Scene Through the Lens | Dec. 28, 2020
Inquirer staff photographer Tom Gralish’s weekly visual exploration of our region.
For years my story about how I got started in photography has been “because i couldn’t sing, draw, dance or write poetry.” Taking pictures was a way to share with my friends and family the things I saw every day. And I have been fortunate all the years since, from my high school newspaper to where I am today, that I could also share my pictures with readers.
But I have also been lucky in that I still enjoy photography for the pure joy it brings me. Just like I still sing in the shower, sneak in a skip or two sometimes when walking , and I even scribble out words and doodle on the paper diner menu placemats (or I did in the pre-pandemic). And I still take pictures, just for fun. Not just because it’s my job, or even to get likes on social media.
I take pictures when I go for walks by myself, and when I am with my family. Often they never make it out of my camera — or cell phone. It’s not because I am a professional, but it’s just what I do. Because it’s still fun for me.
I made the “zoom burst” picture above at night in the snowy front yard of a home in Chester County, waiting to record video of the flashing lights synched to music broadcast on a low power FM signal so drivers can stop and listen on their car radio. The songs are on a random loop and I needed “Auld Lang Syne” to illustrate an upcoming New Years Eve story. The homeowner didn’t set it up herself, so she couldn’t override the display to play just that song for me.
So I waited, and listened to a variety of Christmas and Hanukkah songs while carrying a boom box the homeowner loaned me (I do have an FM radio at home, but it never occurred to me to bring it on the assignment).
While I waited, I started playing around, photographing the different parts of the light display, using a zoom lens and changing the focal length — zooming — while the shutter was open during a long exposure.
I have done these kind of zoom burst photos at least once a year for decades. but it’s always a surprise to see whether they work or not.
And it turned out that the random playlist only got around to “Auld Lang Syne” exactly twice in the almost two hours I was there. But that was okay. I was having fun.
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 previous weeks, in color: