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.
Our friend Kaliah has a great big crush on this great big horse!
Gus is a gentle giant - apparently with a large appetite! During our session, he took advantage of the fresh grass and alfalfa found on the locations we shot.
Kaliah is a natural beauty, and very comfortable being in front of the camera. We had such a blast while the sun set during Golden Hour. Kaliah wondered if we'd even get a shot of Gus without his mouth full!
I wanted to try out some lenses that have been collecting dust on the shelf. I have a few old Minolta primes that just don't see space in the camera bag, so I brought some along for this session. I also tossed in a wide prime, and ended up using it mostly. Forgot how crisp and clear this lens was, and the results were awesome.
I really like how the flowering alfalfa added to this image. This shot was my favourite of the entire session - just Kaliah and Gus having a moment...actually, I think she was trying to get him to cooperate, but we had fun!
Kaliah also did her own hair, make-up and accessories, and did a fantastic job. This night will certainly stand out as one of my favourite for the year - thanks again, Kaliah and Gus! Check out some behind the scenes footage on my YouTube channel!
It’s taken 24 seasons, but the Badlands Passion Play recently marked their 150th performance. The afternoon of July 9 saw people take to the hills in Drumheller to the formidable amphitheater where the Passion Play is performed.
Prior to the 4 p.m. show, there was a tailgate party of sorts as the famous Wheatland Band performed under the tent to celebrate a couple 150s: first, the milestone show; secondly, the age of our nation. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Royal Sproule and Lewis Frere onstage (with Travis Friesen to complete the trio), so it was great to hear some of those Lewis & Royal classics again in person. The Wheatland Band is an experience all to themselves, if you are fortunate enough to bask in their musical brilliance.
Now. Onto the big show; the epic show. As a kid, I recall attending the Black Hills Passion Play in Spearfish, SD (that site has long since been closed after 70 years, and revamped as a music venue), so I had some basis to compare the Badlands version to. Plus, I’ve read the book a few times over.
What makes this passion play so intense is the venue. The acoustics in this amphitheater are incredible and the hills allow performers to interact with their audience in an unique way. The landscape is certainly used to full advantage with cast members appearing all over and around the set.
For a three-hour play, the action is fast-paced, and a lot of Biblical ground is covered. The actors are flawless, and sometimes play multiple roles that require quick costume changes. It was hot enough viewing the play, I could only imagine what it was like to perform in the same heat.
Here are some Passion Play Pointers to help plan your visit:
1. Bring a seat cushion. The seating consists of wooden benches, and after sitting for awhile, I was certainly longing for a pillow!
2. Pack lots of water. Especially with the high temperatures, this is vital! The venue does have a concession if you forget, though.
3. Hat and sunscreen. This goes without saying, an afternoon in the sun simply demands this. And bug spray isn’t a bad idea, however, there weren’t any bugs on our visit.
4. Plan ahead for dinner. We were lucky with our visit, having beat the crowd to Boston Pizza by mere minutes. Drumheller eating establishments can get very busy after a show, I’d recommend making reservations if you want a sit-down meal.
Wow, another amazing rodeo parade - and it didn't rain as per tradition! I was on a float getting some pictures of all the fun. I posted an online gallery here - did I see you?
For the second year of the "new route," I think it went quite well. Seems like there are always two seasons here: winter and construction. At least we can mitigate the second one with the different route!
This year's theme was celebrating Canada's 150th birthday, and it was interesting to see the different groups' take on that theme. Overall, it was a colourful, vibrant, and sometimes raucous parade!
This year, after the last float zoomed by, a free bbq lunch was served at Veteran's Park, hosted by Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt. He brought a couple of his peers along with him, provincial PC leader Jason Kenney and Calgary-Greenway MLA Prab Gill.
Looked like the politicians had fun meeting with people and enjoying Brooks hospitality.
My personal pick for Hero of the Rodeo Weekend is Naomi Zacharias from Creepy Monkey Graphics. Our area was hit by a huge storm last Thursday, and even the pine tree outside Naomi's shop fell victim to the incredible winds. This did not stop the tenacious lady, she was super busy with last-minute work (including a shirt I had ordered).
As the clouds threatened to dump some more rain on us last Friday, Creepy Monkey Graphics was abuzz with people picking up orders and float displays. So when I saw Naomi parked along the parade route, I had to get a photo of her. If you were at the parade, you likely saw some of her handiwork!
As the parade wound back into the Old Rodeo Grounds and the floats began to get dismantled, I looked around and thought, "what a fine salute to our country." With all the stuff going on right now in the world, it's so refreshing to enjoy a beautiful summer morning.
Maybe that's what could solve a lot of our problems - just quit arguing and watch a parade; enjoy the atmosphere.
Here's a press release about the Canadian Badlands Tourism Ambassador program. I'm one of the ambassadors for the Newell Region, and it's been so much fun sharing some of the amazing sights and sounds from this area. I've had the chance to meet my fellow ambassadors, and they are very skilled, extremely friendly people. If you have an event or destination you think we should cover, give one of us a call!
Canadian Badlands Announces Social Media Ambassadors
CALGARY (June 5, 2017) — Canadian Badlands Tourism (CBT) is pleased to announce the selection of several social media tourism ambassadors. These ‘Tourism Ambassadors’ are local
social media users, who will use their influence to showcase unique ways to experience the
Canadian Badlands. The crew will attend and promote local events, attractions and experiences
from now until the September long weekend.
“We are more than pleased to have such fine local ambassadors set to tell authentic stories of
this land and its people. By showcasing their experiences on social media others will be inspired
to visit the Canadian Badlands and seek out their own adventures. ” says Barry Morishita,
President of Canadian Badlands Tourism.
A total of 20 Tourism Champions have been selected in the following regions: Special Areas, the
County of Newell and Lethbridge. Here’s a snapshot of the ambassadors for the Newell Region:
Samantha Plett is a mother of two toddlers, wife to a farmer and photographer by passion. She
grew up in the Badlands, and is keen to show tourists the diversity of this region. “From the
prairies to the river to the hoodoos, we have such a variety in our own backyard,” she says. Her
go to on hot summer days is the outdoor swimming pool in Bassano, followed up by date night
Follow Samantha on Instagram @samanthaplettphotography
Rebecca Campbell moved from east to west seven years ago. She now lives in Brooks with her
husband and their three little boys. Her other passions include teaching yoga and meditation,
energy healing, writing and photography. She and her family love exploring Evergreen Park and
Rolling Hills Reservoir. She hopes to encourage tourism to the Canadian Badlands: “So others
can explore the diversity of the landscape and meet the incredibly kind and down to earth
people who live here.”
Connect with Rebecca on Instagram @themindfulmamalife or on her blog
Ryan Kiedrowski is a photographer, dad, husband, and tourism advocate. He loves music, Macs
and Nikon (not necessarily in that order). According to Ryan, the Canadian Badlands is like no
place else on earth. “The vast territory of the Badlands means each community can be quite
different. The land shapes the people, and we have some amazing stories to tell.” Ryan
recommends visitors check out Spin Nightspot for a night out in Brooks. “They have several
themed nights with fantastic house and guest DJs,” he says.
Explore with Ryan on Instagram @rykieimagesevents and on Twitter @DuchessABphoto
Rachel Boekel is a mountain girl living a very rich prairie life as a visual story teller. She works
as a portrait and wedding photographer in Brooks. Rachel is a self confessed sucker for a big
sky, hoodoos, pronghorn antelope and the storms that roll over our fields and lakes. Her tourism
wish is simple. “Everyone should see a sunrise or sunset over the Badlands, or the golden glow
of a canola field in peak bloom. When you stop to listen and look, the landscape is wild and
diverse, and the people are the salt of the earth,” she avows.
Follow Rachel’s adventures on Instagram @rachelboekelphotography
Emily Duncan is into adventure, hockey, photography, writing and spontaneous drives to the
middle of nowhere. Many people have asked Emily why she left her home in the rolling hills of BC and her response is always the same. “I love being able to see forever across our prairies, and yet still be so close to such incredible landscapes like the coulees. I wouldn’t trade living here for the world, and I encourage anyone to come experience the grandeur of our Badlands for themselves.”
Connect with Emily on Instagram @emrosedee and on Twitter @Emrosedee
A spirited sunset chaser, Larae Pierson is is always up for an adventure. By day, she works with entrepreneurs and teams. Off hours, Larae spends time traveling or on the family ranch located north of the Red Deer River. One of her favourite things to do is tuck into juicy steak and weekend soup at the Patricia Hotel, where her Grandad’s brand is etched into one of the tables.
Connect with Larae on Instagram and Twitter @Return2Rural
Join the Party
Locals and tourists are encouraged to join the ambassador’s adventures. Simply follow the
hashtags #CBTAmbassador, #MyBadlands and #visitnewell on Twitter and Instagram to receive
the latest updates, and learn more about local gems in your region.
About Canadian Badlands Tourism
Canadian Badlands Tourism (CBT) is a not-for-profit Alberta Corporation providing a new and
innovative approach to creating an integrated, destination-based tourism industry in South-
Eastern Alberta. CBT is the largest co-operative regional partnership of municipal governments
in Alberta. The shareholders are 59 municipal governments, who recognizing the power of co-
operative efforts to develop and implement strategic regional tourism development plans.
For further details contact:
Newell Regional Tourism Association
Well, hopefully not ALL week, but it sure started off that way! But, rain during Rodeo Week is to be expected around here. Another tradition is the week-long pancake breakfasts being served up free of charge by local businesses.
This morning was the TD Bank Mall merchants, who despite a rainy morning, provided some delicious pancakes & sausages. Of course, the rain dampened their outdoor experience, so the crew hosted diners indoors at Gus' Pizza.
If you're like me and forget where the different breakfasts are each year, here's a list for the rest of the week:
Tuesday - 101.1 The One & Real Country 105.7 + Mall Merchants
Wednesday - No Frills + Bevan & Partners
Thursday - Brooks Motor Products
Friday - City of Brooks + County of Newell (at the Fire Hall)
Saturday - Evangelical Free Church
Sunday - Cowboy Service at the Old Rodeo Grounds (10 a.m.)
All breakfasts are served between 7 and 9 a.m. The lines can get long, so best to be there early!
I've wanted to do a piece on Joe and the boys for awhile, so met with them one morning last week. Also, here's the text from my intro in case you can't understand my marble-mouthed words!
The local barber shop once dominated main streets across small town Canada. Now, like with all things deemed "progress," finding a good barber shop is becoming a more difficult task.
Not in the City of Brooks, though. Joe and his boys are making sure of that.
Joe Ezzedine is the owner of the Downtown Barber Shop, and has been for over two decades. Joining him are sons Ezzy and Jay, plus they now have an apprentice for a whopping four chairs on the go. A visit to the Downton Barber Shop is like a trip back through time – to a simpler age where men found out the latest news over a trim and pontified from the barber's chair.
I've been getting my ears lowered at Joe's shop for over 15 years – back when there wasn't any salt in my hair. Nothing much has changed in the shop during that time, save the expansion the shop received a few years back, effectively doubling it's size and allowing the Ezzedine's to stock hair products.
Perhaps it is this familiarity that roots the Downtown Barber Shop into the very essence of Brooks; the stability that Joe and the boys will be there with a hearty greeting when you walk through the door. The fact that no matter whose chair you sit in, they know exactly what your usual cut is.
It's like a right of passage for a man to bring his son to Joe's shop, inaugurating another member into the community; and that's what going to the Downtown Barber Shop is: community. You're not just another noggin in the chair.
I had so much fun shooting this wedding, and I hope you enjoy this preview. It's an honour to be invited to partake in a client's big day - a responsibility I don't take lightly. It's extra special when you get to document the day of such a fun family.
It always amazes me how far family members travel. There was a large contingent of people from BC, and as far away as Nevada who made the trip to share in this joyous day.
Congratulations, Amanuel and Karen - thanks for the fun day, and may you have many happy years together!