Spotlight: Gretchen Powers’ Day With the Maine Coast Guard

Supporting the local community is a core value for us, and we’re thrilled to be in good company! Recently, our good friend Gretchen Powers led an outdoor photography workshop for Coast Guardsmen in Southwest Harbor, Maine. The goal of the workshop was to introduce photography skills as way of storytelling, but also as a way of fostering resiliency for those involved. As part of the workshop, Flowfold donated warm beanies and some gear to use as subject matter for photos.

We asked Gretchen to share her story and what made the day special–read on!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Gretchen Powers, a documentary lifestyle photographer and filmmaker based in New England, but frequently travel outside of New England for work and play.  I work with brands to create content that not only shows off their products but also tells a story about the people who use their products. I am currently an ambassador for United by Blue and Toad & Co – two brands that like Flowfold, cultivate community, and believe in producing durable, responsible goods. When I’m not wielding a camera on an adventure, I love playing with my pup, reading, and knitting.

What was this event all about?

I hosted an Outdoor Photography Workshop with the non-profit American300 at U.S. Coast Guard Station Southwest Harbor in Maine on March 23rd alongside photographers Cam Held and Christine Reighley. American300 is a nonprofit that places mentors with military members serving around the world to promote real world, resilient mindsets through forging personal connection.  While most of American300’s mentors have been athletes, astronauts, or wounded warriors, we’re always looking for ways to connect with service members.

The Coast Guard has had this amazing nationwide photo contest called ‘Shutter Shootout’ in place for years and I saw an opportunity to round up my colleagues and ask them to volunteer to share tricks of the trade with our service members in exchange for a little day-in-the-life learning of their own.

The day of the workshop we ate breakfast in the galley at 0600 and then spent the morning on base with the Coast Guard doing boat checks, learning how they operate their Search and Rescue cases and getting a perspective of what a day in the life of a “Coastie” looks like. Cam remarked, “I was impressed by how diligently the Coast Guard maintains their equipment and prepares for every scenario with the same level of seriousness they would an actual case regardless of the weather.”

During a morning briefing we shared a few photography tips and tricks starting with basic framing and lighting and then finishing with a few technical nitty gritty details.  During the lesson Christine shared , “It’s easy to get bored of the things we see every single day – so try to look for something that makes your surroundings unique, different, maybe it’s the lighting that day or the colors.”

We then put our cameras in their hands and had them take portraits of each other trying out a few different techniques. Whether it be with a mobile phone or dedicated camera, photography is one of those activities that nearly everyone has access to and with a tiny bit of instruction there’s a wide array of positive growth that can come from taking pictures that truly capture a moment in time.

After watching the Coasties run some drills, we led a short hike in Acadia National Park–a short ten minute drive from the station.  We stopped here and there to share insights and challenge them to take photos from different angles – using light in different ways.  The day was freezing, but aside from remarking that their smartphones could no longer register the touch of their cold fingers, the Coasties that joined us were in great spirits and proudly showed me their best photos over breakfast in the galley the next morning.

Our hope was that we would both provide the Coasties with the tools and techniques to take better photos on adventures with their family and friends and encourage them to get out and explore their surroundings – which for them is one of the most visited National Parks in the country!

What inspired you to do this event?

I’ve been leading tours for American300 for four years now. At every base I’ve been to there is always a service member who pulls out their phone to show me something cool they’ve done or seen recently.  My dad and I were recently brainstorming some new programs we could provide that would offer similar levels of resiliency training. By promoting outdoor activity and photography as a way of sharing the things they do on a daily basis at work (and at play) the concept of a photography workshop was born.  We hope to do more of these at the other stations we visit on a regular basis around the country.

How did you feel about the turnout? 

We had the attention of the entire Coast Guard Station for most of the day which really says something about the Station’s leadership team viewing these types of interactive moments with valued outsiders as key to strengthening their overall teams resiliency.   When it came time to venture off base the temperature  had dropped into the low teens so we created a 1:1 instructor to Coastie ratio, which ensured that their was no stand and wait going on …  The best part was that the outdoor workshop became a continuation of what we’d been sharing indoors all day with the promise by the newly trained Coasties that they’d share the techniques with the entire Stations crew in the weeks and months ahead.

What was your favorite part of the day? 

My favorite part of the day was when the Coxswain on duty pulled aside Cam and Christine and had them secretly call in a “Mayday! Boat taking on water” for the men on duty to respond to.  Not only was it a great learning experience for Cam and Christine to see how the Coasties run a Search and Rescue drill but it also served as a bit of a bonding experience because for the rest of the day we laughed that the “Maurice” was the first thing that popped into Cam’s head for the name of the boat.

Where can people find more about you?

www.gpowersfilm.com – @gpowersfilm on instagram / twitterfacebook

For more on American300 visit:  www.American300.org

American300 is a 501c3 all volunteer nonprofit which is focused on supporting our Department of Defense and Homeland Security Service Members with innovative programming which fosters positive growth and resilient mindsets.  No federal endorsement of sponsors or nonprofit is ever intended or implied – American300.org

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