It's a sure sign of spring when the first crocuses emerge. This year, however, it's a sign of summer - and I'm fine with skipping over one season to get to the hot days sooner!
My family regularly visits Dinosaur Provincial Park, and it's a badge of honour to be the one who photographs the first crocus of the year. It always amazes me how one day, the hills can be brown and seemingly barren, then the next, covered with small, purple flowers.
Of course, on the way to the Park, we usually encounter some critters. Pheasants are a mainstay out this way, and the meadowlarks have been in abundance lately. Every time we drive, the cattle population is booming with new life springing forth. On a previous trip, we even noticed a calf that must have been born minutes before our arrival. The kids especially love watching all the young critters running around.
Another aspect I also enjoy is seeing the uncommon sights - the surprises. As I mentioned in the last post about the bluebirds and eagles, these accidental tourists add an element to the adventure.
For example, a small lake on the way to Brooks has become a favourite spot for a large group of pelicans. I was able to get fairly close to them, and enjoyed several minutes of watching the large white birds.
No matter if you're gathering images of some strange animal, or the mundane, everyday ones, the important thing is to follow the advice I close with during my Tog Tips program on Shaw TV - "the only way you're going to improve is to pick up that camera and shoot!"
'Til the next adventure....
Did you know the birdwatching accounts for somewhere in the realm of 13% of total annual tourism in Alberta? We're also fortunate in this area to have a wide variety of environments to attract unique species. With all the lakes and sloughs around, waterfowl has been migrating back over the past few weeks, and warm temperatures have been tempting prey like gophers to emerge - handy lunch for large birds. Songbirds are certainly no stranger to our region, and there's even been some rare guests making a visit this year.
Recently, I went out with my friend and fellow photographer, Laurie, to some of her local haunts in search of the elusive bald eagle. She's been photographing these fantastic birds for months now, and I wanted to see one in the wild around the Brooks area.
The first thing you need to know about Laurie is she is an amazing wildlife, landscape, and aurora borealis photographer. She's someone who knows the area very well and has the utmost respect for locations.
And I'm pretty sure she's got the vision of the eagles we were looking for. While we were driving, Laurie was able to pick out particular bird species, sometimes just by the way they would fly, but usually because she could see them far better than I could!
We did find a Golden Eagle near the Rolling Hills Reservoir; a juvenile according to Laurie. It was an exciting find, and her images were stunning as always! I had a huge handicap as the longest lens I own maxes out at 200mm. Luckily, I brought along a 2x teleconverter, but still wasn't able to come close to what Laurie's 600mm lens could capture. For wildlife photography - especially birds - a huge zoom is key. I always tell people who ask "why kind of gear should I buy?" to invest heavily on glass, and not to worry too much about the latest and greatest body.
An oddity (as I mentioned before about the songbirds) came upon us in the Tilley area. I have never observed a bluebird in this area before - in fact, the closest was during a visit to Reesor Ranch in the kinda nearby Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Laurie, of course, was the first to pick out the distinctive blue colour as we slowly drove down the road. To our surprise, this bluebird was not alone. A decent sized group of them must have stopped by during migration - made for some fantastic images! I'm certain by now, they've all left the area, but it was incredible to see the vibrance of the bluebirds flying in a group.
Alas, we never did come across the Bald Eagle that began the entire journey. However, we did get to see many species that regularly call the County of Newell "home," and had a great visit.
Coming up during the May long weekend is the annual bird count in our region, which usually hits places like Kinbrook Provincial Park, Lake Newell, and the Tilley area. The Grasslands Naturalists have put together an amazing book (including detailed maps) called the Birding Trails of Southeastern Alberta, which is available online. However, if you do have the chance to grab a hard copy, proceeds do help the organization. If you are planning a visit to Southeast Alberta, this guide is a valuable resource. Also, try to connect with the Grasslands Naturalists - they are a group of well-informed, amazing people that are a wealth of information.
I was reading a social media post that questioned how effective being a Chamber member actually is; how beneficial such an affiliation would be to a business. Well, in my experience, it's been quite fruitful.
Recently, a friend at the Chamber learned that another member - McDonald's - was looking for local artwork. The store just went through renovations on the, and now they started work on the exterior. To bring more of a local feel to the store, they wanted some artwork that featured famous local landmarks. Kyle at the Chamber told Jordan at McDonald's "hey, I know a guy" and the connection was made.
