Tag Archives: bayside bowl portland

From pro bowl to rock n’ roll: On assignment with photographer Ben McCanna

Text and Photos by Ben McCanna

It was an unlikely location for a professional bowling tournament.

Bayside Bowl is a hip, vibrant spot within an otherwise ramshackle neighborhood  — a largely abandoned zone where the City of Portland stashes piles of snow amid crumbling, industrial infrastructure.

Bowling is clearly implied in Bayside Bowl’s name, but the establishment isn’t exactly synonymous with the sport. It’s the kind of bowling alley that places equal (if not greater) priority on quality food, craft beers and raucous nightlife. So it was a surprising choice for a world-class bowling event.

But it was also a good choice.

The nightlife atmosphere that so often permeates Bayside Bowl was on full display Sunday afternoon during a final showdown between the elite rollers of the Professional Bowling Association. In other words, it was a party.

A crowd of about 200 ticket holders took roost on sets of risers and cheered wildly after each strike and spare. Some wore costumes. Some held signs. Others spilled beer. Everyone was cheering. And it was time for me to go to work.

Luckily, I was in my element.

A self-employed photographer can sometimes feel like an unemployed photographer. Last summer, when I took the plunge into freelancing, I knew there would be peaks and troughs. It was inevitable that I might go a week or more without any assignments whatsoever, and that feast-or-famine lifestyle was a potential career killer. Every successful photojournalist will tell you that the key to success is making photos every day. So, in order to ensure regular work, I started a concert photography blog called Post Mortem.

The blog, aside from being a terrific hobby, kept me shooting on the days between sports or news assignments. It kept my skills sharp, but it also taught me how to be nimble in a crowd; how to courteously (but fearlessly) weave in and out of tightly packed bodies that are all straining to witness the same action.

More importantly, it taught me that the audience is often the most compelling part of an event.

So, when I waded into the crowd at Bayside Bowl (on behalf of The Forecaster), I knew I had to inject a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll into what was ostensibly a sports assignment. To tell the whole story, the circus-like atmosphere had to be evident in every frame.