I'm kinda pleased to see the venue change. While Katoomba is a really nice town and the Blue Mountains National Park surrounding it is fantastic, going there three years in a row might've lacked a little spark. The new venue will offer the opportunity to host the event in a different way, with a new structure for the talks.
I'm coming clean - I was one of the people who independently suggested the shorter talks, no repeats, no parallel sessions structure. It's something I've seen work very well in the world famous Webstock conference in Wellington and thought it might translate well to Paracon. So if it doesn't work out, you now have someone you can partially blame.
One problem with the previous structure of several talks running simultaneously is that you can't possibly take in all the talks, and even with the repeats you will miss some good stuff. Also, as a Paracon speaker of lesser fame, it ain't good to have your own talk under-attended while someone famous with their own TV series is speaking in another room. I've sat in on some great talks by international and local speakers but with barely a couple-dozen people in the room. This linear structure for the presentation schedule will fix these issues.
It may also be that the Carrington couldn't provide a large enough room to run the Paracon with this linear structure, which might have a little bit to do with the change of venue to the Western Sydney University in Parramatta, which will provide a larger theatre, and presumably also with better AV projection facilities - another problem with previous Paracon venues. Parramatta is an old centre with many historic sites, which should be good from an investigation viewpoint.
I was disappointed to see some Australian paranormal commentators attack the Paracon organisors mercilessly and ferociously (and on Christmas Eve to boot!) primarily because of the venue change. (I'm not going to provide a link to that podcast.) Obviously there's going to be a few hiccoughs around changing venues, but it was done 6 months out from the start of the conference, so in plenty of time to avoid most problems. I know that a few people had to cancel their hotel bookings, and good on them for booking early, but for most conference attendees it's not going to present a problem. And the conference's closer proximity to Sydney might open it up to a few more people.
James Gilberd's presentation and photography workshop.
Anyway, I'll be giving a talk on photography and the paranormal (again - I know) but with different content to my 2015 talk. I won't be talking about dust orbs this time as I think they've been well and truly laid to rest. Anyone who in 2017 still thinks a dust orb (an easily recognised and fully explainable photographic anomaly) is any kind of spirit manifestation is probably beyond rationality so a lost cause as far as scientific argument goes. But developments in camera design, and the shift of much photography to cellphone cameras, has presented some new challenges that need to be looked at.
I will also be running a workshop on the basics of photography as far as the paranormal is concerned - how to use stills photography more effectively in paranormal investigations. This will not include the use of cellphone cameras (which have their uses but are rather limited) or video cameras (which I don't know much about) but will concentrate on learning to use dedicated stills cameras in a more controlled manner for better evidence-gathering. Understanding and avoiding some of the common anomalies that can cause false positives by seeing how they are created is a big part of it. This workshop will be on Friday 26th May, so the day before the main conference weekend. More information will be posted here soon, but I advise booking early for this, as there will be a cap on numbers. (I don't know what the limit is yet, but I want to be able to get around people individually.) If one of your jobs in your paranormal team is taking still photos during and prior to investigations and you're not already an expert photographer, then this workshop will help you.
And if you are already an expert photographer, with a good understanding of the workings of a range of digital cameras (maybe you work in a photography store), then perhaps you can help me with the workshop. Some people will need help finding the various modes and functions on their camera and I may not be able to get around and help each person individually, so if you can assist with this and will be available on Friday at the conference, perhaps email me.
Kiwis - make a weekend of it.
Tickets for Paracon 2017 are one sale now - see website.
It would be cool to see a few more kiwis over there, as it's been in the low single digits for previous Paracons. The will never be anything like this event in New Zealand so Australia offers the best opportunity to experience a paranormal conference. Personally, I never have enough money and taking time out from my photography business is an issue, but still, last year I was able to get good, cheap plane tickets via Air NZ's Grabaseat. We also had a night in Sydney on the way, using Trivago to find a hotel room in Darlinghurst, which worked out really well. It was a nice holiday, and staying at The Carrington in Katoomba was a special experience. This time it will be different, which is great too. I'm really looking forward to it.
A novel project
I've been working on a side project - a novel about paranormal investigation, with the working title: Edwin J Smith, Paranormal Investigator. I think this will be part one of a trilogy, as there are ideas introduced that aren't fully explored but leave room to develop in future stories. I'm not going to give much away here, except that the novel will be launched at Paracon and it includes the venue of the last two Paracons - The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba - as the setting for the climax of the story. The Blue Mountains National Park also comes into it as a location.
So I was in a bit of a quandary after hearing of the Paracon venue change. I hadn't written the Katoomba part of the novel at that time, but decided to keep it as a location because I have no knowledge of the new Parramatta venue and couldn't justify a research trip there on the basis of projected long term sales of 30 or so copies! Maybe part two of the trilogy will be set there - who knows? Anyway, don't expect great literature - Eleanor Catton I ain't - but maybe just a lightweight, hopefully amusing story that explores some of the good and bad aspects of the world of paranormal investigation. More on this later. I plan to get maybe 20 copies printed and bring them over with me to sell on the Paracon bookstall, along with a couple of remaining copies of Spooked - Exploring the Paranormal in New Zealand.
I hope to see you at Paracon 2017 and get to have a natter about paranormal stuff. And I hope this venue has good coffee and snack food available nearby. Walking down to The Elephant Bean in Katoomba was nice, but it meant leaving the venue too often.
Mine's a long black (coffee).
is a blog by James Gilberd - leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Strange Occurrences team.
James Gilberd is an amateur paranormalist, writer and musician, and a professional photographer, living in Wellington, New Zealand.