Maine Editorial Photographer/Photojournalist bio picture
  • Michele Stapleton : Photographer

    Based in Brunswick, Maine (just east of Portland) I am a professional location photographer specializing in documentary photography for editorial, education & commercial clients. My photography takes me from my home in Brunswick to wonderful places all over Maine and New England.  

    With an an ever-expanding collection of Maine stock photography, I am known for evocative images that use strong color, exceptional light and careful composition to create impact.

    I belong to the American Society of Media Photographers, the Maine Professional Photographers Association, and the Professional Photographers Association of America, and was one of ten Maine photographers selected to participate in the America 24/7 project.

    Thank-you for visiting my blog, and please also visit my main web site.

Lola Children’s Home, Mekele, Ethiopia

In 2011 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with Allie and Tim, and their two small children, to visit Lola Children’s Home in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.

Allie and Tim, who live in Cambridge, serve as directors for the orphanage. I had photographed their wedding years ago at the Newagen Seaside Inn in the Boothbay Region of Maine.

Allie and Tim have traveled extensively since getting married, and as part of those travels spent several months in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia volunteering at an orphanage. There they became fast friends with social worker Abebe Fantahun, who felt a specific commitment to children with HIV. Abebe dreamed of returning to his hometown, Mekele, in northern Ethiopia to open an orphanage that would accept HIV infected children and their siblings, as most orphanages would not accept HIV kids. Allie and Tim encouraged Abebe to pursue his dream.

Fast-forward to 2010 when Abebe has just returned to Mekele to open his orphanage (which he named Lola) and Allie and Tim had committed to raise funds in the US to help run the orphanage. Allie and Tim set a fundraiser at her family’s home in Portland and invited me.

When Allie and Tim began speaking about Lola it was clear they had a very deep passion for Lola and its mission in northern Ethiopia. What they didn’t have, ahem, was a whole lot of pictures to illustrate the wonderful things that Lola was doing. Sold by their passion for the project and flush with frequent flyer points, I offered to take photos if they would let me tag along on their next trip to Lola. And they took me up on it.

So, this past spring on this unforgettable trip I got to meet Abebe and other Lola staff and of course the Lola kids, and to appreciate firsthand why Allie and Tim are so committed to this project. We also got to help Lola celebrate its first birthday.

Lola Children’s Fund’s mission is to raise money to provide housing, medical and educational services for HIV-affected orphans and local children in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has nearly 5.5 million orphans, with more than 800,000 orphaned by AIDS. About 80,000 Ethiopian children are infected with HIV. In 2010, 14,000 kids were infected and 3,500 died. More than 20,000 children need anti-retroviral medications to survive.

Lola was founded because Mekele had no services available for HIV-positive orphans, many of whom are left without family or government support after their parents’ deaths. Most orphanages will not take HIV children, so only the non-HIV children will be taken in. Many children live on the streets, receiving no food, shelter, education or medicine to help them combat the disease. Lola, on the other hand, will open its doors to the HIV infected children and their siblings so the siblings can be kept together after their parents’ deaths.

Happy Holidays!

à Paris or Delta is [not always] ready when you are™ [but I'm not complaining]

So, it all started innocently enough: When I checked in online for my Christmas flight to Atlanta, the Delta web site indicated my flight was oversold. I should contact the gate agent if I was willing to give up my seat and take a later flight.

When I arrived at the airport in Portland and checked my bags, the same message flashed on the kiosk screen. So, I approached the gate agent and volunteered.

To make a long story short, by the time I got home six days later, I had given up my seat twice, and I had 900 Delta Dollars in my pocket. And, I was cooking up a scheme to go somewhere exotic. No offense, but those $900 weren’t going to be spent in the Lower 48. I was thinking bigger.

Thanks to facebook I’d been living vicariously through other photographers who had taken recent trips to Europe. Zofia Waig and Jennifer Stone had both just taken trips to Rome. Both posted gorgeous photos, Zofia mostly in in black and white. So, Rome was at the top of my list.

But, so was Paris as writer friend Selby had recently vacationed there and shared all sorts of wonderful details. With the advice of my sister, best friend and potential travel mate, Lisa, Paris came out on top.

So, the tickets have been booked for Paris in the Springtime. I’ll fly from Boston, Lisa from Atlanta.

Having the luxury of four full months to plan and research the trip, I’m having plenty of time to find us an apartment, research sights and even learn a little French with lessons I’ve downloaded to the iPod. With future posts I’ll share some of my research in hopes of helping others who might plan a Paris trip in the near future.

Bon voyage!

Bowdoin v. Colby–there’s nothing like a rivalry!

There’s nothing like a rivalry, and this past weekend’s Bowdoin v. Colby men’s hockey game–at the sold-out Watson arena on a snowy February night–didn’t disappoint. Bowdoin college hockey; Brunswick Maine photographer

With the right to host next weekend’s NESCAC finals hanging in the balance, the game incited all sort of craziness. Like fans who painted giant B’s on their chests and players’ names and numbers on their backs.

bowdoin, brunswick maine photographer hockey

bowdoin, brunswick maine photographer hockey

Polar Bears and B’s showed up on faces and even fingernails.

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And then, there was that tee shirt with a special message for Colby.brunswick maine photographer bowdoin hockey

And, somehow it just seemed natural for a student or two to show up dressed as a penguin. Or as a banana.

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Alums and Bowdoin friends of all ages rounded out the crowd.brunswick maine photographer bowdoin hockeybrunswick maine photographer bowdoin hockey

With Brian Beard of Creative Images Photography there to capture the sports action, I was free to work the area for pictures that captured the emotion of the game, on and off the ice.brunswick maine photographer bowdoin hockeybrunswick maine photographer bowdoin hockey

The roomy  and brightly-lit Watson arena is a photographer’s dream, offering great vantage points for photos. brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographers

The roomy press box is great for capturing the play-by-play announcers

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersand for straight-on shots of the Polar Bench bench.

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersThe emotion ran the gamut from quiet times during official time-outs

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersto animated cheering when the game was underway. brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersA third-period goal sent the game into overtime

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersand the partisan crowd erupted when Bowdoin scored the winning goal in OT.

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographers

For information on tickets on next weekends’ NESCAC final games, check the Bowdoin athletics web site.

 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographersHere’s forward Kit Smith signing pucks and tee shirts for local youth who hung around after the game.
 brunswick maine bowdoin college hockey photographers

Submit your favorite cemetery photo to Bangor Photo’s October contest

Here’s a nod to Bangor Photo’s monthly photo contest, which this month is featuring cemeteries.

In a state that’s filled with many pretty little graveyards and cemeteries, one that truly stands out for me is the Glidden Street Cemetery tucked away on a lovely residential part of Newcastle (yes, on Glidden Street.)

Just across the Damariscotta River from Damariscotta (only a couple of turns off of Route 1), the cemetery is on a quiet tree-shaded lane lined with stately old homes and the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which is also worth a visit.cemetarynewcastle-0861

Several things make the Glidden Street cemetery stand out. First of all, the property itself is very photogenic. It’s a narrow strip of land that runs from the street all the way down to the river. The gently rolling strip is filled with mature trees, and many of the headstones are over a hundred years old and carved with intricate details.

Driving back from Camden this past Sunday I detoured to see how the foliage looked in the cemetery. The leaves weren’t quite the shades I had hoped for, but the nice light made me stay.

This particular headstone stood out because of the light falling across it and the old carving. As I got closer I could see it marked not one death, but three. One family lost three small children (ages 8, 5 and 3) in a three-week span in August and September of 1842. How very sad.

I wish I’d known the legend of Mary Howe, as I would have hunted down her grave. I’ll have to look it up on my next trip there.

Have a favorite cemetery you frequent with a camera? Then, check out the contest rules.

Meet Dan Cashman: this guy is going places.

One of the perks of being a professional photographer is meeting and working with wonderful  people. Like, for example, Dan Cashman.

I first ran into Dan over a decade ago when, as a photographer for the Bangor Daily News, I was dispatched to the University of Maine campus, in Orono, for an article about a UMaine student who had started his own talk show on local cable tv.

Dan, who was only 19 at the time, was a huge fan of late-night talk shows, and in particular, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Seems Dan had started his own Carson-esque talk show and it had really taken off. He had the desk, the pencil jar he futzed around with,  an Ed McMahon-like sidekick in Rich Norton,  and even a  house band in The Lidral Trio,  that played during the breaks. Dan was witty, and his team was obviously having  fun with the show, and as I returned to the paper with my pictures I told myself “this guy is going places. I’ll hear his name again.”

