Happy New Year!

Photo by Gail Paquette

When the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, I experience mixed emotion.

On the outside I exclaim in glee,

Photo by Gail Paquette

“Happy New Year!” and goose bumps cover my body. On the inside I am sad to see another year end.

What is it about the end of one year and the beginning of another that claims your soul intensely for a 10 second count down?

I always feel like I should be doing something amazing; like getting down at Times Square or drinking expensive champagne at some remarkably fabulous party.

As if in the very last seconds, I can joyously sum up a year and be ready for the next.

I get excited at the prospects of flipping to a new calendar year and a clean slate.

I am one-in-a-million.

Photo by Gail Paquette

Inspirational quotes, beautiful images and best wishes, clog my social media feeds.

“May this be your best year ever!” and “This is the year to make all your dreams come true!”

Such pressure, this one day is.  Do we have to make a proclaimation?

What if we love our life?

It is no wonder why death rates increase at this enlightening time of year.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2528881/Why-DANGEROUS-time-year-Death-rates-peak-Christmas-Day-Boxing-Day-New-Year.

Photo by Gail Paquette

Perhaps, there is no better time….. then at midnight on December 31st to give thanks, resolute one’s desires and adamantly claim change or progress.

Lose weight, quick smoking, call your mother more often?

“It’s just another day, honey.” said my mother.

“Going to church on Sunday, doesn’t make you a better person. It is what you do the other six days that count.”

Amen…..:) & Happy New Year!

Fireworks

Photo by Gail Paquette

Am I a Professional Now?

I got my first cheque today, for what I consider my first PR gig.

Somerset Farm Photo by Gail Paquette

Somerset Farm
Photo by Gail Paquette

I designed an ad. It was not just any old ad. It was the only ad this business publishes annually.

The client, Somerset Farms and the owner/CEO Peter Hyams.

I met Peter a while ago through a very dear friend.

Peter is a sheep farmer and an extremely passionate and dedicated one.

The catalogue that he places this very special ad in called, Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers Limited (CCWG).

The other kicker to this job was; he was very disappointed with the quality of the ad last year.

I spent 3 hours with him, side by side, placing photographs and fonts on different coloured backgrounds.

As I maneuvered through Photoshop, he would whisper, “This is incredible,” or “Wow, what a machine.”

With his input (I know nothing about sheep) we came up with an ad that he liked very much.

As it was in the evening and both of us had been working all day, I suggested we sleep on it.

I also had to call the printer to finalize the ad specs ( bleed lines, dpi, colour profile etc.) before it could be completed.

I returned to his farm the following day. We made minor changes and voila!

The Final Ad

The Final Ad

Branding Oneself

Business Card Front

Business card front

I am in my element in Digital Media, a course in the post-grad public relations program at Loyalist College.

The course description reads:

“An introduction to desktop publishing in the print, communications industry, focusing on the underlying principles of design and technique, including the capture and integration of digital photos and digital media.”

I am completely comfortable using Photoshop, In Design and a Mac. I am a visual learner. This course is right up my alley.

It has been a while since I have carried a business card. I am more apt these days to say, “Are you on Facebook?” or “just Google me.”

However, even in this world of making connections through social media, there is nothing like being handed a business card that has visual impact and attitude. It is like a gift.

Part of our mark in Digital Media is to develop our own personal brand.  Designing a business card is part of that.

I chose Photoshop as my desktop publishing program. With the help of my professor Peggy Collins, I learned many things about Photoshop that I never knew existed. It is not only a great tool for editing photographs but the design possibilities are extensive. I have been using this program for over 15 years and didn’t touch on them in the least.

I had to come up with one word that described me. It was harder then I thought.

Being a visual artist, I wanted a word that would illustrate that. I thought it would come to me. I waited.

Then I went to one of my favourite sites. This site has helped me through many ‘writer’s block’ episodes.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com

The word that jumped out at me was INSIGHTFUL.

The word, ‘sight’ became ‘eyesight’,  which became ‘eyeball.’ I had my graphic.

I wanted the design to be  simple and if I could have gotten away with just the words GOOGLE ME, on the back I would have.

