Sports photography from different angles

This past Saturday I was assigned to shoot three classes of the high school cheerleading competition at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

I’ve never shot any sort of cheerleading before, but knew that after a few routines it would become a little visually boring.

So, I wanted to do something different.

Cheerleading is all about being in formation and all about being synchronized, so I wanted to capture that in a unique way.

Cue the overhead camera.

After getting approval from the Maine Principals Association and the Cross Insurance Center, I overcame my fear of heights and headed up to the catwalk to mount my camera.

I used a 5D Mark III with a 70-200 at 70mm attached to a Manfrotto magic arm and a Manfrotto super clamp. I pre-focused the camera and set my exposure. Everything was safety cabled to the arm rail just incase the clamps failed.  My camera was triggered by PocketWizard Plus II’s.

The scary thing about remote cameras, besides the risk of things falling and breaking, is that you could set everything up and still not get a single usable photo. Sometimes your remote trigger won’t fire, or you didn’t focus the camera correctly. But when it does work, it’s worth it.

I walked away with some cool images and a really interesting perspective that you couldn’t see from the floor. It allowed our viewers an even more unique way to view the event.

I hope to be able to do more remote cameras in the future.


S.I. Says Goodbye to Photo Staff


Sports Illustrated announced that they fired their entire staff of 6 remaining photographers on Friday.

Bottom line, bad idea. By putting good photographers out of work in the name of saving money from cutting things like benefits and a steady revenue stream, S.I. is hurting the same industry that made them a publishing icon.  When photographers have to start worrying about where there next pay check is coming from, their images will ultimately suffer.

Materially, there are a lot of costs behind the production of the stunning sports photographs we’ve all ogled at. Expensive lenses, lighting, digital workflow equipment, etc. doesn’t just pay for itself and putting that cost onto freelancers that maybe will get work this week is a catch 22.

For a while,the editorial industry was at rock bottom and situations like this made more sense. Over the last decade, because of the advances of how our photos and video can be displayed cross-platform it’s hard to believe that cutting staffers is a smart decision.

S.I., like all the other printed and digital media out there, should be thinking of how they can hire more staffers, or some alternative solution, instead of heading in this direction.

Scenes from Searsport


Searsport, Maine is a small community between Bangor and Belfast. Nestled on the northern section of the Penobscot Bay, it’s known as a town built by sea captains.

Photographer Gabor Degre and reporter Abigail Curtis recently covered a story about the town’s struggling future and its residents’ resiliency to change. 

As a photographer, dropping into a town to illustrate a story like this can be difficult. You have to get a feel for a town and people you’ve never met and you have to share with readers an entire story in just a few frames.

Here are a selection of photos from Degre’s take.

A rural reporter’s reflection on photography

by Nick Sambides Jr.

BDN photo editor Scott Haskell told me once that the best pictures are the easiest to choose. Instantly, you say, “that’s the one,” because it captures the essence of the story or what you were trying to shoot.

I didn’t know what he meant until it happened to me. Now I take news and feature pictures every chance I get, and I shoot video, too.

The reality is that the news business has changed enormously in the last several years, and the more functions of it that you can perform well, the better chance you have of flourishing within it.

Plus, I really like the challenge of shooting pictures, recording video and writing stories. The combination essentially forces me to take three kinds of looks at a given story and, if I have time enough, to tell the same tale three ways. Big divides separate the three. Words best convey ideas. Pictures best capture a moment, and video best highlights motion and emotion. The three traits are not mutually exclusive, but I look to do my best by utilizing theirs, so when I have to do all three on a given assignment, I try to cut the work into thirds. When the Nikon is up, the notepad and video cam are down, and I’m thinking visually, scanning for a composition that tells the story in one shot or seeking a human moment. Each storytelling form should be as true to itself as possible.

I didn’t want to take pictures when I first came to BDN. I dreaded photography. It gives the least help. Video moves from shot to shot even when the shots stink. Reporting can be a matter of good words, or just more of them, but photography? It doesn’t move easily, in a physical or emotional sense, and pictures don’t usually explain themselves without a fair amount of thought from the guy behind the camera.

I knew just enough about photography to see how bad I could be at it. But as with writing, photography has its rules, and when you follow them, you can come away with something decent. I always try to make pictures that dig as deeply into a scene as possible.

Thus a picture of a charity basketball game organized by young high school alumni has mothers and babies in the foreground and the game in the background, or a car crash shot doesn’t consist solely of crumpled vehicles. Depth of field is a news photographer’s dearest friend. I have also tried to study the work of the excellent lens people who have worked at the BDN through the years ­­ Kevin Bennett, Bridget Brown, Ashley Conti, Gabor Degre, Brian Feulner, Haskell, John Clarke Russ ­­ and leaned on them as much as possible for advice, encouragement. Free equipment, too, sometimes.

Each has an individual style, like handwriting. From them, you can learn all kinds of lessons. Don’t automatically center your subject. Treat the frame like a canvas. Fill every bit of it with layers of information. Always think foreground, middle ground and background. Try to juxtapose size with shape, shape with color, darkness with light. When people are moving quickly, don’t focus on where they are; focus on a spot where they are going to be. Use empty space to draw the eye toward a picture’s subject. How do I know when an assignment hasn’t worked? When I need more than three pictures to tell a story. I should only need one.

Pictures are important to my coverage area. Put a face next to a name and the story is more human. A good picture takes it much further, and can so easily supplant the words. It shrinks down to nothing the lonely distance between the Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes regions and the rest of the world. Capture humanity and you find something much deeper than the day’s news. And in today’s internet ­driven world, you simply cannot do without good pictures. Lots of them.

