Everything You Need to Know When Buying Your First DSLR

Hey all! So the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances hit me up asking me what a good SLR and lens is for someone who’s just starting out and wants to shoot with an SLR. After the first couple emails, I decided it might be easier to put it all in blog form (though I’m sure there are already dozens out there already).

Obviously, if you just want me to tell you a camera and lens, this is going to be a bit more in depth. If that’s the case, just go to Canon or Nikon, find something in your price range, and click the buy button.

But if you want advice on something more customized to your needs, then this is for you!

So first off, a couple basics:

DSLRs vs. Mirrorless Cameras

DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex. Popularly, this has been relatively synonymous with any camera with a changeable lens. But lately, that’s not so universal. The D is easy — it’s a digital camera and doesn’t take film. But the Lens Reflex part refers to the mirrors inside the camera body. When you look through the viewfinder, you see the light coming through the lens, hitting an angled mirror, and bouncing the image into your eye. When you take the photo, the lens is pulled back, and the light strikes the digital sensor behind it.

Nowadays though, you have the option to go Mirrorless. These are smaller cameras that also have changeable lenses, but they have no viewfinder. The light goes directly through the lens to the digital sensor and your only preview is on the back screen of the camera. This is very much the future of digital photography, but for the beginner, most of these are very expensive, but do often boast features many of the DSLRs are fighting to keep up with.

Camera Bodies

Now, it should be stated right off the bat that I’m a Canon guy, so it’s all I know. Nikon also produces excellent cameras and lenses, and what’s nice about the Canon vs. Nikon Debate is that they’re in many ways neck and neck with each other in terms of quality and features. So if you feel you want to buy Nikon, you can still read through this blog, but should I recommend something specific for Canon, just run a quick Google search for comparable Nikon products, and you’ll likely find the parallel model.

Beginner grade camera bodies are constantly changing. What I started with back in 2010 was a Canon XTi. Good luck finding one of those these days, almost seven years later! My second camera was a Canon T3i Rebel. I think the new starter level of the Rebel series has gotten up to T6i, and boasts far better quality.

The point being, with starter bodies, it’s tough to go wrong. Megapixels are fine and dandy and as a starter, you’re not needing a lot. For the most part, Megapixels refers to how many pixels are in one image (think the pixel-length of one side multiplied by the pixel length on the other). It’s just the total. The higher the Megapixel-count, the larger you can print off your photos without quality-loss, and the closer you can crop an image in post. Not important stuff for beginners.

The only other big factor that I look for in camera bodies is Low-Light Quality. There are three main ways light is used to make an image: the shutter speed (how long the light is allowed to hit your sensor), the Aperture (how wide the opening is in your lens to allow light in), and ISO (the digital sensor extrapolating the light — the fancy in-camera version of brightening up your  photo in post). This is called the exposure triangle.


The best exposure triangle chart you’ll ever see.

Shutter speed doesn’t change much, and Aperture is a lens feature we’ll discuss later). ISO, then, is what we want to consider here. 50  or 100 is the normal baseline. Cameras these days can go up to 256,000! (The ISO typically doubles each time you bump it up, so you go from 100 to 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 128,000, 256,000). Now, the thing with ISO is that the further you bump it up, the more noise and grain is added to your image as the camera tries to brighten up light that isn’t there. It’s why your front-facing camera on your phone, in a dark room, looks grainy and pixelly as hell. Even the  best cameras when cranked to too high an ISO will get this way. It’s a limitation of tech.

Low-light capabilities will be one of the first things you start to notice being a limitation with your beginner-level camera. Taking photos at Christmastime, indoors, for example, will quickly teach you the limits of your gear. The best part about limits? That’s how you learn to shoot — you workaround what you have. When I reached the limits of my low-light abilities on my t3i? I bought a flash. Boom! My skills had to skyrocket!

So, do you have some extra money to spend on a camera body beyond the cheapest model offered? I’d advise you to do some research into “Low Light Quality for Entry Level Canon DSLRs” and see which one the reviews recommend.

At the moment, I’ve been hearing some of the best stuff about the Canon SL1, but that’s constantly in flux.


Now, lenses are where the real meat and potatoes hit. There’s a LOT to talk about when it comes to lenses.

Let’s first take a look at a typical lens on Amazon and begin to dissect just what the hell all these numbers mean.


First of all, your Focal Length. Focal length is “the distance between the center of a lens or curved mirror and its focus.” It’s what people are referring to when they talk about their “24mm” or their “35mm” or what have you. Is it important to know all about the mirror and center and all that? Not really.

What you need to know in relation to this number is how the photos look. 10-24mm is the ultra-wide range. You get shots like this, which is shot at 24mm:


Portland Waterfall at 24mm

You get a nice, wide shot, that fits a lot into the frame. Of course, the wider you go, you get distortion. It starts to make stuff in the center of the frame smaller, and the edges of the frame stretched wider.

Think of a fisheye lens as the most exaggerated of this.

24mm is still considered wide, but isn’t as extreme as a lens in the 10-24mm range.

35mm is relatively standard as a way to get a wider shot without much distortion.

50mm is very little distortion and gives a nice look for portraits. Standing in roughly the same spot, this is what a 50mm looks like:


Portland Waterfall at 50mm

While this is a horizontal image where the other is shot vertical, you can see it’s a bit closer in than the other. We call this “telephoto” as opposed to “wide” or “ultrawide”. Telephoto lenses mean you’re getting an image closer to your subject while standing the same distance away.

The 50 is a lovely focal length, particularly for shooting people (the human eye is said to see somewhere between 30-50mm itself). However, most beginners will quickly learn that the 50 is a bit annoying to shoot with because you can’t, say, take a selfie with it, or get a good shot sitting beside someone. It’s a bit too close. Cellphones are typically in the 24-35mm range these days. And since we shoot with cellphone cameras the most, that’s a good point of reference.

Anything upwards of 50 is only going to exaggerate the effect. 85mm? 135mm? 400mm? You’re going to be shooting people’s nosehairs from 20 feet back.

Meanwhile, if you’re shooting portraits of people with a wide lens, you’re going to distort their face in an unnatural way that doesn’t look genuine. Maybe that’s your goal! Maybe a bit of wacky distortion is fun! But maybe not just starting out.


10mm (crop lens). See how the center of the image is smaller, and the ends are stretched? Often fun! But not always flattering. 

So which focal length do you buy?

Depends on what you’re shooting!

Is your goal landscapes? Go wide! You can capture those wide mountains and get all the scope and majesty into your frame! The drawback? If you’re not very close to the mountain range you’re ogling, you might find it to be quite small in your photo (think of trying to get that full moon shot on your phone).

Is your goal portraiture? Go ahead and start around 50mm or 85mm. You might have to stand back from your subject a bit, but if you plan to specifically shoot planned out images, 50 and 85 are very workable lengths.

But what if I want something normal? It works as a day to day lens, but maybe also for landscapes and people?

Zooms vs. Primes

This might be where you want to get a zoom! So in the Photography World, “zoom” doesn’t mean “close up” — that’s “telephoto” remember? “Zoom” means that it can change focal length, and isn’t fixed on one length all the time.

So, a “10-22mm” lens? Zoom! You can adjust it to any focal length within that range! Most Kit Lenses (the lens that comes standard with the camera body you buy) are zoom lenses, to allow the beginner to find the range they prefer.

The drawback to zooms? Though the quality of zooms is getting really good these days, Prime lenses are typically sharper and cleaner lenses. So if you really love that INSANELY sharp detail, you’re going to have better luck with a prime.

The other drawback to entry-level zooms? Well, first we have to talk about Aperture.


Aperture is the size of the opening of your lens. Think of it like the Iris of your eye. When it’s bright out and there’s a lot of light, that iris shrinks to allow less light in. When you’re in a dim room, that iris opens up. Lenses are the same!

The aperture is written as a number called an “F-Stop”. This is because the aperture, rather than being a universal fixed size that produces the same results in every lens, is thought of as a ratio between the focal length and the size of the opening. Why? Not important. What’s important to you is what it does.

Apertures typically cover a range of f/1.2 to f/22 or so. 1.2 is the brightest, widest opening. 22 is the smallest.

When shooting wide open, at something like f/1.2, you get a bright image, but also a TON of what’s called Bokeh. Bokeh is that creamy, super-blurry background that you likely relate to high quality photos.


24mm, f/1.2. Wide lens, wide open. That blurry background.


24mm, f/10. Wide lens, small aperture. The background stays much clearer. 

Typically, the lower that aperture number, the better the quality lens.

So as a beginner, you likely can’t afford a 1500 dollar lens that’s an f/1.4.

Something more in your price range is going to start around f/4.0. Is that bad? No, but it doesn’t  let in as much light in low-lighting conditions. So you could find yourself in a dim room, unable to get decent images without leaving your shutter open for too long and getting something blurry (or using a flash).

The drawbacks to a lot of entry-level zooms? As you zoom in, the aperture will often get smaller. This is presented as a range on your amazon listing.


What it means is that at 10mm, your camera can shoot at f/3.5. But at 22mm, you can only go down to f/4.5. So as you zoom in, if you don’t change your settings and you’re shooting wide-open, your photo will get darker.

Is it the end of the world? No way! If you’re outside shooting landscapes, you’ve got enough light to just bump your shutter open a bit more. If you’re already in a dim area? You might find you can only shoot as wide as you can zoom.

Crop Lenses and Bodies

Another important thing to consider is Crop Lenses and Crop bodies!

There are two sensor sizes on most DSLRs. One is called a “crop sensor” and the other is a “full-frame sensor”.

A crop sensor is smaller than full frame (think “cropped down”). Just about every beginner DSLR is a crop sensor. Full frame gives bigger images at a better quality.

Curious if the camera body you’re looking at is a full-frame or crop sensor? Check the specs. It’ll tell you.

Why does it matter? For camera bodies? It doesn’t matter much. You’re gonna get a nice image regardless.

For lenses though? Lenses it matters.

There are two different types of lenses: Lenses built for crop cameras. And lenses built for Full-Frame AND crop cameras.

Canon’s EF lenses are built for full frame sensors. You slap that 24mm EF lens on a full frame camera, you’re ready to go. The picture you get back is a 24mm wide photo that shows you everything.

If you put that 24mm EF lens on a CROP sensor camera, the sensor is smaller and your image? Well. It’s cropped down. Think of the sensor automatically cropping your photos down before you even put them on your computer.

Is this bad? No. It’s just not totally a 24mm shot. It’s a cropped 24mm shot. The ratio being that your 24mm lens is going to look more like what a 35mm would show you. Your 50mm? More like an 85mm.

But! They make lenses specifically for crop sensors! These  lenses are true to size! Canon uses the EF-S indicator for their crop lenses. A 24mm EF-S lens on a crop camera gives you a 24mm photo!


EF-S? That means it’s a crop lens.

A 10mm EF-S lens on a full frame camera? It gives you this:


10mm Crop Lens on a Full Frame Camera

Because the lens narrows the view down to the same size as the crop sensor. The full-frame camera is just too big of a sensor! It reveals all the black around the narrow, crop lens.

Can you put a crop lens on a full-frame camera and then crop it down in post? Sure. But it’s a smaller photo and takes more work.


10mm Crop Lens on a Full Frame Camera Cropped Down (to simulate a Crop Sensor).

Why do I tell you this? Because crop-lenses are WAY cheaper than full frame lenses. But, if you get super hooked on this Photo Hobby of yours, your lens won’t be able to go up with your camera, and then you’ve got lenses sitting around.

So what do you do? You can go either way. If you don’t expect to upgrade your camera body, sure, go for the crop lens. It’s better quality than a full-frame lens at the same price (typically). But paying for quality lenses is also in many ways more important than the body you buy. So figure out what you want and go for it!

The second lens I ever bought was a crop lens. Does it just sit around and gather dust now? Sure. (Except for when I need photos for blogs like this!). Was it still worth the money even though I only used it for a year and a half? I think so!


Off brands are something you also want to look at! Will a Nikon lens work on a Canon camera? No, not without adapters and headaches. But companies like Sigma, Rokinon, or Tamron make fantastic lenses that work across the board (just make sure it says “For Canon” or “For Nikon” in the header!).

I’m a big fan of Sigma. They made the second lens I ever used and the quality was fantastic. Now that they’re rolling out their Art series of lenses (cheaper than Canon’s fancy L-Glass, but still a bit much for a beginner), I’m dying to buy a couple. They’re fantastic.

If you have a focal range in mind, feel free to put that into Amazon or Google and see what off-brands might be offering, then read the reviews. There’s a lot of quality stuff out there that doesn’t have to be the same brand as your camera body.

The designator for Canon and other brands crop sensors and full frame:

  • Canon: EF-S (EF for full frame)
  • Nikon: DX (FX for full frame)
  • Pentax: DA (FA or D FA for full frame)
  • Sigma: DC (DG for full frame)
  • Sony/Minolta: DT
  • Tamron: Di II (Di for full frame)

What I recommend:

If you’ve got some money, you’ve got a couple options. Full-Frame cameras run upwards of $1500.00. That’s probably out of your budget.

So you start with the crop body. I recommend the Canon SL1. I’ve heard lots of good stuff.

As far as lenses? You CANNOT go wrong with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. It’s $100.

