Photos of the Year
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Photos of the Year
Our staff spent 2015 traveling across the state, going as far as Stonington to document lobstermen at sunrise for a series of stories on the dramatic effects of climate change in the Gulf of Maine. They photographed a music teacher on her last day on the job, and captured a contemplative moment after a 47-year-old father was baptized for the second time. They were on land, in the air and on the water when a parade of tall ships sailed into Portland Harbor. They shadowed paramedics as they responded to a woman overdosing on heroin and witnessed dozens of officers salute Sultan, a declining K-9 unit police dog, before he was euthanized. Our photojournalists were there for every moment, capturing the stories of Mainers one frame at a time. This collection showcases the year’s best work by our staff.

MAINE THROUGH OUR EYES: JAN. 7 - FEB. 11 at the Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library. Join us at one of our free photos of the year talks.
JAN 7 - Opening Event // View info & RSVP
JAN 13 - Maine from the Sky, aerial photography by Gabe Souza // View info & RSVP
JAN 20 - Face to Face with Mainers, portrait photography by Whitney Hayward // View info & RSVP
FEB 10 - Peak Moments, sports photography by Derek Davis // View info & RSVP

Originally published Dec. 31, 2015

PHOTO BY Gregory Rec
Genevieve McDonald prepares for a day of lobstering off the coast of Stonington. During the summer of 2012, when ocean temperatures reached their highest level ever recorded, McDonald saw dozens of longfin squid near Isle au Haut. Longfin squid are a temperate species not normally found in the Gulf of Maine. Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I photographed Genevieve McDonald filling her lobster boat’s fuel tank in September while working on a series of stories about warming ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. I have photographed many lobstering stories during my 18 years at the Press Herald and almost always have found Stonington Harbor to be shrouded in fog, so I was glad to find what looked like a clear day emerging. I climbed on top of the cabin roof of McDonald’s boat to get an elevated view of the sun rising over the harbor.
PHOTO BY Derek Davis
A swimmer, one of 344, approaches the finish line at East End Beach in Portland during the Peaks to Portland race. The annual 2.4-mile swim, from Peaks Island across Casco Bay, raises money for swimming and aquatics classes at YMCA facilities in Portland, Freeport, Biddeford and New Gloucester. Saturday, July 18, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· While the image of hundreds of people swimming across Casco Bay is wonderful and strange, and never gets old, it can be difficult to capture in a way that looks unique. As I watched the swimmers come in toward the beach, I was looking for something that might make a nice detail. The light was perfect to contrast the droplets of water against the light sky and the way they fell from the swimmer’s hand created a sense of movement and made this image work.
PHOTO BY Gordon Chibroski
Karen Renton joins her pupils in an action-packed song. Renton was retiring after a 32-year career as a music teacher at Yarmouth Elementary School. Wednesday, June 17, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· Reporter Leslie Bridgers and I visited music teacher Karen Renton’s class on the last day before she retired and were amazed at her energy and love for her pupils. I knew I had to capture that energy and spirit and got up high to make sure I had the whole class in focus with her at the center during the climactic refrain of a Latin dance number. It was truly a joy to see how a great music teacher transfers her knowledge, passion and enjoyment of music to her students.
PHOTO BY Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Gary Plante of Saco is serenaded by the whirr of the snowblower and Biscuit the dog as he digs out his driveway following a big storm. Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· While covering a storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow on parts of Maine, I was roaming around my hometown of Saco photographing neighbors shoveling out, playing in the snow and snowblowing their driveways. After several hours of hunting for photos, I decided it was time call it a day and go home and make a final edit. I almost passed this opportunity up. I thought I had enough good images and it was getting late. But the light, the wind and dog changed my mind. After a few minutes of barking at me, Biscuit went back to barking at the snowblower. And that’s when I made this image. I’m glad I stopped.
PHOTO BY Gabe Souza
Gavin Cecchini of the Binghamton Mets, brother of former Portland Sea Dog Garin Cecchini, warms up as the sun sets during the Eastern League All Star game at Hadlock Field. Cecchini’s Eastern Division team won the game in a home run derby shootout. Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I remember this being a classic newspaper situation: It was a tight deadline and we desperately needed a photo for the next day’s sports cover. I was using a long telephoto lens to photograph action for the inside of the section, but I wanted something that spoke to the event’s atmosphere for the cover. My eye was on the beautiful sunset, but I needed a foreground element. I kept watching as Gavin Cecchini paced up and down near the dugout limbering up before he went in as a late-inning substitution. When he grabbed a bat and started to perform practice swings, I knew that would be a frame. Lying on the ground with a 16 mm lens, I captured this image.
PHOTO BY Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Maine State Police Sgt. Robert Burke and officers from local communities salute retired police dog Sultan as Canine Officer Shane Stephenson of the South Portland Police carries him into Yarmouth Veterinary Center to be euthanized. Sultan served the Yarmouth Police Department before his retirement, then became Stephenson’s pet. More than two years into his retirement, Sultan’s health began to fail. He had become too weak to stand and had stopped eating. Friday, Feb. 13, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· While trying to balance making video and photographs on this assignment, I almost missed the photo. I had just made a video clip of Officer Shane Stephenson carrying Sultan toward the veterinary center. As he passed by, I saw this moment happening and quickly switched to still photos to make this image. There were several nice moments that happened in a short window of time, and I felt like I missed many of them. As I left the assignment I was afraid I didn’t get enough photos or video to do the story justice. But in the end I had just enough of both. The video went on to get more than a million views.
PHOTO BY Whitney Hayward
Kate Hall practices at the Westbrook High School track before leaving to work out with a personal trainer. Hall, the national long jump record-holder and 2015 champion, maintained a rigorous workout schedule during the high school track season. Wednesday, May 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· On this day, I followed track and field star Kate Hall throughout her regular workout regimen. She completed her personal workout at the Westbrook High School track, traveled to a gym for a session with a personal trainer, and then went to her high school track practice at Lake Region High School. For this image, I set up two speed lights on opposite sides of the track, and photographed Kate as she did short-burst sprints, intending to come away with a peak action image as she was running her hardest. I have those images, and they are perfectly fine, but as Kate finished her last sprint and was walking back, something about her expression and body language made me want to keep photographing. The more I got to know Kate, the more I was able to see the pensive cool she was able to maintain during the most stressful moments before her track events. This picture, I think, speaks to that element of her personality more so than an image of her running could.
PHOTO BY Gregory Rec
From left, Maria Nikolova, Caroline Paradise and Mark Baxter haul lines as the Picton Castle enters Portland Harbor. The steel-hulled, three-masted vessel was named after a castle in England. Built in 1928 as a fishing trawler, it was pressed into service as a minesweeper during World War II. In 1996 it underwent a $2 million retrofit in its home port of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and was converted into a sailing barque now used by trainees. Saturday, July 18, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I boarded the Picton Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and sailed with the crew up to Portland for the Tall Ships 2015 festival. Even though I was on board to take photos and write a story for the Press Herald, I was expected to participate in watches twice a day, which ran from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and involved hoisting sails, cleaning the deck, washing the dishes after dinner and even steering the ship. While not on watch, I had ample time to take photos and interview the crew and trainees. In this photo, trainees raise one of the barque’s many sails during the Parade of Sail into Portland Harbor. I like this photo because it gives viewers an idea of the amount of effort and grit it takes to be a crew member on a large sailing ship.
PHOTO BY Whitney Hayward
The Bowdoin comes to port during the Tall Ships festival, while spectators wave and watch at the Maine State Pier in Portland. Saturday, July 18, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· For the Tall Ships Portland 2015 festival in July, we had photographers stationed at multiple points in Casco Bay, on one of the ships, and even shooting aerial images from a plane flying overhead. For my part of this day, I was photographing the boats as they traveled to the Maine State Pier, where crowds had gathered to watch. The Bowdoin was the first ship visible to spectators waiting on the pier, and their reaction to seeing this boat, despite it being one of the smaller vessels of the festival, was much more animated than when the later boats came into port. To me, my job that day wasn’t really to photograph the ships, but rather to capture the human aspect of the festival, and I think this photograph serves the purpose well.
PHOTO BY Shawn Patrick Ouellette
The tall ship Columbia makes its way into Portland Harbor during the Parade of Sail. Tens of thousands of people attended at least part of the Tall Ships Portland 2015 festival. Saturday, July 18, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· As a photographer, this was one of those days when you feel very fortunate to do what you do for a living. I spent a couple hours flying over Portland Harbor watching the tall ships arrive – not a bad day. There was some stress with the assignment, however; as the plane circled in and out of Portland Harbor I was losing cellphone reception and having difficulty sending my photos back to my editor. Eventually I was able to send the images and they were posted on before the plane landed. The thing I like about this image is the contrast between the tall ship and the other boats on the water that day.
PHOTO BY Gabe Souza
Jay Russo, 47, of Scarborough takes a moment to reflect while sitting in a tub of water after he was baptized at Eastpoint Christian Church. At left is Russo’s daughter, Madeline, 10. For Russo, who had been baptized a Catholic as a child, this baptism represented the start of a new life. Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· This was one of the first in our now regular series, “That Moment.” When starting a new project it’s easy to get a few jitters as you try and establish a strong visual direction. Going into the assignment the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to try to get an intimate photograph. “That Moment” stories hinge on our readers feeling as if they are witnesses to critical life moments. Using a wide-angle lens, I stayed close to Jay Russo and his daughter during Jay’s baptism and waited, trying not to intrude on the ceremony. I didn’t know exactly what I was waiting for, but when I saw Jay pause for a moment of reflection I immediately moved in and photographed the scene.
PHOTO BY Whitney Hayward
Brook-lynn Baker, 6, holds her cousin, William Pinkerton Jr., 1, in the hot tub of the Super 8 in Westbrook, after the home they were renting was condemned by the city, leaving them temporarily homeless. Saturday, June 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I'm so grateful to the people who regularly let me come into their lives and photograph, and this family was no exception. They were among 23 residents displaced after dangerous wiring was discovered at a rental home in Westbrook where they had been living. Power was out in multiple parts of the building, and residents relied on extension cords running throughout it to maintain power in their units. A tenant complained to the city of Westbrook, and the building was condemned. With nowhere else to go, effectively homeless, they were forced to temporarily relocate to a Super 8 hotel in Westbrook. Brook-lynn’s mother told me repeatedly how thankful her family was that the Super 8 had a pool. School was out for the summer and there were a number of children in the household, with absolutely no outdoor area for them to run and play. To me this image tells that aspect of their stay at the Super 8, and also, hopefully, provides some humanity to the housing issues we frequently cover at the Press Herald.
PHOTO BY Derek Davis
Hamdi Hassan, 19, of Portland weeps while chanting “black lives matter” at Merrill Auditorium during a gathering to honor nine people gunned down at a church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17. “I’m so tired. I’m just tired,” Hassan said later. “I’m happy that I’m black. I think it’s beautiful. But it’s just difficult when people hate my skin color.” Monday, June 22, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· This was an image made in part by patience. The event, which lasted for about an hour and included speeches from religious and civic leaders as well as performances from local choirs, had thus far been unremarkable visually. I could sense a tension building, however, especially among the younger audience members, and had a feeling that they would make their voices heard at the conclusion of the event. As they began to chant, after most people had already left the auditorium, I noticed that a few were becoming overcome with emotion. I focused on this young woman and captured the image as a tear fell from her eye.
PHOTO BY Gabe Souza
Kati Clemons, 30, of Harpswell dips for elvers along the Royal River in Yarmouth. Elvers are small, translucent eels – and a lucrative catch for Maine fishermen. But the season is short, and legislation limits new license holders to winners of an annual lottery. When her husband returned home from lobstering, lottery winner Clemons set out to fish for elvers, standing on the riverbank into the wee hours of the morning using her net. Monday, May 4, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· This image is part of an ongoing series photographing Mainers in a variety of different environments. I wanted a picture of elver fishing, something that is so uniquely Maine. I wanted to work with the light that was available (very little) to evoke the mood of the scene – dark, cold and somewhat stressful. The men and women fishing for elvers endure severe physical strain for hours on end in the hopes of a large-volume catch. I think the light in the image speaks to the scene while the grain – generally considered undesirable – actually adds to the aesthetic of the black and white palette.
PHOTO BY Whitney Hayward
Presque Isle guard Taylor Williams and Greely forward Moira Train tumble to the court as both attempt to gain possession of the ball during the two teams’ hotly contested championship game. In the second half, Greely dominated Presque Isle, ultimately winning 56-39. Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I shot this photo shortly after the beginning of the second half of the Class B girls state championship game between Presque Isle and Greely at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Presque Isle came out playing aggressively, hoping to close a gap in the score, and I knew it was likely there would be a scramble for the ball. I positioned myself lower toward the court to ensure my frame would not be too high for good eye contact.
