Ashley Conti: 2014 in review

I can’t believe 2014 is almost over. It’s been a crazy year, for sure. I definitely feel like I’ve grown as a photographer, especially in the last seven months that I have been apart of the BDN.

I’ve been able to take visual risks and have been rewarded for doing so. It’s so refreshing to be able to work in an environment where you are not only allowed to experiment, but where it is encouraged.

It amazes me how open people in Maine allow you to become apart of their lives so quickly. As I said in my six-month introduction, I’ve seen people at the happiest days of their lives and I’ve seen them at the worst.

This selection of photos shows all of that.The lowest lows, the highest highs and everything in between.

What I really love about the BDN is the focus on multimedia and video. It helps give our audience a whole different level of connection that words and photos can’t do alone.

My three favorite video pieces from 2014 definitely do just that.

I’m positive 2015 will be even better. I’m stoked to bring you guys even more amazing photos and video to help tell your stories.


Photo editing and domestic violence

Last week, the bodies of Christina Sargent, 36, her son, Duwayne Coke, 10, and her daughter, Destiny Sargent, 8, were found strangled to death at their mobile home in Garland, Maine.

The suspect, who later confessed to the killing, was Keith Coleman 27.

Maine is no stranger to domestic violence. So much so that we at the BDN strive to find ways to raise awareness about it and have made it a goal to eliminate it from our state. It’s a goal that we may never achieve, but we all work very hard to find ways of telling stories that will bring us closer and closer to that goal.

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BDN photographer Linda Coan O’Kresik went to the Penobscot Judicial Center for Coleman’s arraignment. One of O’Kresik’s images shows the suspect in his orange jump suit, staring directly back at the camera. The stare is blank, his eyes almost lifeless. It was a photo that would engage readers directly and my goal, drive this crime and the issues surrounding domestic violence home.


During our p.m. print meeting we mulled over the photo and how the front page would look. We also had school photos of Coke and Sargent, by contrast photos showing childhood innocence.

All of this content was worthy of A1, but was leading with the suspect in his orange jump suit the right way to go? At the moment he and his day in court was the focus of the news day.

At first, and before much thought, we were going to lead with Coleman. But what should we do with the photos of the children? We threw around the idea of not having Coleman on the same page and putting either his photo or the kids photos inside. The problem was that all the photos were very impactful in their own right and their inclusion was necessary to drive the story home.

We decided to talk to Erin Rhoda, our Maine Focus editor at the BDN, and after some discussion we came to this conclusion.

When covering these domestic violence stories the emphasis should be on the victims and the layout should reflect that. If our goal is to end this, glorifying the arraignment of a lead suspect is skewing the focus to become a story of criminals, lawyers and the court system. Whereas leading with the kids, keeps the issue of domestic violence at the forefront and in our reader’s minds.

The hope? Our community will say “no more” and more and more Mainers will try to find their own way of reaching the goal of ending this violence in our state.

In 2014 so far there have been 19 homicides in Maine, 12 of them have been deemed the result of domestic violence.



A giant moon, storm devastation and Maine islanders: Brian Feulner’s photos of 2014

2014 was an incredible year to be a photographer at the BDN. We produced several digital projects and had the opportunity to experiment with different ways of telling stories in a constantly changing digital landscape.

Two of my favorite digital projects from this year were The Good Life and Six Miles Out.

As photographers, our focus isn’t just about the moment anymore. In today’s world, our jobs have become a cocktail of brainstorming, setting up assignments, shooting photos and video, gathering audio, editing, updating that to a post or into a project that’s a collaboration with a handful of other editors and reporters, then sharing it all out to the world on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, among others.

After all that, we review what we do and look for different and unique ways to present our work. The editors and management at the BDN have made it a priority to innovate so that we can continue to be leaders among news media.

It’s a job that involves constant change and, at its heart, is about sharing stories. Although it’s not for everyone, I love it and thrive on the constant fluidity of what we do.

Photojournalism through still photography is the reason I started in this career and the part of this job that is most dear to me. Over the next week or two you’ll see some great work by all our photographers on staff at the BDN. The slideshow above shows some of my favorite photos that I had the opportunity to make this year.


Cuba, through the eyes of BDN’s Bob DeLong

In April 2000, the Bangor Daily News sent photographer Bob DeLong to Havana along with reporter Gordon Bonin to accompany a group of Maine educators organized by Let Cuba Live on a one-week tour of Cuba. The trip happened about the time of the famed Elian Gonzalez international custody battle. Gonzalez was the 6-year-old Cuban boy whose family in Miami tried to take custody of him while the U.S. government and his father battled to keep him in Cuba.

Nearly 15 years later, Cuba and the U.S. have vowed to re-establish diplomatic relations, which were originally tainted by the Cold War cuban missile crisis. 

During his visit, DeLong took photos of children playing baseball in the streets, where roosters also roamed. He showed a country full of color and decaying Spanish architecture.

BDN cartoonist George Danby, who worked with DeLong, said he was usually relaxed and quietly observant while shooting. Danby said he was in the background, but always with a keen eye, looking for a photo that wasn’t obvious and unusual.

“His photography was always a part of him.” Danby said.

DeLong retired from the paper in February 2002 after 22 years as a photographer for the BDN and a total of 34 years with the company. Just a few years later, he died of an illness at the age of 68.

Former Bangor Daily News Executive Editor Mark Woodward was quoted in DeLong’s obituary as saying “Bob DeLong was the epitome of the professional newspaper photographer.”

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Bob DeLong, courtesy of Monty Rand

5@50 December 15, 2014

The weather was warm today and folks were strolling, rather than scurrying, as I shot this installment of my 5@50 series.  Two men and a woman were skateboarding in Congress Square. The sky was blue.

If you remember, I’m shoot five photos a week with my 50mm lens in Portland: no crazy cropping or Photoshopping. So, far I’ve posted each set of five from a single walk through the city. I haven’t saved any pictures to publish later. I pick five from what I shoot and erase the rest.

I’m thinking I’ll do this for a year and then see what I have. Maybe I’ll have a show in a gallery.

We’ll see.

In The Moment: Curling

The beauty of what we do as visual journalists is that sometimes we are given free-range to go out and find something that interests us and photograph it.

I wanted to photograph something that was winter related. My co-worker, Gabor, suggested checking out the Belfast Curling Club, Maine’s only curling club.

I sent an email to the club to see when a good time for a visit would be. Steve McLaughlin answered pretty much immediately and we set up a time to meet later that week.

Being from Ohio, I’ve never seen curling in the flesh, only occasionally on tv during the Winter Olympics. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. The basics of the game I knew, but I wasn’t sure about where I would be able to shoot from.

Originally, I thought the sheets (the ice section the game is played on) would be spaced further apart from one another allowing me to photograph in between the sections.

No dice.

The sheets at the Belfast Curling Club were touching each other. In essence, it was one sheet of ice with three different playing fields drawn on it. The fact that the sheets were so close together, and that I didn’t have a pair of shoes to go on the ice with, meant I was stuck shooting from the carpeted deck or the observation “warm room” upstairs.

But this is why I love this job, it keeps you on your toes. It makes you throw out your original idea of how you were going to document something and adjust on the fly.

That’s what I did.

Do I wish I was able to get on the ice and shoot from there? Of course I do. But sometimes the challenges are good, and they make you push yourself a little bit more than you would have normally.


Behind the lens: How to paint with light

Robert  Bukaty recently produced a Maine Frame for the BDN of photos from Acadia National Park and its night sky. He used a headlamp set in it’s red mode to light various trees, trail markers and road ways

If you have a camera that allows you to control the shutter speed, you can make photos like this too. When it’s dark, which it often is this time of year in Maine, take your camera and a tripod and head outside. Set it up with a long shutter speed, 30 seconds or more will do.

Adjust your aperture wide enough to allow as much light as possible while still getting the depth of field that you want. Remember, the smaller the f/stop (number representing the aperture, the wider it is and the more light coming in and more shallow the depth of field.  You’ll need all the light you can get if it’s really dark.

Trip the shutter, then shine a headlamp or flash light back at the camera and move it around. You can write a word or make shapes. If you focus the camera on an object, in Bob’s case a sign on top of a mountain in Acadia, shine the light on the object you want to illuminate  for the duration of your shutter being open. It may take some trial and error but you should be able to make photos just like Bob’s in the slideshow above.

If you have “light painting” photos you’d like to share send them to and we’ll post the best on our site.

This photo was made using the help of two people shining their head lamps at Robinson Point Lighthouse Station on Isle au Haut during a project we worked on called "Six Miles Out." last February.
This photo was made using the help of two people shining their head lamps at Robinson Point Lighthouse Station on Isle au Haut during a project we worked on called “Six Miles Out.” in February, 2014. Brian Feulner | BDN

5@50: December 2, 2014

Here I go again.

These are five more pictures from the streets of Portland taken on Tuesday Dec. 2 with my 50mm lens. It’s a project I started a few weeks ago as a test of my skills. If all goes well, I’ll be publishing a new set of five pictures taken with the same lens every week with no cropping or Photoshop trickery.

This week it was quite cold. Most Portlanders were scurrying to their destinations. I didn’t see anyone hanging about until I met Helen. She was just finishing up a Christmas decoration project. She was friendly.

Sometimes it’s hard to approach strangers on the street. You have to get a decent photo and then get their names. There’s lot’s of great shooters out there, but to do this job you also have to be friendly enough to make people feel vaguely comfortable giving you their names for a photo project they’ve never heard of before.