Study that for a second. EF — it’s a full frame lens (works with both crop bodies and full frame bodies AND it upgrades if you upgrade your camera — It’s the first lens I bought and I still use it to this day). It’s widest aperture is 1.8. That’s unheard of for lenses at this price. You get great photos in low light and that artistic bokeh in the background. All for a hundred bucks. It’s called the nifty fifty and it’s KILLER.

But that’s a 50mm prime. Maybe you want something wider. Maybe you want something that you don’t have to stand six feet from someone to get a medium-shot.

Well shoot, grab the 50mm anyway and learn it. It’s a gem to keep in your bag for those moments when you want it. But then I’d recommend also adding a wide or ultra-wide crop lens to your bag as well. Do some research into what’s cheap and what’s in the focal range you want.

I started with the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6. It was around $400 back then  but it was SUCH a fun lens. Ultra-wide for portraits always cracked me up, and it was gorgeous for steadycam video and nature shots.

Even today, as I pulled it out and slapped it on my 6D, I was impressed at the sharpness of the image! It’s fun as hell.

Or you can just go with the SL1 and the kit lens package, slap on a nifty fifty, and then you’ll be off to the races!

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, or reach out via email. I’m always happy to clarify!

Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America. For five years he led the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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The Walking Dead Family


Finally, after all this time, the shoot I’ve been planning/hoping for, for over a year, came alive!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Walking Dead… posters. The show is alright, but the early key art for the series have been real works of art. Even before I got hooked on the show after finally revisiting the second season, I’ve been absolutely in love with the early seasons’ key art (because I’m weird and fall in love with things like television posters). The season two poster shown below is probably my favorite poster — if not, it’s easily in my top three. It’s just an excellent image.

And so, following my work on the Captain America kid shoot last spring, I put word out on Facebook for some friends who might be interested in doing a couples Walking Dead shoot. I had a few hits but couldn’t manage to get anything worked out.

Enter the Gliva’s! After going on a Stanley Paranormal Investigation with me a few months back, Andrea hit me up about doing some out of the ordinary family pictures with her husband and two daughters. She wondered if a Walking Dead style shoot would be something I could do or might  be interested in. Boy, was I!

Shown below are a few of the original works and a few of my hasty mockup sketches.No-Text-S2No-Text-S4

Sketch-1Sketch-3Taking inspiration from Frank Ockenfel and Matthew Welch’s work for AMC, I wanted to go with in many ways a mimicry of what had been done, sometimes in content to be direct allusions, but overall in style. The apocalyptic feel of the photos is very stark, with a hint of desaturation and greens, yellows and oranges, lots of lens flares. We’re imagining an post-apocalyptic land with a very wild west undercurrent, hence the sepia-greens and bright sun. The storm clouds double as both a dose of epic and the thematic. Clear skies never last for long on the show (literally, too. Continuity issues must drive the editors crazy).

One of the things I wanted to change though, was the addition of some zombies. Where the cast and episode galleries often had the Walkers featured, the posters did not. From our end though, what’s a good Zombie shoot without any zombies? So we modified a few of the shots to include the zombies, even if it wasn’t perfectly in keeping with the posters.

That said, like the Captain America shoot from last year, I did want to try to emulate the posters as specifically as possible without using any of another photographer’s work (namely, cutting out heads and pasting them on pre-existing posters). That’s just lazy and doesn’t respect the work I’m so engaged in.

So we went about recreating the images. The family found a few zombies, a good friend who is a makeup artist, and a location with open fields, an unfinished road, vast sky views, and a lonely decrepit house. I hopped behind the camera and got to work.

Where in the show, the set photographer is typically already on a dressed set, with actors in full makeup, wardrobe, and zombies rotting and ready to go, here, we had to build most of that on the fly, primarily the zombies. I knew from the past that dirtying up clothes, skin, adding bruises and grime (unintended Rick pun?) would be pretty easy in photoshop (dodging and burning with no limits), but I wanted to be sure to have a base to work from. The zombie makeup then was more of a starting off point for me, giving me something to work with and build upon as we went.


Hungry extras are the worst.

Gliva-Zombies-HR-4-WMThe shoot itself was really quick. It’s part testament to how smoothly the actual shoot goes when you put in so much time pre-planning each image. But it’s also nice because you don’t have to worry as much about wrangling the kiddos. Where the traditional family photo hopes for a shot of everyone looking at the camera and smiling, here, nearly any expression will do, given the context of the images.

We even had an image where the youngest was crying, and it doesn’t detract from the moment at all.

Each image was shot on my Canon EOS 6D with the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II, typically around 1/60th of a second, f4 or f5, and ISO 100 as a rule. I shot with a single Canon Speedlite 430EXii camera left as a rim light/key light. We had a storm move in late that afternoon (unexpectedly) that had me worried until we got to the location. At that point, the cloudy sky gave a perfect even fill, and allowed the background to have exactly the kind of semi-stormy, epic texture we wanted. Adding a bit of flare in post in many ways only added to the feel of the originals.

By the end of the fourth shot, the rain began to spit a bit harder, and we packed it back to the cars.

Though this past year I’ve been leaning on my studio strobes out in the field, this was a wonderful reminder that sometimes, all you need is a good awareness of the natural light around you and a little kick from the side where you need it to give features some contrast and texture.

As I hopped behind the computer later that night, the pictures began coming alive. After that was a marathon edit, with each picture surpassing the ones before it (I didn’t even get to Game of Thrones until two that morning… which is saying something).

The only drawback? I’m not sure I’ll ever want to do a traditional shoot again 😉


Karl Pfeiffer is a conceptual and portrait photographer based out of Northern Colorado. He’s also a paranormal investigator and author. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and appeared briefly on the Ghost Hunters International series afterward. He’s the author of two books: Hallowtide and Into a Sky Below, Forever. You can find more of his work at www.KarlPfeiffer.com and catch all of his snark on Twitter, @KarlPfeiffer.

Aiden Sinclair Photoshoot




Aiden-For-Web-4I met Aiden Sinclair in April of 2014 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado during a Strange Escapes event. Aiden was not only the kind of guy that I instantly wanted to make friends with, but he was the kind of guy I immediately wanted to photograph as well.

Even while he took over the lobby of the hotel for a twenty minute demonstration of his paranormal illusions act, it was his manner and style that struck me as much as the quality of his act. He was dressed in a black vest with red tie, crucifix chain hanging from a button, with round glasses, and his act was a compelling mixture of illusion and allusion — drawing on the history of the hotel, spiritualism, and spirits themselves — in a way I’d never seen before. As someone intensely interested in the play between ghosts, entertainment, performance, and the suspension of an audience’s disbelief, I was quickly curious to get to know this stranger and see what he was all about.

He made many fans that day, as well as significant connections. He returned the following year to the Strange Escapes event as an official entertainer for those groups on their off-nights, and he’s established a recurring show at the Stanley each month called “Illusions of the Passed.” Turns out that, during his second stint at the Stanley, he was also in-between rounds on America’s Got Talent, where he wowed judges and the audience with his not only his act, but also his story.

After a few good conversations over beers that second year at the Stanley,  I began to pester him regularly for a photoshoot, knowing his style and mine would be a match I’d wanted to shoot for my whole career to that point. We finally managed to make time this October for him to visit my home studio in Loveland to make a few portraits.

This is the behind the scenes video:

The images were shot on a Canon 6D with both the 24mm 1.4L and the 50mm 1.8 (still working up to that Sigma Art!) with an Einstein E640, a 47″ Paul C. Buff Octobox, and a Canon 430EX II speedlite with a MagMod kit in front of a black fabric backdrop.

We were going for a variety of shots, from headshot portraits to images with a few of his more iconic props, and a handful of composites. The composite backgrounds are plates of various locations around Germany that I had the opportunity to shoot back in January while traveling with my brother.

October was a crazy month for me, running from photoshoot to photoshoot around both the state of Colorado and the country itself. Early November was crunch time to get these shoots edited, and Aiden’s name was high on the list! A few of my favorite images can be seen below.


Aiden-For-Web-21It was truly a blast to work with Aiden, and I’m happy to call him a friend. He’s a class act and has very big things in his future. I’m excited to watch them come together for him as smoothly as these images came together for me!


Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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Justin and Meghan Wedding

Excited to share some of my favorite photos from Justin and Meghan’s wedding that I shot in late June. It was a crazy weekend — I’d finished a week of moving out of my apartment the day before, wrapped that day with a ghost hunt at the Stanley, and then woke up to run up to Fort Collins and hang out with this crazy fun couple! Happy to say that I got my head in the mindset the moment I walked in the door, stole an amazing couple portraits of the bride in front of a window in the venue, and was in it for the rest of the evening. And then, as is my habit, the newlyweds were as happy as I was to be stolen from the reception for a couple sunset pictures when I noticed the setting sun falling between the trees just the way I like it.

Justin and Meghan, I hope your life together is as beautiful and laid back as your wedding day!
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Valar Morghulis and What Makes Good Storytelling

Warning: Massive Game of Thrones spoilers here. Don’t read unless you’re all caught up!  So my first premise here is that I haven’t read the books. I’ve got to get that out of the way. I’m a novelist myself. I’m a big reader, but fantasy isn’t really my genre, and I don’t have a lot of time to tackle Martin’s Westeros tomes. But I’m also a huge television fan, and from everything I’ve heard, I’m very happy to be on the show-train as my first experience. Sometimes film does it better, sometimes just differently.

(Edit: I also want to clarify that many folks who have responded to my opinion present the argument that the big problem here that I worry over is all good because it’s “the way it was in the books!” And so I’m referring to D&D and Martin as “Martin and Co.” because, though it’s “canon”, the story can still go down a problematic route, no matter whether it’s a show decision or a book decision. I’m not taking issue with the show. I’m taking issue with the story)

Anyway though, I love the narrative. I love the way it’s honed very directly. It’s good tight storytelling. But that’s what I want to talk about today: storytelling. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.34.41 PM A week ago, I watched Jon Snow die before the credits rolled on the season five finale of Game of Thrones. GoT is a show fraught with controversy and the occasional misstep, but I love it. I think it’s rich and meaningful and smart. But the death of Jon Snow gave me some serious pause. If I were to look deeper, I’d probably realize I went through all the grief stages in about a week or something.

My first reaction was denial. Nope, I thought, he’s coming back. Right? He has to. He can’t be dead. I mean, nope. Just no. Then I read an interview with Kit Harrington that filled me with dread. Both Kit and the creators insist Snow is dead. Dead is dead.

In the week that has followed, a million posts have come to light calling for the resurrection of Jon Snow and the various clues that point toward it. From Lady Melissandre to the White Walkers to.. well, this whole article, really. But I want to approach this from a different angle.

Freaking out on Twitter, I announced that this was the first Game of Thrones death that (if it stands and there is no resurrection) makes me wonder if Thrones has finally lost the plot in favor of meaningless shocks. All the deaths before this, even the most shocking ones, were trimming the fat and honing the story. When you hone the story, you’re focusing in on the heart of the work: what’s moving toward the big end-game. It wasn’t Ned. It wasn’t Robb. It wasn’t Robert or Joffrey or Tywin. When I posted this, I was met with agreement, but also some jaded Thrones viewers who were now used to losing anyone and everyone on the show (“All GoT is about is Martin just killing off our favorites”), and some jaded Thrones readers who’d been chewing on this information for a year now (“…maybe Jon wasn’t as important as we thought”).

They defended it that, you know, one of the big Themes of GoT has been that people die. It’s a sort of a reality-based, dark world, where the hero doesn’t ride in on a white horse and save the day. There are few heroes, and many, many deaths. Just like real life, people don’t always reach their dreams, they don’t always fulfill the expectations people have for their lives. They make mistakes, and mistakes big enough to lead to coups.


For the Watch!

And that’s a valid point. The deconstructionist in me wants to love it. The fantasy genre is filled with hero-stories about saving the day. It’s a defining characteristic of the genre, even. While there’s always exceptions to the rule, how cool that Martin and co. are subverting this tradition in such a shocking, public, and moving way? Build someone up, strip them down, remind them that life is a bitch.

Good theme. A cool way of illustrating it.. but… it still doesn’t sit right with me.

And that’s when I started to look at the value of art and storytelling. Here, we have this story, the Song of Ice and Fire. Fan theories have abounded, but in the same way as a writer, I feel around in the dark until I feel that one plot point that makes me say “holy shit, that’s it. That feels right. That looks right. That fits right. That’s what’s supposed to happen!” The R+L=J theory had that effect on me. It fit the story too perfectly. It gave weight and a central nature to the story. As half Stark (Winter) and half Targaryen (Fire), Jon Snow was literally the embodiment of the Song of Ice and Fire. The series is about winter meeting dragons, coming together in an epic clash amidst which people are both desperately trying to survive or take the Throne (or take their revenge, I suppose). So we’ve got these light and dark themes constantly shifting, constantly graying, amidst a very polarized backdrop. Maybe I’m biased because I love watching the themes of a story interplay and shift, but this theme, so intricately connected to the plot (I mean, it’s in the name), this is the story of Ice and Fire. It’s not the story of real world shocks. And Jon Snow, as the literal embodiment of this theme, I’d decided, was the main character. It’s a song about him as much as it’s a song about Whites and Dragons. It’s an intermixing of those themes in the characters and their decisions, which is crucial to this story because it’s so character driven at its heart.

