Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Faith and Football: The Brandon Burlsworth Story

I'm hunched forward in a three point stance waiting for the next command, I wait for the shrill whistle as sweat trickles down the back of my neck into my helmet. The grass is hard and unyielding not anything like the summer grass from months ago. My fingers ached and my back was burning in the early Autumn sun. I took a furtive glance to my right. The bench looked great from there and yet I was still on the field. So many times I just wanted to stand up and walk to the locker room because I felt I shouldn't be there. The story of my life wasn't going to be an inspirational movie about football.

As a big guy I have spent much of my time battling with self doubt and a lack of faith in myself. It started when I was younger; always tall for my age, my body progressed into a more husky than svelte athlete. I went to department stores with my mom to get special sized clothes because I couldn't fit in the things my friends were wearing. I wasn't a lean, mean, fighting machine like the other boys. My body was just built differently and that made me doubt where I fit in.

I didn't have the swagger of other kids, I just went along for the ride. I didn't believe in myself because I was different, but I was different for a reason. What I did do, was work hard. I always wanted to prove to myself that it could be done, that the bench was the easy way out. I could watch the game from the sidelines and never really play but where was the fun in that?

There is something about the feel of something greater than yourself. In my last year in elementary school, my school put on an awards presentation. It was the kind of show where you knew which kids would be striding up the aisle and confidently running up the risers to the stage. You knew that when MVP was called just who would flash a smile and wave to the crowd. Me? I hung my head and looked at my sneakers. I knew them inside and out; the cracked leather, the frayed end of the left shoelace that was barely hanging on, and the worn sole on the right side from shuffling my feet.

That's when it happened. A person's faith in me changed me in a way I never thought possible. The coach announced that they were awarding the next trophy to a person who exemplified heart and strength in athletics. I never heard my name. The guy next to me poked me and pointed to the stage. I staggered to the stage like I was walking underwater. There had to be a mistake. Yet there I was on the stage, shaking hands and accepting this award. In that moment, my faith in something greater multiplied exponentially.

Brandon Burlsworth is just like me. We were made just the way we were supposed to be. In a world where faith in people is lost, a story like the movie GREATER is just the thing that people need to see. The movie tells the Brandon Burlsworth story which begins from a childhood admiration of Arkansas football to the very goal he promised to himself that he would make real, that someday he would be playing for the Razorbacks.

Brandon faces ridicule from most everyone he meets because he is not athletic. He is often overweight and made fun of by peers and onlookers alike. Despite this abuse, Brandon always holds his head high and always takes the higher road. He discovers why it doesn't matter what others think but what he thinks is what defines a person. Brandon reminds me of how I felt about myself back then.

Along the way Brandon is inspired by coaches who see something in him just like my coach saw in me. It was this drive to be persevere despite any uphill battles that we face that may be hard for others to see. When adversity shows up and the fight becomes harder, we may start to question whether our hearts are really in it.

What will keep us afloat always is the way that we treat each other. The relationships that we build with others out of love are always going to be the strongest. In GREATER, Brandon has a support system that is deeply rooted in family despite his father being an alcoholic. He finds strength in others like his mom and brother who lift him up in times where he feels he may drown.

Relationships are often tested in this movie but most of all our faith in ourselves that there is something greater in each of us. These days my eyes aren't on my feet anymore and my shoes are less worn. Each part of life is a down that we play out until the whistle. How we perform in that play and how we give it our all defines us as people. While we sometimes may not be able to see the entire field we have to trust that the plays that are being called are the right ones in the end.

Go see the movie GREATER August 26th at a theater near you & watch GREATER the movie trailer below for a sneak peek of what the movie is all about.

Check out more about GREATER on social media:

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and GREATER Productions. but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #GREATERMovie #GreaterTheMovie  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Only Camera You'll Ever Need is a Smartphone

Take a look at smartphones these days and they are all pretty much the same. We we made the leap from flip phones, to ones that were just designed for texting, the Blackberry emerged and we discovered that those keys we thought we so desperately needed weren't there for any other reason but nostalgia.

I suspect this is the feeling our parents had when the rotary phone was replaced by the push button phone. Sure it was faster and much easier but between the time you decided to dial and the time that you actually completed the dial, you had a whole lot of time to hang up that phone before the girl on the other end picked it up.

You can't find a smartphone these days that doesn't boast a crystal clear display. We want to be able to see our content clearly so that's a no-brainer. We want it to be fast because we are busy and don't have time for it to lag. Smartphone companies are following the formula that made them successful. Large screen, clear display, almost unbreakable glass with options for customization. I can even get a case that fits my personality.

