This photo represents a photographer’s milestone, noting the arrival of another season, Mother’s Day, and the annual debut of baby Canada geese. The “only child” gosling seen along the Cooper River in New Jersey also serves as a touchstone.
As the milestones of anniversaries or recurring events come and go, they become touchstones - a point of reference to keep from repeatedly taking the same pictures over and over again. A way to judge the work I do today as a photographer, compared to what I’ve done before (like last year’s goslings photo essay).
I have been photographing Canada geese for decades. Upon publication of one of my earliest goose portraits I received praise from Canada’s Consulate General in Minneapolis. He said he liked the picture, but my caption called them Canadian geese. He pointed out while Canada would be proud to claim the most easily recognized waterfowl in North America as its own, the hulking honkers belong to ALL of the continent. They are not Canadians.
This time of year also sees the return of regattas to the Schuylkill and Cooper rivers. A decade ago I was able to combine the two in one photo!
(Like the Canada/Canadian faux pas, I’ve never repeated another initial mistake of calling the body of water the Schuylkill RIVER. Thanks to Inquirer copy editors I know that’s redundant. It’s just the Schuylkill, because the name, of Dutch origin, means hidden river.)
And, if anniversaries are milestones, this month in Philadelphia will always be the time we look back at the events of May 13, 1985, when police here dropped a bomb on a neighborhood and the resulting fire killed 11 people. City Council voted last year to formally apologize for the bombing and establish the date as “an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment.”
Finally, May also means azaleas. They provide the backdrop to a photo I made of fiddleheads - baby ferns - unfurling as they sprung to life at the Awbury Arboretum this past week. The new growth had nothing to do with the story I was there for, but whether we call the changing of the seasons touchstones or milestones, after the chaos of the past year, they serve to remind us that, as Helen Keller said, “Nature has the power to renew and refresh...”
Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color: