Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Having a Moment

Lone rower on the dock

Having a Moment

Arriving to cover the final of three days of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship Regatta in New Jersey, I decided to park on the opposite side of the Cooper River.

I made the photo above while walking over the bridge, to get to the main area with all the food tents, venders, boat trailers, and port-a-johns.

After covering the men's varsity eight final - one of the last races, defending champion University of Washington won -  I wandered around shooting general images as everyone was loading up to leave.

Then I started the long walk back across the river to my car. Crossing the bridge, I looked back toward the docks and saw the last two boats return from their medal presentations. I paused to watch them congratulate each other, pick up oars, and take away their boats.

I photographed some turtles sunning themselves on logs, and before finally continuing on to my car, turned and looked back toward the docks one last time.

I photographed a lone rower, paused on the dock, apparently deep in thought. Was he upset, lose a contact, just breakup with his girlfriend, or Tebowing?

That's one of the problems with shooting "intimate" moments with a long lens (I was using a 300mm with a 1.4 converter on my non-full-frame, small-sensor, Nikon D-700 which, with its crop factor of 1.5, makes for approximately a 600mm). You can only project/imagine what someone is thinking or saying.

So, I now have this sort of poignant photo of a guy alone on a dock, but I have no idea why he's there or who he is. I have to decide if I just think of it like one of the "turtle" photos I just made - a generic rowing moment - or do I walk all the way back to the regatta area to find out.

If you've ever read my blog before you know what I did. Often to my own, or my family's detriment, I never let a deadline or another assignment keep me from poking around a little longer, or shooting "just one more."

He had a "Y" on his unisuit, so I headed toward the Yale trailer, where almost everyone looked the same. I knew he had a medal around his neck, bare feet, and a white cap,  so I was able to rule out a bunch of them. I spotted two rowers who fit the bill, but one was involved in a serious-looking converstation with someone who looked to be his mother. "Oh great," I thought, "I've just intruded on a family crisis."

I waited until they were finished, and the two shower sandal / ribbon-wearing rowers ended up talking to each other, so I made my move.

"Thank you so much," the rower on the dock told me when I asked if he was the one. He was glad I had taken the picture. "That's the very last photo of me in uniform."

He decribed himself as "having a little moment." A graduating senior, he told me this, "is the end of eight years. I'm sad it's all over. I love the guys, I love rowing."

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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 tgralish@phillynews.com.

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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