Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hot, Hot, Hot & Hot

Shooting photos that don't look like those from the past three days

Hot, Hot, Hot & Hot


After a couple days of this heat wave, I wasn't looking for kids playing in fountains. Especially on the day Philadelphia actually sets a record (we seldom get above 100 degrees - 104 is really hot).

So when I was assigned - for the fourth day in a row - to make a "news" photo of the weather, I was determined to get something different. The first thing I did was give myself a couple of rules: No kids. No open hydrants. No pools.

On my first try I was able to follow them, but had to bend them a bit as I moved along.

Stopping to get lunch after my morning assignment - a portrait of union leaders - I saw all the sweat beading up on the face of a hotdog cart owner as he prepared a cheesesteak on the grill for some tourists (actually heard them asK: "could we get that with mayonnaise?")

John Ali didn't mind my photographing him as he worked, and he really DID look hot.

Then I set off to wander the neighborhoods north of the Art Museum area where I'd ended up.

I criss-crossed a number of row house streets, and saw dozens of kids being sprayed with hoses, running under sprinkers and park fountains, and splashing in a couple city pools.

Then an enormous Little Tikes Rocky Mountain River Race inflatable water slide/kiddie splash pool (I looked it up later) blocking an entire street caught my eye. Circling around and pulling up, I saw a smaller wading pool on the other end of the block, with two women filling it with water from a hose. Perfect. Grownups. By them time I stopped and was talking with Corlina McKoy and her aunt Eva, they were in the pool for a little adult swim...

...with the neighborhood kids in the photo - but in the background.

Then I saw an open hydrant sprayer. There weren't any kids playing in it (couldn't break two rules), but it had a rainbow, so I went to check it out, figuring I'd at least give myself an impromtu wash as long as I was there. Pulling up, I couldn't see the rainbow any longer as the water completely enveloped my car, so and coulnd barely see through the sheet of moving water as a gentleman approached me. When I drove out, he offered to give me a more thorough wash. It was only then I realized what an idiot I'd been - driving into cold water with a small ding on my hot windshield. I was lucky, it didn't grow into a three-foot crack.

Finally, I didn't fry an egg on the sidewalk, but I did concede one cliche - a triple digit thermometer reading - might be worth a visual record.

That was easier said than done.

I discovered, as with telephone booths, slide rules, S&H green stamps, or people getting embarrassed because their underwear shows, bank time and temperature signs are just something you don't see much of anymore. I found one in New Jersey, along Route 70 in Cherry Hill. And in the few minutes while I was shooting - from inside my air conditioned car, until the temperature started going down! - I saw three cars pull into the parking lot to record the historic numbers. Check out the flash going off on the driver's smart phone:

Click here for a slide show of Inquirer and Daily News photographers' coverage of the heat wave.

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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