All posts by Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.

The Frame: Hurdling the competition

Lauren Stoops of Orono High School clears the last hurdle in the 55 meter finals at the Class B indoor track state meet in Lewiston on Monday. Stoops placed second. Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Lauren Stoops of Orono High School clears the last hurdle in the 55 meter finals at the Class B indoor track state meet in Lewiston on Monday. Stoops placed second. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Indoor track is not an easy assignment for me. The lighting is usually awful and not abundant. All the events overlap each other. I come with a list of students to shoot from the sports desk but they always seem to be competing at once, in different events at opposite ends of the building.

And wow, do they move fast.

When shooting the 55 meter hurdles I’ve developed a routine. I find the student I’m looking for, note their lane, pick a hurdle and prefocus. Then I wait, one eye open, one squinted, saying a silent prayer to the spirit of Barton Silverman.

On Monday, the light was as bad as ever at the Class B Finals in Lewiston. I had the ISO on my camera cranked up to 6400 so I could squeeze something like f2.8 at a 500th of a second out of it. That gave me a razor thin depth of field and just enough stopping power freeze the runner. My camera doesn’t shoot fast, either. I would get one chance at one frame where Lauren Stoops would be in the focus range.

Bang went the starter’s pistol. I heard the tramp of sneakers running at my right ear and the clank of knees on hurdles. I tried not to blink.

Snap.

I got it. It felt good. I didn’t notice the other runner on the ground until later. It added a bit of drama to the frame. I wish her left hand was in the shot, but I’ll take what I can get with indoor track.

Portland Harbor iced over

PORTLAND, Maine — The Fore River and the inner part of Portland Harbor looked positively Arctic on Tuesday morning as sheets and chunks of ice carpeted the normally open water.

Sea birds rested on bobbing, miniature icebergs. A few lobster boats picked their way through the floating mess while others sat, locked-up at their moorings.

“This is more ice than we’ve seen in recent years,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Scott McCann in South Portland. “We’ve had great ice-making conditions.”

The U.S. Coast Guard ice-breaking vessel Shackle prowled up and down the harbor , tearing channels through the frozen water. Its sister ships — Tackle and Bridle — were busy breaking ice elsewhere on the coast.

McCann said records in his office indicate Portland Harbor hasn’t needed ice-breaking since 2004.

All Casco Bay ferries were running on time as of Tuesday afternoon. Passengers gathered at the bow of the Machigonne II on the noon run from Peaks Island for a better view of the ice. One woman said she hadn’t seen as much ice in the ocean since she was in Helsinki, Finland. The ferry showed no signs of trouble getting through the frozen obstacle course.

That’s just the way the Coast Guard wants it, said McCann.

“The Coast Guard wants to make sure it’s not a problem,” said McCann. “We know people want to go out and fish, and make a living.”

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.

– TROY.

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.

Invading students, last goodbyes and henna rituals: Troy Bennett’s top photos of 2014

For my “Best of 2014” list, I chose a few images from this year’s important news events, but I mostly chose smaller pictures that deserve a second look.

A routine protest at USM turned almost surreal as students invaded a trustees meeting, commandeering their seats and sampling their lunches. The “I Like Mike” sign was my most memorable photo of hundreds from what seemed like an endless election season because, in the end, who wins is the only lasting story.

Photographing crying children is not easy or pleasant, but I think the image reflects the profound sadness the community felt at the murder of three children and their mother in Saco.

I owe a debt of thanks to Autumn Clair, the 16-year-old who let me document the inevitable goodbye between her and Pedro. I like the moment and the split composition of clothing designer Roxi Suger looking at her model in the mirror. Another mirror picture shows the intensity of a young actress as she cuts her hair in order to play a prisoner in a concentration camp.

I’m continually amazed at the beautiful, intimate moments I’m allowed to witness doing this job: henna artist Mary Kearns applying traditional patterns to a pregnant belly while another woman feeds her child. That’s a real gift.

On a pretty routine food story I caught Dhanya Chasmawala giving her big brother Gautam a taste of her ice cream. It’s not newsy, but it made my day. Just a few weeks back, while having lunch in Portland, I stood up and noticed people walking through a patch of sun through the “d” of the deli sign — another non-news photo that made me happy to be a photographer.

Sadly, the University of New England shut down its seal rehabilitation facility, but not before releasing one last batch of pinnipeds, including Stratton, who had a good look around before wriggling back to the sea.

My final pick is the University of Maine hockey team taking to the ice at Fenway Park. That was a fun assignment.

I chose three videos for this list that I think hold up to more than one viewing.

The henna video was a tough one. Cancer took my mother. I wish she could have gotten this treatment.
People seem to like my adventure motorcycle videos, so I included one that features some banjo picking. Lastly, the arm wrestling video is still quirky enough to be a little surprising.
That’s it. Thanks for looking. I’m off to face 2015 with my left eye on the viewfinder and my finger on the shutter.

 

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.

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.

– TROY.