You know you’re getting old when…

On July 31 something happened that only occurs once in a blue moon: a blue moon. The moon doesn’t actually appear blue but the term refers to a full moon that occurs twice in a single month. It’s a fairly rare event happening roughly only once every 2½ years. The first full moon of the month was on July 2 making the one on the 31st a blue moon.

A full moon is really bright. Essentially, it’s illuminated with the same amount of light that falls on Earth during the day. That’s fine all you have to do is adjust your exposure for a daylight photo. The problem occurs when you try to exposure for the night scene on the ground at the same time. It becomes a trade off. Either you have a well-exposed moon with everything else dark or a properly exposed overall scene with the moon just a overexposed blazing ball of light.

Moonrise was at about 8:00 p.m. that evening which was perfect timing. The thicker atmosphere low in the horizon would likely block some of the moon’s brightness and there should have been enough ambient light during the blue hour to balance the exposure for the surrounding scene. With that, I planned to find some landmark, building or tree that I could shoot with the moon rising in the background.

I say “could,” “would” and “should” because that’s not how things turned out. I was on the early shift that day and I went home after work. I had a nice dinner with my family. It was still light out when we finished so I sat down to watch a little television before heading out. As many mid-50 something men do, I fell asleep on the couch. This wasn’t a light snooze but more like a being-put-under-by-an-anesthesiologist-before-surgery kind of sleep. I was out in seconds.

When I woke up is was past midnight. I gabbed my camera and stumbled out into the backyard. The moon was hanging high in the sky like a brilliantly white orb surrounded by an inky blackness. Although it wasn’t according to plans, I shot it anyway. I picked the moon-in-the-darkness side of the either-or equation. Even though it was now Aug. 1, technically it was still a blue moon, and that’s still a rare event

Posted in Night | Tagged | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge: On holiday

The assignment for the current Readers Photo Challenge was to send in your best photos of your summer vacation.

From weekend getaways to extended vacations everyone can use some time off to rest, relax and recharge their batteries. Some of us travel to distant lands while others go no further than a day trip. Whether near or far, the new sights and experiences we take in are perfect opportunities for pictures.

For this challenge 16 people sent in 97 photos. Here are some of the top examples that give the view a sense of place.


In some ways we go on vacations to get away from the drab routine of our daily lives. In the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” the film starts out in black and white. In one scene, the main character of Dorothy literally opens a door from her dreary colorless world and walks into one of vibrant color.

While vacationing in Abington, England, Mary Paulson of Valley Springs heard a strange wooshing sound coming from outside her bathroom window of the bed and breakfast she was staying in. Upon opening it she saw a colorful hot air balloon being inflated getting ready for an evening ride several yards away.

With her iPhone 5s, Paulson nicely framed the scene through the bathroom’s window. The dark near-monotone of the interior opened up to brilliant Oz-like hues not only gives her photo a sense of place but that of wonder as well.


It’s always difficult to find a different way to take a picture of something that’s been photographed a million times before. That’s the problem with famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty or Golden Gate Bridge.

That’s what faced Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton while on a family vacation in Washington DC. The Washington Monument has been photographed from every conceivable angle by millions, if not billions, of tourists. On Spurgeon’s trip, it had rained the day before, but was sunny when she toured the Capitol Mall. She saw the puddle and felt she “hit the jackpot.” With a Nikon D90 DSLR camera Spurgeon captured the monument’s pure white obelisk shape as well as the deep blue sky reflected in the puddle’s shallow waters, which gave her something different from everyone else.


Taking one’s own picture while on a trip is a staple of vacation photos. We take them of ourselves or have a passerby take them of us and show that you and your companions were actually there and were having a good time. We’re usually standing in front of a statue or monument or building or something else really big.

Sam Doan of Stockton on a trip to Lake Tahoe set up his Canon 5D Mk III DSLR camera on a tripod and a long exposure and took a photo of one of the biggest thing there is: the night sky. Through the crystal clear mountain air he captured thousands of stars sparkling like jewels with the Milky Way arcing across the sky.

Doan placed himself within the picture. Silhouetted against the starry night he marks his place in the universe on a mountain ridge and he points a flashlight up to the heavens in a quiet search for God.


Rick Wilmot and his wife Debby spent a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They spent their time having fun in the sun and sand. According to the Lonely Planet web site the ocean side resort town is not only know for it’s sandy beaches but

also its nightlife and the city did not disappoint. On their last night the Wilmots quite a few thunderstorms swirled around their hotel. As the sun sank in the west the storms stopped long enough and clouds parted Wilmot picked up his Canon EOS 5D Mk III to capture the last of the sun’s golden rays painting the sky for a fiery sunset.


While on a trip to the central coast of California near San Luis Obispo Dave Skinner of Stockton stopped at a vista point along Highway, a place that he’s been before. Looking south he had a great view of Morro Bay and Morro Rock, which would have made for great pictures but he cross the road to the north side where he had never been before. With his Nikon D5100 DSLR camera he captured the fog lifting from the gently rolling costal hills for a photo just a picturesque as the ocean view on the other side.


Some vacations are all about packing in as many sights, places and experiences that you can in a short amount of time. Other vacations are just quiet getaways which are as valid as the more hectic ones. Kathy Ackerman of Stockton took a picture that made her cruise to Cabo San Lucas look like the latter. Using an iPhone6 she photographed the morning sunrise from her room’s balcony on the ship. A couple smaller boats float on the calm sea which, combined with the golden early light, emphasizes the sense of peace and serenity that a vacation can bring.


Something that’s often overlooked is taking night shots while on vacation but night photos can show a perspective that even a native resident of a city find new and exciting.

Steven Rapaport of Stockton was making timed exposures with his camera on a tripod on a quiet street scene at night while vacationing in the small village of Montignac, France when a French man came up to him and asked him what he was doing, He thought Rapaport was a bit odd for photographing an near empty street with only an occasional car passing by. Then Rapaport show him the picture on the monitor on the back of his Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera. It shows the scene bathed in the warmth of streetlights contrasting against a small patch of a blue hour sky with the taillights of a car snaking up a lonely street. There’s a sense of mystery to the image. When he saw the photo the man so enamored with the picture that he asked in broken English if he could follow Rapaport as he took more photos.


Sometimes a vacation photo can be about a certain detail of your trip rather than the overall experience. Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a Fuji X-T1 DSLR camera to photograph is meal while dining at the Anton and Michel restaurant in Carmel. The rack of lamb with vegetables artfully arranged in a stylishly rectangular plate was bathed in a nice soft light, which brought out the richness of the meal’s colors.


All of the entries can be seen in a photo gallery at A new Readers Photo Challenge assignment will be issued next Thursday.

Posted in Column, Readers Photo Challenge, Travel, vacation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dog Day afternoon

Today is National Dog Day. Dogs are some of the most loyal of pets. We not only consider them as our pets but as our companions, confidants and even a part of our families. They are our working partners as well. We employ them in law enforcement, search and rescue and as service animals. It’s fitting that there’s a day honoring them. Here’s a gallery of some of the many dogs that I’ve photographed over the years. Happy National Dog Day!

Posted in Animals | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Designated driver

You must save a lot of money at this low-budget funeral parlor. But it looks like the downside is you have to drive yourself to your own funeral.


Posted in Humor | Tagged | Leave a comment

Happy World Photo Day!

Imagine a world without pictures. It would be a pretty dull place without the art, entertainment and information that photography brings us. Photographic images are a mainstay of newspapers, magazines, advertisements and, of course, the Internet. Hardly a minute of the day goes by where we don’t encounter a picture in one form or another.

In 2009, Australian photographer Korske Ara began the World Photo Day project to unite the world in a global celebration of photography. World Photo Day continues today. Go out and take a picture and share it with someone you know.

Posted in Photography | Tagged | Leave a comment

(Wild)life of the party

While on our recent family vacation to San Diego my son and I were walking the beach of La Jolla Cove when we heard a lifeguard say over a loudspeaker: “Please do not harass the sea lions. Please back away from them.” A small pod of the ocean mammals relaxed at the far end of the beach. A few people who were gathered around the aquatic mammals to gawk and take pictures got a little too close.

An important the goal for wildlife photography is to capture the animals in their natural habitats exhibiting their natural behaviors. Wildlife photographers generally use long telephoto lenses to capture wild animals photographically, at least 300mm-400mm at a minimum. This usually keeps the photographers at a safe distance and keeps the animals from being harassed. In addition they can often camouflage themselves and spend hours and hours just to get the right moment. When we enter their world we have to play by their rules.

A relatively new technique that some wildlife photographers have employed is to mount a camera on a remote vehicle. The vehicles, scale-model remote controlled cars, can be moved in close to the animals with a minimum of disruption to their routines. But it too isn’t 100% foolproof.

In 2012, Atlanta-based photographer Ed Hetherington was on a photographic wildlife safari in Zimbabwe. He witnesses a lion killing a water buffalo. When the lioness left to get a drink at a nearby stream, Hetherington set up a camera with a wide-angle lens on a small tripod with a remote trigger near the buffalo carcass then backed off to a safe distance. He had hoped to get shots of the feline as it approached the body but he got more than he bargained for.

The feline neared the camera and Hetherington got the close-but-wide shots that he wanted but the big cat kept on coming. It clamped the camera in its jaws, carried off the entire rig and used it as a chew toy. Hetherington eventually recovered his equipment, which was damaged, though repairable.

Like the seal lions in San Diego, there are times where wildlife can overlap into urban areas. This is where problems can arise. People may think that the animals may be tame or non-harmful because they’re in a city or town setting. Another part of the problem is that some people think of wildlife like Disneyland. We anthropomorphize animals and give them human feelings and motivations. We can let our guard down and get closer than we should.

In March, a couple of months before our trip to La Jolla Cove, a 5-year-old boy was bitten when he tried to pet a sea lion at the very same beach. The boy suffered only minor injuries but the incident is a reminder on the hazards of dealing with wildlife.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking wildlife as a photographic subject. You just have to have respect the animals space and keep a healthy distance away.

Posted in Animals, Column | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Random photo #52: ‘Round and ’round we go

Children climb the spiral ramp from Scotts Street to the Center Street overpass as they wait for a free school backpack giveaway at the Emergency Food Bank in Stockton.

Posted in Enterprise, Random Photo | Tagged | Leave a comment

July outtakes

“I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die.
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam
Born on the Fourth of July.” -  Yankee Doodle Boy by George M. Cohan

July was hot, hot, hot! We had several days of triple digit sun-soaked heat. I spents a lot of my time looking for pictures of people cooling off and I wished that I could join them. Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from the year’s most patriotic month.





















Posted in Month in review, Outtakes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Too close for comfort

There’s a saying in photography that goes: “if your pictures aren’t good enough, it means that you’re not close enough.” One of the biggest picture-taking mistakes that people make is that they’re too far away. But occasionally there are times when you can get a little too close for comfort.

My family and I traveled down to San Diego to pick up my daughter from college and took a short vacation while we were down there. One afternoon, while my wife and daughter went shopping, my son and I took a walk along the shore at La Jolla Cove across the street from out hotel.

We saw cormorants and sea lions as they rested on the rocky outcroppings. Walking a little further we came upon a portion of the cove where the waves pounded against the rocks. We stayed there for a while, mesmerized by the constant marching of the waves. We weren’t the only ones. Many other people were also stood there just watching as a well. There was a soothing calmness to the constant rhythm of the waves interrupted the occasional break against the rocks.

Most of us stood well back from the spray of the waves. A few fishermen got close enough to cast their lines but even they stood back enough to only get an occasional splash from the biggest of waves. We saw a pair of young men, perhaps college students or maybe tourists like us, as they took pictures or video of the waves with what looked like a cellphone. They crept around the rocks for their pictures, getting closer and closer to the edge of the rocky shoreline with each new position.

My attention moved to getting pictures of the fishermen, sea lions and other tourists. When I got back to the two men they had gotten right up to the hairy edge of the rocks, closer to the water than even the anglers. They were there less than a minute when a huge wave slammed against the rocks just below them. Water gushed straight up like an upside down waterfall and engulfed the two men. There was so much water at one point I almost completely lost sight of them. People have been swept out to sea by smaller waves and there was no way I could cross the 35 yards of slippery ground in time. I thought about calling out to the fishermen who were closer but as quickly as the water rushed in, it receded. The two young men managed to keep their footing though they were soaked to the bone. They then thought better of their position and quickly moved away from the edge.

Recently a photographer was killed by a train while on a photo shoot in Fresno. Reportedly he was photographing a train traveling on the southbound tracks when he failed to notice another train in the northbound tracks on which he was standing. Getting as close as you can to your subject is always a good thing but you have to be aware of your surroundings and assess your situation and stay within the bounds of safety.

Posted in Column, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge assignment: What you did on your summer vacation

For the newest Readers Photo Challenge we’re going to revisit one that was done last year. Twenty-nine people sent in 114 photos making it one of the most popular assignments. “Vacations: The Sequel” is this month’s theme.

Getting a good vacation photo is more than just taking a snapshot of a particular landmark or event. You need to use just as much care in taking a travel picture as any other kind of photo.

I know that itineraries and travel plans can limit your picture taking opportunities, but, as with other genres of photography, your photos will benefit greatly from the time of day when you take them. Try for the golden hours of early morning just after sunup or late afternoon just before the sun goes down. They can provide a warm pleasant glow to your pictures. Nighttime can also be good for travel pictures. There are some cities – New York and Las Vegas come to mind – that come alive at night.


Try to capture the personality of the places that you visit. Think about going beyond the famous landmarks that have been photographed so often that it’s very difficult to come up with a different way to shoot them. Try for smaller, quieter out of the way places with ambiance and character. Also don’t just take pictures of the architecture of a city but the people who inhabit it as well. A photo’s storytelling ability is always enhanced when there’s a human element involved.

The time period for this challenge will be extended retroactively back to the traditional start of the vacation season of Memorial Day weekend (May 23). Also, the deadline will be August 20, giving those who have yet to go on vacation an extra week more than the normal challenge.


How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “Summer” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between May 23 and August 20. The can be of any subject but they must taken while on vacation.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (eg: “John Doe, Stockton. At Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (eg: 6-year-old Jane Doe, of Lodi, rides on the teacups at Disneyland in Anaheim).

5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, August 20. The top examples will be published on Thursday, August 27 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

Posted in Column, Readers Photo Challenge, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment
  • Blog Authors

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives