Saturday, October 10, 2015

For the Birds

A bird's eye view of the heat wave

For the Birds


Shooting in the city, I like to include pigeons in photos when possible. At the Jersey Shore, I wait for gulls to pass through my viewfinder.

I was on assignment yesterday in Ocean City for an upcoming story on the 100th anniversary of the country's oldest continuously operating fishing club - The Ocean City Fishing Club, which owns a pier that extends 635 feet southeast from the boardwalk (they have a live webcam).

After photographing some members fishing, I took advantage of being on their pier to shoot some First-Day-of-the-Heat-Wave photos. It was an opportunity to use a different vantage point - looking back toward the beach from over the water - than most of the photos I'd shot there over the past thirty years.

Not content to wait for cooperating gulls to fly by - at just the precise moment the kids were catching a football - I seized the moment again, moving in to take advantage of gulls waiting on the railing for the fishermen and women to clean their catches.

I figured if I could sneak up on them slowly, camera at my eye at the ready, I could get them lauching themselves off to get away from me - and get my beating-the-heat beachgoers frolicking in the background for my hot weather photo.

I figured if I could sneak up on them slowly, camera at my eye at the ready, I could get them launching themselves off to get away from me - and get my beating-the-heat beach-goers frolicking in the background for my hot weather photo.

I tried it on three different birds, and it worked pretty well.

The version on top ran on front of the local New Jersey section of the newspaper, and became the cover photo on the Inquirer's FaceBook page, where it generated some interest from readers in how it was shot.

So, you're hearing it here second (my colleague Daniel Rubin "broke" it first, interviewing me for The Talk on - promo code N93A )

The version above is "prettier," but really needed to run larger than the newspaper can accomdate, so I offered up the one at the very top. Below is the un-cropped version. I cheated, but getting rid of the railing and the people directly beneath me. I did NOT cheat though, by "baiting" the gulls with french fries or pizza crust. What I shot by sneaking up on them was what I got. The frame immediately before the published version is at the bottom.

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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