All posts by Brian Feulner

Brian Feulner is the visual editor at the Bangor Daily News and a photographer in the state of Maine. Feulner frequently freelances for a variety of publications and companies and operates Feulner Studio and Gallery in Bangor.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Kenduskeag ice scapes

“Are you ready?” asked Phil Gibson, my neighbor and Tennessee native.

“Yup,” I replied.

“Ok, 1, 2, 3” he counted.

On three, the shutter of my Canon 5d Mark lll clicked off and echoed through the hundreds of pounds of sharp, pointed ice that was hanging over my head.

Immediately, I started firing off a round of flashes trying to evenly back light the massive icicles from where I stood in the cavern that they created.

The camera shutter was set to 30 seconds, so about half way through I carefully crept to the other side of the ice cave, slipping across the ice with every step. There I began firing of flash bursts trying to light the other side.

When it was all done, we had our shot.

The photo was the start of a long-term project about the Kenduskeag Stream that I started working on. The goal is to show a collection of images from the stream over several months. The final product will hang in my gallery, the Feulner Gallery and Studio. My other goal is to raise awareness about the stream, its beauty and its potential as a recreational spot.

Only minutes from Bangor, the stream runs directly through the city. Trails connect the stream from downtown and meander past stunning cliff edges and stream access points. As someone who has walked those trails several times, they’re not maintained as well as they could be and are frequented by people who decide to either sleep along the streams banks or leave their trash in various heaps.

The stream is a treasure and hopefully our work, as dangerous as it might be sometimes, will help to keep it protected.

Ice cold dredgers

Robert F. Bukaty made photos of a dredging operation on the Royal River in Yarmouth, where they were deeming the anchorage basin and river channel. Bukaty photographed the crew (from Burnham Associates in Salem, Mass.) from shore on a morning when the temperature was minus 8 degrees, and from aboard the barge during a snow storm.

The images show rising sea smoke basking in the orange glow of morning light and a view into of the hard way of working a dredging crew during Maine’s harsh winter.

20% of World Press Photo contest finalists disqualified

World Press Photo is one of the pinnacles of photojournalism contests.

” The 2015 Contest drew entries from around the world: 97,912 images were submitted by 5,692 press photographers, photojournalists, and documentary photographers from 131 countries. The jury gave prizes in 8 themed categories to 42 photographers of 17 nationalities from: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, China, Denmark, Eritrea, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, UK and USA.” reads the World Press Photo website.

The unfortunate news, however, 20% of the images that made it through the final stages of judging were disqualified due to manipulation.

Time.com ran a piece by Oliver Laurent and Ye Ming, examining the disqualifications.

The World Press Photo website makes their rules on digital manipulation of photos very clear. It states in rule number 12, “The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards.”

11 rules above and at the very top is rule number 1, which states, “The World Press Photo contest is only open to professional photographers and photojournalists.* The photographer’s professional status must be established by providing a document of verification (press card, union membership card, letter of reference or other official document).”

In my opinion, having worked in news industry for decades, there is no need for rule #12 if you have rule #1.

Bottom line, if you are a professional photojournalist telling stories that are presented in the realm of news and documentary coverage you should never be altering your work to change the content of the image.

At the BDN we take ethics very seriously. Using a clone tool or healing brush to erase out an ugly water bottle from a table or moving an airborne football closer to a receiver are just a couple examples of behavior that is strictly prohibited.

Image enhancement also has its limits. While some dodging, burning and sharpening is used to get the image closer to what the photographer saw in the moment, changing it too much inherently changes the content of the image and is also  prohibited.

As a photo editor, it’s sad to see that so many photographers think it’s OK to do this type of manipulation. The worst part is that it can be performed so well now that even the most sensitive eyes can’t see the manipulation without examining the original. And with hundreds of images coming across the screen every week, that task is nearly impossible.

In an already distrustful world of web users, the last thing we as photographers need to do is propel that distrust.

If I have any plea for modern photojournalism, it’s this. Please do not extensively alter your images. It will catch up with you and damage your career. Millions of people in the world wish they could have this job and would give almost anything become great at it. Honor our tradition of ethical visual journalism to keep it a sustainable career. You are not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting me, my colleagues and people who’ve dedicated their lives to sharing the truth.

Here is a link to a gallery of winning work from the competition. 

 

Pownal man faces blizzard while living in his tent during winter

by Robert F. Bukaty

POWNAL, Maine — The fierce winds, 2 feet of snow and frigid temperatures that came with last week’s blizzard paralyzed much of the northeast – but it barely fazed one Mainer who is spending the winter living in a tent.

If anything, the brutal storm did little more than cause Ed Warden to lose some sleep.

“I was up like every hour at night getting the snow off my tent, keeping it off the awnings,” said Warden, 67. “But other than that it was fine.”

Warden is the volunteer camp host at Bradbury Mountain State Park. He doesn’t get paid to live in a tent.  He does it because the camping lifestyle is something he’s been in love with for 45 years.

“When I got out of the military in 1970 I got the bug to just go camping and traveling. I had a Volkswagen minivan and drove up to Alaska. I’ve camped in Hawaii…”

“I just like the outdoor life. I think communing with nature is the key to health and serenity, so that’s what I do. I hang out with nature a lot,” he said.

Warden lives in a heavy-duty 12 x 20-foot outfitter’s tent with 8-foot vestibules attached at either end. At the peak the ceiling is 9-feet high. A small wood stove keeps it comfortably warm inside, consuming about one cord of wood per month.

His site is the only one at the campground that has electricity. He uses it to power a small refrigerator and an old TV someone recently brought him. Warden  hasn’t been able to find a digital converter so only uses the television to watch DVDs.

“I try to keep a balance between the old and the new,” said Warden. “I like modern conveniences but I also like my wood stove.”

The camping lifestyle has taught him to simplify things and learn to make do with what he has and get by with what he doesn’t have – like running water.

“I try not to dirty a whole bunch of pots because it’s harder to clean that up,” said Warden, who gets his water across the street at the ranger’s house.

A hiking trail just a few feet from Warden’s tent sees plenty of day-users who come in the wintertime to snowshoe or walk dogs dog – but few people come to camp this time of year. The last camper at the park departed a few weeks ago. He told Warden that he decided to buy a small trailer and was heading for Arizona.

Warden’s duties as camp host are minimal during the winter.  His primary job is to keep the paths the park’s outhouses shoveled out.

Warden once worked for 10 years as a certified nursing assistant. The experience helped convince him to get back to nature.

“I saw the elderly when they start to go downhill.  It was just too depressing.  I just thought [camping] is what I really wanted to do.”

This is his second winter in a tent at Bradbury.

“My whole goal in life is to be self-reliant on my own piece of land. I’d love to have a greenhouse, my own little garden, and [live in] this tent,” he said.

“I survived 17 degrees below zero before and now I’ve survived 26, 27 inches of snow.  [Last week’s blizzard] was the worst storm I’ve been through.  Then we got more snow on Friday. ”

But winter weather is no big deal to Warden.

“Even if I had to pay I would do it just to camp here,” he said while looking around at the high snow banks.

“I call it my ‘Poor Man’s Paradise’.”