Which Path Are You On?

Leading me down the path

There are times in life when you have a goal, and the path to get there seems pretty clear. You head in that direction, and with minor corrections along the way, you get to where you hoped to go, or close.

Other times the goal is less clear, but the path seems to lead you along. Along the way there are corrections, forks in the road where each possible path seems equal. Given that you have no clear goal, it doesn’t really matter which path you take. To paraphrase a famous cat (or was it a queen?), “either way, you’ll get there”.

Both scenarios can be satisfying, and it’s good to mix them up. Following the first keeps you focused, and following the second helps you explore.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring, with occasional periods of focus. That’s served me well.

How about you? Do you take time for both?

Awards, Awards, Awards

It was quite a treat two days ago, when I got a call from SBofT asking if I was able to cover their Business Excellence Awards (BEA) on November 3, at Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey. Their usual photographer, my shooting buddy, was unable to work that night. He usually has the event well covered.

The shoot covers a VIP session, where the nominees get to meet and greet before dinner, general networking before dinner, speeches and the award presentations themselves. There are usually several photo requests after the event as well – winners and the family, winners with the employees, people with the keynote speakers, etc.

Just for a bit of a change here, I’m going to link off to the SBofT photostream on Flickr. Photos from the event are up. I spent the morning doing some post-processing work and put a photo disc together by 2 pm. Heather, in the SBofT office, had them posted in about 5 minutes. She’s quick!

Unfortunately, none of the photos have titles, but you can find out who won what via the SBofT website.

Overall, I was happy with most of the shots. I used Nikon’s newish 24-120 f4 lens, which offers a good focal range for event work. Compared to a f2.8 lens, the f4 is a bit of a trade off with weight, but the focus is quite responsive.

That said, there were a few shots where I didn’t seem to get the focus where I wanted it. It could have just been camera shake, but it could also have been a combination of f-stop and focal length not giving me the depth of field I needed with the subject(s) I had.

I’ll have to experiment more with the lens. Each one has it’s own foibles; it just takes time and practice to get use to them to advantage.

How did you get started in photography?


Being one of two staff photographers at my day job has re-kindled my love of photography. 

No, I haven’t always been interested in photography. I was in my twenties before I picked up a Kodak Instamatic. Taking pictures with that was pretty basic and not very satisfying. After exploring the craft and reading a few photo mags, I quickly moved up to a Pentax Spotmatic and a Seagull Twin Lens Reflex. I loved that Pentax for a couple of years, until my ex dropped it in the salt chuck one day. Photography was never the same.

About the time my camera went swimming, manufacturers were introducing electronic aperture and shutter controls. I tried a Konica and then an Olympus, but to me, they never really lived up to the hype. The Olympus, for instance, ran through batteries faster than I could charge them. I found out (much later) that there was a fault in the circuit board. Of course by that time I’d given up, because you couldn’t find a new camera without all the electronics. Oh my, how things have changed 😉

In the 90’s, I tried a Kodac digital and then a Nikon Coolpix 990. They were fun for a short while, but the resolution was lacking and I needed more control. The cost of a prosumer DSLR was too much for me, and I found film boring, so that was about it for another 10 years.

In 2006, I started working with the local Board of Trade. The gig was supposed to be a few hours a week on contract, but soon grew to a full time affair. Part of the job was to take photographs at over 80 events a year with a little Fuji S-something. Out of frustration a few months later, I bought a spanking new Nikon D80 and a bunch of gear. That led to a D300 and now a D700 and lots more gear (sigh).

So that’s my story. I’m currently focused on event and nature photos, and I’m learning more about vision and light.

What’s your story?

Another round of kudos to SIWC

Over the last 17 years, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference has grown from filling a school classroom, to packing the largest conference centre in Surrey, at the Guildford Sheraton Vancouver Hotel. Over 500 writers, agents, editors and students from around the world filled the hotel again this year for an immersive celebration of writing.

This conference is more of a craft conference, than say the Vancouver International Readers’ and Writers’ Conference. At SIWC, there’s more one-on-one interaction between new or established authors, and their potential editors and agents. Workshops make up the core of the event, with dinnertime keynote speakers adding inspiration and stories.

This year’s workshops ranged from writing historical fiction, to using social media, and everything in between. There really is something for everyone, and there is little chance to get bored.

For more experienced writers, Master Classes lead off in the days before. At the conference itself, daily opening sessions, workshops and lunch speakers fill up the day, and evenings are punctuated with Night Owl events, like this year’s Shock Theatre.

Everyone shares, everyone learns, everyone has fun. You hear that again and again through the weekend, as you wander the halls during breaks.

