Pushing past your comfort: Running “Bridge the Gap”

Text by Ashley L. Conti
Photos by Nick Sambides, Rachelle Bourgoin and Matthew Moore

Last Sunday morning I woke up a little nervous.


Because in a few hours I was going to be running a 10-mile race. The Bridge the Gap race had runners travel over the Penobscot Narrows Bridge where they encountered an endless supply of hills while traveling around  Verona Island.

I have always been an athletic person. I played soccer my entire life and even played DIII collegiate soccer at Rochester Institute of Technology, but running was never my thing. If you would have asked me a year ago to run a mile, I would have done it but would have felt horrible after. Ten miles never seemed like a distance I would ever be able to run.

But something changed. One day I decided I wanted to get back into soccer shape, so I started running.  A few miles here and there slowly turned into 12 miles a week, which turned into hitting 90 miles last month.

My body started craving longer and longer distances, so I gave in. Two mile runs turned into four miles, four miles turned into six miles, six miles turned into doing 13 miles on my day off because I could.

So Sunday I wasn’t nervous about not finishing, I was nervous about how far I could push myself. How long I could hold my pace. How long I could ignore that little voice in my head telling me to stop.

The weather was perfect, finally a spring day.

At 10 a.m. the race started and a wave of runners started across the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. My running partner and I took off. We were holding about a 7:30/mile pace. Perfect.

At mile five something went wrong.  My running partner was having issues with his leg, it was cramping bad. Not wanting to leave him, I walked with him for about three quarters of a mile. My legs started to get tight from slowing down. I told my partner I was sorry, but I had to go.

I’m competitive and I tried my best to pass all the people who had passed us while we had slowed down. I got my pace back up to just under 8 minutes a mile. But the slow down/walk to speed up weakened my legs and I had to knock my pace to 8:30/mile.

Miles seven through nine were a blur, up and down more hills. So many hills, they seemed endless. My main focus was keeping my legs from stopping. My lungs felt terrific, my legs were feeling heavy. I kept pushing.

With half a mile left, I kicked it up. I felt tired, but not exhausted. I wanted to finish strong.

As I came over the final hill the finish line finally came into sight. I stepped it up again.

About 100 feet from the finish I looked to the sidelines at the spectators cheering everyone on and noticed someone taking photos of me. Why would anyone be taking photos of me?

As I ran closer the person looked more familiar. Then she removed her sunglasses and I was shocked. My friend, whom I hadn’t seen in months while she backpacked through Asia, was standing there. I didn’t even know she was back in the States. I ran over and gave her the biggest hug ever. In shock I sprinted across the finish line, 1:28:10.

Not the best time in the world, not the worst either. But I’m proud of myself.

I ignored my body telling me to stop, that it was too hard, and pushed myself. One step closer to achieving the real reason for running, hitting 30-miles at the World’s Toughest Mudder.

“Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” showcase Maine’s best skateboarders

Parts in order of appearance:
Alex Winslow 01:14
Tyler Gibbs 02:30
Street Interlude 03:55
Garrett Brooks 04:38
Dave Labbe 05:16
Matt Seavy 06:17
Barroom Interlude: 09:17
Friends Interlude 09:34
Sean Hernandez & Tim Nichols 13:25
Jay Brown 14:44
Mike Gustafson 17:32
Credits 20:24

Filmed by Jimmy Collins and Joe Radano.
Edited by Joe Radano.

Portland skaters and filmmakers Jimmy Collins (left) and Joe Radano recently released a 25-minute video featuring Maine's best skateboarders. The video, released in conjunction with Step Dad magazine, was more than two years in the making. Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Portland skaters and filmmakers Jimmy Collins (left) and Joe Radano recently released a 25-minute video featuring Maine’s best skateboarders. The video, released in conjunction with Step Dad magazine, was more than two years in the making. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

From the time they first got on skateboards in grade school, Joe Radano, now 27, and Jimmy Collins, 29, have been filming their exploits with all the sick tricks — and hard falls — included.

The duo recently released a 25-minute video in conjunction with Step Dad magazine that looks to put Maine on the skating map. It features more than 20 of the state’s best boarders, all of whom are friends, skating in parks, under bridges, at constructions sites and shooting down Portland’s hills.

Filming commenced almost two-and-a-half years ago and, at first, they didn’t have a feature film in mind. They were just shooting their skating pals, as usual.

“It didn’t really start until we had a bunch of footage,” said Collins as he sipped a pint of beer in Portland’s Downtown Lounge.

They split their time behind the camera, often shadowing their subjects on skateboards, swerve-for-swerve, themselves. Then Radano spend the winter editing 30 months worth of footage together.

“It took about five months,” said Radano.

Maine, covered in snow for half the year, is not widely known for its skateboarding terrain. Radano and Collins hope their video will spread the word that Maine has a distinct skating culture and scene from, say, Boston.

“A lot of people don’t know that Maine has sick spots, too,” said Collins, a Bangor native. “People are ripping and killing it, here.”

The pair are already at work on their next project, working with Portland-based skate and apparel shop Recession. They’re not sure how long the next video will take, but they don’t care. It’s a labor of love and they’re not in it for the money.

“It’s hard work, but when you look at it, it’s just hanging with your friends,” said Collins. “So, it’s not that bad.”

Motorcycles on ice, circular track racing on Sebago Lake

Text and Photos by Robert F. Bukaty

RAYMOND, MAINE – Ask a biker why they race motorcycles on ice and you’ll most likely hear something like this: “Because I’m an adrenaline junkie…”

That’s exactly what Jamie-Lynn Worden, 25, of Gorham, said after an exhilarating practice ride on a circular track plowed on Sebago Lake’s Jordan Bay a few weeks ago.