PHOTO BY Shawn Patrick Ouellette
Jane Footer fixes her bed at the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland as her dog, Timmy, rests nearby. Footer had been homeless and sleeping at the shelter while looking for affordable housing. She had lived in an apartment on Wilmot Street for years when she was notified that the building was being sold and she would have to leave. She eventually found housing in a studio apartment at a subsidized senior housing complex. “I’m very, very happy and grateful,” she said. “It’s a lovely place.” Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· This photo was part of a larger story on housing in Portland. I followed Jane, who was homeless for several weeks as she searched for a new place to live in a surging and unforgiving rental market. Jane was very open with us, allowing me into her world at a time when she was struggling to figure out where she belongs. The thing I like about this image is how it brings the readers to a place they normally wouldn’t see, and hopefully gives them a better understanding of what it may be like to spend the night in a shelter.
PHOTO BY Whitney Hayward
Josh Blanchard jokingly re-creates his celebratory pose after making a strike at the Professional Bowling Association tournament at Bayside Bowling in Portland. “I’m pretty animated. I fist bump, I’ll yell at the crowd. The crowd is what brings the excitement to me,” Blanchard says. Friday, March 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· When I'm taking a portrait, I talk to the person first and ask a few fairly simple questions. I’m looking for clues to their personality, which helps me think about what image might best reflect it. I could tell fairly quickly that professional bowler Josh Blanchard wasn’t shy, and would be totally game for a couple of ridiculous portrait attempts. Other bowlers had mentioned that individual players have their own quirks in celebrating a strike. When I asked Blanchard if he could re-enact his, this is the image I came away with.
PHOTO BY Gregory Rec
A lone car makes its way down the southbound lane of an otherwise deserted Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk during a blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet of snow on parts of the state. The conditions led officials to close schools and recommend that Mainers stay home and off the roads if possible. Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· During the blizzard that clobbered Maine Jan. 27, driving snow, strong winds and reduced visibility kept many motorists off the roads. I had to trudge through deep snow to get to a bridge over the Maine Turnpike and waited 30 minutes for a car to pass on the highway below. I think this photo succeeds because the solitary car reinforces the sense of barrenness in the scene. I had made a few frames of the empty highway earlier, but those didn’t convey the desolation as strongly as this image.
PHOTO BY Derek Davis
Portland paramedics load a 29-year-old woman into an ambulance after she overdosed on heroin and was found unconscious on Congress Street by a passer-by. The Portland Fire Department – and emergency crews across Maine – respond to heroin overdoses much more frequently than even three years ago, officials say. Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I was riding along with Portland paramedics when we arrived at the scene of a reported heroin overdose. A woman lay unconscious on the sidewalk of a busy street. It was an intense and frightening scene – at first I wasn’t even sure if the woman was alive. I was careful to stay out of the way of emergency workers, and tried to respect the privacy of the patient by making images that would not reveal her identity. This photo of the paramedics taking her away in an ambulance was the most successful in helping to tell the story of an all-too-frequent consequence of heroin addiction.
PHOTO BY Derek Davis
Anthony Boyd, 9, blows out a candle following a vigil for Capt. Mike Davidson, one four Mainers aboard the El Faro cargo ship when it sank near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. About 200 friends, neighbors and family members gathered on the cul-de-sac where his family lives to honor Davidson’s memory. Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· I captured this image after the speakers had finished and the event was winding down. As people left the vigil, many of them placed candles beside a framed photograph of the lost captain, and this young boy began blowing out the candles. I think this photo works well because the lighting from the candles gives a dramatic feeling that is both dark and somber, but also warming and bright.
PHOTO BY Gabe Souza
Ryley Austin of Lisbon, a sophomore at Mt. Ararat High School, rests on a trainer’s table in the locker room at Watson Arena in Brunswick at 4:23 a.m., before the start of his hockey practice. A shortage of rinks in southern Maine means many high schools must practice at odd hours, either early in the morning or late at night. For players like Austin, who must travel nearly a half-hour just to get to the rink, it means rising sometime after 3 a.m., hitting the ice, and then attending a full day of school. Many of the players reported drinking coffee or caffeinated soda at breakfast to help them through the day. Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015.
A word from the photographer ··· A very wise photographer once told me that sometimes, when you really need one, you’ll get a “gift” as a photographer. After waking up at 2:30 a.m. and driving through messy winter weather, I received one of my “gifts” on this assignment, an unscripted moment resulting in a humorous image that also told the story. I was tasked with showing how tired the players were because of oddly timed, often very early practices. Most of them stayed near their lockers, killing time on their phones with their hoodies drawn close over their faces. It was making for OK photographs, but when Ryley Austin moved to the trainer’s table for a quick rest, I framed up the image and came away with the lead for the story.