Not gonna lie, it's pretty cool to see my work hanging on the walls at McDonald's. The kids love the Playplace, so we've been there a couple times since the images went up. It's funny how many people you run into with positive feedback. If you're near the Brooks McDonald's, stop by for a bite and check out the new look. Let me know what you think of the artwork, too!
Wayne's World was a movie that changed my life. Above all, I wanted to host a local cable access show. Now, I think my dream may have finally come true!
Teaching some of the skills I've learned in photography has become something I enjoy, and it only seemed like a natural progression to share some of those things in a wider broadcasting forum. OK, we're probably not going to cover earth-shattering ground here, but I want to show that this art is a lot of fun, and not so intimidating for people to get into.
With my courses, I always tell my students that I want to be able to share some of the things I was looking for and could not find when first getting into the art of photography. The classroom is place where knowledge is shared in a positive, friendly environment. There are hundreds of places to find dry old facts, I try to present subject matter in a fun, easy-to-understand way; dispelling the myth that there are 'trade secrets' and emphasizing people getting their cameras out and going on an adventure. That's why the course I teach at the Brooks Campus MHC is titled "Adventures in Digital Photography."
While the idea to shoot these segments seemed easy on paper, I am not the most comfortable person on camera. I have a habit of blanking, getting that 'deer-in-the-headlights' look and forgetting what I wanted to talk about. Leanne from Shaw TV Medicine Hat came to Brooks to film these segments, and we had a blast! She was so easy to work with, and that fear of the camera melted quickly. I think she did a fantastic job building this video, and look forward to seeing her work on the future productions. The people at Shaw TV are in our community fairly often, and create stories that matter; things that would normally not see the light of day. I'm happy to be part of this story-telling.
YouTube isn't the only place you can find Tog Tips, if you have cable at home, tune in to Shaw TV Medicine Hat on channel 10. You'll find this program and tons of community content available for your viewing pleasure.
Also, if you have a topic or question you'd like to see covered on Tog Tips, let me know!
If you're a photographer that's been around for any length of time, you've likely received The Text. By that, I mean the request to shoot a reunion. Oh yes, it's a sign that you've "made it" once you get the spammity-spam scammer texts! But what is this scam all about and how does it work?
Usually, I ignore the classic text scam, but recently decided to play along and see how it works. Essentially, this is a classic over-payment credit card scam where the perpetrator tries to get you to run a credit card, take out some cash to pay another vendor that doesn't accept credit cards, and keep your portion. The end result is you are left holding the bag for the full card charges because the information is stolen.
It may be enticing, especially for those just starting out and desperate for work. This is where the scammer tries to play on your greed - you could quote any price for the job, they are more concerned with getting money from the stolen card.
Some red flags to watch out for if you suspect the Reunion Scam:
- They will ask if you accept credit cards as payment right away
- Usually bad grammar and typos in their text
- Vague about locations and dates
- Scammer will note they prefer communicating by text, often stating that they have a hearing impairment
- Sense of urgency, they may claim having a surgery in a few days (they actually only have a short window of opportunity to use the card before the theft is discovered)
- Strange phone number as the area code may be nowhere near you area, OR they my be mirroring a seemingly local number by using an area code before the local call.
In this latest scenario, the scammer provided me with copious amounts of credit card info. I immediately called the credit card company to report the stolen card, and was assured that the legit cardholder was contacted. In this case, the issue was resolved and hopefully I saved someone a lot of headache!
My main point is for people to be careful. These scammers are ruthless. If you do encounter a text scam like this, just ignore it and carry on. However, if you do decide to play along, please do as I have and report the stolen card. Be a good person and save someone's day!
Of course, you know my answer - YES! There are scads of talented, local artists in the area. Admittedly, the title of this post may be click bait, but I was to address an issue about local photographers.
We need your support.
What do I mean by that? Often, I'll see a post on social media how someone is searching for photographer recommendations. Inevitably, some folks from outside chime in, or are linked in the conversation. It seems like there's a misconception out that that "if it's from somewhere else, it must be good."
Nope. They're not. In fact, your hurting your community.
Local photographers are equal to or surpassing in the skill level of those "big city" folks, who seem to cherry pick jobs in our area. That's their outlook: people looking for recommendations are just "another job."
Now that view is much different for a local photographer. That person looking for a photographer is a neighbour, perhaps even a family member. Hiring local means you're putting food on the table for someone in your area. I'll share with you another reason to support local:
WE SUPPORT LOCAL, TOO!
I've issued a press release today about how RyKie Images & Events works with local businesses and individuals, donating money and time to enhance our community. Since I started this business nearly 10 years ago, giving back to the community has always been at the forefront. It's not about name recognition, the motive is to assist the community that supports my business.
Would an out-of-town photographer care about your community after their "job" is done?
Over the last year or two, I’ve become interested in vintage lenses, and have accumulated a small horde of them. Particularly, old Minolta mount lenses from on average 50 years ago. In particular, there were a couple that I really hadn’t used since purchasing them – not even sure if they were from a garage sale or a pawn shop, but they looked neat, so I picked them up.
I decided to take our girls on a trip to the zoo, and concluded that it might also be a good time to test out a couple lenses.
One is a Minolta 50mm f/2.8 – an all-metal tank with very few bells and whistles. Simply a pedestrian workhorse yearning for a new life on the end of my Nikon DSLR. The other lens I chose was an off-brand, and Image 80-200mm f/4.5. Another curiosity, this ancient piece of glass had some quirks, such as skipping f/5.6 altogether, and a pull over metal shade.
The testing grounds returned some interesting results. I shot both stills and video through a Nikon D7000, and was pleased with what I gathered. The zoom lens was far more sharp than I had anticipated, but also revealed amazing depth of field with creamy, blurry backgrounds. Even in low light, this lens performed fantastically. No real noticeable noise at all, and vibrant colours – especially on a chameleon hanging out on a branch.
Switching out the prime lens, I was happy with the speed of this old clunker. Again, tack sharp and impressive colour from what I had assumed to be garbage glass. I kept this lens wide open at f/2.8 for the majority of my shooting that day, and was not disappointed.
The only real drawback is that these are manual lenses, so it does require some practice to get used to not simply punching a button (for all you back button focus lovers). However, this is also adds to the beauty and appeal of these old lenses. The nostalgia feel is what these babies are all about; the challenge to create with seeming limitations. We’re artists, after all, and sometimes introducing a confine is what can break us out of a creative slump.
Another great advantage of shooting with old manual glass is that you can test out a lens in general. If you’re interested in a 50mm prime, for example, but don’t want to spend the big bucks on a new brand name model, spending a day with a cheapo version might aid in your decision. I have an old Nikkor 200mm f/2.8 that I purchased just for that reason – would a new lens with those qualities be worth it/ Why not test out an older version for under $100 to find out! With the Minolta mount lenses, I picked up an MD-NIK converter – basically a piece of plastic with some glass inside to “convert” the old lens into a Nikon one. These start anywhere from $15, with the sky being the limit, if you want to purchase an autofocus compatible version.
Even if you should come across a lens that simply will not mount to your camera body, there’s always free-lensing. Or, isn’t he cases of an old camera that came with the purchase of a few lenses, you can take it apart and show your kids how a camera works. I’ve done this, and also took the opportunity to grab some macro images of the pieces, saving interesting parts for future art projects.
We’ve likely all received the call, someone claiming to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency saying that you’ve neglected to pay your taxes. I’ve posted a YouTube video about my experiences over the summer with these scammers, but really wanted to talk with one and see how profitable the scam really is.
Today, I had my chance.
A little background on how the scam works, a caller (usually recorded) claims you’ve skipped paying your taxes, and you need to call them back. After some aggressive tactics, including verification of personal information, they inevitably offer a solution to paying immediately before (as they claim) officers will come to take you off to jail (spoiler alert: they won’t). Eventually, they offer the solution of purchasing prepaid cards, usually iTunes gift cards, warning not to purchase the full amount at one retailer as to avoid suspicion.
Once you have the cards and reveal the pin numbers – you can guess what happens next. Yup, they clean out the cards and you’re left with a depleted account.
I’ve known people that nearly get sucked in by these scams, fearing that they are real. Usually, the scammers will prey upon new Canadians or the elderly. If scammed, victims are likely to be too embarrassed to report the crime, and it’s nearly impossible to track down the scammers as they use untraceable cell phones. Sometimes they will even mimic a seemingly local phone number to hopefully dupe people.
Today, I had a brief chat with one of the scammers. Now, how accurate the information is that they provided is questionable, but if there is a grain of truth to their proposed numbers, it is sad indeed.
For full disclosure, I revealed to the caller that I knew about the scam, and just wanted more information on if they actually make money off their victims. I asked the lady claiming to be from the CRA how many people she talked to today. Her claim was over 200 calls. Of that number, about 10 per cent of people were successfully victimized. From prior calls I received, the ask was anywhere from $2500-$4500, so if one in 10 people get scammed, the business is quite lucrative. That 10 per cent number seems high to me, but even a one per cent success rate is a very good pay day for the criminals.
