Photo Shoot: A new view at the Mass. Maritime Academy graduation

·2 min read

It is said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I have always bristled at this explanation.

As news photographer at a daily paper, the cyclical daily coverage presents a calendar of events. Many occur year after year, same place, same event, sometimes even the same subjects. But a photojournalist is tasked with simply making the best photographs, day in, day out.

There are many things that I have photographed well over 30, even 40, times. The portfolios of “images past” certainly spin around inside the brain as I approach something for yet another time.

Hugs amongst a sea of tossed caps as the cadets head out to greet family and friends at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Commencement last Saturday in Buzzards Bay. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times
Hugs amongst a sea of tossed caps as the cadets head out to greet family and friends at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Commencement last Saturday in Buzzards Bay. Steve Heaslip/Cape Cod Times

Familiarity can indeed breed contempt. But readers of the next day’s paper don’t care what mind games are happening inside the photog’s head. They simply want to see what happened. Thousands of graduates have passed across the stage over the years, but when it is 2022 and it is someone else’s time for a few seconds of fame, it is always a brand new ball game.

Heading to Massachusetts Maritime Academy for its 179th commencement — full disclosure, I have only been to about 35 of them — I could see images over the years cycling through the slide projector on my brain’s projection screen.

Always on the lookout for something new, but mindful of the need to simply document what was happening, it was easy to just fall into the ranks of cadets as they nervously milled about with last-minute primping before the opening procession. As row after row of grads crossed the stage to collect their diplomas, there were certainly images to be made.

But as the final section lined up, I made a radical decision. The “money” shot at MMA graduation is always the cap toss as the cadet regimental commander dismisses the class for the final time. The photo is usually made with a wide-angle lens looking skyward, only feet away from the grads.

I decided to go aerial, not with a drone, but up four flights of stairs at the Bresnahan Engineering Building, overlooking the parade field. It was far away and a telephoto lens brought the scene into full frame. I was skeptical it would have the drama of a close up image from the ground.

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A security guard and I shared the scene as we waited for the finale on the stairwell. The caps flew, the shutter bounced and just like that, graduation was complete. A final view from the “crow’s nest” as a pair of grads hugged amongst a field of toppled hats.

What will next year’s event bring? Only time will tell, but it felt good to explore a new angle.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: A new view at Maritime Academy 2022 graduation