Worden got in several quick laps around the track while her fiancé and nine-month-old son watched  from the edge of the frozen lake.

Ice racers use dirt bikes equipped with studded tires for traction. The tires, which sell for about $500 each, are put on a lathe to grind down the knobs on the right side of the tire. Then studs are put in the remaining knobs, enabling the riders to lean severely into left turns without sliding out.

Vito LaVopa, another rider out that day on Jordan Bay, is also an admitted adrenaline junkie. He says it’s an addiction he had since 1967.  That’s when his father took him out for a short ride on a bike he was fixing.

“He took me down the cul-de-sac on the tank and back,” said Lavopa, 50, a plumber from Windham.

Lavopa says he has always had a bike since age 11. On the ice Lavopa races a Kawasaki 250.

“I ride a high-end booster.  At the rear wheel I’ve got about 180 horsepower, “ he said.   Although he figures he hits about 50 miles per hour on the straightaways, he says the thrill of riding on ice doesn’t just come from the speed.

Anybody can twist the throttle and go fast, ” said Lavopa.  “But the corners are where it’s at.”

Randy Rhoads, Gene Simmons and more: Four decades of rock photography in Portland



Portland native, James Pappaconstantine, 52, has been watching rock and roll memories transpire through his camera’s viewfinder for almost 40 years. He’s shot the likes of Alice Cooper, Blue Öyster Cult, Pat Benatar, the Ramones, Judas Priest, J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart and Nazareth.

Pappaconstantine got thrown out of Three Dollar Dewey’s in the Old Port with Iron Maiden. He hung out on Mötley Crüe’s tour bus on Congress Street. He met Gene Simmons of Kiss without his makeup on (in the days when no one saw him without it) but didn’t dare take a picture.

In the 1980s, he got in trouble with the fuzz after partying with Quiet Riot in his apartment. Ask him for the details on that one.

Pappaconstantine started out in 1977 with a Kodak Instamatic, in the days when you could bring a camera right into a rock show. It had an extension for a rotating, four-sided flash cube. He remembers it looking like a lighthouse on top. Then he saw some pictures a buddy had shot at a Jethro Tull show with a Pentax K1000 35mm camera.

“He had way better photos than I did,” said Pappaconstantine during an interview in Portland. “I was like — wow — I gotta’ get a better camera.”

Less than a year later the buddy sold his Pentax to Pappaconstantine’s mother, who gave it to him for his 18th birthday.

“I used that camera forever,” he said.

Portland native James Pappaconstantine has been shooting rock'n'roll concert photos since he was a teenager in the 1970s. His pictures have appeared in magazines, on posters and graced album jackets. Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Portland native James Pappaconstantine has been shooting rock’n’roll concert photos since he was a teenager in the 1970s. His pictures have appeared in magazines, on posters and graced album jackets. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Back then, he shot straight from the audience. He didn’t have any special access. Standing in line outside, often in the cold, he waited to get into shows at the head of the crowd. Then, he’d make a dash for the standing room right in front of the stage. Once there, he did his best to cling to the barricade in the surging crowd.

“If I didn’t (get up front) I’d always get heads or hands in my shots,” he said.

Money was tight for the teenage Pappaconstantine and he didn’t have film to waste on photos of concertgoers’ noggins and hairdos.

“I could afford a concert ticket and then maybe a roll of film — maybe two,” he said.

After the show, with the concert still ringing in his ears, Pappaconstantine would drop his film off at the Fotomat and wait a week to see if his pictures came out well. Sometimes he was happy, sometimes he was disappointed.

“Then, right around 1980, I had this brilliant idea,” he remembers.

At the top row of the Cumberland County Civic Center, where most of the big rock shows used to take place, there was a booth where radio broadcasters would call hockey games. Pappaconstantine realized there were folding chairs in that booth.

Instead of waiting in line to get in first and run for the barricade, he’d run like Rocky Balboa to the booth at the top of the stairs. There, he’d grab a folding chair and sprint back down to the floor and find a spot to stand.

During the show, when he wanted to take a picture, Pappaconstantine unfolded the chair, hopped on, aimed and fired away. Then he’d hop back down before security noticed. By then, rockers were starting to ban cameras at shows.

“I’d be above all the heads and hands and I could get good shots,” he said.

His system worked out great, for a while.

In 1981, he was shooting pictures of Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, Randy Rhoades, from his temporary perch on a folding chair when his plan fell apart.

“I kept seeing this flashlight point at me,” he said. “I thought, ‘what is going on?’”

Suddenly, he felt hands seize him and pull him off his chair. Security guards dragged him out of the crowd and into the hallway where they threatened to break his camera if he didn’t hand over the film. Pappaconstantine was 19 or 20 years old at the time and pretty freaked out.

He gave them film from his camera. It’s something he still regrets.

The roll of film in the camera had, what he thought would be, great photos of Randy Rhoads — who died the next year at age 25, going down in history as one of the greatest and most influential rock guitarists of all times.

The guards didn’t get the roll he had in his pants pocket, though. It had a few, precious shots of Rhoads, but mostly pictures of an unknown opening act called Def Leppard.

“Back then, in the back of every magazine, people were selling photos,” he said. “The record companies weren’t getting anything from it.”

So, he said he understands why artists and their managers want to control who is taking pictures at a show — up to a point.

“For me, I wasn’t selling my work. I was creating a memory that I could always look back on,” he said. “I think that’s what photographs do.”

Around 400 shows later, Pappaconstantine is still shooting at concerts. His camera has a digital chip in it instead of a roll of film, but his outlook is just the same. Although he often shoots on official assignment for magazines and websites, and his pictures have graced artist’s CD packaging and posters, he still doesn’t do it for money. He does it for the love of music, pictures and memories.

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.

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.



A BDN Maine blog about visual storytelling in Maine

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