And so we have two directions stemming from the end of season/book five. Jon Snow is dead, or Jon Snow will come back. If he’s dead… great? I guess that’s the priority theme. Pulling the rug out from under people. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.35.05 PM But there’s something about storytelling that I balk at here. And that’s that I live in the real world. I know people die when it’s least expected/preferred. I know nobody really grows up to be the hero. I know that real life is flat and bland and only as romantic as we restructure our perspective on it. And yeah, there’s Literature that’s all about these themes. It’s all about taking whatever your angle is (depressing or otherwise) on the Real World and putting that into a painful artistic fiction. And I know that that’s sort of the defining characteristic of the Literature genre so upheld by academics over “genre” fiction. But that’s not really what I think Thrones is about. This show has always been about the conclusion. Whether happy or sad or triumphant or a letdown, it’s telling one complete story that has a beginning, middle, and (hopefully epic) end.

The Real World doesn’t have an End — capital E — Where we all look around at eachother and nod with satisfaction and go sit in a room for the rest of eternity because We’ve Done It. We’ve ended. That’s death, and as we’ve already established, death in the real world is random and painful and rarely tied up with a bow.

And so I worry that if the Real World is Martin and co.’s theme here, the ending that’s been such a direction for this entire series won’t really be an ending. In fact, if the Real World really is a theme, well, let’s Simpsons and Soap Opera this shit up, let’s let Thrones run for thirty seasons, because life will always go on past each end.

But I take a step back. I have to question myself. I’ve trusted Martin and co. this far, why not trust them some more? Frankly: I do. I’m gonna still hit season six with excitement and curiosity, but a wariness now.

Another step back: it’s Martin’s story. He’s not under any obligation to write it how I want — how I think it should go. The same way he’s not my bitch, I’m also not entitled to a Great Story That I Like. I’m only entitled to the story that he is writing.

But, as a reader, I am entitled to an opinion about whether or not it’s any good. That’s where the buck stops with writers, is that readers get the final say. As a writer myself, I’ve accepted that. I might think my first novel is the best thing I’ll ever write, and it may never get more than the 15 amazon reviews it’s got. I accept that. That’s what sharing your art is. So, I’ve got to say, if Jon Snow is dead (like, dead dead), I’m not sure that was the best move. Maybe it works out. Maybe it’s brilliant and satisfying…

Just a totally misleading photo so you can share this  post without being burned alive for spoilers.

Just a totally misleading photo so you can share this post without being murdered for spoilers.

But, in the wake of all the resurrection brainstorms from people, we’ve got two options really: resurrection by White Walkers, or resurrection by Lady Melissandre. Which is to say, resurrection by fire or ice. And holy shit, how brilliant! Suddenly I’ve come around to this death plot point because THEMES! Kill the boy, let the man be born! Jon is already Ice and Fire, but holy shit, if he’s resurrected by one of the two (or both?), he’s even further the LITERAL manifestation of these themes. How does that carry out? Is he some leader of the Whites? Is he corrupted by them or the Lord of Light? (shoot, even corruption is better than death. Though I’d miss good-hearted Jon Snow, this is a show about grays between good and evil, and it’s Jon’s story… just let him have a story). All of these questions, as they directly pertain to fire and/or ice are a seriously richly thematic sandbox to work with. And it’s a sandbox that is furthering the plot in a possibly BIG way toward the final showdown between the ice and fire that we’re all so excited about in season 7! (or eight I guess, but please no more than that, HBO!) And having a character embody those themes rather than just having characters caught up in those themes… well that’s good writing.

But the alternative? The real world sucks. Just go and enjoy Dani and Tyrion while you’ve got a chance. Maybe Arya and Bran will do something cool. Maybe they won’t. The world’s a crummy place, after all.

That’s our big overarching narrative theme? That’s depressing (and this coming from a guy who LOVES depressing — seriously, The Road, amazing piece of literature).

But I want a good meaty story. Unhappy ending? Sure. Kill Dany and Jon and Tyrion as they reach the throne. Put a White Walker on it. Or zombie Joffrey. I don’t care. Just get our people where they need to go, or better yet, crop your story to the right people’s stories. Tell those stories. Don’t blue ball us at the expense of great theme. Play with those themes in big, character-driven ways, as you have to this point. Bring it together and then end it how you like. But… I mean, actually bring it together.

Jon killed at the end of season five as the Walkers descend, by his own grouchy Night’s Watch, and poof. That’s that? Our Theme Personified made a misstep and now he’s done? Somebody else takes up the mantle of White Walker Herald and things just go on? Just, no…

We need our big crazy titular themes. We need our heroic face of Winter.

Our Winter needs Snow.

Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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Sick World


Back in May of this last year, I got an email from an Art Director named Florian Mihr at a pretty big record company, Fearless Records, out of LA. He’d found one of my old 365-Photos that I’d done over a year before, with a creepy arm coming out of my mouth, and wanted to do something along those lines for the album art for a band they’d recently signed called My Enemies & I. They thought my background and style fit with the band’s, and I had to agree! I loved the band’s sound immediately and jumped on the opportunity.

ME&I had a music video out for one of their songs that featured a creepy, oily black hand, and I knew I wanted to match that stylistically. What would I use for the goop? My first thought was chocolate syrup. Though messy and a bit gross, my old days working at a summer camp that features messy activities (which includes kids covering themselves in the likes of chocolate syrup) prepared me to take a dip into the stuff.

I also knew we’d be relatively close-up on the face for this shoot, and so I wanted to make the model anonymous and with a feeling of something eerie, and so I went with a gauze wrap over the upper half of the face. The gauze also called to mind echoes of illness, which would match the album title, Sick World.

A bit of test work and photoshopping later, and I got two mockup images.

Test-1-For-Web Test-2-For-Web

The images quickly reassured me that my photo abilities had definitely improved in a year and half to where they needed to be, and I jumped on finalizing the idea, getting two of my friends together to do an only slightly awkward shoot, with syrup everywhere, handprints, and of course, my buddy CJ’s corgi running around trying to figure out just what the hell we were up to.

The lighting was simple. I wanted to go with high contrast and drama because we were going for that horror movie feel, so I lit it with one canon speedlite on camera left with a soft white umbrella modifier against a plain white wall.
Hands-1-4-Goop-For-Web-Wide copyHands-3-For-WebHands-5-3-Goop-For-Web

I did some quick edits in photoshop to put it all together and color grade the way I wanted before sending them off to Florian. He and the band loved them (here, we took a break to work on the new BlessTheFall art, which came up suddenly and needed all of our attention). From there, we made small tweaks to hand placements and which base image they preferred. I sent the file along so that Flo could work on the title design, and we had our finished product. 12032854_1231629103529278_3119624340908748732_oThe EP dropped yesterday on iTunes, which you can check out here.

It’s a badass blend of different hard rock and metal genres, and I dig the shit out of it. If Metal is your jam, give it a listen! I think these guys could seriously be big.

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First Forays into Fashion

So back in January, a hairstylist friend asked if I’d mind helping her organize a photoshoot with her for her entry into the North American Hairstylist Awards (NAHA) for 2015. I hadn’t yet done any fashion photography. Growing up the way I did, the fashion world was an alien one to me. All I knew of it was strange outfits and frighteningly thin models on runways. But the world of fashion photography, I quickly found, is a very compelling one. It’s a place where artists play with extremes in look and theme and style. And the photography often matches the extremes in look. At its heart, too, are damn good portraits. My work as a photographer plays in very similar sandboxes. While I love a striking portrait, I also love to play in the surreal, the places of extremes, where the world starts to break down. Where I can introduce some horror elements, sometimes a much more dreary mood, sometimes in places mildly disturbing, which don’t generally work in the traditional photoshoot for families and seniors! And so I happily signed up for the job, hoping to get my feet wet and learn a thing or two about this fashion world.

We shot with five models in five days, Jesi often spending an entire afternoon in her studio, working on the hair and makeup. I’d rendezvous with the team in the evening and drive up the mountain to an empty semi-industrial once-garage that a family member of Jesi’s was about to flip for a 4-wheeling company. I used my 6D and 50mm lens, along with my speedlite, a diffusion umbrella, and an LED continuous light. I love the results. The bright varieties of color, changing from shot to shot, are one of the more popping elements, and they developed purely in post-processing, the way that photos often will come alive with a life of their own, totally unplanned, in ways that surprise me. Depending on the project, I like to leave room for this to bubble up. Sometimes, you have a specific mood, a specific color grading, theme, and style that you need to capture both in camera and as the team imagined. But shoots that allow room for creativity, for play, for the photos to go an unexpected direction… that’s fun. It was a great shoot, and I’m already working ideas for upcoming shoots.

We didn’t hit the finals this year, which was okay. I think it was a necessary learning experience for everyone involved. But a killer one. I’m very thrilled with the final portraits, and I know it wouldn’t have been possible – at all – without everyone else involved behind and in front of the lens.

I’m always looking for more work, and I’m very excited about future forays into this fashion world. If you need any photos done, or would like to work with me on a portrait session in the future. You know where to find me, www.KarlPfeiffer.com.

And of course, I want to thank Jesi for having me out on the shoot! If you’re in the Loveland, Colorado area, and you want to visit her, check out their website here: www.generationsalonandspa.com/

Hitch-NAHA-2-For-Web-WM Hitch-NAHA-3-For-Web-WM Hitch-NAHA-4-For-Web-WM Hitch-NAHA-5-For-Web-WM Hitch-NAHA-1-For-Web-WM

5-Side by Side No Flare

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Kids and Dreams and Superheroes

When I was about seven years old, my world revolved around one thing; Batman. To this day, I can’t tell you what it is that spoke to me so early on about my hero, but I was obsessed. I wanted to be Batman when I grew up. I crawled around my basement playing with action figures and jumping off boxes in a black cape. I lived in Maryland, and once in a while, winter would dump blizzard-amounts of snow on my neighborhood. On one such occasion, as the neighborhood came together, shoveling each others’ driveways in a big group, I decided it was the perfect night to don my cape and cowl and look out over my own microcosmic gotham. In my mind, I was atop a building, cape billowing in the wind, scowling. In reality, I was standing on a four foot snow mound, glaring at my obviously bemused neighbors. And, I have photo evidence.

At 26, Karl is still single.

Striking fear into the heart of criminals everywhere.

I’m older now, and while my love for Batman is still strong as ever. I’ve come around to the realization that society, lack of billionaire resources, and a crippling fear of heights have terminated my childhood career aspirations. I’ve moved on to other things. Photography, writing.

Enter my good friend Mandy. She has two kids, Joseph and Emily. Joseph is seven, and he adores Captain America. In a way that reminded me of when I was his age running around in my mask. Mandy posts statuses on Facebook to the tune of “Told the kids to get ready to go to the grocery store. Joseph comes downstairs in his Captain America mask and his shield on his arm.”

This is Joseph.

This is Joseph.

I read these posts and I think, I know this kid. Because I was this kid.

And so my thinking percolated for a while. Then in January, a recent fascination with movie posters and television key art mixed with another Captain America sighting in my news feed, and an idea formed. What if I put my photography and Photoshop skills to use, and enlist Joseph for a photoshoot in which we specifically match Marvel’s Captain America posters from the ground up, but featuring Joseph?

What a dream come true, right? Many kids imagine being their comic book heroes, but it’s rare that they have an opportunity to step into the role in such an immersive way. Without going into details, Joseph and his family have had a tough time of it the past few years, dealing with stuff that no kid should have to deal with. The heavy stuff of the adult world seeping down to a kid not yet in elementary school. And the fear that stays for years after. Yet, as his mom tells me, it’s his love for Captain America that helps him get through the hard days, identifying with a character once weak, who became heroic, noble, and strong against huge obstacles.

And so I knew I had to make it happen.

I got Mandy and Joseph on board (they loved the idea), and brought them to my studio for the shoot last week. We worked for a bit over an hour, making sure the lights were consistent to the posters, and that Joseph could emulate the poses. Then, in the following week, I got down to business in Photoshop.

I’ve been serious about photography for a year and a half now, and there was no way I was just going to cut out Joseph’s face and paste it onto the posters already done by amazing photo artists like Michael Muller. I wanted to give him something completely original. As many photos from my own computer as possible, a handful of stock photos when absolutely necessary, and a matching color scheme, lighting, and dodging and burning (not only because I’m learning a lot yet by imitation, but) because I wanted these to be that much more immersive for Joseph, to have him inside a world he was already familiar with.

These are the original posters I was specifically intending to mimic:

Posters 4 Side by Side

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And here are the final products with Joseph:

Dark-Text-Poster-2Dark-Textless-PosterDark-Textless-Wide-2Action-1-Poster-Textless Profile-1-Textless-PosterProfile-1-Textless-Wide Profile-2-Textless-PosterUltron-Poster-MinimumAction-2-Portrait-TextlessFront-Portrait-Poster-TextlessProfile-3-Textless-Poster

It was when I got an email response from Joseph’s mom telling me of his reaction, that he said, “That’s actually me. That’s the real me,” that I knew I’d hit something special. Joseph was over the moon. His mom was over the moon. And my inner Bruce Wayne, still dressed up in cape and cowl on that skyscraper in snowy Gotham, was for a time totally satisfied. Karl and Captain-1Gear Geek info: Canon 6D, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, 430EXII Speedlite, one two foot ring light, a constant LED light, an umbrella modifier, three light stands, and my trusty Photoshop CC. And a couple times, an open window.

Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer, and ghost hunter. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy on Syfy, went on to work briefly with the Ghost Hunters International Team, and now leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the collection Into a Sky Below, Forever. He’s also a conceptual and portrait photographer in Colorado, and he loves key art and great television. You can find more at www.KarlPfeiffer.com or on Twitter, @KarlPfeiffer.

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Dear HBO: Keep GoT to 7 seasons.


Last night, the first episode of Game of Thrones, Season 5, premiered in London. Chatter about the end-date for Game of Thrones, mixed with premiere reviews discussing the way season 5 feels like it’s moving the wheels toward an endgame has me wanting a soapbox.

Now, it’ll be very, very interesting to see what this show does in terms of telling a complete story. I think much of we’ve seen from the broadcast renaissance is reaching its pinnacle in Game of Thrones, specifically in terms of narrative and storytelling.

TV in the 80s, 90s, and much of the early aughts has been transitioning from procedural, episodic, killer/monster-of-the-week plots to overarching, narrative-heavy, serial dramas. That’s a transition. Network executives love to cash in on a prize show for as long as possible. In the days of the procedural, this was easy enough, because the more minor overarching story arcs could be manipulated and dragged out for ten seasons or more. Look at CSI (and the various spinoffs, since it’s the same show), Law and Order, NCIS, etc.

The X-Files was one of the earlier shows to try on a bigger narrative thread, and it was the first to be met with criticism for lasting far too long beyond its run. The creator’s plan for the show was a five season arc with three movies to wrap up the story. Instead we got five seasons, a movie, a renewal, four more tired seasons, a tired movie, and perpetual chatter of a third movie and possibly a reboot (both of which I think are needed, as despite the #9SeasonsAnd2Movies run, the story is yet unfinished.

But the X-Files didn’t teach network execs much Supernatural, for instance, went for five perfectly good seasons, blending monster-of-the-week procedural with a BIG story arc that became the show’s driving powerhouse for its final two seasons… Well, I say final, because after they wrapped the end of the world apocalypse plot, the creator left, his original five-season-arc being told… and CW renewed the show because fifth season was so successful. And then they renewed it again. And again. And now we’re in season, what? Eleven? Though the fanbase is strong, I’m sorry to say the story has been told.

Lost was a crucial transition to present-day TV as we know it. Lost set the perfect balance of episodic problems in the midst of a huge overarching narrative that continued to promise and promise (all on JJ Abrams now-exhausted Mystery Box theory) that the writers knew where the show was going. Though the show went maybe a season too long, and despite now hearing too many suggestions that the writers never had a plan past season 2, Lost set an end date (and one long before some whimpering season 12 finish) and the network went for it (even on a powerhouse network show like Lost) and it was a HUGE success. Sure, not everyone liked it. Sure, a lot of people completely misunderstood the end. But the show was a success. ABC treated the finale as a network event, and the finale saw ratings better than it had seen in two seasons.

It paved the way for creator control over when to end a show in a landscape of serial television that’s now cropping up everywhere, from cable to network. Breaking Bad is one of the perfect examples of such a show, which may have meandered for a season or two before finding its groove, but once the writers saw their story arc clearly, it was full steam ahead to either an epic finale, or, well, Meth-Selling, the soap-opera.

And now we have Game of Thrones. The series whose end is mentioned in just about every article written about it. Largely due to whether or not the show will surpass the book series before it’s completed by Mr. Martin. But Game of Thrones is a show that’s been based on a book series that will be finished at some point, and it’s always been a show that asks “Who Will Win?” Fans are foaming at the mouth to know who will take the iron throne before we Cut to Black.

Right now, it’s a show that’s been telling a tight story. Political intrigue, betrayal, amassing armies on a (semi) realistic scale that takes time to do. But it’s too easily a show that could get lost within itself. With no promise of the end that’s so needed, we just watch old enemies form alliances, and then new friends betray each other, over and over, until the numbers have dwindled so far that the network finally cuts the life support. And Game of Thrones has never been a show that’s wanted to do that.

So when Weiss and Benioff start talking about how they see seven seasons (and maybe a movie) to wrap up their show, I’m over here fist-pumping like a champ! Let’s do it. Let’s wreck shit. Let’s see who winds up on that throne and what it’s all going toward.

Certainly everyone brings their own perspectives to a post like this. Many fans just love spending time every week with their characters, like friends on the screen, and every episode is going to provide the needed escapes week to week.

But what I lobby for is good, powerful, tight storytelling. A story with a beginning, a middle, and a fucking crescendo of an end. Kill everybody, I don’t care. Just follow through on the promises the show has made through its run, rather than stringing what once was a good story with big promises into a soap opera of old situations between different characters.

And then there’s the network execs, who say, “Well, gosh, I love this show! The fans love this show! And as a fan I don’t want it to end! I’d love to see ten seasons or more of such a great work of art!”

Which leads me to two retorts, the first being that dragging a good story on for too long (like a bad joke or a, well, bad story that a friend may be subjecting you to) stops it being a great work of art. And the second being that it’s a bit scary to start reading between the lines of the HBO executives comments, who, even in text online, appear to be saying one thing with a forced smile while making murderous hand gestures. Says HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo, “We’ll have an honest conversation that explores all possible avenues. If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision—as horrifying as that is to me. What I’m not going to do is have a show continue past where the creators believe where they feel they’ve finished with the story.”

So, sure, on paper, he respects the creators knowing when a show is going to end! But when a person who has “President” in their title at the network your show airs on uses the word “horrifying” to describe ending the show at seven seasons, and suggests having an “honest conversation to explore all possible avenues,” that hair on the back of your neck has gotta be standing up at this point.

I can only hope it’s seven or eight seasons. I can hope that Weiss and Benioff stand their ground and pull this thing together in a spectacle of awesome. And I just really, really, do not want to see this thing go for ten to twelve seasons.

Nobody wants to see a rusty iron throne by the time some old, bored, actor/actress gets there.


Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the book, Into a Sky Below, Forever. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, worked briefly with the Ghost Hunters International team and now travels the world lecturing about approaches to paranormal research. He’s also a portrait photographer based out of Colorado. 

