Eagle lookalikes, downeast photographer catches glimpse of golden eagle

Text by Brian Feulner
Photos by Don Dunbar

It was well before sunrise when Down East wildlife photographer Don Dunbar grabbed his blind and headed out to Pembroke, Maine, to photograph coyotes.

“A number of eagles and ravens usually show up throughout the day, so I spend my time watching and taking pictures of them,” Dunbar said.

As he sat and watched the tree line an eagle flew in that looked a little different. He made a picture and then zoomed in on the back of his camera to get a better look.

“I knew it was a golden eagle… a first for me,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar ended up staying in the blind for 10 hours that day, partly in an attempt to get better photos of the raptor.

As with many bird species, telling the difference between some bird species isn’t always that easy. After sharing the photos around to some bird experts in the field, I came back with mixed thoughts on the identification of the bird.

The immature bald eagle can look very similar to a golden eagle and is often mistaken. Because of the common brown color of the young bald eagles, they look very similar.

Golden eagles also are very rare to see in Maine. The Maine Department Inland Fisheries & Wildlife website reads: “Golden eagles have been designated an Endangered Species in Maine since 1986. This is the most widely distributed, successful species of eagle in the world. It lives in all continents of the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, the species has always been a rarity in Maine and most of eastern North America.”

“I am absolutely positive it’s a golden. My biggest way to tell is that the feathers come down to the toes, I have never seen an immature bald like that,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar also said that he noticed that when the golden flew in, all the other eagles would take off and sit in the trees to wait for it to leave. They did this every time it showed up. They didn’t care if another bald eagle, adult or immature, flew in.

A day after our correspondence, Dunbar called to tell me he also shared the photos with Maine raptor specialists Erynn Call and Charlie Todd. Both agreed: It was a golden eagle.

What are your thoughts: golden or immature bald eagle?


Hikers carry weight of fallen soldiers in tribute climb


PISCATAQUIS COUNTY, Maine — As the snow slowly fell on Borestone Mountain last Saturday, 12 individuals ages 11 to 45 checked their gear in the parking lot before heading off to snowshoe hike up the East Peak summit.

But unlike most hikers, these 12 added something special to their packs.

Each hiker carefully placed a stone engraved with a name or initials with a date into their packs. The stones, all unique in size and shape, were carefully chosen by the families of Maine fallen hero as part of The Summit Project.

David J. Cote, an active-duty Marine Corps officer and native of Bangor, founded the living memorial in 2013 over Memorial Day weekend as an unique way to carry on the memories of Maine’s fallen heroes from September 11, 2001 on.

As the hikers approached an icy incline, many started doubting their ability to get to the top. But encouraging words from Chad Januskiewicz, the program lead on this hike, and Ted Coffin, TSP support, kept the hikers moving.

“It’s meant to be a challenge,” Januskiewicz said. “ It’s meant to be something that you learn something from.”

With the summit in sight, the group worked together to make sure they reached their goal. At the top of the East Peak summit, with stones in hand, the group circled up. Each told the story of their fallen solider, some explaining why they picked the stone they did.

Michaela Hill, 16, became very emotional while telling the story of Joshua M. Bernard, the memorial stone she carried. Bernard, a Marine, was killed Aug. 2014 at the age of 21 while supporting combat operations in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Hill explained that she had asked Januskiewicz to pick her stone for her, but in the end felt as if the stone might have picked her. Bernard’s sister had picked out the stone from a place where they had played when younger and it made Hill think of her relationship with her brother, Cole, who recently enlisted into the Marines.

“When I first did this, i just thought it was a really cool way to do something for Memorial Day weekend, support the troops and remember what they did,” said Januskiewicz. “After the hike a family member pulled me aside and told me how much important it was to them, for their healing process. In Maine we care about each other, and that just kind of comes through.”

Smartphones on ice: Phones and photojournalism

Smartphone or Digital SLR?

The debate between device and professional camera has been going on for a while.  Last Friday, while on a shoot about a local school that took international students ice fishing, I set down my large, bulky Canon 5d MK3 and powered up my iPhone.

I’ve always been a strong proponent of using a smart phone for mobile journalism, but I’ve also always defended the use of DSLRs and the photographers who use them’s inherent value. But on Friday I made a clear decision of what I want for the future of my cameras. I want them to be the size of smartphone.

In the 1920s the first Leica cameras went into production. They were designed to be small and easy to travel with, mostly for landscape photography and used 35 mm cinema film.

They were an instant hit.

Because of their speed and convenience, photographers could find solace from obtrusion, and modern day photojournalism was born.

With the smartphone there isn’t much difference. Although the photographic quality made from the glass of a Leica’s lens may not be there yet, I have no doubt that with time it will be.

As a photographer there is nothing better than reaching into my pocket, rather than a 15 lb bag, and pulling out a device intellectually designed for simplicity.

It’s light, unobtrusive, and completely silent – perfectly designed for my photojournalistic needs. But the most important advantage of all, it puts my focus on capturing an interesting composition, the quality of light and the beauty of a moment.



Diary of a River: Maine woman uses 120 pinhole cameras to document the Kennebec

Maine photographer Johanna Moore lives and works on the Kennebec River in Central Maine.  I saw her photos at USM’s Glickman Family Library in Portland. They are on display there through May 29.

I asked her to share her project — how she did it, what it means, and the photos themselves — and she agreed. For that, I am grateful.

– Troy

This project started in a beaver bog near my home in Central Maine. I made several Solargraphs there for an upcoming pinhole camera workshop I was leading for the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell.

Solargraphs are long exposure pinhole photographs. The exposures can be as little as one day or as long as six months. The streaks you see in these images are the sun as it travels across the sky. Any spaces you see between the streaks are overcast days.

Solargraphs track the sun between solstices and mark its rise and decent on the horizon as the earth changes its tilt.

Starting in April of last year I built 120 pinhole cameras out of metal cans of various shapes and sizes and drilled pinhole apertures to match the size of each can. I lined them with photographic paper and, at the summer solstice, travelled the Kennebec River, from Indian Pond to Phippsburg, and set them in place to see what they might capture.

When this project started I looked at it as a way to document the different weather patterns we see from one region in Maine to the next. In a single day it could be raining in the Forks and cloudless at Popham Beach.

I hoped these images would show a visual diary comparing weather over the 170 miles of the Kennebec River

As the project progressed my response to it changed. I met people living and working along the river, saw flourishing farmlands, and boarded up factories.

Kennebec River camera mapI took time out of my days to sit along the Kennebec River in Hallowell to watch the sturgeon jump.

In most areas the terrain leading to the river is steep and treacherous. I would climb down to the river holding onto my cameras in one hand and tree roots in the other hoping
I wouldn’t get sliced up on the broken beer bottles strewn everywhere.

I accessed the river through the generosity of those who donated land to regional Land Trusts, through boat launches and wildlife management areas provided by the state.

Brookfield Renewable Energy operates hydroelectric dams along the river and maintains rest areas, allows water releases for thriving whitewater rafting businesses, boating access points and camping areas. This access to the river was made possible by a long term contract negotiated with the state of Maine.

I accessed the river through the generosity of private landowners who welcomed me onto their land and who enjoyed the project updates I would send them.

Accessing the river and coming away with a body of work was not easy. Out of the 120 cameras I set out, I lost 38 to vandalism or the weather. One camera was set too low and sat in water every time the tide came in and reached the top of the bridge abutment where I installed it.

Another camera was mistaken for a geocache site; the people who found it opened the camera, signed their names to the photographic paper, and left behind a Shamrock bracelet charm.

At Nanrantsouak, north of Norridgewock, I found a memorial which said,  “The Land you walk upon has been a special place to Wabanaki people for thousands of years. A place where children were born and played, a place where elders lived their lives. Walk in respect on this land so over the next thousand years your descendants will enjoy the beauty that surrounds you”

It was through discoveries like this that changed my perception of this project. What started as an experiment transformed into an ode to the fragility of time and place.

A flowing river is a conductor of time, a leaf passes in front of you for a moment, floating on the current and you can watch that moment disappear downstream. You want to reach out and grasp that leaf to hold onto the moment, yet it is out of reach and only its fading memory remains.

The pinhole cameras captured exposures from 63-134 days. In Dan Kany’s recent Maine Sunday Telegram review of the exhibit of this body of work he said of these long exposures,” When you look at something that long, strange things appear.” I agree.

A snapshot of a scene gives you a moment in time. You see all that is in focus for that moment. These images overlay thousands of moments and make those strange things appear — inexplicable shapes and colors that you don’t see in a snapshot.

And when you look at something that long, some things disappear.
When I look at these images I forget that we massacred tribes of people to fulfill European Land Grant claims,

I forget about all the Bud Light bottles and garbage people have dumped along the riverbanks.

I forget that today conventional agriculture, private homeowners, and roadways seem to be contributing more pollution to the river than paper mills and that there are more reporting requirements to import fertile chicken eggs into the state than there are to import pesticides.

I forget that Cianbro has plans to build a superhighway through the Dead River watershed of the Kennebec River as it bisects the State of Maine

I forget about the fragility of this place because, when I look at the images, I see that what has burned into the photographic paper is what is important. I see what is important for the Kennebec and for all waterways

And that’s The River, the life that flourishes there, and the light that shines along its course.

A friend of mine saw the project and said: these river solargraphs are an essay of life’s movement and its range from darkness to a celestial light. They celebrate the river and connect a question.
What is our responsibility as humans to the stewardship of this wonder, and of all the wonders in the world?

– Johanna Moore

Breathtaking view on Mount Washington despite bitter cold, gusting wind

by Robert F. Bukaty

MOUNT WASHINGTON, New Hampshire — It’s 2 degrees below zero, the winds are gusting more than 50 mph, and the view that 20 minutes ago had stretched all the way back to Portland, 70 miles away, has been reduced to less than 50 feet.

I find some relief from the winds on the eastern side of the weather observatory and manage to boil a cup of water for hot chocolate. My peanut butter sandwich is not only frozen, but it feels as hard as granite. It takes some effort just to crack in half.

Mount Washington is known for its notoriously quick-changing weather. Last Saturday it certainly lived up to it’s reputation.

Up here on the highest point in New England, when you’re socked in by clouds, you get the feeling you may never see another soul. I was having that feeling just about the time I looked up to see a group of climbers leaning into the wind as they passed by a cluster rime ice-coated weather instruments.

The leader of the group, Collin Blunk of Portland, walked over and gave me a high-five. Then he started asking me something — but I had no idea what he was saying. The wind was roaring, and a hat and the hoods of two winter jackets covered my ears.

When he handed me his GoPro, I realized he wanted me to take a picture of his group at the sign that marks the summit of 6,288-foot Mount Washington. When you make it up here in the winter, you want a photo to remember it by.

Blunk, who I later learned writes a blog on his website “The Wild Outsiders,” was leading three friends he met while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. They had all been on the summit in the summer but never in the winter.

The hike from Pinkham Notch gains 4,200 grueling feet in just over four miles. Most climbers use an ice axe and crampons to deal with the steep sections of the Lion’s Head trail.

On Saturday, the day started with mostly clear skies. The alpenglow from a stunning sunrise painted the snowy slopes a rosy red.

Nick Bernaiche of Vernon, Connecticut, who was climbing with Bunk summed up their reason for going: “We wanted to do something epic!”

At only 6,288-feet, Mount Washington “is small in the scheme of things, but it’s the pinnacle for the East,” said Blunk. “Before I hiked the [Appalachian Trail], I always thought the real mountains were out West — but it’s breath-taking every time.”

By 8 a.m., clouds covered the summit. For most people, the cold and lack of visibility would have been a bummer.

“I prefer snowy blizzard conditions to up the ante, rather than the pure blue sky,” said Blunk.

“To me this stands as the most adventurous thing the East has to offer. I’m blown away by the Whites,” he said.



On assignment: 72 hours covering the Can-Am sled dog race|

FORT KENT, Maine — The 2015 250-mile Can-Am Crown International dog sled race started Feb. 28 in Fort Kent. Seventeen mushers from around the United States and Canada set off with 12 dog teams on a grueling trail over frozen rivers, among tight trees and over hilly landscapes.

When I was told I was heading to The County to cover the race, I immediately asked my co-worker Gabor Degre what to expect and the best way to cover an event this large.

He gave me a few tips. Dress warm, bring extra batteries, follow or drive with someone on the logger roads to each checkpoint, and prepare not to sleep.

I laughed at that last bit of advice at first. But he was dead serious. He explained I would have a blast, but I would not be sleeping.

I decided to follow one musher throughout the race and to make sure to get the first three mushers coming into each checkpoint. The musher I picked was 30-year-old Ashley Patterson of Shirley, Maine. Three other Maine mushers were competing, but Patterson had the best odds of finishing, as she had finished four other times.

On Thursday afternoon, I packed all the warm gear I owned, my camera gear and chargers, energy bars and my insulated water bottle and headed to Aroostook County.

On Friday were veterinarian checks, where I met with the oldest and youngest mushers competing in the shorter races that weekend. I was able to get a better feel of what I was dealing with and make plans to drive to each checkpoint with a race volunteer.

But before that, I was able to take a three-dog sled team around the property of Bangor Daily News reporter Julia Bayly. It was an experience I will never forget.

I woke up at 8 a.m. Saturday, dressed in all my warm layers, packed my ruck and headed to Main Street in Fort Kent to watch the 30-mile and 60-mile races take off.

I met up with Patterson while she was getting her dogs ready for the start of her race. I did a quick interview with her and then let her go back to putting booties on her 12 dogs. At 10:30 a.m., Patterson was off into the woods of Maine on her way to the first checkpoint in Portage Lake and I was headed back to the finish line to file photos and meet with Mike Daigle, who would be taking me around for the weekend.

Like everyone else helping with the races, Daigle volunteers his time as checkpoint coordinator for the weekend. When he’s not carting me through the backwoods of the Can-Am, he’s a Maine forest ranger. He is a super nice guy, and I knew from the start he was going to make this trip fun.

Around 2:30 p.m. we loaded our gear into the back of his pickup truck and started the 45-minute drive to Portage Lake.

It was amazing how dedicated and friendly the volunteers were at all the checkpoints. The minute we got there they set up a table for me to edit and asked if I needed anything else.

Around 4 p.m., I was introduced to a gentleman who would be snowmobiling me across Portage Lake to catch the first few mushers coming into the checkpoint. This was my first time riding on a snowmobile, let alone riding on one backward and hanging off the side to get the shots I needed (the second photo in my photo gallery is from this postion), but I had a blast.

As night fell, Patterson made her way across the lake and to the checkpoint. I followed her into the dog- and musher-only area and started taking photos of her caring for her dogs.

This is when I encountered the first of many obstacles: the lack of light. I had to rely on the headlamps from the mushers and the headlamp I wore to illuminate the photos. But to me, it worked even better than if flash was used. The headlights help give sharp contrasts to the photos and portrayed the mood of what these mushers were going through better.

After the mushers left Portage Lake, around 10 p.m., Daigle and I packed up and started the two-hour trip into the deep woods of Maine. On our way I saw my first two moose running next to the truck.

The next three checkpoints are kind of a blur. Shooting. Editing. Waiting. Driving. Shooting. Editing. Waiting. Driving.

I did manage to get an hour nap at the second checkpoint but other than that I was awake, just like the mushers. The lack of sleep was another challenge I had to overcome.

