Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Rowing in the Rain

The 85th annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta competition, billed as the biggest high school regatta in the world.

Rowing in the Rain

The pouring rain made the Schuylkill River faster - and made my choice of equipment easy. I decided NOT to carry a long lens - a 600mm or 800m - to cover the 85th annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta competition.

This was the day of qualifying heats, so I knew the newspaper would only want one or two photos of the boys and girls senior eight crews. I also didn't know where I'd end up having to park, and enjoy wandering and shooting feature photos, so I only took my 300mm telephoto lens and a couple of zoons - a wide angle (24-70mm) and mid-range (70-200mm). Even though I sort of knew that covering the race with only a 300mm limited me to really wide horizontal photos.

Covering the event last year, I photographed a line of Canada Goose goslings swimming past a girls junior eight boat. This year I noticed, not just on the river, but even in my travels around the area, there seem to be fewer of the baby geese around. So I wandered the course looking for other photos until the senior eight heats began.

Because of road closings, I started out on Martin Luther King Drive, on the opposite bank of the river, and shot the boats after they'd rowed the 1,500 meter course, heading back to the dock.

You could also see the tents set up by the 5,000 athletes from 176 high schools along Kelly Drive. When you shoot from their side of the river, you get trees for a background. You might just as well be on a pond in the woods. Other than shooting from a boat - which ties you up for hours - the only way to show some of the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 spectators is from the other side of the river.

Then before crossing over, I parked and walked up on the Strawberry Mansion Bridge...

 ...to shoot from a different angle and investigate patterns in the water...

The race story is here, along with some - mostly skinny horizontal photos - of the leading eights. A gallery of photos by my collegeage Laurence Kesterson from the finals on Saturday is here - including an excellent team coxswain toss. He also didn't bring anything longer than a 300mm.

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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