Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stotesbury Cup Regatta

Day One of the 84th Annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the oldest and biggest high school regatta in the world. 194 high schools, 933 boats and 5,500 athletes.

Stotesbury Cup Regatta


Besides knowing that fresh corn and real tomatoes are just around the corner, one of the joys of spring for me is watching the goslings that show up simultaneously all along the rivers and parks throughout the region.

Yes, I know just a few dozen geese and ganders can produce two and a half tons of goose poop a year - but it's fun to watch the little guys grow from yellow fuzz ball, to grey ugly duckling teenagers, and then just sort of overnight become Canada Geese.

By the way, they're not Canadian Geese. I know this because of a letter I received years ago from the Canadian Consul praising a picture of mine in the newspaper, but chiding me for assigning his country's citizenship to Branta canadensis, which he reminded me, "belong to all of North America."

Anyway, again (and this is one of the reasons I'm not the greatest sports photographer - lack of ablity to focus), beause I was assigned to cover the opening day of the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, and figuring with the Flyers in game seven of the playoffs (0-3 to 4-3!!) the newspaper wouldn't use a lot of crew photos, I decided to concentrate, at least in the morning, on non-sports rowing pictures.

I started out on the opposite bank of the Schuylkill from the regatta, parking along Martin Luther King Drive.

It was cloudy, so I tried some panning with slow shutter speeds, and playing with the reflections in the water from all the tents across the river.

Then I started watching the baby geese, eventually spotting a large group head down toward the water for a swimming lesson. I shot them just for fun, but that made me envision a photo with both rowers and geese, so I decided to follow them up the river.

That's when I realized there's a reason no regatta spectators were on this opposite side of the river. Besides not having all the crew camaraderie - and food tents. Fairmount Park has left the west side in a more "natural" state, and the water bank is mostly inaccessible.

The brush was just too thick. I couldn't see the geese as they swam along the shore line, but I would hear the passing rowers, mostly Girls Eights comment - "Aw, they're sooo cute" - as they were headed toward the starting line.

Running along the mowed edge of the woods, I could occasionally see through the branches - that's the Sidwell Friends (Washington, DC) Girls Junior Eight above - before I found my way through to a small clearing, and waited. As the line of geese finally reached me - there were no boats around!

Luckily, just as the geese were swimming away from me two boats did pass, including one from Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. Their boat didn't advance into the semi's, but they did get their picture on the front page of the newspaper - down below those amazing Flyers.

That's also them at the top of this post.

Then I headed toward the Strawberry Mansion Bridge to shoot more blurry "artsy" photos before eventually making my way over to Kelly Drive where I did shoot some "action." Because it's a "head race" where the rowers race against the clock, and not like its name would imply, head-to-head against each other, there isn't that much excitement at the finish line.

Click here (or on the photo below of the damaged rower figurine stored inside the George Mattson Trophy) for a gallery of more of my regatta photos. Then check back again on Saturday evening when Ron Tarver's photos from the semi's and final races should have been added as well.

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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