Meeting the challenge

The reasons I started the Readers Photo Challenge back in 2013 were two-fold. First, I had judged the San Joaquin County Fair’s photo show and the Stockton Camera Club’s monthly members contest and saw that there was a lot of talented photographers out there and the paper could an outlet for that talent. Secondly, the best way for anyone to improve their skills is to go out and shoot as much as possible, but often they need a reason to get out and take pictures. That’s where the assignments come in. Each one is designed not only to give an incentive to motivate people to go out and take pictures but also, hopefully, to stretch their technical and creative skills and improve their abilities.

While I’m always encouraging newcomers to enter the challenge, there are several people who regularly enter who’s work has steadily improved over the years. Here are a few of them.


(3/5/16) Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera to photograph 1-year-old Izabella Martinez.

Sydney Spurgeon, 22, of Stockton has been interested in photography since 13-years-old. She had older siblings that were interested in sports but couldn’t follow their path due major back surgery at a young age, so she was given a camera by her parents. I would see her from time to time photographing sporting events at her high school, St. Mary’s.

TOP: (6/9/17) Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph 2-year-old Izzy Martinez at the West 12 Ranch in Lodi. BOTTOM LEFT: (12/5/18) Spurgeon used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph 2-month-old Calvin White of San Francisco. BOTTOM RIGHT: (6/21/17) Spurgeon used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph sisters and Ella, 7, left, and Layla, 6, Johnson in their pool in Stockton. [SYDNEY SPURGEON/PHOTOS]

At first she was self-taught. I would say her first entries to the challenge were typical for her age and experience, but with each time she entered, her work improved in control of the camera and her ability in follow the challenge theme.

TOP LEFT: (6/9/17) Sydney Spurgeon used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph 17-year-old twin sisters Taylor, left, and Gianna Thomas in at the Viaggio Winery in Acampo. BOTTOM LEFT: (6/9/19) Spurgeon used a Nikon D750 DSLR camera to photograph 3-year-old Lucas Tibon of Stockton and his dog Hank. RIGHT: (5/23/19) Spurgeon used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph singer/songwriter Calli Grace Ortega in downtown Stockton. [SYDNEY SPURGEON/PHOTOS]

After graduating from high school she took photography classes at Delta College. In the fall of 2018 she enrolled at Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana. In 2019 she completed the program and returned to Stockton. From the start Surgeon has had an affinity for people, especially children, and now has started a career as a professional portrait photographer. She has found out what many photographers who take pictures of people know, that you not only take pictures of people but you make can a connection with them as well.


(7/23/17) Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph an egret and some reeds at Lodi lake in Lodi.

Teresa Mahnken, 60, works as a realtor/property manager out of the Morada area of Stockton. She says that she’s had a lifelong interest in photography going back to when her grandfather and father used take family snapshots on trips and milestone events.

TOP: (8/18/17) Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph a night photo of the Salt Spring Valley Schoolhouse in Felix, Ca. near Copperopolis. BOTTOM LEFT: (2/14/18) Mahnken used a Samsung Galaxy 8 smartphone to photograph her sister Sheri Keane releasing a lantern at the Lantern Festival in Phoenix, Arizona. BOTTOM RIGHT (10/21/16) Mahnken used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph a horse at Marval Stables in Lodi. [TERESA MAHNKEN/PHOTOS]

About 6 – 7 years ago she bought a Nikon DSLR camera to more seriously take landscape photos. Self-taught, Mahnken has checked out some online tutorials and recently has been studying photographic masters such as Henri Cartier Bresson and Elliot Erwitt. Her work has steadily improved over time.

TOP: (8/5/17) Teresa Mahnken used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph clouds and a barn in Felix, Ca. near Copperopolis. sBOTTOM LEFT: (4/19/17) Mahnken used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph a flower reflected in water drops hanging on a chain. BOTTOM RIGHT: (11/2/19) Mahnken used a Samsung Galaxy 8 smartphone to photograph a mountain through the broken windshield of an abandoned car in the ghost town of Nelson, Nevada, near Las Vegas. [TERESA MAHNKEN/PHOTOS]

What strikes me about Mahnken’s photography is how she’s willing to try new things. Whether it’s landscapes, animals or still lifes, she tackles each assignment with equal enthusiasm, willing to extender herself technically and creatively.


(8/31/19) Steven Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR camera to photograph a bridge through a waterfall at the Yards Splash Park in Washington, D.C.

Steven Rapaport, 71, of Stockton has show an interest for a long time, showning a talent for wildlife and travel photography. He was a SUSD teacher and a track coach at various local high schools. When he was coaching for Franklin, Edison and Lincoln high schools he would take pictures of the athletes.

TOP: (11/11/16) Steven Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon Power Shot SX 40 point-and-shoot digital camera to photograph a red fox at Swenson Golf Course in Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: (4/9/18) Rapaport used a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV camera to photograph a golden-crowned sparrow on his backyard fence. BOTTOM RIGHT: (4/14/18) Rapaport used a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV camera to photograph a golden-crowned sparrow at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. [STEVEN RAPAPORT/PHOTOS]

When he retired in 2008 Rapaport said that he was a 7-day-a-week golfer. Indeed, many of his first photos that he sent into the challenge were of his golfing buddies or of the wildlife he saw during his rounds of golf. He now says he rather go out to take photos rather than golf. It began when he and his wife Linda began to travel which help to broaden his interest in photography. He admits to taking very “touristy” photos in the beginning, setting his camera on auto and centering his subjects. In 2012, he took a photography course offered by National Geographic where he learned about the advantages of early morning and late afternoon light and getting close to your subjects. It made him look at photography in a different light (pardon the pun).

TOP: (7/19/15) Steven Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon 70D DSLR camera to photograph Notre Dame cathedral while vacationing in Paris, France. BOTTOM LEFT: (4/9/19) Rapaport used a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV to photograph a couple embracing in a field of poppies and goldfields at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve near Lancaster. BOTTOM RIGHT: (9/7/19) Rapaport used a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR camera to photograph the Institut De France from an entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. [STEVEN RAPAPORT/PHOTOS]

Rapaport combined his and his wife’s passion for traveling with photography. He has taken other workshops in Paris, Amsterdam and Mexico. In the beginning his photos were just superficial pictures of places and buildings. Now, they give of a sense of the beauty of those sites. He says that he loves seeing the world though his camera and hopes to continuing his travel photography.

These are just a few of the many talented people who enter the challenge. They all have a couple this in common. First, they love taking pictures and have a passion for photography. Secondly, they are all looking to improve their skills, hoping that their next shot will be better than the last.

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What to do after the unboxing

It’s the new year and you may have gotten an DSLR camera as a Christmas gift or went out an bought one for yourself as part of a New Year’s resolution. Now what are you going to do?

(3/31/11) A Nikon D3s DSLR camera with an image on its 3″ monitor. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

If it’s your first DSLR, you probably got the camera because you’re upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera or your cellphone. The first thing you should do after the unboxing is to read the manual. I know that it’s boring reading and that your first impulse is to take the camera out and play with it, but knowing where all the buttons and switches are and what they’re for will help you a lot.

(7/4/16) Robin Denny takes a picture of a 1949 Cadillac at the Fourth of July Car Show at The Bridge at Stockton. Proceeds from the 40 entries went to benefit Community Outreach and Food Bank Ministries of The Bridge at Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Next thing is very simple but also very vital. Attach the camera strap. All to often I have seen cameras being dropped (a few times right in front of me) because the camera didn’t have a camera strap or if it did, it’s operator wan’t using it. Save yourself some costly repairs and use the strap.

(4/12/15) Gurpreet Singh of Richmond, takes a picture of the Stockton Gurdwara’s annual parade in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

If you just set your camera on an automatic mode then I think you may have made an unwise investment. The point and shoot and cellphone camera, from exposure to focusing, are all automatic in their operation. If you use your DSLR in auto-everything, you’ll come away with okay photos for the most part but nothing much different than from those other devices.

(2/4/08) 16-year-old Lincoln High student Lulu Skafi, right, takes advantage of the sunny day to take a picture of her sister Shereen Skafi, 21, for a photo class project at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Learn how to use the camera in manual mode. I know it can be difficult, especially at first, but once you do, you’ll have creative control over it. That control means that you’re not a slave to the camera, but rather, the camera works for you.

(3/21/07) Jim Cooper of Pleasant Hill takes a photo of the Quick Step Innergetic team’s bikes before the start of the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Say there’s a situation that’s mostly white, the camera will read it as being too bright, then underexpose the photo and vice versa. There are times where you may want a lot or very little depth of field (the amount of what’s in focus from front to back). The camera is just a machine and doesn’t know what you want. Having control lets you choose.

