My resources for living with Aspergers

Great book for those wanting to learn more about Aspergers.

This past week I have talked with a few people about Aspergers. I have been transparent through the years about my Aspergers. I have found that this has helped others understand me better and made my interactions with people more productive.

Anytime I speak to workshops I like to tell my story and I am surprised that almost every time that I do someone comes up saying they have it or have a family member with Aspergers.

I have been asked to talk to family members and help them understand Aspergers a little better.

This is just some of the books I have on Aspergers and recommend that anyone wanting to learn more get some of these books.

Asperger syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum, with generally higher functioning. People with this condition may be socially awkward and have an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. Communication training and behavioral therapy can help people with the syndrome learn to socialize more successfully.

I believe that Teddy Roosevelt’s quote is one that is key for those with Aspergers to understand as key to their success in living with Aspergers.

“People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

The turning point for me to start what I call the path to improved social skills was when I realized I wanted relationships with people and was able to acknowledge it wasn’t so much the other person’s responsibility to understand me as it was for me to understand them.

I believe that most people with Aspergers have a subject interest that when overlapped with people can be the place where social skills are best developed.

For me that subject was photography. To get better I sought out experts. I just happened to stumble upon a subject and mentors that would help me more than I would ever realize with Aspergers.

My mentor Don Rutledge and my uncle Knolan Benfield told me how to improve my photos of people required me to understand body language. Lucky for me I had majored in Social Work which was my first real introduction to learning how to read people.

In Social Work I had to be trained in interview skills. We were video taped and analyzed ourselves with the help of teachers and classmates as to if we were not just listening with our ears, but our eyes.

I do not remember all the videos I saw on the topic while in college, but it was a good number. Then many of the professors I had would also demonstrate and help us learn to pay attention to the nuances.

When later after I had graduated from college and was working with Don Rutledge it was his instruction that really helped me take this to a different level.

We were shooting film when I worked with Don. He would take my contact sheets and his to go frame by frame to explore body language and helping me to see how to find the moments that had the most emotion and impact. Little did I know I was being taught what was my largest struggle up to this time. I had struggled all my life with reading situations and knowing that people were sending me visual cues in our interactions.

I do not know many subjects that will let you get to the core issues of what a person with Aspergers struggles with more than one that requires you to not just recognize body language but also to predict it than photojournalism.

If you have Aspergers or your friend and family member does and you want to learn more here are some books I have read that all helped me learn more. Each one comes from a different perspective. Some are not about Aspergers but about reading people and body language. Those books will help you as well.

I love a few TV Shows where the main characters in my opinion exhibit Aspergers. The Big Bang Theory with the character Sheldon is a great show to watch a person struggling with relationships.

I just came across a Netflix show from the BBC Doc Martin that the main character has extremely poor social skills.

This is a great movie about Aspergers. By the way all these links are to Amazon and I get a small percentage of the sale, but the costs are no different for you.

Here are the books I recommend.

With all these resources I still struggle. While I do care for others I am not always moved to empathy as quickly as I should be. Often my empathy is too mechanical in the way it plays out.

My biggest supporter is my wife Dorie who has helped me grow way beyond where I was when we first met. I have many friends today that know that after getting to know me I am caring.

My greatest wish is to one day be known as a compassionate person that is always looking for ways to serve people.

How about you? Do you want to known for what you know or for how much you care?

Tagged : /

Knowing your subject doesn’t produce a great story, it is …

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/25]
This young boy and his friends were hanging out at a bumper car ride in the Balkans. The boy is looking at me through a reflection of mirrors on the ride. There is a curiosity in his eyes about who is this American with a camera.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/40]
His look and the fact I didn’t have the time to get to know him reminded me that it really takes a lot of things to listen to others.

We had just finished showing our projects to the Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop on Friday night and we all took a break and had walked downtown.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Saturday we put the finishing touches on the stories to show that evening to all the Global Workers and subjects of the stories during our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop.

Here is Pat Davison working with Hannah Dunlap, a student at Cedarville University while beside them are Meghan Duncan, just graduated High School working with James Dockery on putting those finishing touches on their stories to show Saturday night.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/100]
Pat and Hannah are celebrating because they just started the export of the finished project. Meghan and James are getting close and I was working with Juliana Spicer, Liberty University student, on fixing a corrupt sequence in her Adobe Premier Pro project. We got it fixed and she showed her show as well.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.6, 1/100]
This is Korinna Duke, a Cedarville University grad, with her subject. Korinna told me later that she was watching him during the showing of the story she did for his reaction. When he gasped at part of the story she was really worried. She wanted to tell his story as accurately as she could.

Did I just offend him was her question. At the end he not only loved the multimedia package he asked to get a copy to show all his friends and family.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/125]
This week has taught me a lot about “Getting it Right”. We were in the Balkans telling stories of people that we didn’t speak their native language and their English lacked some of the polish necessary to get to the heart of the story.

Most of the students read what the global workers had said about the person they were doing a story on and did little on that first interview to peel beyond what was written on the page. They had basically taken the story at face value.

Some of the subjects had been persecuted based on their ethnicity prior to the Balkan wars for many years. After the war that hasn’t disappeared. During the war instead of insults and loosing their jobs just for being ethnically different they had guns pointed at their heads. They watched as the soldiers executed their parents in front of them by cutting off their heads.

The main reason we were their was due to one global worker who during the Balkans war went to Europe from the United States to help with refugees in a camp. The war was over much sooner than expected and she was asked to work with all the children that were either orphans or lost their fathers.

She created a school to love on these kids and help them during their rebuilding of the country.

Many of the subjects were very guarded about telling their stories. It required the students of the workshop to build trust and listen with more than just their ears. They had to listen with their eyes. They had to be more observant than in their normal life.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is the core skill necessary for the storyteller. Their subjects don’t care how much you know about them, they want to know how much you care about them before they will allow you into their lives.

This week each instructor would ask questions of the students about their subjects. The common question was, “did you ask the subject?”

The key to getting the story right and having the information necessary to produce a compelling story relies solely on the storytellers curiosity and character. Do they care more about the person than the story? If you do then the subject will let you into their lives. It is only when the subject opens the door to their heart is it possible for the storyteller to take the rest of the world with them on that journey.

Wrapping up editing today for tonight’s show for the students

Korinna Duke interviews the founder of a Leadership Academy in the Balkans. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/280]
Today is our time that we will show to everyone in the class each of the students projects. The students have enjoyed hearing the stories of Global Workers taking the time to develop relationships with the people of the Balkans to improve their lives.

It has been about 17 years since the war ended and they haven’t fully recovered.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/100]
So many of the youth lost family during this time. They are looking to the future and starting their families.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Today each student is working on their computers and now putting all the interviews, video, stills and picking music to help tell the story of the subject they have been working with since this past Sunday.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/5, 1/100]
Today I along with the other teachers; Pat Davison, James Dockery, Jeff Raymond and myself, will go around to each of the twelve students to review their stories and offer advice on how to make it better during their edit.

The biggest thing we have been doing in the first edit is getting their stories short. Now we are polishing the videos.

Come back sometime in the next couple of weeks to see some of the finished multimedia packages.

Hump Day for Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop in the Balkans

This is one of the largest Mosques in the Balkans where we are leading our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/15]
Today is hump day and is also our midway point for our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop we are doing for 12 students in the Balkans.

James Dockery is introducing Adobe Premier Pro to the students. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/5, 1/100]
Last night we introduced the software Adobe Premier Pro to the students. We had them install a workspace and shortcut keys into the software that James Dockery designed for our workshop.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/90]
James explains that while they can setup their own workspace and create their own short cuts, for the teaching team to sit down with them and help with editing we need to have a common workspace so we can see what we are looking for as instructors.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/100]

We have a schedule we are working from and each student has workbook that fits into a pocket that has their deadlines that they are working to meet each day.

We have a chart of their deadlines up on a wall that we can at a glance see where each student is in the process.

Today each student is to have finished putting their interviews into the timeline of Adobe Premier Pro and let one of the instructors listen to their audio story. Then they and the instructor can see all the scenes that they need to have B-roll to use as the visuals to complement the audio.

Stanley and James enjoying some Macchiatos. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/100]
To be productive we have to all be awake so James and I have been drinking those Macchiatos to keep awake and alert.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/3.6, 1/100]
Tonight we will export all the projects and look at them in the morning and assess what is missing and needs to be shot to help us make all the projects compelling stories.


Before you tell a story you have to find the story

[Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]
This is Amar and his father is the Imam in a Mosque we visited in the Balkans. This is all part of our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop that I am helping lead in the Balkans, which is part of Eastern Europe.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/240]
This is our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop of 12 participants, 4 instructors and one administrative staff person.

We are finding stories where global workers are helping through education the people of the Balkans.

Hopefully this time next week I can show you some of the finished projects.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/80]
Each day we have a couple hours of class time teaching some of the basics that the students need to do before they go out that day.

Pat Davison who is one of the instructors is talking to the workshop participants about how to conduct a pre-interview where you find the storyline that later will help you with the questions that will make up the video interview.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/100]
This is James Dockery, who is one of the other instructors in our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop that we are doing in the Balkans. James was photographing the kids and I was off to the side and pulled my camera up and they all quickly posed.

No matter where we go we have our cameras and are learning about the culture. Children quickly run to be in the photos here and let us get to know them.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]
We walked to the square in the town at night and everyone is out socializing and drinking their macchiatos.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/400]
This is the Macchiato I was drinking at an Italian restaurant in the Balkans. A Caffé Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato is a shot or two of espresso, with just a small amount of steamed milk that “marks” the espresso, though in some regions, the steamed milk comes first and the espresso makes the mark.

This is a photo from our workshop in Togo, West Africa last year. This is what I will demonstrate this morning for the class. I will be showing them how to conduct an interview where they have a subject and a translator.

The very first night we were in the Balkans we sat down and explained how the next day they were to spend time getting to know their subject. At the end of the day they were to come up with a list of questions that will help tell their subjects story.

Today they are going to conduct those formal interviews which will be the storyline for the multimedia package.

Stay tuned for more experiences from the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in the Balkans this week and even next week.

Full Disclosure is required and seldom done with photography

When I talk about a product and I have been given any compensation I must inform you about that relationship. This is called full-disclosure. It is best that I start the conversation with you up front and not at the end of the message.

Sadly, many photographers who are compensated by camera manufactures or software companies are not fully disclosing this relationship they have to their audience. Therefore too many customers are not recognizing them as the hawkers, peddlers or costermongers that they really are for these brands. Because they are biased you need to know.

When a photographer talks about they just made a switch from camera brand A to camera brand B I think you need to know if they were compensated.

I would go so far as to say that some photographers if it were not for their endorsement deals would not be a working pro. They are pretty much full time spokes persons for the brand. Many of them are great photographers, but in my opinion would still be great photographers no matter the brand they use.

Zack Arias who does reveal his relationship with vendors stopped speaking as much as he was because he realized he wanted his examples to be what he was doing on jobs for other than the sponsor. He told me that he realized when he first started speaking he would pull up an example and say last week when I did this shoot was getting replaced by a couple years ago when I did this for a client.

I have always loved Zack for his candor and his passion for creativity.


Now one of the biggest places you see advertising is in product placement in movies.

According to a Priceonomics analysis, products placed into storylines can be a lot more successful for brands than traditional advertisements, like TV ads. It’s easier to sell a viewer on the value of a product if they’re emotionally invested in the storyline in which it’s presented, rather than a viewer who’s watching an ad totally out of context. Plus, it’s far too easy to skip ads and zone out during ads nowadays, anyway.

When a photographer with a great eye and extremely creative is picked up by a brand it is the same thing as product placement in a movie. E. T. could have used M&M’s instead of Reese’s Pieces and the storyline wouldn’t have been greatly impacted, but the product used benefitted by 65% jump in sales due to the movie placement. Is one candy better than the other?

My disclosures

I am an Amazon Affiliate and a Cradoc fotoSoftware Affiliate. I get a small percentage of sales for Amazon links and a little more if you buy Cradoc fotoQuote, fotoBiz or their keyword software.

Every time I start a blog post talking about a product I am now doing my best to disclose up front and not at the end my connection. I would love for every blog to start with a disclosure because that means I am earning more than I do now from writing this blog.

Now I wish I were a Nikon Ambassador, but I am not. If I were and I was at a conference speaking I would want to be sure when I am introduced that this is said that I am a Nikon Ambassador. This way you know right up front that it is in my best interest for people to go out and buy Nikon gear after I speak. The reason is simple then Nikon will continue this relationship. If sales do not materialize from my work for Nikon then they will terminate that relationship and find someone who does help sell their gear.

Dave Black, a Nikon Ambassador, puts his relationship on the main page of his website

TIP for you!

If you are a fan boy or fan girl of certain photographers and listen to them for what gear and software they recommend, take the time and find out if they are compensated in any way at all by those products.

You need to know when a photographer is talking about stuff you can purchase, which can be gear, software or services if they are compensated in anyway by that brand.

There are a few photographers who do get compensation like free gear or discounted for them and then will write in a blog post a quite misleading comments that say these are their own words and the company didn’t pay them to write that review.

The word BUT negates or cancels everything that goes before it. Therefore when a sponsored photographer says but I wasn’t paid directly for these comments, they are misleading you. They are making the water murky.

If a photographer isn’t giving you a full disclosure can you trust their comments?

For the most part it is the six inches behind the eye that determine the greatness of the photo more than the six inches in front of the eye.

When do you have to make the disclosure?

The FTC guidelines for endorsements and testimonials in advertising say if there is a connection between the endorser and the seller of the product or service, full disclosure is required.



Penalties for noncompliance can range from a written warning and request to provide full disclosure to the maximum of an $11,000 civil fine (per incident).



When and when not to add light to existing light

Chelle enjoys the rainbow after all the rain the past couple days at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 8000, ƒ/22, 1/100]
Sometimes in photography you just need to compose a photo because God has taken care of the light for you. Here is a great example of my daughter at the beach last week. At the end of a full day of rain we had a gorgeous rainbow pop up at sunset.

I may receive a small commission from any purchases made using the Amazon link. This is at no additional cost to you. However it does help support this blog.

I quickly realized that my 24mm wasn’t getting the entire rainbow, so I reached into the camera bag and pulled out the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens. With a 114º view it was able to get the rainbow.

Next I ran to the beach and started to take photos of just the rainbow.

Rainbow after the rain at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

While shooting this my daughter walked into the frame. I quickly realized I just needed her to come closer to the camera and put the rainbow behind her.

Chelle starting to walk towards me.

It was sprinkling and so I have raindrops on my lens that you can see. But I was thrilled with this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most of the time I am having to use artificial light with the existing light to make the photo work.

Here is what I am often doing with photos where I must improve on the conditions.

Leary family Family Photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250 – (2) Alienbees B1600s triggered with Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1]
Our family tradition at a family reunion is getting a photo of the family. I have been doing this photo for 30+ years.

Dorie took some photos of me setting up the family photo on her phone. – photo by Dorie Griggs

Since it had been raining most of the day we still had some cloud cover. By using the flashes I was able to help get a better color since the flashes are daylight balanced and the overcast sky would have dulled the colors.

A second benefit of using the flash is to avoid those raccoon eyes where the sun coming from above can create shadows around the eyes.

Joshua’s senior photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/6400 – Alienbees 1600 using the Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1]
While I had everything with me I also did some photo of my nephew for his senior photos. For these photos I used my Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G so I could shoot wide open and get the really soft background and make him pop out more.


  1. Use fill flash for outside photos
    1. At the beach you might think you don’t need it, but it can really improve the color and get rid of the raccoon eyes.
    2. Put the flash off the camera at 45º
  2. For group photos shoot at ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8 to be sure everyone is in focus.
  3. For individuals use a telephoto lens like my 85mm ƒ/1.8. Shoot wide open to get that silky out of focus background.
  4. Use a tripod for groups
    1. Helps keeping horizon straight
    2. If one person blinks you can clone them from another frame. Sometimes you just cannot get the best expressions of everyone in one frame and having everything shot on tripod makes it easier to cut and paste.
    3. If needed you can use slower shutter speed. However, be careful that people are still if you do.