Good pictures are a thrill to look forward to and to get, like Christmas morning. Nothing, ­­ not a good story or video ­­ lights people up like a good picture. I think people intuitively grasp the fleeting nature of things and see a picture as a grappling hook against the pull of time, something more real and permanent than words or flickering images. Perhaps that’s the virtue of a picture’s very stillness, that it allows the viewer more chance for study, reflection, or connection.

Pictures are first gifts I give to myself ­­ “Hey, I got that! Not bad!” ­­ and then to others. And when you’ve got a really good one, you know it. Like Scott once told me, you say, “that’s the one.”

Nick Sambides Jr. is a multimedia journalist that covers northern Penobscot County for the Bangor Daily News. 

Inspirations from El Capitan’s Dawn Wall ascent

Yvonne Chouinard, Lewiston native and founder of Patagonia, coined the phrase “conquerors of the useless” in reference to the personally rewarding feats that he and his compatriots tried to tackle during outdoor adventures decades ago. Those feats included climbing El Capitan, a 3,000 foot monolith and one of Yosemite’s most sought after big wall rock climbing ascents. Chouinard probably never imagined that a pair of climbers  would ever ascend El Cap’s Dawn Wall, which was thought to be unclimbable.

But Wednesday evening, just a few hours ago, climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson did just that.

Along the way was photographer Corey Rich, who made this photo of the duo’s embrace after following them on the 19-day climb. 

The story is nothing but inspiring, a declaration of the abilities of humankind  and a testament to the importance of photography, even adventure photography, in documenting history.

It also got me thinking a lot about Maine and how blessed we are as a state to have recreational opportunities so immediately available to us. In honor of Caldwell, Jorgeson and the photographers that captured their journey is a collection of adventure images from our own BDN photographers.

Gabor Degre: 2014 year in review

At the BDN we try and encourage our employees to integrate their self interests into the work they do as much as they can. It turns us into specialists in our field and at the end of the day, the work is just better. As an avid white water kayaker and outdoorsman who also happens to love Maine’s farming community, photographer Gabor Degre is no exception to that rule

This year he covered a story about white water kayakers who run Smalls Falls, a series of six waterfalls on the Sandy River. He spent a few days on the Martin Farm in the county photographing the back breaking work of hand picking potatoes during harvest. Degre also joined an expedition to trace Henry David Thoreau’s route he took through Maine 150 years ago.

These are examples of the perks of our jobs and the reasons why we do it. There are a lot of people in the U.S. that are unhappy with their jobs and to that group of americans our advice is simple.

“Do what you love and love what you do.”

Here are a few of Degre’s images from throughout 2014.

Freezing photographers: How we deal with winter

If you work as a photographer in Maine, for at least 5 months out of the year you’re going to be working in the cold. Once nature’s air conditioner comes on there’s a lot to think about before heading outside.

First there’s our comfort.

We’re constantly going from a 70 degree building to sub zero temperatures, then into a chilly car, then back out into freezing temps. I often don a pair of long johns, wear a bunch of layers and stuff heat packs into my socks before heading in to work. You can immediately single out the photographers in the newsroom because our hair is usually a mess from wearing a beanie, snot is hanging from our nose and our hiking boots usually leave a messy melted snow trail right to our desk.  Suits aren’t our thing and we pretty much look ragged all winter long.

Then there’s the gear.

Taking expensive electronics from cold to warm is never a good thing. If your gear is less than watertight, condensation will form inside, especially in lenses and camera bodies.  That can wreak havoc on the electronics inside. Not only that, but I’ve known several photographers to drop equipment into snowbanks while fumbling around with their gloves. Usually the gear is never seen again and the only hope is that a winter thaw will come sooner than expected.

Finally, lets not forget about the assignments.

Our readers love weather stories. I mean, who doesn’t? Unfortunately, that’s to the photographers’ detriment, because believe it or not, someone needs to actually go out in that 2-foot snow storm or on that -13 degree day, like today, to take photos. The photos are not taken from a car and we don’t have a robot or a drone. Instead we have shivering photographers trying to be artful in a New England “tundra” who love nothing more than having their photos on a news site or in print delivered straight to you and your warm and comfortable office desk, living room or kitchen table.

Above is a selection of images from the BDN photo staff’s encounters with the cold.

The frame: flagging down the picture

Sometimes you walk away from an assignment with a good picture that doesn’t really have much to do with the story. I flagged this image down yesterday while covering the grand opening of an office building. It was definitely the strongest image of the day, but did little to advance readers’ understanding of the issue at hand: the new building and its controversial location.

To help celebrate, the crowd was herded outside (including the governor) to see an honor guard raise the flag. In reality, it had already been up. I watched through the window 20 minutes earlier as they took it down. A freezing wind whipped off the nearby airport runway and it took a couple of them, holding onto the corners, to keep the flag still while another hitched it up.

The wind billowed the fabric like a sail and the low winter sun shone through the scant trees at the far end of the parking lot, casting a backlit shadow on the stars and stripes. I used a long lens and some cropping to isolate the colors and the shadow.

And there you have it. A rather striking image that will, no doubt, be trotted out as a file photo on patriotic holidays, but didn’t have a whole lot to do with the day’s story.


5@50 January 2, 2015

I give you  five more pictures from the streets of Portland taken on Friday Jan. 2 with my 50mm lens. It’s 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 crazy cropping or Photoshop trickery.

The weather was warm, for January, and quite sunny. The streets were not empty. Folks seemed to be in good spirits. I easily struck up conversations with Kelsey and Heather.

I’ve been trying to walk pretty much the same beat since I started this. It hasn’t gotten boring yet. I figure, if I take the same walk over the course of many weeks, I’ll really start to notice what it is I’m looking at.

Incidentally, I know Glad Swope. He’s a musician and quite a character.