“The Nite Show” had an impressive five-year run, establishing Dan as a bit of a Boy Wonder in the Bangor area.dan-58bwWhile still in college in the late 90s,  Dan landed a prestigious internship with Don Imus. This was at the peak of Imus’ popularity, when the Imus show was simulcast on radio stations and MSNBC. Imus took his show on the road, and during a live broadcast from the Bangor Auditorium, Dan had the guts to ask the popular broadcaster about interning on his show. Nine months later Dan was in New York working for the I-man.

After graduating with a degree in mass communications  Dan  joined Cumulus, a national broadcasting group with five radio stations in the Bangor market. He started as promotions director for the five-station group, and worked his way up to program director of WBZN, along the way winning several awards from the Maine Association of Broadcasters.

After five years with Cumulus, Dan got snapped up by Maine Governor John Baldacci, to come to Augusta  as the Governor’s assistant press secretary.

Cut to summer 2006 and to Karen, a twenty-something bride-to-be who worked at Eastern Maine Health Systems with my former assistant Cristin.  On Cristin’s prodding Karen approached me about photographing her wedding. “Who is your fiance’?” I asked. “Dan Cashman” she answered, and I smiled. “I know who HE is!  I’ve taken his photo before!”dan-15-bw

Seems Dan and Karen had met through UMaine, but not until after Dan graduated.  Dan, working for Cumulus by this time, had been invited to speak to a communications class Karen was taking.  Karen was immediately intrigued and asked a question. And got his business card. And came up with a reason to follow up.  Dan, thankfully, was equally intrigued by Karen. By the time the two were engaged Dan was balancing the job in Augusta and the relationship with Karen, who lived in the Bangor area.

You learn a lot about a couple when you photograph their wedding, and I learned very quickly that Dan and Karen are  well-organized, dependable, gracious, outgoing and hard-working.

One particular meeting I had with Dan and Karen came not long after Don Imus made national news with an offensive comment about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers; since I knew Dan had worked for Imus I was interested in his take. It would have been very easy for Dan to pile on his former boss–like everyone else was doing–but he resisted. While he didn’t excuse the remark, he didn’t crucify Imus either:  ”He’s not a bad person if you get to know him; he really does a lot of good for many people,” referencing Imus’ charitable work for kids with cancer.  It was an admirable response.

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Their wedding was fun to photograph.  Cristin assisted, and it was nice to see the Lidrals there and even Governor Baldacci, who was able to drop in for about an hour.

Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago when Dan made a big announcement. After four years, commuting to Augusta is finally taking its toll;  Dan’s decided it’s time to move on his dream to start his own public relations firm. Taking the experiences gained in Orono, in NYC, at Cumulus and in Augusta, Dan has started Cashman Communications. Located in Bangor, the agency offers a full range of PR services.dan-88Having watched Dan conduct his affairs in the past with smarts, the highest ethics, a sense of humor, hard work, determination, and a positive outlook, I know all these wonderful qualities will serve him well in business.  It was a pleasure to work with Dan recently to create photos for his new website, which will be coming soon to CashComm.net.   I know that he will do a great job for the clients who are smart enough to choose him for their PR needs.

Are you backing up your files on a regular basis?

It was bound to happen eventually. Through some boneheaded move I deleted an incredibly important file.

I have no idea how it happened; I simply fired up the Mac this morning, and my to-do list was nowhere to be found. And my trash can was as empty as can be. Can you say “rapidly sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach”? I can.

I searched for “to-do” hoping maybe I had inadvertently slipped it inside a folder. The search came back nothing found. Twice.

Taking a deep breath I fired up Retrospect Express, my back-up application, and went through the steps to recover the last saved copy of my to-do list. Thankfully, it was right where it was supposed to be. Stomach starting to feel better already, breathing returning to normal.

Okay, now that the to-do list is recovered, here comes the rant:  Backing up your computer and any data on external hard drives on a regular basis is incredibly important, and it’s not just important for businesses like mine. Anyone not backing up regularly risks total loss of all sorts of important files.