(3/3/17) Yi-Fang Chang takes advantage of the sunny day to take some scenic photographs at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton for a photography class at school.[CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Now you can learn these things yourself but it can be a bit daunting to learn all the techniques and technical aspects of photography. I suggest taking a class or joining some sort of photography group. I took photography at Sacramento City College which still offers an excellent photo program and Delta College has great classes as well. The Stockton Camera Club is open to newcomers and it’s members have a great wealth of experience and knowledge and are eager to help beginners.

(11/4/18) Jennifer Sila of Florida takes pictures of sandhill cranes during sunset at the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve west of Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The most important thing you can do with your new camera is to take pictures, a lot of them and often. It will get you used to using the camera. Carry it around with you as much as you can. A friend’s wife called his camera “the baby” because he took it with him everywhere, all the time. At first, most of your pictures won’t be very good. That’s OK, don’t be discouraged and put the new camera back in its box. The famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said: “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” At times it may not seem you’re improving and you may even take some steps backwards, but keep taking pictures and you’ll see improvement over time and make getting that new camera really worth it.

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December in review: One last look back

“I was looking back to see, if you were looking back to see,
If I was looking back to see, if you were looking back at me.” – Buck Owens/Susan Raye

The end of December brings not only the end of 2019 but the close of the 2010s as a decade. As it turns out, I finished my 2019 yearend slideshow in November so none of December’s pictures made it into the show. So, with a fond farewell, here’s one last look back.


Beverly Fitch McCarthy, right, is presented with the Stocktonian of the Year award by Michael Blower, left, and Debbie Mason with the Central Valley Association of Realtors. The award is sponsored by the CVAR and the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


University of the Pacific music student Eleanor Lundberg plays a solo during Amy Beach’s Theme and Variations for Flute and Strings at the Bach’s Lunch concert at the Margaret Troke Branch Library in Stockton. The concert, where light refreshments were also served, is the last of a series of 3 midday performances by the University of the Pacific’s chamber music students at the library. The first two featured woodwind and brass performances while the last one featured mostly strings. Librarian Alex Bailey says that the library hopes to resume the concerts series in the spring. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Volunteer Pat McDermott works on refurbishing a bike at the workshop of Pete Paulsen in French Camp. Paulsen has been collecting unwanted bikes throughout the year, fixing them up for this event. He has so many that he has a backlog of bikes and could use help fixing them in time for the giveaway. The giveaway is scheduled for Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Bowman Road in French Camp. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Ripon’s Brandon Rainer, left, makes a catch over Highland’s Alexis Sandoval during the CIF Divison IV-AA football state championship game at Ripon High School. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Ripon’s Austin Bonilla powers his way though a wall of Highland defenders during the CIF Divison IV-AA football state championship game at Ripon High School. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Ripon coach Chris Musseman ,left, congratulates Nathan Valdez who kicked the game-winning field goal in the CIF Division IV-AA football state championship game against Highland at Ripon High School. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Monica Tavares of Atwater helps her 5-year-old daughter Kingsley Britton to ice skate on the rink during the opening weekend of the Holidays on the Farm at the Dell’Osso Family Farms in Lathrop. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Seven-year-old Caylee Balangatan, left, and her father Chris Balangatan of Manteca slide down a snow tubing hill during the opening weekend of the Holidays on the Farm at the Dell’Osso Family Farms in Lathrop. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Stockton Police officer Melissa White carries a boxful of presents during the Stockton Police Department’s 20th annual Matt Smith Christmas Day Delivery Project in Stockton. Members of the department and volunteers visited more than 35 families that were victims of violent crime of needy and delivered gifts and food for holiday meals to them on Christmas morning. In addition, they delivered gifts to more than 80 children at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Santa Gives toys to 4-year-old Isaiah Mitchell, center, and his 8-yea-old sister Laveah Mitchell during the Stockton Police Department’s 20th annual Matt Smith Christmas Day Delivery Project in Stockton [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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The 2010s: A decade in photos

The end of 2019 not only marks the end of a decade but it also caps the time that I have been producing my yearend slideshows. I started doing them in 2010. Each time, I picked 52 of my favorite photos of the year and set them to music for a 3 to 4 minute show.

(6/19/12) Workers set up a ferris wheel in preparation for the Butler Amusements carnival going up on Hammer Lane and Girardi Way in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

To celebrate the decade’s closing I decided to make a 10-year retrospective slideshow in addition to the 2019 yearend show and Top 12 list. The problem was the sheer number of photos to go through. I literally shoot thousands of photos per year. To ameliorate the vast amount of images to go through, I set aside ones that strike my fancy as the year progresses. