What Katniss Everdeen and Jennifer Lawrence have taught me...

The movie, "The Hunger Games" had been in my Amazon Prime queue for several months when I finally decided to watch it. I had wanted to for awhile but Tam and I have to plan our movie watching as she struggles to make it through a movie without falling asleep. So we watched the movie and I really enjoyed it however I felt that without having read the book first I was missing a lot of the story. Not long before, my Mom had given me all three books so I had them available. I devoured the first book in a matter of a few days and then watched the movie a second time. Wow, so much more of the movie made sense. So, over the next few weeks I read the remaining two books and watched the movie a few more times. I have now watched the movie at least 30 times since that first time about 6 weeks ago. The movie, the heroine, and the actress who portrayed her have taught me a great many things about life in general and my life specifically. I have re-read the books two more times and often open to a random page and read a chapter or two. I can nearly recite the movie word for word. In the following paragraphs I am going to put down in words what I have learned from this and the questions I did not know needed asking with answers yet to be discovered.

For reasons I cannot explain the story, both written and cinema, has brought out the profound sadness I have kept buried inside myself for a very long time. As I come to realize my mental illness and how it has kept me from being more than I am today I just cannot let go of the past. I am fully aware that my life is better than 90% of the people on Earth however that does not take away the anguish I feel for not having become more than I am. At the same time, I am very content without having achieved great success. This conflict is a lifelong battle never to be won or lost. I believe I should have done more to better provide for my family yet I don't feel the need to do more for myself. I have watched the movie over and over, sometimes several days in a row so I can relive the pain the movie brings out in me. Why this story? I have watched other movies, read other books that have sad moments or endings, yet not with the same impact. The actors, director, and all others that made the movie possible so perfectly brought the book to life that the sad feelings the story brought out of me were greatly intensified. Jennifer Lawrence so perfectly embodied Katniss Everdeen that it is impossible to believe another actress could have portrayed the heroine. So first I have learned that I have great sadness within me that I do not know how to let go of.

After watching the movie and reading the books I wanted to learn more about the actress. I had watched Jennifer Lawrence in Winters Bone about a year ago and was floored (like so many others) at her performance. I had never heard of her before that (I did not have cable television until about a year ago so I never saw her on the Bill Engvall Show) and due to life's demands had lost track of watching her in other shows. So I set about catching up on her interviews on Youtube and was again impressed with her post (and so many other interviews) Oscar-winning press conference. When she spoke of diabetics take diabetic medicine but mental disease is viewed upon as a stigma I was forevermore her fan. I am diabetic and I have finally come to grips that I have some sort of mental disorder. I have taken a test for Asperger's Syndrome and the results indicate I have this or one of the similar disorders. I have long known I am a little different than most people and with a name for how I am I now better understand why I do things and think the way I do.

Another lesson both the fictional story and the real life actress has taught me involves being a better employee in my work. The actress responded to a question regarding how she interacts with a director. She replied that she would never want a director to work around her, instead, she wants the director to tell her what he/she wants and she will figure out how to deliver it. I finally realized this is how I have to be in my work. I know my talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Listen to what my superiors want and then figure out how to give it to them instead of trying to make them agree to my way of thinking. I have been pounding my head against the wall all my life doing this the wrong way.

The lesson that I have learned from the story is you must play the game if you are to win. Katniss realized this when she was having her interview the night before the 74th Hunger Games were to begin. I have learned that people with Aspergers and similar disorders struggle to read other peoples facial expressions, something I have never been very good at. Also, I have little to no use for office politics, I come to work to work, not play games. But you have to play the game if you are to win. Katniss learned this and in turn she taught me. While my daily life is not a fight to the death, each day is very impactful on my and my family's life. All it takes is one drivers poor decision and my life will forever be altered. The job, the grocery store, each and every encounter with another person requires the smile that says I am playing the game to win.

I have learned from this tale that no matter how hard I try, everyone I try to save cannot be. I also learned that it is ok to go on even though I could not save everyone. That I can forgive myself for my failures and be at peace with my successes. I am not yet able to do this however knowing that it is okay to do so is a first step.

I have learned that Peeta is to Katniss what Tam is to me. She is the one that can speak with a calm voice. That she is the one that can help me slow my emotions down and keep me centered. In my life, I am Katniss, I am the provider. Tam is the beauty of our life together as opposed to me being the strength.

I know this is not the most well expressed post however it was important to me to put these thoughts into words. I am sure I will add more posts to go along with this one. In the beginning I just wanted to watch a movie. I had no idea that this fictional story would so greatly impact my very real life. Why this story? Why now? Would it have been different if I had watched the move six months ago? Just another movie, over and done with. Move on with life. Yet, I did watch it now and now it has altered my life. For the better? Don't know yet. I hope so. I am very much looking forward to the next three movies and how they will bring the rest of the story to life. I hope I am here to see them all.


Dad lives on in me...

Today I went down to the John F. Burke Nature Preserve to shoot some photos, just as I often do. The Burke,
as I call it, is a very quiet serene place at the confluence of several freeways and one river. An oasis in the middle of a busy city. Sometimes I think I go there more for the solitude that allows me to think rather than for the photo opportunities (of which there are an abundance if you take the time to look closely). How does this relate to my Dad? I noticed I was carrying my camera/tripod in the same manner as I used to carry my shotgun or rifle when hunting as a boy. Dad was an avid hunter however due to financial constraints he did not get to hunt as often as he would have liked to. Dad started taking me hunting when I was about 8 years old. Our first trips were rabbit hunting however we mostly did some target shooting so I could begin to learn how to properly hold and sight a rifle. Later, when I was about 10 I received my first gun, a 20 gauge single shot shotgun, which I still have. This is when he showed me the proper way to carry a gun while walking. Over the next several years Dad took me dove hunting numerous times. We had to travel to various day leases as we could not afford a full season lease. The birds were not as plentiful at these day leases and we had to stay all day (the birds mostly fly in the morning and evening) so we had to endure the hot afternoons. Now as I reflect, I would not trade those trips for all the doves in the world as I was able to spend the whole day with my Dad. During the hot afternoons when the birds were not flying we would talk (mostly Dad!) about all kinds of topics. These are memories I cherish more and more as each day puts Dad's passing farther behind me. I no longer hunt, however carrying my camera/tripod in the same manner as I did my shotgun reminded me that Dad's spirit and the lessons in life he taught me will forever be with me. I miss you Dad.


Challenged or a Challenge?

mirror_lens by p_d_t
mirror_lens, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

Because of financial challenges in my life I cannot afford the best equipment in pursuit of my photography hobby. So I settle for what I can afford and challenged myself to turn out the very best possible work I can with the equipment I do have. Recently I started in earnest shooting birds and other small wildlife and while I was getting some nice shots with my Sigma 70-300mm I really felt I need more reach. Coincidentally I came across an article in my Outdoor Photographer magazine discussing Catadioptric Lenses otherwise known as Mirror lenses. I was a bit skeptical of their ability to give acceptable images considering their price point (under $150) however after looking at a number of images in the Flickr groups dedicated to these lenses I was impressed. Yes they have severe limitations but that a large part of the fun, making the most of what you have instead of just buying the most expensive camera or glass you can get. This is a lesson I learned from my Dad many years ago when I was a child. My Dad loved to hunt all types of game. He grew up with hunting as a way of life, of putting food on the table. Later when he had a family of his own he continued hunting even though he no longer had to do it for survival. He enjoyed the challenge and I believe he also enjoyed just getting out, going somewhere for a day. Dad never killed anything he could not bring home and eat. He was a sportsman with the utmost respect for what nature provided him. From time to time the owner of the shop he worked at would invite Dad to go hunting with him and his friends. Dad was financially challenged and could not at the time afford a pump or automatic shotgun like the others he went with on these trips. Dad used an older bolt action 20 gauge shotgun but he never let that stop him. Dad took the challenge of making the most of what he had instead of feeling sorry for himself for what he did not have. Dad became the best he could be with what he had and most times he came home with more birds than the guys with the fancier guns. He could keep up with a pump and just nearly use that bolt action as fast as an automatic. It also made him a better marksman since he had to be a more disciplined shooter. Dad knew how to stay within the limitations of his equipment and maximize it's potential. This is why I do not feel anything negative towards my new low-cost lens. I have seen the capabilities of this type of lens through the work of others and once again remember the lesson that it is not the equipment that makes the photographer. Dad would understand.


Denton Air Show 2013: An Unexpected Invitation

biplane by p_d_t
biplane, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

This past Saturday I attended my second Denton Air Show performance, the first coming in 2011. My intentions this time was to only stay long enough to photograph the planes parked for viewing as my video and photo shots from two years ago did not go so well. After walking around for about an hour enjoying the weather and photographing as much as possible of each plane I was approached by a man who said I appeared to be an experienced amateur photographer. Right away I liked him, appreciating the compliment! He proceeded to tell me that he was part of a group that was attempting to create and expand an aviation photography group. He stated they had a one of the covered canopy's along the front line of the show area and were only asking for a $10 donation to help cover costs. We talked a bit while he told me about the various planes we were looking at as he knew all the pilots there. I thanked him and went on my way shooting more images. After thinking it over for about 10 minutes I heard that voice of my wife's in my head telling me to do it! So I did and I am so glad I did. I spent the next 4 hours or so with about 15 other like minded men (and one woman) firing away as the air show went on. I ended up shooting about 800 frames from which maybe two dozen are worth keeping but that is how it goes. One of the gentlemen there who had two high end cameras mentioned that 3/4 of the shots can be expected to be discarded so I don't feel too bad about how many I will be deleting. This image is one my favorites I shot from the day.


Pistol grip ball head.

DSC_0001 by p_d_t
DSC_0001, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

Last weekend I was at the park for some casual bird photography. I have a couple of small ball heads that I use on my monopod due to their light weight but each has its own drawbacks. For straight line images a monopod by itself is great however when trying to photograph birds at steep angles the ability to tilt the camera up is mandatory for sharp shots. Once again Amazon comes to the rescue with this small inexpensive pistol grip ball head. The manufacturer rates it to hold 6.6lbs and while I have not yet tested that much weight it did hold my camera and heaviest lens without any problems (about 2 lbs). Because I do so much walk-around photography at the park and John F. Burke Nature Preserve (among many destinations) I really believe this is going to come in very handy. Also, I discovered carrying the camera/monopod combination by the handle of the ball head seems to put less stress on the camera than carrying the combination by the camera. Only time will tell but this is a good way to see if this is something I would want for the long term without spending too much money.



buttercup by p_d_t
buttercup, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

I do not know what kind of flower this is however I titled it butter cup due to its shape and color. Spent a couple of hours this morning at the John F. Burke Nature Preserve shooting various closeup shots which I will post more of in the coming few days.


Enduring Appeal

coke_cap by p_d_t
coke_cap, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

I found this cap on the roadside. Something about and iconic brand such as this that appeals to our senses.


Flowers for me

bluebonnet2013001 by p_d_t
bluebonnet2013001, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

Bluebonnet next to my Mother-in-laws house near Moran, TX. I was very pleased with the outcome of this this shot as I feel it almost has a water color on canvas look.

The "Play Station" of my youth...

mattel_football_II by p_d_t
mattel_football_II, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

This was my 14th birthday gift from my parents. State of the art electronic game of the time. I would play this for hours & hours creating whole seasons between the two teams (home & away, how original!). This is the kind of thing that kept me from getting bored and running the streets causing mischief and mayhem.


A childhood long gone...

sixmildolman by p_d_t
sixmildolman, a photo by p_d_t on Flickr.

About a year ago a found my lunchbox from my 4th grade. I had thought it was long lost however my Mom had it all these years with craft supplies. It is things such as this that are woven with the memories of my youth.


Happy Birthday son, I hope you had a great day. I wish I would have been there to help you celebrate it, along with the past 13 birthdays that I have missed. I can't imagine what it has been like growing up without your Dad. You see, I never had to experience what it was like not having your Dad until I lost mine this past October. Only then, when I no longer had my Dad did I truly realize what I had done to you. My Dad, your Grandfather, grew up without his Dad although not quite the same as you. His parents divorced when he was six and he only had sporadic contact until he spent one summer with him when he was 17 or 18 years old. Only now have I realized just how much he treasured that summer with his Dad as his dad died a couple of years later. He had a step-father for 10 years but he died when my Dad was 16, watched him die of cancer just as I watched my Dad die of cancer. So he had two Dad's and lost both when he was young. There is a saying that you don't miss what you didn't have but that is not true, at least not all the time. I greatly miss you, miss the things we should have done together but did not due to choices I made. I thought they were right at the time but now I know they were wrong and I am filled with regret. I love you more than you will ever understand or believe, just as I did not realize how much I loved my Dad and how much he loved me. Be well and I hope you had a great birthday.