Thought it was a bit too radical, just yet:) This works!

BusinessCardFinalback

Business card back

Approaching the podium

Interviewing someone for a story and taking their photo has always come easy to me. With my background in commercial photography, I have never had any fear when approaching people. I know, no matter what is going on in my life, if I smile and approach with confidence, it always goes well. Even when people are a little uncomfortable with getting their photo taken, I manage to calm their fears and get the shot that works.

When I had my first story published, I was a bit nervous to open the paper but I knew I had worked hard and even if God forbid their was mistakes, it WAS published.

One fear that seems to plague me is getting up in front of a crowd to speak.

On November 14th, I had to stand in front of my peers and give a speech. I was quite far down on the list and although relieved in one way, I barely heard the 20 speeches that went before me. I concentrated more on my dry mouth and sweaty palms. I knew my subject inside out, I had researched my speech 100 times.

Why was I so nervous?

As I approached the podium (so grateful for the podium), I felt like I was having an ‘out of body’ experience. I glanced around the room trying to make eye contact with everyone while at the same time smiling. When the cue was given to start, I cleared my throat,  took a deep breath and made it through the 3 1/2 minutes. It was like I was on auto-pilot. I had no idea how I did. I was just glad it was over.

These were the comments from my professor: 

Good speaking pace & projection.”

Great eye contact.”

Confident and professional speaking tone.”

You clearly knew your material.”

I lost only one mark for grasping the podium.

My subject, Luc Fournier Photo by Gail Paquette

My subject, Luc Fournier
Photo by Gail Paquette

So what am I so worried about?

My speech:

Luc Fournier brings people together.

As Membership Development Coordinator for the Belleville & District Chamber of Commerce, he works closely with his colleagues and CEO ensuring everyone is on the same page and meets the needs of 620 members and their employees by representing the Chamber and all they stand for.

He fosters relationships with new businesses and continues to build meaningful relations with all members.

Networking comes natural for Luc.

With previous degrees in business and environmental science, he took post-grad public relations because people told him he would be good at it

What inspires him most is getting to be around great people. Most everyone he meets has passion for what they do. He loves hearing people’s stories on how they got where they are today. He says it is infectious.

His education at Loyalist taught him the fundamentals of pr and he has applied all of them.

Beyond the grant writing and learning how to address the Mayor properly, Luc says being a membership development coordinator is about, how to treat people fairly. It is also about challenging yourself and continuous learning.

Immediately upon graduation he began working with a non-profit organization and successfully coordinated 2 major fundraising events, including the annual gala, and golf tournament, a lot of money was raised.

It was during this time that he applied at the chamber and secured the position.

Beating out some tough competition gave him added confidence.

His claim to fame, since assuming the role a year and a half ago: a significantly increased membership.

It is exactly what he was hired to do.

But to do that…. He first had to get his name out

He attended open houses, events and invited people to Chamber events. He spent countless hours making phone calls and emailing.

Being around people with vision is what inspires him and even though in the age where social media and technology are constantly on the leading the edge of building relationships and business, Luc prefers human interaction over Linked In message or email. Networking starts with being able to say hello, he says. Throughout his day-to-day activities it is a natural occurrence.

Luc has great clarity on the goals of the chamber and of chambers across Ontario. Larger numbers and more members across the province mean greater benefits for business owners .It is not without challenges with memberships fees, & the tightening of purse strings, however by effectively communicating the benefits to becoming a member, the numbers will grow (as he has proved) and the term “power in numbers” will be realized. He supports the OCC, Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s, (a body of 60,000 members) that rally the government for change, on behalf of chambers like his.

He is convinced that his position as Membership Development Coordinator for Belleville & District Chamber of Commerce is a solid stepping-stone in his career. The people he meets and the events he is privileged to attend, ensure he is making solid connections that will take him to the next step .

That he says is invaluable.

Strongman 2.0 #StrongerThanCancer

Strongman Competition Mohawk Fair,2008 Photo by Gail Paquette

Strongman Competition
Mohawk Fair,2008
Photo by Gail Paquette

I have known Rich Machell for five years. It all started at a Strongman Competition I attended at the Mohawk Fair in Deseronto in 2008. He was hosting the event. I was working for the Quinte Sports Review, a local rag that reported on local and typically non-mainstream sporting events.

Strongman Competition Mohawk Fair,2008 Photo by Gail Paquette

Strongman Competition
Mohawk Fair,2008
Photo by Gail Paquettents.

Strongman is definitely not mainstream. For some it may even conjure up images of circus acts of long ago.

Freakishly strongmen?

Yup.

And that’s what makes it so appealing, especially for a photographer storyteller…and strongman?

Hell, anyone of us photojournalists can go out and get a good hockey shot…tell a good hockey story but how many have a strongman in their portfolio?

Strongman Competition Mohawk Fair,2008 Photo by Gail Paquette

Strongman Competition
Mohawk Fair,2008
Photo by Gail Paquette

I have since covered a few events that Rich has organized and Saturday, November 2, in extremely unwelcoming weather I attended another:  #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser – WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013.

Rich contacted me looking for a film crew. When he explained to me, that this was a world–sanctioned grand prix event with organizers and competitors coming from the USA, Hungary and Sweden, I knew I wanted to cover it. Photo-ops danced in my head.

When he told me he was combining the event with a fundraiser for The Belleville General Hospital, my Public Relations side kicked in. I wondered how I could get the word out. With my background in photography and photojournalism and currently a student taking a post-grad in public relations, I decided to do this one for myself.

I will offer the results: a multi-media production and still photographs to anyone who wants to help promote the sport or the fundraiser.

It is a way for me to help draw attention to a sport that deserves it and a hospital’s need for diagnostic imaging equipment for early detection of cancer. Rich is extremely passionate about Strongman and cancer hit home for him not long ago. His father-in-law was diagnosed with not one but two brain tumours. Rich emphasized that on top of ‘fighting for his life,’ his father-in-law had to travel across Ontario for his diagnosis and treatment.

He would vehemently like to see all of the services needed, in the Quinte area.

Rain #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser-WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013 Photo by Gail Paquette

Rain
#StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser -WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013
Photo by Gail Paquette

Stepping back from the sport a few years back, his passion was re-ignited by the W.N.S.F. (World Natural Strongman Federation) whose vision is to promote natural strength. No drugs. It also means eating clean and training vigorously on equipment not typically found in a gym.

Two passions, one event…#StrongerThanCancer……………Strongman 2.0

Even though it was a very bad day weather wise and the athletes’ performance affected by the frigid temperatures and pouring rain, it was  a level playing field.  Contention with the same stresses.

Cold Wet Rope #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser-WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013 Photo by Gail Paquette

Cold Wet Rope
#StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser -WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013
Photo by Gail Paquette

Visually it was amazing to record.

Although sunny skies and a cool breeze would have been much more pleasant, the odds that mother nature gave us, apparently was just one more challenge and everyone surmounted.

The athletes were feeling the effects and so was I. Besides working hard to capture the moments, I fought with plastic bags and umbrellas trying to keep my camera dry. I neglected my purple fingers & soaked feet.

Puddles #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser-WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013 Photo by Gail Paquette

Puddles
#StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser -WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013
Photo by Gail Paquette

Cold #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser-WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013 Photo by Gail Paquette

Cold
#StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser -WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013
Photo by Gail Paquette

Afterwards in the warmth of the hotel’s lounge I interviewed emcee/announcer Sam Dubé, who has been involved in the sport for 15 years, as a trainer, consultant and coach. He is the announcer for TSN’s “Canadian Strength Athletic Series,” and  Rich describes him as “the voice of Strongman in Canada.”

“Given the fact that the weather was so inclement I think the guys exemplified amazing attitude and fortitude. They are truly ambassadors of the sport. I can’t speak highly enough about their effort and determination.” he said.

Injuries because of the cold #StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser-WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013 Photo by Gail Paquette

Injuries because of the cold
#StrongerThanCancer Strongman Fundraiser -WNSF Grand Prix Canada 2013
Photo by Gail Paquette

He actually said a lot more but that is another blog. The video is in production.