Four overtimes at the first game of the 2014 high school basketball I covered and I was put in my place. It’s one of the most exciting events I cover year after year, but after 30 plus years covering it, I had to be reminded how lucky I am to be a part of it. Closer to the action than anybody except the teams and officials, getting paid to document the excitement, I had the gall to complain. Long day, blah, blah blah, crabby old man. Walking back to the media table at the Augusta Civic Center to download my photos after a thrilling conclusion, I grumbled some callous remark about being painful to one of the most accomplished and respected sports writers I have ever met, and have the pleasure to work with. I don’t remember the exact words, but when Kalle Oakes simply said, “I thought it was rather exciting” I felt like a spoiled kid in the candy store complaining that I could only get the second biggest candy bar. A vision of the fat kid morphed with the spoiled girl in Willy Wonka flashed into my head. When I walked into the auditorium, past the people waiting to buy tickets, flashing my credentials, with my freeking name printed on it for cripes sakes, I thought I was all that, but soon after I was whining wah wah wah. Being the late guy this past week, I have had to cover game after game after game of the high school basketball tournament. Watching hearts broken and dreams come true, I get to witness moments that will be the highlight of many kids lives. I found new vigor to capture it for them with my photographs. Most photographers “working” for the other publications only post a handful of photos from each game. I make it a point to upload dozens to our galleries in hopes not to make a buck for the company, although it helps keep me employed, but that they might be a keepsake for a kid or more likely, their mom or dad…or grandparent. Perhaps not. But I cling to the thought the moments I capture might immortalize, or at least entertain for a moment. Some say it is just sports. News is more important. Perhaps for some, but for others, it is the only reason they buy our paper or read it online. So, I try to bring the same passion and effort in every assignment, every day. Thank you Kal for reminding me of this. Here are a few other photos I have taken since my last blog that I am proud of.
I agonized about submitting this photo that I thought summed up the recent hotly contested and contentious mayoral debate in Lewiston.
I thought it was the best photo as it displayed emotion, evoked emotion, and there was some good action. After a few weeks of thinking about it, I am not sure I made the right decision. The photo IS an eye catcher. However, it does not show the mayor in a positive light. Should I be concerned with that? Often times we take photos of athletes with strange or weird facial expressions in the midst of a crucial play that tells the story of the game. Victims at accident scenes, fires or other mishaps often find subjects in a non flattering, even compromising situations.
I had other photos. However, I did not think there were powerful enough to anchor the front page as this was the biggest story of the night. I was caught up in the fact that I was able to capture this moment. When the mayor was caught up in the emotion of the election. Relieved that it was over, and beaming with the fact that the victory was nearly a 2-1 margin.
The reaction in the newsroom was mixed. Some thought it was a good photo and represented the mood of the night and the culmination of the controversial campaign.
Others were luke warm about it and asked if I might not have something that showed Mayor Macdonald in a more favorable light. I argued that I had others, but they were pretty static or posed, like the group photo. After receiving numerous letters and emails damning me for publishing the photo I have come to the realization that it may have not been the right move to push for this photo. Not because I did not want to offend the mayor, not because of the backlash from our readers, but after looking back at numerous other photos I have taken over the year, I noticed that Mr. Macdonald has a tendency to stick his tongue out when nervous. This was nagging me from the moment I got back and started editing my images. Was this really a reaction to the phone call, that is, was he sticking his tongue out because; nah nah nah nah “I just kicked your butt,” or was it a tic, or nervous habit. Should this change the decision making process?
One last hypothetical scenario to make the point. I am at an accident scene where a car is upside down in the middle of the street. Nobody is hurt, the driver is walking around, actually joking. A gust of wind blows some sand in his face and he brings his hands to his face. It makes for a dramatic photo with the car upside down, looming in the background and the victim looking anguished. But does it misrepresent the situation. Hell yeah. But it is so much more powerful that him just walking around. Do I run with that dramatic photo. Compelling. Or is it the wrong decision. Just what I am grappling with in the mayoral victory photo debate. If I would have just worked the assignment a little harder, stayed a little longer, perhaps I would have got a better photo that would not caused such an uproar. Or was it the correct call. A conundrum for sure.
I’ll try to recap some of my favorite photos. The balloon festival was fabulous this year. It was extra nice for me as this was the first time in several years I was not scheduled to work the morning launches. Despite the beautiful weather, I did not get up for a single morning launch. I did go out to my porch and watch them float past one morning, but after so many years of covering it night and day, I was more interested in getting extra sleep than getting up to see the balloons. I did get one of my favorite balloon photos ever when local pilot Jim Rodrigue took off in his single seat “cloud hopper” the night before the festival kicked off. The artwork on his legs dangling down made the photo!
With a shrinking newsroom staff, vacations, and long term projects, we often struggle to find stories that lend themselves to photos. So, we cruise for features more days that I wish. But it does get us out of the office and we get to find some slices of life.
I waited and waited for a flock of birds to fly past. After about a half hour, all I got was a single bird here and there. I liked the contrail from the jet. Who knew the comments it generated from the crowd that think the government is putting toxins in the fuel that is poisoning us. Who knew? Not sure I am ready to believe that one.
I’ve thought about writing for a long, long time. Maybe I think too much, but sometimes I just don’t take time to write. There is something here that doesn’t last too long. I need to write more often and not grate you with the play on Todd Rundgren lyrics.
Since my last blog, Lewiston was hit by a rash of fires.
It was one of the most intense, up close, and visual event I have ever recorded. It brought attention to the blight of abandoned apartments creating tinder. The residents were down right frightened. The conditions of some of these places are horrifying. When we stopped at a building where I used to drop off a kid on my son’s football team after practices and some games even, it hit home.
Click here to watch Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Bail take me and reporter Scott Taylor on a tour of some of the cities worst buildings with stories that would shock you what happened in them. We can’t tell the stories, but the video speaks for itself.
On a night where I was leaving work on time for a change, hoping to catch the last period of the Bruins playoff game, I was literally pulling out of the SJ parking lot when a call came over my scanner dispatching the Auburn fire department about a boat disabled on the Androscoggin River, and they were hanging onto a pylon, just above Great Falls. I actually thought about blowing it off, turning off the scanner, hoping somebody in the newsroom wouldn’t hear it and it would turn out to be nothing….like so many calls. That would be the day! The light turned green and I figured I could get to the trestle by Hall and Knight on the Lewiston side in less than a minute. I walked out onto it, on the side with the rail, about a quarter of the way across, realized I would have to cross over to the other side, without any railing, and certain death if I fell over. They were directly below, and I wasn’t about to lean over the edge….call me chicken….call me afraid of heights, I am all that. Jumping back in my car, racing to the parking lot behind the Esplenade, I grabbed all my gear, except a tripod….too much to lug. I got to the lookout and it wasn’t far enough up river, so I had to bushwack up the side of an overgrown hill, good thing I had long pants on. On the Auburn side of the trestle now, I had a great vantage and quickly shot a few stills and then got out the video gear. It was hard to zoom steady huffing and puffing from the adventure getting there. I found a solid spot to put my video bag down and propped my camera level and aimed at the emergency unfolding. I couldn’t believe how frightened the woman was, and how mad her husband was. Click here to check out how they were rescued.
The fourth of July week was wicked special for me. On Wednesday I was shooting the Portland Sea Dogs game, just setting up my laptop in the press box when I got a call from my oldest son Ryan. He is in the Air Force and just received his wings. Top of his class, on his way to be a boom operator for a KC 135 air refueling wing based out of Fairchild, Washington. The Civil War renactors on the field fired their guns and the National Anthem was about to begin. Of course, he understood that I had to hang up, it wouldn’t be proper to be talking during while it was being sung. Protocol and all. He is going to make the Air Force proud. He already has his family proud as can be.
The Fourth was the usual fair, shot these photos and fireworks and made a pledge to myself that next time I shoot them, I will not shoot them from the bridge, but far away with a long lens. Multiple reasons. But having a GoPro on the bridge might be a good idea. I had planned on shooting from the top of the parking garage, having Veterans Park in the foreground, but when I got up there, the trees had grown so big, it blocked the view of the people and the stage. Needed something in the foreground…..a photo of fireworks in the sky could be anywhere.
The photos above are a few of my favorites I have taken since my last blog. In the future, I will blog more often and try not to cram so much into one blog.
The end of the holiday week was a splashing success. My brother and sister in law, Jake and Aunt B Ouellette, invited us to spend Sunday afternoon on their boat at Sebago Lake. What a fabulous day, and when I got home I put to use all the new skills I learned from YouTube tutorials about Adobe Premier video editing software. We have been using Final Cut Pro, but are transitioning to the Adobe, so I needed to practice with some video, so I took my GoPro along and used the footage to practice. Their daughter is the most precious little girl you could ever imagine.
More to come….soon.
Over the 30 years I have been a photographer, journalist, photojournalist, and now, visual journalist……I love most every day I work. One day last week was not one of them. A young boy was accidentally run over by his father and killed. I was sent to interview his family. What can you say, what questions are there to ask? To point a camera at them all the while is my job. The family knows they need to let people see Nathan one last time. To remember his personality and spirit, but I don’t feel right. They really don’t want to talk, to have us invade their time of mourning. It’s almost a necessary evil for us and them to do what is best in this tragic, horrible, gut wrenching situation. I did not know Nathan Capponi, but I cried for him and his family. Very unprofessional perhaps, but I am only human.
I had big plans to blog, tweet, facebook and be a multi-media man a few years ago. I had all this emerging technology, and I vowed to use it all. Today, I use facebook a little, tweeted a couple two three times, and blogged out a few dozen. I do update the Sun Journal website nearly every day I work with photos, video’s and breaking news as well as sports, feature photos and the beauty of Maine. But I have not totally embraced the world wide web and all its assets. My excuse is that I concentrate on what I do well, do it a lot, and add new stuff in bits and bytes and learn as I go.
Sunday was the heart pounding day. I was one of the first through the doors of the sap house at Black Acres Farm in Wilton. It was Maple Syrup Sunday and it was a quick in and out. I really wanted to take the time and do a cool video, but I needed to be at the start of a race at Sugarloaf at 10:00. I wanted to find somebody to wear my GoPro on their helmet. The photo below that ran on the front page turned out pretty good I thought. On Monday I got a call from his mom wanting to get a print and to tell me how cool it was that it was his birthday. She was so excited! I made her day, and most likely her son’s.
Belator MMA will certainly be back to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for another televised fight for sure. The fans came in droves and they were rowdy and loud. It had to be mentioned in the story the next day that the building is most noted for the most famous short fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston.
Several fights were over in less than 18 seconds. It is a brutal sport and there is no shortage of blood. It is not for the faint of heart. None of our local fighters fared well. The story was that Brent Dillingham had to shed nearly 15 pounds just before the fight to make-weight. That and a tough opponent tapped him out.
If the blood and violence of the fight did not turn you away, how about an argument on gun laws and shows. Is it right to be able to sell these guns? Big guns, little guns, guns that shoot a lot. Short ones, fat ones, ones that kill a lot. Truth be told, guns are made to kill. End of story. With the amount of guns already on this planet, my belief, and I hope I don’t get in trouble for editorializing, but a criminal will be able to get any type of gun he wants if he has the money and is determination. The other 95% of law-abiding citizens of this great USofA will not be able to defend themselves.
He chuckled and said that in some states, the new laws restrict law enforcement to a limited number of bullets they can carry.
Sunday was the last day of the season at Lost Valley. I have skied, taken photos, and contemplated taking part in the pond skimming over the course of the past few years. The below freezing temperatures this year, coupled with flashbacks of people plowing face first into the water, convinced me that it would be a working assignment with no chance of participation, even though it was my day off. Call me crazy.
On the way over I thought about the ways I would use my GoPro. I figured I would ask somebody to wear it, and remembered Tanner Dillingham, no relation, being one of the few, if only, one who managed to get all the way across last year. I arrived just as the first person down was splashing across the man-made pond. I got my gear out of the car and just as I set the equipment down, I heard Jodd Bowles, the effervscent MC, talking about Tanner getting his skis on to head up for a run. Serendipity. I asked him, and he thanked me for asking him. I said, “no, thank you.” Although I did not actually participate in the event, I think I got as wet as many of those who did. It was all fun and I was dressed for it, so all was good. Click here to check out the video!
Coming back to the office from an assignment at Leavitt High School on the first day of spring sports practice, as usual, I took a different route than I came. I attended a seminar a number of years ago where a well-known photojournalist gave a talk and said that he always took a different route back from an assignment to increase his opportunities to find interesting photos. Unless he noticed something on the way there that might turn into something or was worth checking out again, he always took a different route to and from assignments. I have always tried to follow that advice when possible, and quite often, had luck finding a cool “feature” or “enterprise” photo as they are called. Monday was one of those days. Instead of coming back down Route 4 through Auburn, I headed over the Androscoggin River and onto North River Road in Greene where I found this photo and a great story. I thought that if there was not enough room to give it good play in the next day’s paper, I might turn it into a photo column. There was a great story to go along with the photo. As it turned out, it ran big on the front page and I was surprised that every word of my wicked long caption also ran.
My photo column was murdered, I thought. Edited, chopped and the best parts ripped from the pages of the Sun Journal. I was told, it didn’t meet the Cheerios test and some of the words I used are never printed unless in extenuating circumstances. I was not surprised. In fact, I didn’t think it would fly in the first place.
I guess the edit helped and as it turned out, I have received more calls about the photo and column than I have about anything I have written in a long time. Funny how things like this come off. I work on some stories for days, even weeks, and they are often overlooked. What I think is an award winner turns out to be a snoozer.
Last Monday was my turn to write a photo column to run in Tuesday’s paper. I had some ideas all week that seemed to fizzle for one reason or another. I was scheduled to work the weekend, and there was not much going on, so I figured I could turn something around. I looked hard, worked a couple leads and made some connections, but nothing that could be turned around over the weekend. Sunday night I realized I would have to follow one of the leads I got over the weekend, and even though it was my day off, I had to get it done.
As I was walking out the door to go home, the crows, as they often do, were flying overhead. They usually are heading in a Northerly direction, but tonight it looked like they were heading to the park across the street. Within five minutes I had text for my photo column, and had to scramble to get the photo before it got too dark. Here is the first paragraph of the unedited version of my photo column.
MURDER IN KENNEDY PARK
A young couple walking arm and arm through Kennedy Park in Lewiston Sunday night was accosted, but managed to get away with just a stain on the young man’s coat. It was a murder of crows that was the culprit, roosting in trees as the sun settled into the horizon behind the skyline of Lewiston-Auburn.
“That was gross.” said the young girl not wanting to be identified. When asked their names, the young man began to give his willingly, but his friend quickly interrupted with: “Are you kidding me. If our friends read about us getting shit on in the newspaper, they’d laugh the (explicative) out loud. Let’s get the hell out of here before we get crapped on again.” she quipped as they flew off. So, the incident will go down in the books as an undocumented attack on an unsuspecting person in a public park.