Other than a one year break, I’ve been attending SIWC since about 2002. For various reasons, this year I only managed a basic pass, with no meals. While the workshops were worth it, I missed much of the camaraderie you get with the full meal deal. Sad, but it’s a lesson learned. Next year it will be the full pass, with all workshops and meals included. I missed that immersive experience I’ve learned to associate with SIWC.

So, kudos to Coordinator kc dyer, the Surrey School District’s Tara Holt, and all the other staff and volunteers for putting on another great show. Hope you were following all the tweets posted via #siwc2009. The tweeters were sure enthusiastic, and I think you’ve expanded the audience for next year.

The shingle is up

It's now official. Donsca Communications is a registered business, and I'm stoked.

I've been operating under D.W. Summers and Company since 2004, but a) it's hard to say, b) it's hard to write on checks, c) it's too long for my liking and d) I've changed focus since setting it up. DWS-Co may stay as an associate company, but I'll be working mainly through Donsca from now on.

More to come, once I've flushed out the plans a bit. Nothing fancy. I'm keeping it simple and small. For now, I just wanted to drop a marker for when it happened. 

Rag time

Ok, just a couple of things to catch up.

BC Business magazine had a short piece in the May 2009 issue (p19) about how the death of the phone book is exaggerated. The publishers claim 70% of the US population is still using phone books regularly to find local business. Perhaps.

A little further along in the article they talk about the waste produced when the phone books are recycled. Hey, says the publisher, we support the forest industry and they are the sole source of tree planting in BC.

Hmmm, I’m still thinking about that one.

On another note, our two local TV stations say they should be getting a cut of Shaw Cable’s financial pie. It seems that the ad revenue that’s kept them afloat isn’t enough any more, so they want Shaw to share the revenue stream from household cable subscribers.

Noodling on that one, it seems to me that if you watch an hour of news, you’ll only get about 30-40 minutes of programming. The rest of the hour is ads, the stations telling you what’s up next (after more ads), and the station patting itself on the back for being the best (and sometimes even that is an ad). Sigh. Perhaps they are just not charging enough for ads?

Please, I’d rather not pay more for that. Perhaps if the CRTC takes pity on them, Shaw should make the local stations pay per view. or add them to a tier of their own where we can choose to pay more and watch. Or not. After all, it’s my money they’re talking about, and I should have a choice to pay. Or not.

And last but not least…(and speaking of paying)

Golden Ears Bridge June 14, 2009

The Golden Ears Bridge opened up for a party today. People came. And came, and came. The first thing I ran into was a lineup 50 yards long at Colossus in Langley, where they were offering transit to the event. It took about 20 minutes to catch the bus to a transit event. Gotta laugh at that.

Once down to the bridge though, I saw why. There must have been close to 100,000 people walking around during the course of the day. There were a few protesters on about the planned new roads and the paramedic strike, but mostly there were families, out to enjoy the day. This was probably the last time the public will have free access to the bridge. A bit of Metro Vancouver history, I guess. Glad I went.

It’s an impressive structure. Too bad it’s going to cost commuters and arm and a leg to use it. Just think about it. If you pay around $3.00 each way, every day to work and work 200 days a year, that’s an additional $1200 bucks out of your pocket. If you live on the north side of the Fraser and work on the South, you might be better off working at Whistler. At least the drive on that new road is free.

China anyone?

Well it’s been pretty dark in here for a couple of months. Apologies. I’ve started a full time job with the Surrey Board of Trade and it’s taken a while to get use to the 9 to 5 cycle. More on that later, but let’s just state the obvious for now – it’s very different from being self-employed. Interesting work, great collegues, but the regular hours take some getting use to. It’s coming, but it’s taking some time.

With that short introduction to let you know where this post is coming from, I wanted to publicize something the SBoT is offering through Dec 22. No, I won’t get a kickback on this, but I am trying to help my employer.

They have a great deal right now that they’re offering with Citislinc International. A tour package to China: 4 Cities, 8 days and 7 nights, all inclusive, for a non-member price of $1,849. Members save $50. The price includes round trip airfare, hotels, airport taxes, 3 meals a day, English speaking tour guides, and admission to a number of events. I’m no expert, but given that the cost of air alone runs close to a grand in Canadian bucks , this sounds like a pretty good deal.

If you’re thinking of doing business in China sometime, the organizers can set up some meetings with people in your industry. If you just want to tour around, that’s fine too.

There’s an information session about the trip on December 12 at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel between 7 and 9 pm. Final deadline for a $125 deposit is December 22. Give them a call at 604.581.7130.

Now (hopefully) back to regular programming.

Emblings in our forests?

According to Business in Vancouver (pay wall link) last week (August 22-28, 2006), a BC seedling producer is in the news (link is dead). The company is talking about using their biotech product to help BC’s forests recover from the losses caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle. We’ll need lots of trees to do that, and the company could ramp up production pretty fast.

Still, I expect they’ll get some pushback from the very foresters they hope to help. And unless they’re careful, the company will run into lots of opposition from the public – can’t be helped with a production process with the unfortunate name of somatic embryogenesis.

The technology they have is not all that new. It was developed late last century as a way to reproduce trees. While it *is* biotechnology, it doesn’t change the genetic structure of plants. It involves chopping up very young seed embryos and treating the pieces with various lab and chemical tricks to form undifferentiated masses of cells, or calluses. You can harvest plantlets off those calluses for years and make trees. (As a very loose metaphor, just imagine a sourdough culture in the fridge that you use periodically for pancakes or bread.)

Of course, if you introduce genetically engineered material, that’s what you get in the callus. Many scientists hail the process as being a great way to beef up numbers in transgenic tests. But most of us won’t like that for forestry use. The thought of engineered trees from labs lends itself to all kinds of imaginative meanderings. I’m sure there would be a big push back on the idea, and not just from environmentalists. I think the producer knows that.

I suspect the Ministry of Forests wouldn’t like it either. Their own excellent geneticists argue that because of the diverse BC ecology, our forests contain a lot of genetic variation. We can breed trees to suit and keep a lot of the natural variation intact. Why alter the tree’s genetics. It might make some sense in private timberlands down south; it doesn’t make sense in BC’s public forest. I think the producer knows that too.

Actually, back in the 1990s I had a hand in developing nursery practices for somatic seedlings of interior spruce. The material came from regular seed, from normal trees. We affectionately called the plantlets ’emblings’ (from embryos), rather than seedlings (from seed). Actually, we went as far as trying to take rooted cuttings from older emblings too. Heh, we called them stumblings (aka stuck emblings, ’cause you had to stick the cuttings in peat to get them rooted). That term didn’t (ahem) stick.

I also helped set up some of the initial plots to test the growth of emblings in the forest. There was a lot of concern about long term performance, as well as with maintaining genetic diversity in the resulting crop. After all, the research lab had only selected a few original seeds from a few original trees. All the technology the young plantlets were subject to, from callus formation, through lab extraction, through nursery, could easily result in some selection too. Those plants that could endure all the manipulation survived. Those that couldn’t endure didn’t last.

Was there enough diversity in those that were left? How were we to deal with that? Were the original trees the ones we wanted to be using as ‘parents’ for these new trees? Did the original seeds represent the ‘parents’ good traits, or were they going to produce the sickly runts of the family? So many questions were being asked that the Ministry of Forests decided to wait. They wanted the answers from field testing before allowing emblings for reforestation programs. And of course, any genetic trickery was out of the question.

The cost was also an issue. I expect it’s has come down with time, but back then a finished embling cost 60 cents to $1.00, depending who you talked to. That was expensive when most seedling costs were below 40 cents. The cost will have to be comparable if foresters are going to consider planting them over large areas. Buying and planting seedlings is a big cost consideration in reforestation.

Those were some of the issues early on, and I expect things haven’t changed too much since then. Transgenics aside, the technology has some niche uses, but the research results are not in for wide scale forestry use. Most of the test plots are not even 15 years old yet. The trees are just getting started. Without those test results, I doubt we’ll see any large scale production of emblings for reforestation in BC anytime soon.

Ugly email in preview panes

MarketingSherpa talks about email today (only available through Aug 14, 2006):


… if your readers use Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Mozilla Thunderbird (or a host of others), chances are your email templates need a redesign … as of yesterday. Why? Your email may look close to unreadable in more than 60% of their in-boxes.”

Aaahhh, those lovely html emails with beautiful images that don’t show up when images are blocked, or carefully layed out pages that don’t shrink to fit the preview pane. I can’t count the number I get from various advertisers of online products, office supplies, or software, that are like downloading a webpage that’s not set to fit in an email preview pane. Most of them just get boosted into the delete folder after they’re marked read.

The curious thing was that the email from Marketing Sherpa was set out in two columns – advertising and images on the left, and the content extending well past the right margin in my preview pane.

Hmm…well, it sounds like 74% of readers prefer their reading panes horizontal, under the message. I keep mine on vertical, on the right – 26% prefer that.

The article offers some help to deal with images and advertising. Worth a read if you get some time before the 14th.

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Tails within the tail

Just reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. It’s easy to read, and there is lots of excellent, detailed content – the sign of a good writer/editor. Even though I’m not quite finished it yet, I highly recommend reading it.

I’ve followed some of the book content and the discussion about it through his Long Tail blog, but today I was really struck by his description of the microstructure of the tail – actually a series of tails within the tail. For me, it added some clarity to the definition of niche, and I hadn’t seen that discussed before, or at least I wasn’t receptive to it when I did.

Good stuff. I have a feeling that this is one book I’ll have to read a couple of times to absorb all the ideas and what they mean to me.

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