flying co-pilot when the button was pushed. At first, nothing but a “blank tube”, that’s what we called it then when the screen was blank since it was actually a cathode ray tube (CRT) device, and Dan says, “nothing is happening”. I said, “don’t worry, it takes a long time to initialize all this memory”, lol all 40 megabytes of it 🙂 So we sat there for the usual amount of time, and then a bit longer… Still, the “blank tube”… Once again, after sitting there a few more seconds, I offered my highly technical analysis of the situation, “sh*t”. Well there was a way in those days to have the computer barf up it’s memory to the printer, and that’s what we had to do. Hundreds of pages of octal digits, and using the manuals we were somehow able to figure out what had gone wrong.

So as it turned out, we didn’t have this model of mainframe in Denver to test with and the memory addressing was different. A serious oversight 😦 Our algorithm and methodology were sound, but almost every line of code we had written over the previous year had to be changed to include a variable starting address for the memory. We had counted on it being zero. In that moment, our two week vacation in Minnesota turned into four months of 16 hour nights seven days a week 😦 By the time we were done, summer had changed to fall and all the leaves in Minnesota were off the trees and raked into piles on the ground. There were many setbacks and a lot more software had to be written, but we finally got the job done and we got to see a lot more Twins games than we had originally planned on, and had acquired a semi interesting story to tell to a future generation of “computer people” 🙂

The Interview

Just happened to check in on my blog to discover that two years ago today was the day I signed up at WordPress. Haven’t thought of much to write about in the last few weeks… March has had some rough memories the last couple of years and my inspiration is in a bit of a valley these days. But I was talking to a friend today and something reminded me of a memorable day from my computer programming days 🙂

Now this was back in the 80’s, well before PCs, when graphics workstations were a marvel to the tune of $100k each! My buddy Dan and I were mainframe operating systems analysts and we drew the task of traveling to Minneapolis to test some operating system software our crew had written in the Denver office. The software was extremely important to our company and a number of defense contractors in the Denver area so it was quite an honor to be the ones called upon to head up the last leg of that multi million dollar contract.

Now in those days there were no independent computers, just terminals connected to the mainframe and everyone used the same mainframe. So if you wanted to do any significant operating system testing you had to have the mainframe to yourself, which meant working from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. So that’s what we were doing, 12 hour shifts, then off to breakfast and back to the office for the 9:00 status meetings, seven days a week for several months. No status meetings on the weekends of course but needless to say we were exhausted… all the time.

OK, so that is the background for this blog post. We were staying at a place in Arden Hills called the Shorewood… I think now it is a Holiday Inn. Well anyway, the Shorewood had an awesome happy hour… free tacos, all you can eat. For mainframe software engineers, free is a price too good to pass up, so we pretty much went there every day before our night shift. Computer rooms were cold in those days… Mainframes generated a lot of heat and required massive cooling systems, cold air blowing through raised floors and liquid cooling systems for the mainframes themselves. So it’s summer in the twin cities, temps in the 90’s with humidity to match. But we had to dress for the frigid computer room, which meant layers of clothing, whatever we had, t-shirts, football shirts, flannel shirts, thermal shirts and of course the obligatory blue jeans and tennis shoes.

The Shorewood was a fairly upscale place and the hotel bar attracted a pretty good crowd of suit wearing professionals for happy hour, but Dan and I were in no mood for anyone’s preconceived idea of proper attire, we just put on our layers and went for our free food and cheap beer regardless of what anyone might think. So one evening we showed up as usual, with our layers of hodge podge clothing in the 90 degree Minneapolis summer heat, tired and bleary eyed from weeks of sleeplessness, basically having beer and free tacos for breakfast 🙂

So this beautiful young woman comes into the bar with a clipboard and tape recorder and we are just sort of stupefied watching her get ready for some obviously extremely important engagement. After a while she appears to finally be ready for the important executive who is sure to appear any minute. Much to our surprise she saunters over to our table and introduces herself, a reporter from a local news agency.  Of course we are so stunned that we can barely speak coherently, but it turns out she is there to interview out of town computer professionals and when she discovered that we were software engineers from Denver she was intrigued and began peppering us with a million questions that we were really in no mood to be answering… Not to mention the fact that we were there working for the only major computer firm in the city, and we were drinking our breakfast just prior to going to work!

However, she was pretty and we were young males, and somewhat impressed that she was interested in our activity there so we were polite in trying to explain what we were doing there in the best layman’s terms we could think of, which wasn’t that easy back in the mainframe days when nobody had any idea what programming a computer was like! Well after awhile more people started filing into the bar… men with suits and briefcases. Soon our new friend was looking around and getting a bit fidgety, and after about 10 more minutes of this she just turned to us and said, “Do you guys mind if I go talk to these other guys…. ?”.  We of course were totally relieved to get off the hot seat and go back to our beer and tacos in peace 🙂

But to this day the whole episode is one of my favorite memories, our big but reluctant day in the sun and subsequent rejection for the fancy guys in the suits who’s jobs were probably not half as important as ours in the overall scheme of things.  And to this day we laugh at the stress on her face as she worried that we would be insulted by her ditching us for the suits when we were actually so happy to be just left alone for a few minutes before our long night began 🙂