Keeping up with your finances on Quicken? Have a couple of hundred (or thousand) songs on iTunes? Maintaining your Christmas card list electronically? Can you really afford to lose it all to a lightning strike?  A hardware crash? Or just an unexplained dumb mistake like mine?

Know what the experts say about all computers and external hard drives?  It’s not a matter of if they will crash, but instead when they will crash. Not to mention a house fire or other disaster.

My heart went out to a mother who recently related her bad fortune:  she lost all the digital photos of her only child, a five-year-old, when her computer bit the dust. She has nothing left but a couple of prints. Everything else is gone.

Yes, there are companies that often are able to recover files from crashed computers, but their file recovery services come with a hefty price tag, often over a thousand dollars. And, they can’t always recover everything.

Why risk being in this dreadful position when it’s so easy to back up?

Many professional photographers use a backup strategy we shorthand as “3-2-1.”  That stands for three copies of every file, using at least two kinds of media, with at least one copy off site at all times.  Our two kinds of  media are external hard drives and DVDs.  One hard drive is always off site, and many of our DVDs are also off site.

Keeping current is easy if you set the backup to run on its own. We do this using Retrospect Express.

We have two sets of external hard drives. Set A is on site for one week and it is updated daily, while Set B is safe off site. On week two we swap the sets, bring Set B up to date, then Set B gets daily updates. At the end of week two the routine starts over again. This way we should never lose more than a day’s work due to a hardware or operator error. If we have a disaster such as a fire which destroys the on-site back up, we shouldn’t lose more than a week’s worth of work.

We started using Retrospect for regular back-ups years ago thanks to the advice of Brian at Rainstorm Consulting, but if you are on a Mac using the latest OS, you’ll get Apple’s Time Machine backup app for free.  Not being a PC user, I don’t know the options there, but there appear to be many choices.

There are also companies that allow you to upload your files over the Internet, and they store the files on their servers. That’s even easier than buying sets of hard drives and toting them back and forth. And, if you update daily that way, you’ll never lose more than a day’s work. The friendly folks at BEK Inc in Brunswick offer this service. And you don’t have to be in Brunswick to use them, you simply need an Internet connection anywhere in the world.  Or, if you do live nearby they can come to your home or place of business and get you started with a routine like mine using a software solution and portable hard drives.

Last, if you have just a few items to back up (your address book, an important pdf), you get up to 2 GB of online storage free at Mozy.com

Okay, end of rant.  Now maybe I should actually start chipping away at the to-do list?

Want to improve your flash techniques? Get this book.

New Jersey photographer Neil van Niekerk is a flash wonk. As in the flash on your camera.nv1_52251

He’s recognized by his peers as an expert on the use of flash, is frequently invited to speak on the topic at professional photography conferences, tutors other photographers, gives workshops on flash photography, maintains a blog specifically dedicated to flash techniques, and has a flickr group (with over a thousand members), again specifically dedicated to flash photography techniques.

And, if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he’s days away from releasing a book titled On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography. Phew, that’s a mouthful! The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.pbook1

Despite the title, mastering the use of a flash isn’t just an issue for wedding and portrait photographers. Or even just for pros. Instead, the topic is important for anyone who wants to take better pictures. Which is great, because Neil writes (and speaks) in a straightforward style. Rank beginners can benefit from Neil’s expertise alongside the seasoned pros.

Like Neil, I first started using flashes back in the late 70s. That’s code for “before you could set everything on automatic.” And, I suspect that Neil, like me, got his start as a slide film shooter. That’s code for “your exposure had to be pretty much dead-on or your film was useless.” These were both great training grounds for beginner photographers; we couldn’t depend on the camera to pick the setting for us, we had to actually learn how to operate our camera (and flash) manually.josh-t-05801

Most (all?) of today’s cameras and flashes can be used on automatic, and using automatic mode gives the user great results a high percentage of the time. That’s a good thing insofar as it’s improved the quality of photography overall. However, the drawback is that many users never explore all the capabilities of their equipment. They don’t learn what to do when automatic fails them. And, they don’t learn how to tweak automatic for even better results.

If you need help with your use of flash, get to know Neil–his blog, his flickr site and now his new book.

Hmmm, I wonder if he’ll autograph my copy now that I’ve flattered him?