January 23, 2017: Skeletal Nikon F4 Body – the Story behind my PTSD Cauldron Image

http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/dPYAAOSwo4pYhZA2/s-l1600.jpg

Nikon F4 body for parts

A few months ago I ordered a “broken” F4 body for one specific component…the lens mount on the front of the body.  My goal was to make a custom Nikon F mount on a 4×5 view camera lens board to allow any of my Nikon F lens to be securely mounted on the 4X5 view camera without fear of it falling off. So, when the F4 body arrived I dutifully disassembled it down to is skeletal state.

 

All this was crammed in the F4 body

All this was crammed in the F4 body

By the time I had fully taken it apart I was absolutely astounded at the hundreds of parts that Nikon had somehow crammed into that F4 body.  It gave me a different perspective on the skills and engineering concepts needed to craft a precision camera.

F4 lens attaching ring mounted on 4X5 lens boardI cut the mounting mechanism out of the front to the body, attached it to a pre-drilled plywood mounting board, mounted the board onto the 4X5 view camera and attached a lens.  My concept worked perfectly – kinda of!   What I didn’t anticipate was bellows focal lens – which, when coupled with a 35mm lens, had an effective focusing range  (somewhat) less than 1/2 inch from the lens.  Not the most optimal focusing distance unless you want some crazy, not quite focused macro images.

Stripped down F4 body

Stripped down F4 body

I put the parts way for macro shots at a later date.  The body intrigued me so I kept it out, epoxied the camera base to the frame and then taped on the mirror on the back of the body and set the contraption on my desk – sort of a advent-garde desk ornament though I suspect it’s a bit of a stretch to call this art work.

As I pondered more about what to do with the stripped body, it slowly came to me that perhaps it would provide an interesting image for my PTSD posts with different types of lighting and back drops.

As night fell, I had everything in place, an old-fashioned bankers or library lamp, a porous black felt drop cloth and began shooting with the NikoBron (Df with 50mm Bronica lens).   Once the shoot was over, I began processing the images with Capture One Pro.  As I reviewed the images. I realized I’d captured what I was generally looking for…the green glow the lampshade visible though the various openings of the F4 body as well as the incandescent light falloff at the bottom corners, it wasn’t quite what I really wanted.

The Cauldron of My Mind concept

The Cauldron of My Mind concept – Not quite what I was looking for

My initial shot was hand-held at two seconds to see how far the lighting was off.  I knew it would be blurred and had no plans to keep it once I began post-processiomg.  My initial response when saw how blurred the image was as well as the harsh lighting, was  to immediately delete it.  However, the more I looked at the image, the more I realized it had possibilities.

Now curious, I began playing with the image  and all of a sudden, I realized it was the image I’d been wanting all along..the transformation from raw emotions, painful memories, and tortured conflicting thoughts too long harbored within  the crucible of my mind  allowing thoughts of peace, tranquility, and a sense of calm restored to my journey through life.

Fires within my mind

The Cauldron of  my mind

 

 

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January 22, 2017: Follow-up to My Post “Yes, I Can Do This” – Addendum

Please accept my apologies – I inadvertently list the same point in the Venn diagram below.  The top circle is now correct.

Fires within my mind

Fires within my mind

In my January 20th post I mentioned a number of “way points”  I needed to come to grips with before I could move forward in my PTSD counseling.  I mentioned that the last way point  “Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past” was the most important as in my mind if I cannot forgive myself, I would be caught in an endless loop of the past with no real chance at being present today with tomorrow an impossibility.  I would always be stuck in the past, no matter how much counseling I would participate in.

I realized over the next four or five days that “Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past” was perhaps the important aspect of my personal PTSD journey.  Until I truly understood this, I would never break free of it’s mind numbing and insidious grip.  There’s a part of me that needs to understand the “why” something is so important before I can truly integrate it.

Venn diagram of the causal relationship why forgiving yourself is so critical

Venn diagram of the causal relationship why forgiving yourself is so critical

The more I thought about forgiveness, the more I realized this concept was the common denominator that enabled the integration of those six way-points referenced in my previous post.

As I thought about how to best show the relationship of each of these points,  I realized a Venn diagram would best demonstrate the interconnectivity of each hard earned understanding over the past five years that has allowed me to finally forgive myself.

While the Venn diagram lists those six way-points, I would like to share those elements of why forgiving yourself is so absolutely crucial to a better journey through life:

  • Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past; until you truly understand this, you cannot forgive yourself.
  • If you cannot forgive your self, the past will control you
  • Past actions must be acknowledged; they happened and must be understood and dealt with before you can move on.  No action is an action.
  • It’s how you come to grips with those acts…you can learn from them or ignore them at your own peril.
  •  If ignored, they will continue to fester, control your life, your relationships, goals, everything you want to do or accomplish will be adversely impacted.
  • The past contains teaching points; it’s up to you to use them wisely or not – it’s your choice; once you recognize the event, dissect it to the nth degree, learn from it put it away as best you can.
  • The past you is not who you are today, nor will it be who you are tomorrow.  However, today cannot be truly lived, nor become the basis for tomorrow if you cannot learn and forgive yourself of your past
  • The past can be a vortex of misery or a collection of happiness…or both.  It is your choice how to accept, and forgive, your past
  • Until you accept and forgive your past, you will never truly enjoy life in all it’s infinite possibilities

These are my personal thoughts of the importance of forgiving your past; that once forgiven, it changes everything for the better…my perspective, my outlook on life, my relationship with my wife and family, to name just a few.

Astoria-Megler Bridge - four miles long and a beautiful crossing

Astoria-Megler Bridge – four miles long and a beautiful crossing

I also know that PTSD will be with me always, that there will triggering events, and it’s up to me how I react to those events.  Yet, at the same time, I no longer feel that it dominates my life as it once did.

Today is the bridge to tomorrow and it’s up to me, to each of us,  of how our journey continues each day; that life must be lived today with tomorrow a world of infinite possibilities.  More importantly, I finally feel “human” and it is an indescribable feeling of elation and joy to me.

Choose Wisely!

Tommy

 

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January 20, 2017: “Yes, I Can Do This” – Notes of My PTSD Journey

Fires within my mind

My Mind’s Cauldron

A rather dramatic title but, nonetheless, apt for today’s post – the long, drawn out journey from when I left Vietnam  in 1968 to where I am today, a torturous 49 years later.  The journey from then to now is littered with casualties, figuratively speaking, as I lived within myself even after I married, causing pain to my wife and to my children, succeeding only in work, from abandoned friendships, before being blindsided by three traumatic events in 2011: Being rammed from behind in heavy traffic on my motorcycle in May; my best friend’s death in August; and telling my family in October that they would be better off without me, that I should leave, shattering the trust between my wife, my children and I.  This sequence of events began unraveling walls, barriers, and safeguards unconsciously built up in my mind over the years since leaving Vietnam, ultimately triggered the flashback that occurred while driving to work on that sunny May, 2012 morning.

My life, and my relationship with my wife and my sons has not been the same since.  Each day a journey of introspective thoughts, counseling,  backsliding while moving forward even though I felt progress was being made.  Painful discussions with the counselors and my wife; dissecting traumatic events to an “nth” degree; recurring flashbacks, searing memories, triggering events that seemed to have no end; keeping a journal of my thoughts while trying to get a better understanding of “why”; an inability to recognize triggering events in “real-time”; writing, writing, always writing about what was going on, how I felt, eventually sharing with my wife; joining a Veterans Talking Group; before slowing becoming aware that  “Yes, I can do this” as I realized that I am in a better place, that “I am doing this”.

From when I entered counseling in 2012 to the realization that “I am doing this” has been a difficult process, a process that hinged on understanding and accepting fundamental truths if you will:

As I look back from 2012 when that first flashback thundered into my mind, I’ve realized that where I am today would not be possible without coming to grips with important waypoints, six in particular:

  • PTSD, once recognized, is a lifelong journey; it never goes away, yet it can be managed
  • I can only control what I can control; what I cannot control I have to let go
  • I am not the same person today as I was when I was 18
  • Communications with your spouse and friends is critical
  • Participating in a Talking Group with other veterans with similar experiences is cathartic
  • Forgiveness is acknowledging you cannot change the past; until you truly understand this, you cannot forgive yourself

These points are the culmination of many counseling sessions, discussions with my wife and my counselors, constant backtracking to trying to understand why I hadn’t quite grasped the nuances of each point before they could be incorporated into my daily life, each step requiring more and more painful introspection before the next plateau could be scaled, before I could truly understand that there would be no true acceptance of my past before I could forgive myself.

Forgiveness

If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot love yourself

If you cannot love yourself, you cannot love others

If you cannot love others, you will always be haunted by your past

If you cannot forgive the past, today is not possible

If today is not possible, tomorrow will never be

Tommy

——————————–

Thoughts on Today’s Post

This post was driven by a friend’s request a few years ago asking if he could share my post about Memorial Day in 2014 thoughts in the hopes that it would help one of his friends who was also suffering from PTSD.

 never knew this would be such a heavy load to carry all these years

Somewhere in Vietnam in 1967, a heavy load to carry all these years

This was a very difficult post to write, extremely difficult in fact, given that it took over a week and another day anguishing on whether I should post this or not.  In the end, I finally came to the conclusion that acknowledging publicly that I have suffered from PTSD from events of long ago, that by not acknowledging I had PTSD many, many years ago, has and an extremely adverse impact to my family, to myself, to lost friends, to lost opportunities, to a loss of a better life for all.

PTSD is a painful, often private, journey that is almost impossible to acknowledge publicly, yet without acknowledging PTSD exists within you and shuttering it away to avoid the pain, ultimately has a cascading, adverse effect on everyone.

It is my sincerest hope that writing about my journey will allow PTSD survivors realize there is hope, that forgiveness of yourself is possible, that in time, each of you “can do this”, no matter how arduous the journey.

As I told my friend in 2014, “yes, please share it” with you friend, if you find find value in my journey that you wold like to share with someone you know who also a PTSD survivor, please do!

Tommy – A Vietnam Veteran from 1965 – 1968

 

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January 8, 2017: Recycled “Soda” Bottles

While recycling is part of our daily routine, sometimes we acquire products made from recycled materials that have all the elements that excite us (Function and Form as well as being aesthetically pleasing).  And, if the recycled products also provide jobs to the area and people who make the products, then it’s even better.

Beautiful Glass from Recycled Soda Bottles

Beautiful Glass from Recycled Soda Bottles

These glasses are hand-made from “soda bottles rescued from the landfill” by Bambeco, a company committed on being environmental friendly and sustainability focused.   Each glass, hand-made and hand blown by master glassblowers (click here, then scroll down for a fascinating video of their process), has its own individual flare, they’re wonderful to hold and drink from, and stunning in their beauty.  I particularly like the rounded edges of the tumblers when drinking from the glass.  Yes, you really should watch the video, its very informative and , if for nothing else, just to see how they get all those wonderful colors in the glassware.

An added bonus is that all their packing materials are made from recycled materials, including an unusual paper they wrap each glass in that they encourage consumers to reuse in art projects as well as send in photos of their completed products.

Disclaimer: While it’s very obvious we truly like the glassware and would encourage others to look into this product, we receive no compensation of any sort from Bambeco.

Technical Details:  NikoBron (Nikon Df with Bronica 50mm wide-angle lens) and hot-shoe mounted flash

 

 

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January 5, 2017: SSD Upgrade = Super Speedy Six Year Old Laptop

I’ve been considering how to approach the “technical” reuse, upgrade or retro fit existing electronic products I’ve been using to make them more functional.

For example I’m typing this post on a six-year MacBook Pro laptop.  When I purchased the laptop my intention was to use it as long as possible given the cost.  As time went by, the laptop received multiple OS X upgrades, software upgrades, and the once blazing laptop of 2011 was showing its age.  It was either consider a newer laptop or upgrading the 2011 one I’m using on a daily basis.  I did a lot of research and decided that replacing the existing hard drive with a SSD was the route to go.  Something had to give as the boot up time with the hard drive was taking “forever” from the time I pushed the power button to I could begin using a program.  “Forever” is a bit of over exaggeration but in reality, the hard drive boot up sequence easily took seven to 10 minutes.  Plus, the laptop ran hot and when the fan came on, was very noisy.  However, as it still did everything I asked of it, I decided to go the SSD route.

My sons gave me a SSD for Solstice and I was looking forward to putting the 2011 laptop through its paces once I had the SSD reformatted to OS X  and reinstalling the OS, programs, and files via Time Machine backup.  As the backup installation was being accomplished via the hard drive, it took a very long time before I could install the SSD into the laptop.

Once the backup install was complete, I opened up the laptop, replaced the HD with the SSD, put the laptop back together, fired it up and was absolutely shocked at the performance increase.  By replacing the hard drive with the SSD the boot up sequence went from seven to ten minutes to less than 45 seconds from power on, typing in a very complex password to application first use with the SSD.

By replacing one component in a six-year-old laptop I essentially have a brand new machine running the latest version of OS X and current programs.  The boot up time of 45 seconds is consistent, applications launch lightening fast, the machine is consistently running cooler and if the fan comes on, it’s a much more muted sound, and shutting the laptop down takes seconds instead of minutes.

The laptop is a joy to use again.  Yes, I know at some point Apple will phase out support but as I use the machine primarily for writing, as long as it turns on with the current s/w I have, I’m OK with this!

A wind chime made from erased hard drive platters that make a lovely sound when it's windy

A wind chime made from erased hard drive platters that make a lovely sound when it’s windy

So, from a recycling point, what do I do with old hard drives that now needing disposal?

The first thing I aways do is erase the drive before taking it apart.

Once erased, I take the drive apart, put aside both the magnets and platters for reuse.  All metal parts are recycled, the non-metal parts containing environmentally hazardous parts are taken to an authorized recycling center for proper disposal.

The magnets are reused elsewhere in the house and the platters are added to a wind chime I made last year.  It took me a while to think of the platter wind chime but when it’s breezy they have a very nice sound and as the platters move in the sunlight they throw wonderful reflections as they spin around.

Image taken with the iPhone 6 and processed in Snapseed and Carbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January 4, 2017: Hurrah! 2017 is Here!

Looking Forward to the Future

Looking Forward to the Future

“Out with the old and in with the new” as the old saying goes!  A good intro to my first post for 2017, especially given that I’m experimenting with additional categories to post in 2017.

Infrared converted to b/w - Graham marsh 2007When I wrote about what I was considering for 2017, I struggled for the right image to convey my thoughts.  While I  thought the B/W image above would best set the tone, my wife commented that it represented a closed gate, a gate that even if opened, led to a closed environment.  As I thought about her observation, I realized she was correct – the image I choose did not truly reflect what my vision was for 2017…so, this morning I selected an image I took in Ankara, Turkey when I visited in 2010, an image that reflects all the elements of my vision: the past, where I am today, as well as what the future could be.

When I took this image, I took it primarily for the partially opened gate as to me, that was the soul of this image, a glimpse of what could be from where we are today.  Yes, there are other elements in the image that are intriguing but it was the partially open gate that captured my imagination, to be curious of what could be.

Time, politics, religion and technology has impacted humanity over the centuries: good in many aspects, not so good in many other ways.  The constant struggle for advancement is always fraught with compromise whether to humanity.

While I, and my family, cannot change the world, we can do our individual parts in what we can to help the environment, recycle to reduce waste, and re-use what we currently have for another (both form and function) use, whether old wood, electronics, glassware, in the garden or yard, or for personal use.  We look at everything from a recycle or reuse purpose, try to purchase new items when needed) that are packaged in environmentally friendly materials, keep our 1/2 acre property as environmentally bee and bird friendly by not using harmful pesticides, and generally do our best to be earth friendly as possible.

More on reuse tomorrow!

 

 

 

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December 31, 2016: The Last Solstice Post

It is New Year’s Eve and the end of this year.  This has been a tumultuous year in many aspects; events have happened that we wish had not.  At the same time, this year has seen good as well.  It has been a year of joy, of pain, of happiness, of sadness as each day brought new hopes to each of us throughout the world.  This year has seen very difficult times, events that cannot be easily understood, small things that bring us joy, the loss of those whom we’ve grown up with, heard their songs, read their stories, shared in each other’s success or heartbreak, waking each morning to do our best to make this a better world in spite of difficult times or circumstances.

Yes, overly optimistic perhaps…but I choose to believe in humanity, that in spite of all the wrongs this year, and the world, has seen, we as a people of all nations will come together to right the wrongs, to make the world a better place for all, to see the planet thrive once more, to joy and peace, to live without conflict with one another.

I choose to make each day count, to live in a better world, for humanity to flourish, to improve our world one step at a time…environmentally, with each other, individually and collectively, to embrace a world culture that views hate, violence, discrimination, hunger, war or destruction of our planet as unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.

My final two Solstice images are of Solstice shadows and the warm glow for the year ahead…

May your New Year be all you wish and hope to be!

Shadows of Solstice 2016

Shadows of Solstice 2016

A Glow in the Darkness

A warm glow for the year ahead

 

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