In this job you are put in situations where you might be awake for long periods of time, but I have never been up for more than 72 hours with only an hour of sleep. My mind started playing tricks on me, the way I was seeing colors was getting odd.

But like any athlete, you train your body to go into an almost autopilot mode when pushed to its limits. Your muscle memory takes over and you no longer have to think about what you are doing.

This is what happened to me. My instincts took over, regardless of my inability to make coherent sentences.

Around midnight Monday I was dropped back off at the ski lodge in Fort Kent to wait for the first finishers to cross. At 2 a.m., Martin Massicotte crossed the line first. Six hours later, Patterson enthusiastically finished, coming in fourth and the first woman to cross the line.

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep, or if it was because I had just watched animals and humans with incredible endurance complete a huge accomplishment, but I teared up while Patterson hugged her dogs and family.

These are the assignments I live for, where I not only learn something new but can discover something about myself in the process.


A little green to combat the gloom

Text by Brian Feulner
Photos by Ashley L. Conti

It seems to be a tradition that every year around this time in early March that we head out to look for green houses or floral shops to give our readers a little slice of what’s to come.

This year BDN photographer Ashley Conti visited Ellis’ Greenhouse in Hudson.

“It smelled like spring.” said Conti

Conti just recently arrived back to Bangor after covering the Can-Am dog sled races in northern Maine.

“It was 68 degrees in there and a far cry from Fort Kent.” said Conti

Photography in an abominable snow cave


Brian Feulner photographs Unity College students building a snow shelter for their winter ecology class at the school. John Holyoke

If you follow the BDN outdoor editor John Holyoke, you likely read his story about braving a quinzhee, a type of snow shelter, at Unity College earlier this week.

I was the photographer that traveled along on the escapade and discovered a few tips I’d like to share.

Special gloves allow the usage of a touch screen.

One thing I failed to do was to bring along my smartphone – friendly gloves. These gloves allow electrical conductivity from your body to your smartphone’s touch screen and provide screen control. Regular gloves just won’t work. The other good thing about these gloves is that they act like a base-layer and fit snugly underneath my winter gloves, keeping my hands extra warm.

Brian Feulner photographs Unity College students building a snow shelter for their winter ecology class at the school. John Holyoke


Because John and I maintained a live blog uploading tweets, photos and videos throughout the experience I heavily relied on my iPhone. So unfortunately for me, my hands froze every time I needed to tweet.

snowcave 002
Unity College senior, Sierra Marchacos digs out the snow shelter from the inside. The condensation inside the cave caused my lenses to fog up. Brian Feulner


Another problem I ran into was the condensation inside of the shelter itself. There’s one point in my video interview where I’m talking to Sierra Marchacos, a Unity College Senior.

Almost as soon as I entered the cave condensation started fogging up my lens. This is where bonehead mistake #2 comes in… I didn’t bring a lens cloth. Usually in this case I use my cotton t-shirt. But because I was sleeping in the cold the last thing I wanted to wear was cotton. I wore all wick away layers, which didn’t help wipe away the moisture at all.

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The snow shelter at night. Brian Feulner


Lastly was my snow cave lighting. I skipped sunset, in favor of a warm dinner, and had the idea of lighting the snow cave from the inside and out with a flash unit. (I did a similar shoot of some  ice near the Kenduskeag Stream in a recent post.)

There were two problems I encountered.

First the walls of the shelter were too thick to get any glowing light from the inside with the flash. Second, lighting it from the outside seemed like a good plan except for the fact that the cave was located on a college campus with a lot of ugly, orange glowing street lights. The lights were too distracting and, I think, killed the photo.

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BDN Outdoor Editor John Holyoke crawls out of the snow shelter early in the morning and braves the cold. Brian Feulner


I had another chance.

The early morning light cast a beautiful array of
pink, purple and bluish color tones on the snowy dome. The addition of an exhausted reporter who just crawled out of the shelter was just the human element I needed to tell the story.

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BDN Outdoor Editor John Holyoke crawls out of the snow shelter early in the morning and braves the cold. Brian Feulner