Here in Portland, I also have to include my now well-worn paragraph about how I work for the BDN, yes, but this is my hometown and I work here. I live here and cover it for that paper “up north.” My business card usually helps make me seem legit.

The other pictures I came up with this week were much easier. The stairs, the watches and the blue sky with buildings and wires were free for the taking.

The man walking by the window was a gift. I turned. I saw it, focused, snapped. Then he was gone. It takes all kinds.


In The Moment: How to Save a Species

Saving an endangered species doesn’t only entail tedious negotiations by politicians but also through a massive amount of research and labor.

The Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in East Orland has been at it for 125 years in an attempt to save the iconic  Atlantic Salmon and keep them swimming up and down our rivers.  The work of fisheries biologists is not exactly what you would call glamorous.
On a recent assignment, I had the privilege of being in the middle of it  and went behind the scenes to photograph the process of saving salmon. The hatchery workers moved fast and efficiently to minimize the time fish were out of the water, those moments were my opportunities to capture a few images.
Catching, holding and stripping eggs from a fish that is 10 or even 15 pounds of slippery muscle is labor intensive. Not to mention the fact that they do all this in a fish friendly environment, that is relatively uncomfortable for people.
They are working to save a species and if they are successful they will put themselves out of work.  But they’re working to keep alive a dream.  A dream of many fishermen to again one day hook a wild Atlantic Salmon.

Burt Shavitz of Burt’s Bees shares his photographic past

BANGOR, Maine — Most people know his face from a logo for the popular personal care product line he helped build. But before Burt Shavitz, the face of Burt’s Bees, and his business turned into a global sensation, he was a photographer living and working in New York City in the 1960s.

Shavitz, who agreed to be interviewed at the Bangor Daily News photo studio recently, was born in Manhattan, came from an artistic family and started taking pictures at an early age. While serving in the military, he became a photographer. Afterward he would find himself inspired by the characters he would meet in Central Park, a place he refers to often.

“There were people with their body gone [from the waist down] wheeling their wheelchairs around,” Shavitz recalled. “Mothers with small children pushing kids on swings with chains that were 12-feet-long.”

Not many of these were published because they weren’t what the masses wanted to see, Shavitz said. The photos that were published often appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Time and Life magazines.

Shavitz, wearing a red plaid vest underneath his huge bushy beard, looked over black and white photos he made of a child behind a chain-link fence in Harlem during the 1960s.

“I saw the place as a jail,” he said. “Look at the look in the kid’s eyes … you had to have a strong backbone to be able to spend a 90-degree day on macadam or cement.”

Among his memories of the people he photographed, Shavitz remembers several icons in the world of photography with whom he started relationships.

“I went out to the Flower District, which is where Gene Smith lived, just knocked on the door, he opened the door and said ‘come in,’” Shavitz said.

W. Eugene Smith, an American photojournalist known for his work during World War ll, soon had Shavitz sorting his negatives at Smith’s home in New York.

“He had an incredible amount of photographs he wanted me to sort. It gave me a chance to see all of Gene Smith’s pictures,” Shavitz said.

Diane Arbus, Tom Wolfe, Allen Ginsberg, Thelonius Monk and Andy Warhol were just a few of many famous people Shavitz got to know during his time in New York.

“The city was just chock-a-block full of people doing their own thing, and you met them here, there and everywhere,” he said.

Even with all the relationships he had made and his deep-rooted connection with New York’s streets, Shavitz made a decision to leave.

“The reason I left is here,” Shavitz said sorting through a stack of his prints.

“This is the house next to the alley where I used to live,” he said holding up a black and white image of the side of a building where an elderly woman wearing a scarf solemnly gazed outside.

“The old woman in the picture on the other side of the window never left that room, never, she was always leaning out the window,” Shavitz said. “I realized if I stayed there long enough, I’d end up in the same boat, which is nothing I wanted to do.”

Although it didn’t happen immediately, Shavitz left for upstate New York with his Volkswagen van, motorcycle and other belongings. It was years later after moving to Maine, selling honey from his truck and meeting the business-savvy Roxanne Quimby, he became the Burt from Burt’s Bees that many people recognize.

In 2013, after the release of Burt’s Buzz, a documentary about Burt’s life, the world had a glimpse of the unique character of Shavitz. The film brought Shavitz and his assistant Trevor Folsom to the Toronto International Film Festival.

“They put us up on the stage, and people in the audience asked questions. We gave them answers,” Shavitz said.

“People in the audience like Matthew McConaughey, people like that who came to see our film who you have no idea who they are,” Folsom joked.

Shavitz looked back at Folsom and very seriously replied, “Who were they?”

“They were just actors,” Folsom said.

“Ah huh,” Shavitz said with a nod.

Shavitz shrugs the movie and all the inherent fame from Burt’s Bees off as no big deal and tends to focus on the present more than anything else.

“It was flattering after a fashion. I like the lead character,” Shavitz said.