By Allegra Boverman
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Owl Release
I had never been to an owl release, or the release of any animal into the wild before December. When I’ve seen releases in other media, it’s done with some fanfare and an appreciative group looking on. The release of this barred owl, which was given a clean bill of health after being struck by a vehicle, was actually very intimate — just me, wildlife rehabilitator Jodi Swenson and the owl. The owl refused to come out of the carrier at first, which amused us both, as if it realized that it had it pretty good staying with Swenson at her home overnight. She got her heavy gloves on, lifted the owl out and tried to release it; the owl didn’t seem to want to go, it landed just a foot or so away, indignantly glaring up at Swenson. Swenson gathered the raptor up, tried again and this time, the owl took flight. I have never been so close to an owl flying and as I took video and still footage, I realized I had tears in my eyes, and so did Swenson, as we looked at each other, smiling and blinking them back in the semi-darkness, as we watched the owl first land up in a nearby tree and then fly farther out to other trees in the wetlands. Back in my car, I actually did start crying with happiness.
Watching students doing unusual hands-on learning activities at school in their classrooms is one of my favorite things to photograph for the newspaper. I am constantly in search of these opportunities; and when I heard that children in one class at Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Gloucester were learning how to make pickles together, I made it my business to be there. Knowing that some kids have picky taste buds, I was curious about their reactions to the taste of their freshly made pickles.
The Fort neighborhood in Gloucester was all abuzz over a little seal pup that came ashore on Pavilion Beach in late March. I, too, was aflutter with excitement over the seal. I met several neighbors who had spent most of that day watching and filming the little creature as it snoozed, stretched, turned over, yawned, smiled and relaxed in the sand. A volunteer from the New England Aquarium was there to keep an eye on it, answer questions, make sure dogs were leashed and kept away and that people didn’t get too close. I wanted so badly to hug the fuzzy, chubby and adorable seal, or at the very least, touch it, but failing that, at least I could take photos of it. I wanted to be a good example to other people who were also interested in the seal, so I grudgingly crouched a respectable distance away, still close enough for me to feel that I got some good portraits of it anyhow, even if I couldn’t give it a nice scratch on the head.
The mock elections held at Manchester Memorial Elementary School were a joy to behold. The voting booths were lent by the town and some pupils needed stepstools to reach the writing surface. They had enthusiastically studied all the platforms, researched all the candidates, learned about the process. The library was decorated for the occasion, including lots of books on display about the presidents, the electoral college and other voting topics. One student had to vote before leaving early; for that moment, the library was silent and nearly empty. He carefully stepped up onto the stool and spent some time considering his vote. Doing one’s civic duty, no matter how young, delighted me.
Caleigh Harrison’s father
There are no words to adequately describe the tragedy that befell the Harrison and Hammond families of Gloucester when their toddler Caleigh disappeared in late April. I got to know the family members a little bit over the months as searches continued, and have been grateful for their willingness to be photographed. On this day the Harrison family felt it was time to acknowledge that, after looking into other possible outcomes, it was very likely that Caleigh had indeed been washed away to sea that day in April when she played at Long Beach with her mom, sister and dog. I photographed Anthony Harrison as he spoke, eloquently and with great emotion, with the media he invited to his home, and continued watching him when it was over and everyone else had gone. There are no words needed to describe how he was still feeling.
Military funeral of Capt. Michael McCaddon
Leslie McCaddon, wife of Capt. Michael McCaddon, an Army doctor, allowed us full access in April to tell the story of her husband’s life, suicide and funeral, for which I was very grateful. I got to know her both before, during and after the funeral; she is an inspirational, strong, smart and expressive woman. The story of her husband and her family needs to be told, the stories of other military personnel in the same boat need to be told. McCaddon and other military widows who lost their spouses to suicide have been actively speaking and working to spur change. There is one suicide a day across the military — she has testified at the Pentagon and other places about this tragic problem. My photography colleague Desi Smith and I attempted to thoughtfully tell the story of that family: its love, loss and strength that day.
Crossing guard’s last day
I stuck around a little longer after a little gathering at Five Corners in Rockport to honor a much-loved crossing guard in Rockport on her last day before retirement. When this last little hug took place, I knew I had my photo of the day — the wistfulness on both their faces is precious. I don’t see a photo like this every day, but I’m always on the hunt for it, and it’s just one of the many reasons I enjoy being a photographer so much.
There were a lot of thunderstorms all summer and the clearing skies were intense and dramatic afterwards. If I found myself driving home at sunset when the skies were clearing, the drive was more difficult as my eyes were glued to the cloud formations, color and light. I was just about done with work for the day after this storm and thought I’d swing around through Gloucester before it got dark to see what things looked like with this pink sky arching overhead. I went around as quickly as I could, looking back constantly at the shifting light and clouds. I finally found the image at the state fishing pier where the harbor, its boats and the city were laid out before me beneath the rising moon and the sweeping clouds. The sensation I had was that I was also painting this scene, not just taking a photo of it.
Allegra Boverman is the chief photographer at the Gloucester Daily Times and photo director of Cape Ann Magazine. She has been taking photos and puttering in darkrooms since she was 4 years old, has been a mostly fulltime photojournalist since 1992, and she has worked in the Eagle-Tribune’s family of newspapers and magazines since 2004.