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Looking Forward, Looking Back, and Deepest Thanks

2014 ended with a kind of headspinning, chaotic, happy-nightmarish sprint into 2015. I hit December in a funk. 2014 had been a good year. Not a great year, but it was one of those foundational kind of years that has to happen before stuff can take off. It’s a reminder that no empire is built overnight, and that instant virality is a product of hard, hard work (unless you’re that kid from Target, thanks for that, 2014). I got a tiny, cold, but full-of-character apartment last January. After living with my parents to pursue creative pursuits at the expense of money or adulthood, landing my own apartment was, last winter, my only real dream. Fuck finding a good girl, fuck getting back into an awesome, well-paying job or investing in new gear, I just wanted a place to call mine. It was a hasty move. I didn’t have the money for it, but some people were buying my photos, (no one was buying my books), and I’d gotten on at the perfect time with a couple high school buddies to run the back end of their media business. Embracing photography as fast and hard as I could, I also started off on a surreal self-portrait photo-a-day project, which lasted a few months before ideas and motivation and time began to die off.

And, you know, it was good. Even in June when I realized I’d somehow gotten bedbugs. Even as winter fell and my landlord didn’t turn on the radiator while outside, Colorado suffered in -6 degree weather.


And things were going well. But as with stagnation, I hit a wall in October when a bunch of projects fell through. And then in November the lingering funk hit me on and off and I found myself in bed for what felt like days on end, trying to convince myself to get something done. Eventually I started writing a new book (because being in the middle of one novel wasn’t pressure and headache enough) and the writing flowed until December hit. It was supposed to be a quiet month, but then jury duty, illness, hard drive crashes, the holidays, and a few projects hit, and suddenly I was playing catchup between running to shoot after shoot. Which I love. I might be stressed and jittery and drinking coffee all day and substituting meals with cigarettes, but it’s the frantic swings from one thing to the next that keeps me feeling like I’m finally producing. It’s not me and an uphill fight against myself, it’s frantic demands to make deadlines and make cool shit for someone who’s not just me.

And the outlook for 2015 is the craziest year yet. Most of what prompted this was figuring out how to cram it into two or three tweets, but I was clicking around on Facebook and read a post by Amanda Fucking Palmer about how much she and Karl’s idol Neil Gaiman are such peas in a pod and I had this weird and sudden rush. It wasn’t nostalgia, but it was something similar. In that same forgotten way of lost friends from grade school, I was reminded of Karl From Three Years ago. Set to graduate college (which he hated at the time, but is far more lukewarm about the experience now), dreaming of finding virality with some breakout novel, traveling about and writing in cool places and trying new things and making it all awesome. Then none of that happened and I picked up photography and the writing continues to smoke from my giant burnout after publishing Into a Sky Below, in fall of 2013. And now, everything looks different. The memory though came from realizing how much it still looks the same, and how I’d been so damn stressed for the last year that I didn’t really notice it. I’ve been living in it and sprinting toward it for a month and it still hasn’t sunken in yet. But 2015 is shaping up to be the year. It’ll have pitfalls, probably big ones, but holy hell. There will be travel and there will be huge projects, and more and more work and fun and great art, and hopefully some books as well.

* * *

Which segues me to the information I came here to share:

So, I’ve released a special edition hard cover of Hallowtide. It’s pretty niche and relatively pricey (print costs and two shippings have it run up a bit at $40). It takes a week or two to get to me, and another week for me to flip to you. But it’s beautiful and sleek and fat and features a bit of writing yet unseen and I’m more proud of it than anything else I’ve made in my life.

Link to that glorious bastard of a book here: http://www.karlpfeiffer.com/#!hallowtide/ccou

I’m happy to send you one, but orders will be on hold right now until mid-February.

That’s because I’m going to Germany for a month. My brother lives there and wanted to bring me out before he moved back to the states, and next thing I knew, plane tickets were bought, and now I’ll be leaving in a week! There will be traveling and beer and photos taken, but also a lot of projects that are being backlogged here at the turn of the year. While right now I’m writing a blog and trying not to think about missing my deadlines, I’m realizing that’s everything I wanted. Stressed, running around with sixteen projects, hopping internationally, making cool art…

I come back mid-February, where I’ll have two weeks to reset before flying to Florida for the third Ghost Hunter Cruise. We’re heading down to the Caribbean for a week, checking out some amazing haunted places and spending time with excellent people. It’ll be the third cruise featuring myself, GHI’s Barry Fitzgerald, and psychic medium Sarah Lemos, who is incredible and managed to bring about many, many tears last September, if that’s motivating enough for you to join, we would absolutely love to have you:

Info about the Ghost Cruise here: http://www.ghosthuntercruise.com/

I’ll have a couple weeks before I jump to house-sitting for my aunt and uncle in Greeley (if you know Colorado… it’s not our most exotic city). But then April has the annual Ghost Hunters event at my weekend home, the Stanley Hotel, this year from Amy Bruni’s events boutique, Strange Escapes. As usual, there will be mind-bending lectures and ghost hunting with celebrity types. I’ll be speaking again and, depending on how crazy I get, miiiiight be releasing a new book. I’ll also hopefully be working on a very awesome secret project with a very awesome friend that you guys will, if all goes well, be hearing about later in 2015.

Info about the Stanley Event here: http://www.strange-escapes.com/portfolio-item/stanley-hotel-april-10th-13th-2015/

Then I’ll hopefully be moving into a new apartment (if the gods have my favor), and I’ll have a few months of relative quiet, depending on how many weddings and portraits I get asked to do. In between that, I’ll be working on a feature-length documentary project with a very close friend, Connor, who works with me up at the Stanley Hotel. It’s going to be about the world of transplants. It’ll be a very intense project but one I’m excited to do. And, of course, I’ll be resuming my position as assistant director of the night program at the nerd camp I grew up with, which doubles as the best place in the world. If you have children in 5th through 10th grade who are gifted and may struggle with fitting in or finding people like themselves, you should 1000% check it out.

UNC Summer Enrichment Program: http://www.unco.edu/cebs/sep/

September brings with it the next ghost cruise. We’re gunning for Alaska, but may wind up in southern California. There’ll be further announcements in that direction if you follow the cruise’s Facebook page. 

October will be bringing with it an even more awesome but yet-mostly-unannounced Ghost Hunter Cruise event, where I’ll be joining my compatriots once again in a country known for its leprechauns during the time of year I love most. I’m thrilled beyond all reason to go along on that trip, and I’ll be posting more about it if you’re interested in joining, as it’s closer to being more officially announced.

And then I’ll be home and the snow will begin falling again and I’ll be right back where I am now, probably exhausted, probably stressed, and very likely with a whole buttload of new memories and surprising experiences that I had no idea would be coming along the pipeline at the time I’m writing this.

But. Now I have photos to edit and articles to write and bags to pack.

As always, it’s the support from you all year long that helps keep me moving, helps me keep trying to better myself and my work, and makes me feel like it’s not just me, in a locked room, beating my head against the wall — no matter how much it often feels that way. You guys save me from that becoming all-consuming, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

A happiest of New Years to all you out there, from this bearded fool to you all.