But here's where the shift begins and ends for me. The camera. I pride myself on my photography. It's the one selling point in a phone that has me all aflutter when we talk images. What you decide to do with that camera is what will set you apart from all other phones. Don't mess that up because we don't want to miss a moment.

Thank goodness smartphones were not around when I was in college. If we wanted to take pictures we bought a disposable camera that clicked incessantly when we advanced to the next frame; you could never do that without someone knowing you were about to take another picture. Even then, if you took a photo in low light, you'd use the fixed flash that used the same burst of light for every situation. Then you would take this camera to the drug store and get it developed and laugh at the messed up composition or wonder why your thumb was the star of every third frame.

While the world is collectively losing their minds about other phones, there is a phone that doesn't get much press and it's the HTC One M9. It boasts up to a 20 hour usage time and more importantly sports a 20 megapixel front facing camera. This is almost twice any other smartphone out there.

The user interface is one I enjoy. There's no more switching to modes by going to settings, Just swiping left or right cycles through selfie, camera, panorama, RAW camera, photo booth, or a specialized mode of your choosing. Shooting in RAW mode is a plus for any serious photographer allowing customization for white balance, over or underexposure, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

The phone also has the most intuitive one touch editing software that I have seen. The editor not only allows creation through standard things like filters, editing tools such as cropping, flipping, and straightening but allows creativity through touch ups for photos of people like skin smoothening, lighting effects, eye enhancement, and anti-shine.

With the HTC One M9 there is little to no need to import a photo to your computer and spend time editing it post shot. The ability to edit and create double exposures, prismatic images and unlimited tools at the touch of your fingers makes you feel like the possibilities are endless. With this phone you are a mobile photographer with all the tools necessary to create on the go. The HTC One M9 will elevate your photography to new levels.

Backed by the best network there is at Verizon, I am able to share these photos with my family, friends, and followers on Instagram and Twitter. HTC prides themselves on elevating a user's image and video experience and it shows. With a 32GB hard drive, it holds all my precious images with room to spare and has a Micro-SD card port for expanded memory. You are only limited by your creativity with the HTC One M9 so forget lugging around an extra camera with you, this phone is the only camera you will ever need.

As a member of a great group of Verizon influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. I was provided with the HTC One M9.  No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

Monday, July 25, 2016

10 Dad Photographers You Should Be Following

Photography has been a passion of time since I was five. My grandfather, a chemist by trade had a darkroom in his basement where he taught me everything he knew about composition, color, contrast and light.  It had a lasting effect on me so much so that I became a high school photography teacher so that I could pass that knowledge onto others. The power of the still image is one that I am drawn to. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in the cases of some of the following dad photographers, there is so much more.

Jeff Bogle - Out With the Kids - @owtk

He's won an Iris Award for his photography and you can see why. He has an eye for the extraordinary in the everyday. World traveler and dedicated dad, he'll never let you down with his images.

Phil Corless - North Idaho Dad - @northidahodad

Phil is a soft spoken guy but the kind of dad that doesn't say things just to say them. When he talks, you will intently listen because you don't want to miss anything. His images are just like him.

Daniel Ruyter - Dadtography - @danielruyter

Daniel finds those moments in time where your heart strings get pulled. He knows that a portrait isn't always about a face and a smile but pieces of time you don't want to forget.

A photo posted by Dadtography by Daniel Ruyter (@danielruyter) on

Pat Jacobs - Pat Jacobs Images - @pjacobs_images

If you want to learn what Chicago is like at night, follow Pat for his beautiful images of light. He understands and finds the light wherever he goes whether it be landscapes or in people.

James Currie - James Currie Photography - @jcurrie

James has the artistic eye that you have been craving. He's dedicated to his craft and it shows. From Chicago and beyond, you will be amazed at his captures.

A photo posted by James Currie (@jcurrie) on

Michael Wilson - Dadphotographer - @dadphotographer

He's a dad, he's a photographer. He's dadphotographer! You're going to see lots of pictures of his kid as any dad will attest, we can't help it. But mixed in with those are wonderful shots that you can't look away from.

A photo posted by Michael Wilson (@dadphotographer) on

Zach Rosenberg - 8BitDad - @zjrosenberg

I'm just going to be real here for a moment. This guy likes to take pictures of his food. If you're into that just don't scroll through his feed before lunch because it will make you super hungry. Zach has a knack for finding the most amazing shots and he'll always keep you guessing.

Trevor Mulligan - OneSAHD - @onesahd

This guy has a special place in my heart because he introduced me to the TG2 underwater/macro point and shoot. You'll see in his images that he has mastered this shots and will find the beauty in all things small, especially his sons.

CC Chapman - @cc_chapman

Have ruck sack, will travel is his motto. If you are into travel and photography, CC is your guy.

A photo posted by C.C. Chapman (@cc_chapman) on

Mike Heenan - AtHomeDadMatters - @athomedadmatters

Mike's has a lot of love in his heart and it shows in his photos of his girls, music, and his travels. Not only that but you'll see some sick 360 shots of some of the places he visits.

A photo posted by athomedadmatters (@athomedadmatters) on

Sunday, July 24, 2016

An Inside Look at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016

Star Wars has been a part of my life for as long as I remember. We'd play it in the backyard pretending our clubhouse was the Millennium Falcon, saving princesses and the world from the oppressive control of Imperial forces. My younger brother and I started a toy collection together, combing every flea market, garage sale, and toy convention we could attend trying to find rare figures and setting goals trying to find rare pieces of the collection we had to have.

We squirreled them away for our own kids but I'll be honest, there are just some figures that have had a lasting impact on me. This is why Boba Fett's complete Slave I spaceship sits on a shelf in my office.

The Force is strong in my family. I've indoctrinated my kids into this culture. My five year old knows all the characters though she has never seen any of the movies yet. We've played with Star Wars toys, made a cosplay movie, and I've even invented a crafty way to bring Star Wars home with you.

That's why when Verizon asked me to attend the Star Wars Celebration in London this year, I almost hyperventilated. This was going to truly be a dream come true for this longtime fanatic of Star Wars.

I'll be honest with you though, I'm not the best traveler. In fact, the last time I left the country on a plane was my honeymoon over thirteen years ago. The last time I flew out of the country before that, was in 1998 to Ireland. I'm not what you call a world traveler and I while I was simultaneously excited, I had lots of anxiety about travelling there by myself.  I knew that once I was there, I would meet up with C.C. Chapman and Gina Stark but the unknown was freaking me out.

One thing that alleviated my fears was knowing that I would be covered and that I could stay connected with my Verizon phone while over there. Verizon has a program called TravelPass which allows continuation of coverage no matter where you are travelling abroad. I knew I would be covered and assumed that I was until I got to London and couldn't connect with my friends.

You see, in the excitement for the trip, I forgot to enroll in the program and assumed it was already take care of by Verizon. So when I got to London and tried to text, I received a text from them saying I had incurred charges in excess of $50 for using my data while abroad. I was panicked but the text message told me what to do.  I immediately called the number, which was toll free from a VZW device and spoke to customer service. As you can see from the text, it was 3:52 am back in The States. Verizon took care of it in less than twenty minutes and I was immediately able to call, text, and share my pictures from London with no issues. Verizon had just given me unprecedented access to London!

My first day at Star Wars Celebration was one to remember. That morning, I was thanks to Verizon getting a sneak peek at the Costumes and Props of Rogue One with a personal tour from Allison Shearmur (producer) and John Swartz (co-producer) of Rogue One! They told us about the characters in the movie and gave us some insight into their stories. Allison and John are extremely excited to show us fans just exactly how the Death Star plans were stolen and how they got to Princess Leia in the process.

There are no Jedi in Rogue One but Chirrut Imwe who is a blind monk is a spiritual person who believes in the ways of The Force. It will be interesting to see the contrast between his character and his friend, Baze Malbus who believes in "big, big guns".

I was excited to ask Allison Shearmur about the emergence of another strong female role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With Rey taking the lead in Star Wars: The Force Awakens she responded saying that all the films have strong female roles and Jyn Erso is no exception but that she is a different kind of character than what we are used to.  She did also reveal that the story of Rogue One is going to be a father-daughter story between Jyn, played by Felicity Jones and her father a scientist, Galen Erso played by Mads Mikkelsen who revealed at Star Wars Celebration that "he built something beautiful that he thought could save the universe". Speculation around that for me personally I think that maybe the Death Star was originally designed for something else but was weaponized by Director Krennic.

Speaking of Director Orson Krennic, he made a grand entrance into Star Wars Celebration Europe flanked by his ever present and formidable looking Imperial Death Troopers who were my favorite costumes yet. The last time we saw a black stormtrooper was in a TIE fighter with Darth Vader and their imposing look really does send a message. These guys are the elite stormtroopers and bodyguards of Krennic. Only time will tell if they go down with one shot or not.

In addition to the Imperial Death Troopers, we saw the emergence of the Imperial Shoretroopers. If you've seen the trailer, it seems that the bad guys had decided that life on a beach is a much better option. and as you can see from this still from the movie, Imperial Stormtroopers don't exactly blend in with this background.

The first panel that we attended was An Hour With Mark Hamill. I have to say at a fanboy, I was super stoked to be sitting in the front row thanks to Verizon, listening to my childhood hero talk about the love that he feels for the fans of Star Wars. " I feel like I am in a room with 4,000 of my closest friends" Mark said after he was introduced. He immediately launched into taking questions from the fans because he said that the movies and the reason why he was even up on the stage was because of us. It was true for me. I felt like I was surrounded by an extended family. You can't help but walk through SWCE and not have a smile on your face.

Then, there was this real special moment where a fan thanked Mark for being there and told him he was excited about The Killing Joke which is an animated movie where Hamill voices The Joker in legendary fashion. I was lucky enough to capture and upload his performance easily right from my phone with no issues. It's amazing how Verizon's TravelPass made that possible.

A video posted by Chris (@dadncharge) on

Next, I got a front row seat for the Rogue One : A Star Wars Story Panel. This was the moment we had all been waiting for. With panel host Gwendoline Christie, whipping us into a frenzy, the entire Rogue one cast came out to discuss their roles in the film and their characters.

Gareth Edwards explained to the crowd that growing up with Star Wars and idolizing George Lucas has lead to him trying to do Lucas proud with this film. What amazed me most was the realization that everyone involved with the film takes it personally. They are also fans of the film and want to create something that will make us all proud. Gareth revealed during the panel that this sometimes means thinking outside the box. He knew that Canary Wharf Underground station was a perfect place to film on location so one night, when the line shut down for the night, they transformed it into a set and shot part of Rogue One at the Canary Wharf Underground stop. How cool is that?

It was great to hear from Felicity Jones who plays Jyn Erso about her character. The difference is "She is not a character that is asking "Who am I and where do I come from? She very much, we know that about her, we know where she comes from and that fact is what propels the story and it's the beginning of Jyn's journey to find out what her reason is, and her cause."  It was also great to see that Hasbro will be releasing a Jyn Erso Black Series figure as the first toy to come out with the film. When so many fans were clambering for Rey figures but couldn't find them, we see an attempt to rectify that situation.  

Of course, the end of the panel is what everyone in the room was waiting for. They showed us the Celebration Reel which definitely can get any Star Wars fan's heart pumping.

Then, Kathleen Kennedy came out and announced "That's the footage we just showed the world, but now you will get to see the actual trailer!" My heart was beating so hard and I was in awe during the whole thing. I felt like a child again seeing Star Wars for the first time.

Leaving this panel, I explored the floor and took at look at all the exhibits and vendors at the show. It's incredible the amount of love and detail fans of Star Wars movies pay attention to their craft. I was drawn to the artwork of Erik Maell and all of the people dressed as their favorite characters.

On Day Two, I got to attend the Creatures, Droids, and Aliens Panel hosted by Warrick Davis (our beloved Wicket and so many other characters) and listened to the panel talk about the creative process on how a drawing becomes a reality. Neal Scanlan talked about how important it was to make these characters a reality for the fans. "Lucas created a galaxy far, far away but it is out job to make you feel like it is so real that you are a part of it and that you belong there"

Creature creators of Pinewood Studios develop characters and they "audition" for the director said Neal Scanlan. Once characters have been accepted, the creative process continues in stages from animatronics, to infrastruture, and soft body engineering, the character takes shape. Once the logistics are figured out, it is up to artists in hair and paint to make them come alive. Did you know that every hair on Chewbacca's costume is hand woven hair by hair into a lycra bodysuit? That is an incredible amount of detail to ensure that we as fans don't see it as fake.

The end of the panel was punctuated by the arrival of a character that they referred to as "Space Monkey" who we now know, according to Pablo Hidalgo, is Bistan. He is the laughing character in the Celebration Reel who is an Iakaru whose specialty is door gunner on a U-Wing fighter. He also is really great at scaring Warrick Davis.

The final panel I was lucky enough to see was Anthony Daniels : Protocol. Hosted by Warrick Davis, this was a highly entertaining panel that also revealed the origin story of C-3PO's red arm. Mr. Anthony Daniels read the crowd the story from the comic book to explain where the red arm came from. SPOILER ALERT : He received the arm from a counterpart who sacrificed himself for C-3PO's safety while on a mission.

I did have many fanboy moments as well. I happened to run into Mr. Anthony Daniels while walking the floor and took a selfie and got an autograph and selfie from Rogue One Director Gareth Edwards himself!  While on the trip, I had some Squad Goals. I wanted to get a selfie with Gareth and find a Chewbacca taller than me. Missions accomplished!

Star War Celebration is a magical place that proves that people of all backgrounds can come together and escape from the horrors of the world over something special that unites them. Being there made me feel like I was a part of something bigger, a global family. The people in our lives are what make everything real. Thanks to Verizon for making this trip to a galaxy far, far away one that was unforgettable for this Star Wars fan.

This post was written on behalf of Verizon who gave me this special experience at Star Wars Celebration in London. All opinions expressed are those of DadNCharge alone.