Photography

Looking for perspective? Visit a big volcano

It's bigger than you think

Seriously, go look at a Volcano. Ok, some people might not have the privilege (or the unfortunate nearness) of living near a mountain like Mt. St. Helens, but the next time you are nearby, you should go. But why?

Geologic Time is Long

In the era of “internet time”, where everything changes in nanosecords and it’s tough to remember what you ate for breakfast much less what happened yesterday, visiting a volcano (a still active volcano) like Mt. St. Helens reminds you that our lifespans are very very short in the face of geologic time. The last major eruption of this volcano happened around 1500. The 1980 eruption (which some of us remember) was a blip. Looking at the geologic record provides us with some interesting clues and encourages us to think in much different ways. If you’re interested in thinking about time for the long haul, you might want to check out the 10,000 year clock project.

Nature Doesn’t Care What You Want

Although we clearly influence and change the scape of the planet, the sheer scope, scale, and speed of the changes that can happen in the face of an eruption like the one at Mt. St. Helens dwarf any changes that you or I might try to make on the planet’s course. That doesn’t mean we should give up on our individual efforts – but what it does mean is that the planet can be fickle. In the 1980 eruption, enough material was displaced to fill almost three quarters of a cubic mile. That’s a lot of stuff. See more details about the 1980 eruption here.

It’s Awesome

The sheer scale of the mountain is amazing. You can see Mt. St. Helens for miles on the approach to the Johnson Ridge Observatory (accessed from WA state 504), and yet it still is an incredible site to see. The photo above was taken a Johnson Ridge, about 5 and a half miles away from the Volcano and at an elevation of about 4200 feet (the mountain is around 8,000 feet in height.) Looking at Mt. St. Helens from that distance, you feel as if you’re facing it square on, yet can see the vast influence the mountain had on the surrounding valley when it erupted 31 short years ago.

Of course, Mt. St. Helens isn’t the only interesting natural wonder out there. But it’s a pretty cool one, and I’m amazed to think that I hadn’t been there and had driven past the general area tens or hundreds of times before I decided to go. And I’m glad I did.

Food, Marketing Strategy, Photography

Go to the fair – an American Pastime

Ferris Wheel, Evergreen State Fair

Spend lots of money, ride some rides, and have a great time.

Quick – when I say “cotton candy”, “Ferris Wheel”, and “Pig Races”, what do you think? If you’re like a lot of Americans, you think of a County or State Fair. But why should you care about such an event? It’s loud, noisy, wasteful, expensive … and wonderful.

While a county fair isn’t the perfect economic stimulus we’re waiting for (this isn’t an argument for or against such a measure, just a survey of a different way money can spread in a local economy), it’s actually a great model of the American economy working in action. State Fairs involve public-private partnerships, induce people to spend a lot of money that lands both back in the immediate community and the larger community, and by the way, they are a lot of fun. So, why do they work?

The Fair Only Comes Once A Year

Fairs are time-bound – they occur annually, and usually at a specific time of the year. This creates a lot of pent-up demand and also draws crowds. When you have crowds of people who are looking to spend money (or just to see a spectacle), you get a lot of economic activity in a short period of time.

When the fair’s done, it’s done for an entire year, so people tend to spend more money than they would otherwise. State fairs are also excellent examples of reservation pricing – or the presentation of a nearly infinite way that people can choose to spend the right amount of money for them – so you can walk into the door for a low price, stroll around and pay almost nothing more … or spend all the money in your wallet.

It’s a rippin’ good time.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the fair is REALLY FUN. Whether you’re riding rides, people watching, or just strolling around to see the unusual exhibits, you are definitely going to see things you don’t see every day. And it’s a great time. 

It’s local (and national)

Whether you are talking to local 4-H kids, local vendors, or national brands, the fair is a place where your money goes many places all at once. That’s why it’s a neat fusion of hucksterism, local economy, fun, and a genuine good time.

Enjoy your local county or state fair – there’s likely one nearby – and remember, if you don’t get to go this year, there’s always next year.

See more pictures of the 2011 Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, WA here.

Innovation, Media Mind, Photography

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town (Even if Lord Vader Doesn’t Allow Parade Photos)

HOW TO: Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

I went to the Redmond Derby Days parade today and realized something important. Not only do I love parades (they are fun because you see things like the scene above, and you definitely don’t see Stormtroopers most days around Seattle), but they also remind you of the importance of being a tourist in your own town.

We are all quite busy, and it’s easy with the multi-screen temptations of mobile, social, and cable to forget how fun and important it is to go to a shared place, have a shared experience (In Real Life) and have a reference point to life in a small(er) town. And that town need not be Redmond, WA. It can be wherever you are.

The Challenge: Find One Thing You Ought To Visit

When someone comes to visit your town, don’t you usually go into overdrive mentally to find the one thing that they ought to do, eat, or visit so that they can have an authentic experience? In Seattle, that might be go to a baseball game, visit the Pike Place Market, walk the streets of Queen Anne, enjoy the Japanese Garden at the University of Washington, or any one of a hundred different things. So why don’t you do any of these more often?

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pretend that you’re coming to visit town. And I’m going to make a mental list of the places we should go sightseeing. Then, I’m going to visit some of them (maybe one a week.) Once I do, I’m going to try to look at them with new eyes and see if there’s something I missed.

Every Day Is Not A Parade

It’s true that annual events can be boring – I’m not suggesting they are always as exciting as seeing Lord Vader striding down your street – but there is always something new that you could be finding. So go find it. And then tell someone about it. Because in the act of sharing that “familiar” thing with a friend, there’s the opportunity to discover something new. And try not to take too many pictures of Mr. Skywalker. There’s that Force thing to contend with if he gets upset.

Marketing Strategy, Media Mind, On Writing, Photography, Product Thoughts, Social Networking

What’s on your mobile device?

Your mobile life and what you can do in the rest of your life

I’ve had an iPhone for almost a year, and am astonished at the changes that it’s made in my productivity.  The main difference is that where on my BlackBerry or Windows Mobile phone I mainly read email while on the go or between meetings, I can now access web applications, read email and phone at the same time, and generally live all of the brand promise of the iPhone.  Yes, it sounds like a fanboy shill, but it’s true.

To try and avoid the eye candy that Apple would like to place in front of me in order to make me buy more stuff, I focus on my iPhone home screen and try to make that the center of my mobile productivity.

I do this by splitting up the screen into four general regions:

  • Messages, Notes, Calendar = Upper Left
    Here’s where I go when I need to note something quickly, find out when I’m meeting someone, or to send a quick text.  I don’t spend much time here but I do need to look at it frequently, so I keep these apps on the most easily accessed real estate of the iPhone home screen.  If I need to remember something, I place it into Evernote, my “cloud brain.”
  • Photos = Upper Right
    I love to take pictures, so I keep a few camera apps handy (ShakeitPhoto gives a cool “Polaroid-like” effect, while Hipstamatic has a whole series of effects) to snap and upload pictures.
  • Social + Location + Aggregators = Lower Left
    To keep up with the news by and about the most important people in my network, I use Gist.  I also use the Facebook and LinkedIn mobile apps.
  • Misc = Lower Right
    A few more of my favorite apps live here, including Zendesk which allows me to reach customers at a moment’s notice.

Finally, I’ve added the Mobile Twitter app to my home deck, as I spend a lot of time in Twitter managing multiple accounts and keeping up with a variety of hashtag conversations online.  This is the third in a series of iPhone home page organizations, and I’ve noticed a theme emerging — how can I do more seamlessly in a mobile way while limiting distractions — and the home screen is getting better.  (It’s not without distraction, but better ;).

I’d love to hear how you arrange your mobile device to improve your work.

On Writing, Photography

See New York City like you haven’t seen it before

If you want to see New York, you need to see it from the Empire State Building. I recently took a tour and viewed the city from the observatory on the 78th floor.

Yes, it’s overpriced. Yes, the whole experience was a bit cliched and felt something like Disneyland. Yes, it was crowded and no one knew exactly why they were there.

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On Writing, Photography

What makes a photographer?




Lake Washington

Originally uploaded by gregmeyer

Chris Brogan’s post yesterday on Nikon’s request for him to test a D300 spurred me to think more about being a “photographer”.

When I was a kid, I thought a photographer was someone with fancy equipment, who worked in a darkroom and made neat tricks with emulsion, burning and dodging, and smelled of funny chemicals. When I was a teenager, I thought photographers were artists who worked in large-format Polaroid cameras and got their subjects to take signature poses (Annie Leibovitz). When I was in college, I thought photography was about documentary (Mary Ellen Mark, Library of Congress, war correspondents).

As an adult I gave up on the idea of being a photographer for a while. If no one was going to pay me to take pictures for a living, I thought, why bother? I spent a long time not taking pictures (too bad), and then gradually made my way back into the hobby. Last year I bought a Nikon D5000 and love the advances that technology has made, the easy of use, and the ability to avoid stinky darkroom chemicals and still end up with great pictures.

Now, I’m entering a new phase. I carry a camera (iPhone) with me every day. I realize now that being a photographer is a state of mind. You can capture the world with a Nikon D300, like Chris did (and nice pictures too), or just see the world around you with an iPhone camera and you’ll get some interesting views as well. A picture may not be worth a thousand words, but it definitely tells a story, raises questions, and makes you think.

On Writing, Photography

Why I love working in Seattle




Pioneer square

Originally uploaded by gregmeyer

Working in the city of Seattle in the Pioneer Square area is a bit gritty. It’s nothing like gliding to work in the gleaming eastside office towers of Bellevue, pulling into the parking garage, and going up 16 floors of a LEED certified building. Instead, it’s a bus ride filled with people of all walks of life, a walk from the bus stop through a vibrant area of the city, and a reminder that a 100 year old building can be useful again in a web 2.0 (3.0?) world. It’s a bit of a romantic notion, and I love it.

Cities have been around for thousands of years because there is a certain critical mass required by (and inspired by) trade, commerce, and people. Even in the age of the Internet, it’s a great reminder to walk around in the downtown core of a city and see that location does matter. You can surf the internet from anywhere, but you can’t always walk around the corner and find a great restaurant or a place to hang out or see people who aren’t just like you alongside people who might be just like you.

I love the city, even when it’s a bit grungy and smelly. Pioneer Square reminds me that the industrial core of Seattle has come back to life with the information industry of the 21st century, and I’m glad to be a part of that (it also helps on the days when it’s sunny.) Working in other parts of the city might have been an easier commute, but now I feel like I’m part of the neighborhood.