Category Archives: work

On Being a Sell Out

On the topic of selling out.  For the first time ever on this site, you will notice an ad on the right side of the page.  If you click on it, I get money which goes towards hosting costs and that kind of stuff for the site.

I have always resisted putting ads on the site but I have spent thousands of dollars into it over the years and have gotten very little back from it other the grief and sadness.  So here you go.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

We have a marketing campaign starting at work in a while that revolves around what staff have in their camera bags.    Here is my bag and gear that I pack to take along for day hikes into the mountains.  Of course I don’t hike with all of it but most of it will go with me to Banff and Yoho National Park this summer.

Inside My Bag: Hiking and Landscape Photography Kit

The Bag:

Manfrotto Off Road 30 L Hiker Backpack.  Last year we spent hiking through the backcountry of Banff National Park.  This year we are spending part of it hiking the Alpine Circuit of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.  Later this summer we will hike almost 25 kilometers to three different alpine tea houses so my wife can drink tea.  Doing that much hiking means that I want a backpack that is comfortable.  With it’s external frame and hip belt, this bag does a pretty good job of carrying the camera and other gear that I want to take on longer day hikes.

The pack is packed and tossed in the back of the car.  I keep the Ricoh WG-4 in the front seat with me in case something interesting happens on the road.  When we get set up in a campsite or a trailhead, I evaluate what lenses and gear that I will want and then what gear I will carry.  At that point it often comes down to three lenses, the 18-135mm and the 70-300mm but I like having the 35mm and 28mm lenses for the trip.  I have long wanted a longer zoom lens but the SIgma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens is too big and heavy and my wife also shoots Olympus and has the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 75-300mm F4.8 – 6.7 II Lens which is equivalent to the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary and less than a quarter of the weight.  Actually since she is carrying it in her bag, it weighs nothing.

The Contents:

