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. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Netflix Education

School may be out but our kids continue learning through the shows they are fitting in between all the summer vacations and holidays. Let's face it, as parents we need some me time too and that means giving our kids some age appropriate, quality shows where they can learn things they may encounter in their daily lives that only sitcoms and cartoons can answer in a way they will understand.

Here are some lessons my kids have learned this summer for our favorite shows on Netflix.

Just Add Magic : 

Be careful what you read, if it's too good to be true, it probably is


Girl Meets World :

 It's okay to be a little cocky, but don't get carried away



If you need help, ask for it no matter how you go about doing it


The Wonder Years : 

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Don't procrastinate


A.N.T Farm - 

Individuality is never overrated


What lessons have your kids learned from shows on Netflix?  

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by DadNCharge on behalf of the Netflix #StreamTeam. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

5 Easy Steps to Potty Training Success

I never realized how much I loved diapers until I taught my three kids how to use the bathroom. As much as I complained about wiping their bums or trying to find a changing table in the men's room where there were none, there is nothing as frustrating as potty training. It's hard to say after teaching them for two years of their life to just go whenever they please to all of sudden change gears.

Each child of mine was different when it came to training but each of them waited until they were almost three to master it. If this is the case for you, don't worry, it's going to happen. There's a certain motivation that comes with being able to go to school with other kids who have mastered the porcelain throne ; it's a good kind of peer pressure that gets them motivated to become a "big boy" or "big girl" that you sometimes can't provide.

With each kid though, I learned a few things along the way that may help. We parents will try anything to make it happen. You may become desperate and resort to wild tactics. Stick with the five things below and you too will soon be cleaning pee from all around the toilet in places you never knew pee could go.

1. Ditch the Pull UPs

I'm a big fan of the Pull Ups song but I think they only serve their purpose for adults in nursing homes or older people who have bladder issues. A Pull Up is a basically a diaper and I think it confuses kids because it feels the same. The only reason it is different is because it can be taken off like underwear which makes any crap they made in there on accident, ripe for situations where taking it off vertically is not going to be such a good idea. Remember when you changed from nipple to bottle and the kid was confused? It's basically the same concept only this time it is diaper confusion. Ditch the Pull Ups completely and quit cold turkey.

2. Dedicate a week to go Au Natural

This is honestly going to be the hardest part. You may not leave your house for an entire week, maybe more depending on the child. Let them walk around in their birthday suit. Not having something they need to pull down or take off will help them in the long run.

The hard part will be when you HAVE to go out to the grocery store. It will be like carrying a live grenade with the pin pulled and you're just waiting for the explosion. We have a rule in our house - GO BEFORE YOU GO. Do that. Then, when you get to the store, try again. Then, when you fill up your cart you will undoubtedly have to race through the store to the bathroom at least once more. Don't forget to stop there on your way out after checking out either. You will soon know where every public restroom is located in every store in your neighborhood.

3. Get them underwear BEFORE they master it

The old "If you pee or poop in the potty, I'll get you some special underwear" is not the greatest motivation. How about motivating them with awesome underwear that they don't want to crap in? My daughter had a pair of Wonder Woman underwear that she didn't want to see soiled. THAT was motivation to make it in time. Now, she did eventually destroy those and there were many tears but she tried much harder the next time she had to go so the same thing wouldn't happen to Batgirl.

Get the underwear BEFORE they master it to stress the importance of what their body's Bat signal really means. Have them wear this underwear when you go out. Bring a hazmat suit and extra underwear and clothes with a plastic bag with you in case of an accident.

4. Don't get pissed at accidents

Stay calm. This is going to get messy. Your kids are going to pee on your wood floor or your carpet from IKEA like a fifteen year old dog. The difference is, you can't shame them for having an accident, it is going to be a part of the process. They aren't doing it to spite you they just don't understand how to make it to the toilet before sweet release.

This was my biggest frustration while potty training. Cleaning up bodily fluids sucks, just ask any custodian at your local school. Take a deep breath, unless it is a number two, and say something like "Next time, you'll get it in the potty" even if you know that it's probably not going to happen. Staying positive is going to be key. Encouragement will go a long way. Getting angry will not instill motivation and it may have them holding it in because they will associate an accident with you getting angry.

5. Offer some kind of reward

For each of my kids, motivation was something different. Sometimes it was M&M's - Two for a poop and one for pee. Pink M&M's, stickers, a chart, a movie, a toy. There can be something that helps motivate them. We used the Let's Potty board game, Princess Potty book and a sticker chart supplied by Pampers with Disney Princesses to track their success. To be honest, it's going to be a lot of trial and error. Don't feel obligated to stick with one thing as they may become disinterested.

Also, as a word to the wise, don't do your touchdown dance in front of someone that is still struggling. Make sure your kid has it down before you go bragging that they have been dry for two days. All of my kids regressed whether it was because of a vacation or total loss of interest. It's frustrating thinking they have it down and then they forget altogether what was happening in the first place. They will show you signs that they are ready. Don't force the potty training to happen just because of their age. Each child progresses at a different pace just like their learning.

Once you've mastered all of these steps you can move onto the next challenges, teaching them to wipe themselves AND flushing the toilet.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment below or share it on my FB page.