I also inquired how much money they usually make in a day, and Ms. Anonymous CRA Caller quoted me $10,000 each day. Now, this could be sheer bragging and an inflated number, but considering how persistent these callers are, it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch. Our call was unfortunately cut short as the fake agent disconnected the line. I also tried calling back, and after explaining to another “agent” that I had a couple more questions, the line mysteriously was disconnected again. Further attempts suggest that my number has been blocked - I suppose they don’t like to be bothered by unknown callers…
The CRA does not call or email people in the methods described. If there is an actual discrepancy with what you paid or owe, they will use legal means (such as an official letter). Even the emails these scammers send will seem legit (using logos and letterhead), but the CRA will not request personal information like the scammers do.
If you have shared banking information with a suspected scammer, contact your bank immediately to place an alert on your account. There are resources available that can help, including your local RCMP detachment.
I used to shoot quite a few hockey games. Like, a LOT of hockey games. So many, that I burned out the autofocus motor in a Sigma lens one season. There were quite a few occasions where I'd cover three games in one night, catching the initial minutes of the first period in one town, driving to the next for 10-15 minutes of the second period, then catching the final moments of the game in Town Number Three. As many of you know, I used to be a media guy, and at one product I worked for as editor, we busted our butts to cover a huge area (and we did it well, quite proud of our work there!).
Anyway, this season, I am proud to announce that I'm the official team photographer for the Brooks Bandits. Now, I won't be at every home game, but will endeavor to hit as many as possible - keep an eye out for me!
It's been a little while since I've shot hockey at this level, but the AJHL is my favourite. The guys seem just a little more hungry when they're on the ice; they have a little more to prove as the AJHL essentially launches careers into the big league. It is exciting hockey to watch, and the Bandits are an intense team to follow. The fans know this secret, as Game Night in Brooks is a big deal.
Shooting hockey can be a little tricky, and it isn't something you can do well with any old gear. Fortunately, the CRA has great lighting, and several sweet spots for me to get all the action. Where things get a little tricky lies in the speed of what's happening on the ice.
With the high action comes high shutter speeds, so it's a fine balance of how high one's ISO can be set without adding too much grain. You want crisp, clear images of high speed action with little distractions. Oh yeah, and make it look interesting to boot. Yes, shooting hockey isn't easy, but the challenge is lots of fun! Fast zoom lenses are key, and being able to predict where the action will happen allows more opportunity for those cool images.
Want to see the final product? Keep an eye on the Bandit's Facebook page. If you see an image you like, and you would like a print or any other product I offer, by all means drop a line.
OK. So I usually don't post images from my phone, but here we are!
I wanted to talk about branding today, it's something essential for photographers, and any business really. It's what sets you apart, and tells your clients a bit about you.There are a few things to keep in mind when building a brand, though, and here are a few quick tips:
1. KISS - For those not familiar with the acronym, it's Keep it Simple, Silly! An overly complicated or distracting brand can be difficult to connect with. Fonts are of particular interest here, it's common for photographers to use an italicized, flowing, script font with their name, then the word "photography" underneath. Now this may look nice, but the style is so over saturated that your brand is less likely to stand out.
2. Colour me bad - I admit, I'm not totally in love with my branding colours, and I'm working on something different. It's widely known that certain colours evoke different emotions. Many banks use blue in their logos (a sense of security) while food brands use red (hunger). Crazy colours might turn people away, while primary colours generally attract.
3. Put that stuff on everything! After all, what good is a brand if you're not going to use it? Brand recognition comes with hundreds of views. Where will your logo get the most attention?
4. Be consistent. A brand is something you won't generally change often. Look at companies like Apple, who have changed their brand over the years, but by drastic leaps at a time. Keeping your brand active for a few years, then making smaller, shaping changes will keep your potential clients in line with your brand.
5. Have fun! A boring brand means a boring company. Look at Google (and I'm kinda going back on my above point). Every once in awhile, a new Google image pops up to commemorate a date or person. In fact, Google has contributors that design these temporary logos for them, just to receive the honour of having their work posted that day! A fun logo is also an intriguing one, further enhancing your brand with your clients.
The images above include my logo for RyKie Images & Events. A local initiative with Newell Region creatives has been placed belong, strategically on the back of this large print. Why would I put someone else's logo on my work? The Newell Proud campaign promotes locally-made items. This further enhances my brand, at zero cost.
I could spend hours talking branding, and if you'd like more information, I facilitate one-on-one training sessions on this topic. Available in person, over the phone, or Skype.