  • Pentax K-3: I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II but the larger sensor and increased dynamic range of my Pentax means it will be the camera that I carry on those hikes.  I normally always have my grip on my camera but when climbing in the mountains, shedding weight is a big deal so it gets left at home.
  • Two 64 GB Lexar Platinum Cards.  Two 32gb Sandisk SD Cards as backup.
  • Three Extra Batteries:  That is excessive for most hikes but we like to stay at unpowered campgrounds because I find they have less partying.  While the washroom in the campground has power, it often has a powerbar full of cell phones being charged on it at all times.  I will probably pick up another two for this year. 
  • Pentax SMC DA 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED AL (IF) DC WR: Over the last two years of hiking I have seen countless tourists carry and be frustrated with their 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on mountain hikes because it is too long to capture the views on winding trails or take in the views on mountain passes.  Sometimes your best option (especially in good light) is a more versatile walk around lens.
  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Lens for Pentax:  Last year I watched people try to take selfies of The Boss (the alpha grizzly bear in Banff) with a cell phone.  That bear even eats other bears and has been hit by a train and just shrugged it off.  I prefer to not risk my life for a shot so I use this lens to keep some distance between myself and things that see me as dinner.
  • Pentax smc DA 35mm: Sometime during the trip I will head into Banff one evening and want to take some photos of the township or take some nice portraits of the family.  I am always torn over bringing this or the Pentax smc DA 50mm but on a APS-C camera, 50mm is often too long for street photography or if I am in a restaurant.  I lose a half stop of light with this lens but I get more shots in the end.  I really need to upgrade to the Sigma 35mm f1.4.
  • Pentax D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro: Many of you love macro photography.  I am not one of them and only bought this lens because of peer pressure.  My wife however loves macro with a passion so sometime on a trip I will find myself laying down and taking a photo of a flower and hating every single moment of it.  I just hope I don’t get bitten by something.
  • I won’t take it hiking with me but I will bring along my Pentax-M 28mm f2.8 lens.  It is manual focus but ideal for taking late night shots of the stars and the Milky Way.  The bad part of this lens is that I have to be awake in the middle of the night to use it.
  • Nalgene Water Bottle: For obvious reasons.  If it is a really hot day, I will also bring my Swell Water Bottle. You have no idea how amazing cold water tastes on a long mountain hike.  Why two bottles?  I have gotten sick then last two times I have had water out of a “pristine” mountain glacier stream. 
  • Gerber Scout Knife: Last year a male wolf came into our campsite and sniffed my head through the tent.  The wolf was between my axe and myself and all I had was this knife.  I like to think that if it came down to it I could have defended my kids with it but I have watched The Grey and know it would probably have won.  Luckily the wolf hadn’t watched The Grey and went back into the woods.
  • Adidas Saskatchewan Roughriders Receiving gloves:  I had some lightweight Nike jogging gloves for hiking but these are tackified in the fingers and palms giving you a firm grip on your camera.  If they are good enough to make the game winning catch, they are good enough for me to hang on to my camera.  They have been one of my best purchases of 2017. 
  • Niteize Carabineer light.  I have one of these on all of my camera bags.  If we are out too late or something goes wrong, I want to be able to be seen in the dark.  I also have one on my all black dog so I can see her at night.  It’s another one of those things that brought all sorts of people by our campsite who had children that wanted to check out the “blinking dog”. 
  • Panasonic HX-WA02 Camcorder: If I am going to shoot some video in the backcountry, I use this.  For this summer, I plan to upgrade to a Nikon Keymission 80 camera which is both lighter and smaller but has some really great features for hikers.
  • 52-Inch Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: For taller photographers, there seems to be only two alternatives.  The one is to carry a medium duty tripod so it is tall enough or carry a lightweight tripod on the trail and have to crouch over or kneel down when using it.  I prefer to crouch down.
  • Primus Classic Stove and Fuel: I carry one of this with me on cooler days and long hikes.  There is nothing better than stopping on a long hike and a cool day and cooking up a box of Three Cheese Kraft Dinner.  To save space, I toss the box and keep it in a zip lock bag.  It is the same amount of food as the the macaroni and cheese MREs but is about 15% the cost.
  • Clif Bars: They are easy to eat on the trail, give you a boost, and are edible even if not my favorite thing in the world.
  • Mess Kit: It’s not the best quality mess kit out there but it is lightweight and can cook the above mentioned Kraft Dinner.  Since contracting giardia twice in Banff over the years, I tend to boil up some water during that time.  If we are eating near a creek, I tend to boil the water up, pour it in the Nalgene and then put the entire bottle back in the glacier water to cool it back down. 
  • Nikon 10×25 binoculars: I have found myself hiking through alpine meadows that are frequented by grizzly bears.  Scouting it out works for me.  It saved me big time last year as I was able to see a grizzly feeding right in the middle of a trail I was about to walk down.
  • Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera: I look at this two ways.  It’s an addition camera battery and there times when I want a waterproof camera that can take high resolution files.   With the carbineer, I keep it clipped to the front of my pack.
  • Business Cards: I don’t know why but everywhere we went in Banff and Yoho National Parks people wanted to meet, pet, and take selfies or family portraits with my dog.  This generally led to them wanting to email me the photo or stay in contact with them. I gave out a ton of personal business cards and got some photos back of strangers with my dog.  Some said it was the highlight of their trip.  I don’t get it at all. 
  • Magellan eXplorist 110: There isn’t a lot of cell coverage once you leave the highways in the National Parks.  I have needed a GPS before but it is nice to check to know how much farther we have to go.   The last thing I do when I leave work on a trip is pick up a pack of Energizer Lithium batteries.  There are devices you want to have the best batteries on the market in them.  This is one of them. 
  • Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies.  This guide book is broken into multiple different books.  The big book is used at home for deciding on which hikes we want to go on.  Then we take the smaller and lighter trail guides which have the trail maps in them on the hike.   If there is one book that I recommend every hiker owns, it is this one.
  • A Lighter:  I get asked by friends if I have an alternative fire starting method like some fire steel or maybe a bow and rope to make fire without a lighter.  The answer is no.  I just carry another lighter.  I have never understood the principle of backing up a really effective method of starting a fire with a far less effective one.

Real World Test: Capturing the Saskatoon Blades with a Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

This is kind of fun.  I work with Derek Elvin and he is a great sports photographer.  He tested out a full frame Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M1 II at a Saskatoon Blades game last week at SaskTel Centre.

Real World Test: Capturing the Saskatoon Blades with a Nikon D750, a Canon EOS 7D Mark II and an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

He brought in some photos to work and a write up on all three cameras.  I edited and I think the result is a good look at three competing camera systems.  What surprised me was Derek’s conclusion that the mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M1 II out performed the Canon EOS 7D Mark II which is a camera that designed for sports photography.  If you are sports shooter, it’s worth a read.

Also, I’d like to take a moment to say that the Calgary Hitmen have one of the ugliest jerseys and logos that I have ever seen.  They are the worst in the WHL if not all of hockey.

Buyers Guide to Pentax Lenses

A Pentax Lens Buyers Guide for Pentax DSLRs

Pentax is behind Canon and Nikon when it comes to market share.  One of the things that I keep hearing while the cameras are great it doesn’t have the lens option to allow you to put together a decent photography kit.

As Pentax user I have always denied that but I decided to put together a buyers guide for lenses here back in 2013 that I felt was pretty impressive.  When I started doing social media for Don’s Photo in 2015, I moved it over to their blog but every time I looked at it, I realized that I had forgot a few lenses.  I finally got around to updating it today and I am blown away at the options that Pentax users have to put together a solid set of lenses from Pentax, Sigma, Rokinon, and Tamron.

I got asked a while ago how I pick what products I choose.  Stock levels some times play a small factor.  If I know the store can’t get a product because it is backordered for months, I generally don’t write about it because what’s the point of getting someone fired up about something that they can’t get until 2023.  Basically I need to get fired up about it or a colleague is fired about it and that gets me excited about it. 

With Pentax being a brand of camera that both and I use and love, it’s probably a little more personal then other brands that Don’s Photo sells in that each of these lenses have been heavily debated and researched by Mark and I.

Some summer photography posts

Here are some longer pieces I wrote for the Don’s Photo Blog this summer.

Those that can’t… write tutorials about how to do it.

Speaking of photography, I finally went out last night with my new Pentax K-3.  It was dark before Wendy and I left the house so using a new camera with only the light of street lights was fun but I was happy with the results… you know the results that I could see.

Winnipeg

I flew to Winnipeg on WestJet Encore yesterday.  It was the first time I had ever flown on the Bombardier Q400 NextGen airplane before.  Basically it is an improved Bombardier Dash-8.  The main difference that I noticed was that I didn’t think the plane was about to shake apart when we took off and at no time during the flight did I think it was going to fall from the air.  A friend told me once while flying on one that he noticed fluids that looked like oil coming from the engine.  When he pointed it out to the stewardess, she said, “It does that once in a while”.  My favourite Dash 8 story was while flying on Air Canada after 9/11 and reading about how the doors on all planes were now fortified, the shaking from the Dash 8 was so intense that the cabin door and several overhead bins popped open. 

In my defence I was flying out at 6:00 a.m. so at 4:30ish when I was checking in, I looked at my seat and never registered that it was right beside the engine.  Despite that it wasn’t that noisy and the flight is less than 90 minutes.  If I remember correctly, the Q400 series is quite a bit faster than the older Dash-8s.  It was noticeable.  Of course the flight was packed.  Good for WestJet, not so good for me.

When I woke up at 3:45a, my Yahoo! Weather app was showing temperatures in Fahrenheit and not Celsius.  It also showed it snowing in Winnipeg.  I thought the entire app was working oddly.  I was wrong.  It was snowing in Winnipeg.  Not some light fluffy snow like the movies.  Bitter arctic snow that is designed to freeze Anaheim Ducks and take away their will to win a hockey game (it almost worked).

Getting into Winnipeg’s amazing airport was nice and then it was off to work.  Most of my impressions of Winnipeg come from seven years of  Bryan Scott’s blog Winnipeg Love Hate and the writing of Bartley Kives in the Winnipeg Free Press.  Driving from the airport I couldn’t help but recognize so much of Winnipeg from seven years of Scott’s photography and from reading Kives over the years. 

After spending some quality time in Winnipeg, it was time to fly home.  I had some time to kill in the airport and it was recommended that I try Gondola Pizza.  I did and it was so good that it is worth the flight to Winnipeg just to try. 

Gondola Pizza

I wasn’t the only one that thought so.  As I was waiting to depart, Calm Air’s flight was leaving for Thompson and it kept paging this customer over and over and over again.  Finally he sauntered up to the exasperated flight attendant and says, “I had to wait till they finished my pizza”.  Yes, a guy made his plane wait for about 10 minutes while he waited for his Gondola Pizza and he admitted to it.  Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible pizza but I don’t think I would risk my flight for anything, even a really good pizza.

The flight home was packed as well but it was only 90 minutes and again, I had an engine seat.  The Bose headphones drowned out most of the noise and it was a fairly relaxing flight home.  Now if only someone would open a Gondola Pizza here in Saskatoon.

The more you write, the less you make

It’s not easy being a writer

When author Richard Flanagan finished his latest novel, relative poverty forced him to contemplate getting a job in the mines in northern Australia. His Booker Prize win has spared him a life underground for the time being, but he did not waste the opportunity to acknowledge in his speech that “writing is a hard life for so many writers.”

And it’s only getting worse, as Elizabeth Renzetti wrote wrote recently in these pages. Twelve thousand dollars – that’s the figure the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates as the average annual income writers make from their writing in this country. I remember what it’s like to live on $12,000. You live in a shabby apartment furnished with hand-me-downs from your parents and garbage-picked gems, you allot $25 a week for food and you wear a borrowed dress when you’re invited to a gala fundraising dinner for writers at a fancy hotel. You take the subway there. If you are in your late 20s, as I was then, it’s fine, you make do because you are doing what you love and most people don’t have that extraordinary privilege.
You don’t squander that privilege. You work your ass off. And hopefully you’re rewarded for that effort. It worked for me, as it did for many writers of my generation, perhaps the last for whom it was possible to live off their writing. In Britain, writers’ incomes have fallen by 30 per cent in the past eight years, collapsing to what one Guardian headline called “abject” levels.

So many writers I know are looking back at this point in mid-life and saying, “I had a good run.” A good run saw us earn increasingly bigger if still modest advances. (Yes, $75,000 sounds like a lot, but when it takes five years to complete a book and your agent is taking a cut of 15 per cent, you’re still below the poverty line if this is your sole source of income.) Publishers were once able to invest in a career, with income from bestsellers offsetting the less sensational works in a catalogue. Now, every book has to be a winner. If you fail to earn out your advance through sales, your next advance will be lower, or perhaps, as has become increasingly the case among my mid-career contemporaries, you will lose your publishing home.

Writing seems to have become one of the few careers where the more experienced and proficient you become over the years, the less you are compensated. And the humiliations of this are great. It does become difficult to uphold belief in the worth of your work. And since this is work intrinsically tied to one’s sense of self, it becomes difficult to uphold a sense of self-worth. It takes ego and adrenalin to work in solitude, through years of confusion and uncertainty, in the writing of a book. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will. Of course, there is reward in art for art’s sake, but few can sustain morale, motivation or mortgage on an income of private aesthetic fulfilment.

Now that the US economy has improved…

morale is way down.

Despite an improved job market, employee morale is on the decline, new research shows.

A study by Salary.com revealed an increased number of U.S. employees are lacking fulfillment, pride and commitment when it comes to how they view their work. Specifically, just 38.5% of workers are personally fulfilled by the work they do, down from 59% a year ago.

Additionally, just over half of employees are committed to their work and career, compared with more than 70% who felt the same last year.

Abby Euler, general manager at Salary.com, said that with the economy slowly improving employees may be taking a harder, more critical look at their lives, their work and personal situation.

“They’re evaluating their careers by measuring overall fulfillment and asking, ‘What does my career add to my life? Am I where I want to be in life?'” Euler said. “The psychological toll of the great recession may have caused people to feel ‘burnt out’; where in a down economy employees tended to put their head down, accept lower pay with more responsibility, and were often underemployed or even unemployed.”

The study shows that today’s workers aren’t as willing to do extra work and are more concerned with just collecting a paycheck each month. Less than 20% of those surveyed are willing to put in extra hours simply because they enjoy their work, down from 48.5% in 2012. At the same time, more than 70% are primarily working for their paycheck, up from 55% last year.

What’s new around here

Since I have been too busy to post much, here is obligatory catch up post.

  • I have had a lingering pneumonia for the last couple of weeks.  Lots of fluids in the chest which means lots of coughing up said fluids.  It has also meant a lot of sleepless nights.  So tired right now.  Being sick really antagonizes my neuropathy so not only am I in pain but I think it’s raining all of the time.  From the pot into the fire I guess. 
  • While things are going forward at Stewart Properties, it is slow progress on many fronts.  Some of the projects we have going will make a huge difference in the life of Saskatoon and are still really exciting.  The key word in that is slow and with not much happening as we wait on architects, government, and then it will be financing; I decided to pick up another job this fall and am working at Don’s Photo where I get to play with and talk about cameras and photography every day.  Its temporary but an enjoyable way to spend the day.
  • No one comes in upset at a camera store.  They are coming in because they a) have researched a product and want your opinion b) are so excited about a new camera they can’t sleep (it happens a lot c) are stressed because they broke their camera and are hoping you can fix it.  If you can’t fix it, they know it’s their fault but if you can, they are very, very happy.  (pro tip, hit the “Restore to default settings” button and see if that helps).  Most people leave really, really happy.
  • Favorite customers are on Thursday evenings when the hardcore camera enthusiasts come in to talk about things.  It’s quiet and you have conversations about cameras, technology, film, and amazing vacation stories.  One the other night ended with, “I took the picture and then the wolverine started to get closer”.
  • My time slot on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show has now changed on Mondays.  Instead of being on at 5:15 with Ian Goodwillie, I am now on with Bronwyn Eyre at 4:20 p.m.  Expect us to get a bit more political.  I am still on the air at 5:15 on Wednesdays.

Entrepreneurial Life Shouldn’t Be This Way–Should It?

Excellent article about depression and entrepreneurs.

Earlier this year, two tech entrepreneurs, Aaron Swartz and Jody Sherman, committed suicide independently of each other. Both faced incredible pressures. And both suffered from depression.

It’s not a topic the start-up community understands well. After all, this is the very culture that turned the chestnut “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” into a much-celebrated verb. Admitting you struggle with depression is like admitting you can’t reach your bootstraps. It’s assumed that successful people can just “shake it off.”

But that’s not how it works.

I know. I’ve struggled with serious bouts of depression three times in my life. I’m not talking about a series of miserable days or struggling through the pressure and stress of a failing company. I’m talking about months of feeling emotionally drained.

Life on $7.40/hour

Claudette Wilson is 23 and works two jobs in the fast food industry, one at Burger King and one at a pizza place. She is on her feet for over 12 hours a day and makes $7.40 an hour. 

1. What is your typical day like?

Everyday for me is different. I can tell you how a typical Saturday is like: first I wake up around 8am to go to work at Burger King from 10am to 6pm. After I get off of work from Burger King, I go to my second job at Jet’s Pizza from 6pm to midnight. After I get done with working, sometimes I hang with friends, sometimes I just go to sleep.

2. There’s been a lot of talk lately about people wanting work/life balance. Does your job provide that?

My work/life balance is pretty rough at times. There’s not even much time for me, let alone anyone else. In a weird way though, having both jobs does provide balance to me and a change of scene, but I’m not sure about others.

3. What’s the craziest/most unexpected thing that’s ever happened to you while on the job?

The most unexpected thing that happened to me when I was at work is when I witnessed a robbery at the Burger King I work at. The guy tried to get away in a cab. One of the cashiers and my manager at the time ran outside after the cab and chased it down to get the cab driver’s attention. The driver stopped and got out of the car while the cashier and the robber tussled in the backseat for awhile. In the end, the robber got out of the car and ran across the street and got away.

4. What makes for a really good day on the job?

A good day on the job to me is when I arrive on time, and everyone is in their position and ready to work. There aren’t many bad attitudes and the customers aren’t being rude. The best kind of day is when everyone is doing their job and the day goes by swiftly.

5. What’s your annual salary? Do you get benefits?

I get paid $7.40 an hour. My annual salary varies depending upon how many hours I work, but I have not made over $15,000 ever annually. I do not receive benefits. I have worked as a cook, cashier and in just about every position short of management off and on for the last three years. I still live at home with my mother and try to go to school on the side. I do dream of something more, but it’s really hard to get jobs right now.