Saturday, February 6, 2016

Out of the Night

Coming off a shift of working nights

Out of the Night


A cool down in the rain after their workout with a personal trainer in his Cherry Hill garage. The pictures were for a Well Being column by Inquirer writer Art Carey on a conditioning program called CrossFit.

The lights of the door opener were all that illuminated the interior of the single car garage, and nighttime was setting in just as the class was beginning. Half the group was exercising inside the garage and the rest were outside on the driveway - in the dark. I could tell right away the lighting was going to be my biggest challenge - until it started to rain (This was beginning of last Thursday's torrential downpours that would flood parts of the city).

I couldn't shoot with a flash on camera because of the rain (and a highly reflective Stop sign hanging on the garage wall) and there was no time to set up lights (did I mention it was raining?).  So I just pulled my car into the end of the driveway, turned on my headlamps, and worked as fast as I could.

This was just one of the many assignments from my stint on the night shift, which ended with my covering the Camden-Camden Catholic football game Friday night.

In the past two weeks as the high school fall season kicked into gear, I'll bet I shot more sports than I did in all of the past two years. It's always good to get out of your comfort zone, to stretch a bit, so I've enjoyed the change of pace (and lens focal length).

Now, just as the Phillies begin the playoffs, I'll be moving back to an early morning shift, which is probably not a bad thing for the Inquirer's sports pages.

My action tended to be looser than I would have liked. The touchdown above was shot with my 70-200mm (at the longer end). I panicked and grabbed it at the last second, setting aside the 300mm (thinking the play was a pass headed toward my sideline).  I can tell myself it's cool because it shows how the offense opened up the center of the field for the running back to score, and how the defense had to catch up, trying to drag him back instead of stopping him from the front. Right. (I did a little better in games played in daylight).

I was also attracted more to the aesthetic aspects of the athletics. I had never been to Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High Schools before. Getting out of my car for a girls soccer game, I was immediately struck by their field rising over its Drexel Hill neighborhood and the Philadelphia skyline beyond the goal posts. So I stayed up top...

...where you could barely make out the ball crossing into the next as Archbishop Wood's Kelsey Celline scores the first of her three first half goals against the home team. I still think it's a pretty view. I did make it down to the pitch for the second half. Wood's girls won 8-0, with most of the scores coming on long shots just like this one.

Looking back I recalled another recent late afternoon skyline photo (how many of those do you see in the average sports section?). As a kid, the young man at left wanted to play Pee-Wee football, but was excluded because he exceeded the weight requirements. "It was hard because all my friends played football and I couldn't," he told writer Chris Melchiorre. He kept busy playing basketball.

When it came time for high school, he went to a school with an exceptional academic reputation - but no football team. He had to wait until his senior year for another city school to offer a sports partnership. So a lifetime of waiting for the chance to strap on shoulder pads and step on a football field finally ended in Kyle Smithson's senior year. I shot the 6-foot-5, 375-pounder working out in practice but liked him standing on the sidelines better.

See you in the mornings.







A postscript: As I scrolled down my recent blog posts, it wasn't the couple of skylines I noticed, but the preponderance of people's backs!! As it think It's healthy to periodically examine your own work, I often look critically at what I've shot to make sure I'm not in a rut or missing anything. So I have to wonder, what's up with that? I'll be more aware of it in the coming weeks. And try to remember people have faces!

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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