Leary family Family Photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Here is one of my favorite’s from the photo shoot of our family.

When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Chelle enjoys the rainbow after all the rain the past couple days at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, 14-24mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/22, 1/100]

“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity” – Roman philosopher Seneca

There are times for photographers where you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Last night was one of those times for me. It had been raining all day long and washed out our day at the beach.

Genesis 9:13
I will put my rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of my promise to the earth.

Now to get this photo you cannot use your smartphone. You need a super wide angle lens. For this photo I used my Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens to be able to capture the complete rainbow. The lens captures 114º of view, which is enough to capture the full rainbow for my photo.

I may receive a small commission from any purchases made using the Amazon link. This is at no additional cost to you. However it does help support this blog.

I realized after shooting some shots up at the house we are renting that if I go to the beach I can eliminate all the foreground that wasn’t as pleasing.

Rainbow at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

By going to the beach I was able to clean up the foreground. Now I started to want something else in the photo other than just the rainbow.

Rainbow with seagulls at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

So I waited as birds flew into the frame and shot a few of them. But then my daughter wanting to get closer to see what I was seeing walked into the frame. I just asked her to walk to me and the top photo was one of the best frames.

Because your back will be towards the sun when photographing a rainbow the light at the end of the day was on my daughter’s face, so no need to improve the already wonderful light.

This is a great example of taking your camera gear with you and not just relying on your smartphone.


Travel Photography: These are a few of my favorite things

Ocean Isle Beach, NC [Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.3, 1/640]
Travel photography is often just catching those elements that create a desire for the place. Often people put up in their homes and offices photos and paintings of these places as a way for them to escape for a moment by just soaking in the image.

The pier at Ocean Isle Beach, NC [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/500]
The key to capturing these moment’s of solitude are they have to first have this impact on you. You must first be moved and relaxed. Then from this experience you frame the situation to help capture that feeling which brings peace into your life.

Seagull at Ocean Isle Beach, NC [Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
For me a bird in flight captures total freedom and ability to soar. I often think about how in the Bible the dove was used to symbolize the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:21-22
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

You often see artists who will put scripture with their work. It is how they are often moved not just to a peaceful moment, but one that has deeper meaning for them. It was a spiritual moment.

Rainy day at Ocean Isle Beach, NC [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 900, ƒ/22, 1/100]
For me raindrops on windows reminds me of the musical Sound of Music.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Travel photography is capturing “My Favorite Things” that I hope will be your’s as well. If I do my job well then you too will want to vacation at Ocean Isle, North Carolina.

Pier at Ocean Isle Beach, NC [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200]

Time of Day Impacts Your Photo

Leary family reunion at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. We are enjoying our accommodations on the beach front. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 51200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
Time of day makes a HUGE impact on a photograph. Take a look at these two examples.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/5, 1/500]
The photos create two different moods and the reason you may use one over the other is for the purpose it is to serve.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/500]
This photo during the daytime with all the chairs helps give context to the house and it’s location to the beach.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50]
If you can take photos at different times of day of a location take them both and do your best to make each one work.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/35]

Do you know about the Dehaze Effect in Lightroom & PhotoShop?

May 2015 Adobe added to PhotoShop and Lightroom the Dehaze slider. The Dehaze tool helps you easily reduce or remove haze, common in many outdoor photos like landscapes.

Here is the above photo with the Dehaze at 0

Same photo settings but now Dehaze at +73

Now if you were like me you had an editing workflow and when Adobe introduces a new tool you may not even be aware of it. Well I have been using it for about a year now. It works great.

Like all tools you need to try it and see if it works for a photo or not.

This tool in Lightroom is all the way at the bottom of the tools just about Camera Calibration in the Effects module.

Here is a photo without the Dehaze applied

Here it is at +36

I recommend trying out this tool on your photos. You will be glad you did.

PhotoShop CC Instructions

Here is how you access it in PhotoShop CC. Go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter in the menu.

Then when in the RAW Filter click on the ƒx tab. Then you will see the Dehaze slider on top.