Monthly Archives: August 2012

Close encounter of a proud kind

I have been going to airshows since I was a kid, but yesterday’s 2012 State of Maine Airshow was by far the best.  It was not because the planes, jets and displays were better than ever. It wasn’t the food or the drinks. It was my birthday and I got the best present I have ever received.  My oldest son Ryan and I spent the entire day together,  just the two of us, and he was part of the airshow.  Prior to the the Thunderbirds taking off, Ryan and 36 other DEPers (Delayed Entry Program) were sworn in on the tarmac standing next to the pilots and their jets.  They took the oath and were officially sworn into the Air Force.

It brought tears to my eyes, and many of the other parents assembled on the tarmac.  Ryan has wanted to join the military since he was a kid, and now his dream is coming true.  I could not be more proud.  The entire day could not have gone better.  We left a little late as I looked at the forecast and I figured the show would start late as the morning fog was still hanging around.  We sailed right through Brunswick and Route 1, only being slowed a tad just prior to the gate at the airport in Brunswick.  The former Naval Air Station Brunswick has been decommissioned as part of the nationwide cuts several years back, but the facility looks the same.  We parked right on the base and were just passing through the entrance when the show began.  Perfect timing.  The skies cleared and the temperature was perfect.  The show was great, and watching Ryan take the oath brought tears to my eyes.  Not only was I proud and overcome with pride, but at the same time I know he will soon be leaving home for a new chapter in his life.  There will be a giant void in my life when he leaves, but a giant sense of pride will fill it.

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Festival, fire, fundraisers and kilts

I shot the first launch of the first Great Falls Balloon Festival 20 years ago from an experimental airplane that took off from a short, grassy field that sloped downhill.  A scary takeoff for sure, but a memorable experience, especially the sight of balloons hovering over the Androscoggin River between Lewiston and Auburn.  I have had many memorable experiences and photos since then, but that was certainly one of the most memorable.  This past weekend, I was lucky enough to fly with Honi Glover in Amazing Grace for the Friday launch that kicked off the 20th festival.  Honi is a former truck driver who now is inspired by God.  It was a fun, educational and uplifting experience to say the least.

Check out the video from my flight.

Saturday morning I dropped off Ryan, my oldest son at 5:30 at the vehicle bridge leading to Simard-Payne Memorial Park where the balloons launched.  He is still helping out the Army Cadets even though he has graduated from LHS and is heading to basic training in Texas for the Air Force soon.  He has matured into a fine young man who Ann and I could not be more proud of.  He and some of his fellow cadets volunteer every year.  They arrive before sunrise and don’t leave until 11:00 at night.  Three very long days for the boys.

I did not stay for the launch,  my colleague,  Jose Leiva covered the morning launch as I had to go to the Topsham Fairgrounds to shoot photos and video of Mark LaFlamme wearing a kilt and taking part in some of the activities at the Highland Games.  Check out next week’s Sunday paper for that fun story and the video on our website.

After coming back from Topsham,  I downloaded the video and headed over the the balloon festival.  I wondered around, shooting the different events, food, games, rides, music, kids playing inside an inflated balloon and more.  I then spent over an hour manning the live camera that Pattie Reaves had set up to cover all the launches.   She probably worked harder and longer than anybody this weekend.  She is a trooper.  I loved being able to zoom in and out at the field where kids were playing,  people interacting, and all the fun that was going on as people hung out waiting for the balloons to take off.    

When they did, I shot the first wave that took off and then parted the mass of people as I hurried over to the parking garage by Festival Plaza in Auburn in hopes of shooting the shaped balloons rising with the Lewiston skyline in the background.  The light, clouds and everything was perfect.   However, the wind was still too much for the shaped balloons to launch, so I headed back to Lewiston.  Several balloons were tethered to the ground and were going up and down, giving rides.

The night sky and balloons lit up made for a cool photo.    Headed back to the office and processed my photos and downloaded the video.  Pattie suggested that I hold off publishing a video as it would get lost in the morning live coverage, and I had already worked a 12 hour day.  Instead, we met up at Gritty’s for a couple beers that were well deserved.  We didn’t stay long as we both had yet another long day ahead of us on Sunday.

Sunday morning was spectacular.  I was psyched to get some great photos and video, but just after I had taken a few of the first balloons launching, I heard a wave of sirens.  There is a different sound when they are going to something for real and when they know something is really on fire.  I looked over toward Auburn and a big column of black smoke was rising in the air.   Shooting as I went, I made my way over to the Lewiston fire truck stationed at the festival.  I was told that they had just called in a second alarm for an apartment building on Second Street in Auburn.   Damnit, not now I thought.  I shot a few more photos and jumped in my car and headed over.  The fire was nearly out by the time I got over there and there was not much visible damage to the exterior, but I shot some video and photos.

 By the time I got back to Lewiston, the balloons were  long gone.  Of course.
I headed to the office and downloaded my video and posted a few photos of the fire online.   By 10:00 I had the video uploaded onto our website.  I started working on my video from Sat and this morning.  I had a 1:00 assignment at Martindale for a LHS hockey team golf fundraiser.  On the way, I stopped at the duck race fundraiser in the canal next to Bates Mill to have something different from just balloons.

Click here to watch the fire video.

I got to Martindale and took some photos of the event and headed over to Festival Plaza where a jazz band was playing.  I needed more background music for my video.

I headed back to the office and processed the duck race photos and the golf fundraiser, downloaded the additional video and finished editing the video from Sat and Sunday.

Click here to watch the video from Sat and Sunday at the balloon festival.

It was nearly time for the evening launch, but I had already worked another 12 hour day and was told that I didn’t have to go to the PM launch if they launched in the morning.  I had a decent variety of photos from the morning, so I was done after yet another long day.  The weekend was finally over and I had my fill of balloons.

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To print or not to print

It is not unusual that I go to calls I hear on the scanner that don’t amount to anything. More often than not, what sounds like something that will make great photos turns out to be unfounded, fabricated or I just miss the moment that would make a good photo.  Others turn out to be nothing like what was reported.  I would estimate that more than half the time, I take photos that never make it into print or on our website.  That does not mean that there is nothing going on, but what transpires is not what we would publish or there is some other reason we choose not to go with it.  Case in point is last night when I was working late, deleting files from my hard drive.  I have just about filled yet another.  My shift ended at 9, and it was just a little before 10 when a call came over the scanner for an armed robbery on Knox Street. I went over to check it out and shot some video, click here to watch, but there were no arrests and no information available from police before we went to press, so it was a case of not having enough information to publish.  Hopefully Mark LaFlamme will get something tonight.

ImageOften I get to a scene and after talking to people on the street, police and other city officials, there is either not enough information available to publish, or the incident simply does not warrant our attention. While I was just about to leave the Knox Street scene, a call came over the scanner for a woman down and not breathing on Blake Street, just around the corner.  Fellow reporter Andie Hannon and I took off to see what was up.  When we arrived on scene, we were confronted by some very agitated young men.  They threatened to bring a lawsuit and said we could not photograph the scene if they told us we could not.  We tried to explain to them that we did in fact have the right to do so, and that only seemed to make them more incensed.  They talked to a police officer on the scene and he told them the same.  We found out from other “officials” at the scene that the woman, a 18 year old who is well known to police, was not having any kind of medical crisis, and felt she was having an anxiety attack.  So, while there was a police presence, fire and ambulance, a public “spectacle” that many driving past or living in the neighborhood would want to know about, it was not something we would publish.  Scenes like this play out every day all over town and we can not publish photos or stories from every scene.  I tried to explain that to the angry friends of the girl on the ground and tell them that I was not trying to be insensitive, and it was just my job to be here, and that it probably would not make it into the newspaper.  I am pretty sure that message did not get through. Some days I make enemies doing my job, others, I make friends for life.  Just another day on the job.

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All work and no play makes Russ a very dull boy.

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With my two oldest boys away or committed to other projects, I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with my youngest son Chris.  We had nothing planned except some tennis and going out to Taylor Pond to swim and fish.  However, my brother in law, Steve Hecker, called Sat. AM and asked we wanted to come over and swim in his pool.  Just two weeks ago some knuckleheads from M-T pools came over to fix a leak in his above ground pool.  They stopped the leak…..by creating a Tsunami.  The pool exploded, flooded his basement, ruined his deck and left a wake of destruction from his backyard to the street.  But that’s another story.  He got it fixed, through Future Pools, who did a fabulous job, and invited my family over to swim.  Everyone but Chris and I were busy, so we brought over some vittles: beverages….adult and teen (Mountain Dew…diet).  We had a great afternoon swimming and at dusk, headed home, grabbed our rackets and took off for the courts at LHS.  Steve and Pam were planning to take their boat out to Winthrop with some other friends and relatives the next day and invited us.  The weather was beautiful and the water was fantastic.  We played frisbee on the green with a band playing in the gazebo.  Burgers, kabobs and kielbasa on the grill and off for more swimming.  Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Thank you so much Pam and Steve.

Click here to check out a short video from Sunday’s fun.

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Down on the corner

One day I am covering cute kids dancing to music at Fountain Park, another I record the other side of the city I grew up in.  As a journalist, I see the good, bad and ugly. I have been telling stories with still images for three decades.  Now equipped with a video camera, I can better capture the sights and sounds of my city as it evolves, or perhaps, regress.  My city has changed a lot since I was a kid.  Like many other across the nation, the people who inhabit them, the culture, the language and behavior have changed.  If you are easily offended, do not watch this video.  CLICK HERE TO WATCH THIS VIDEO.

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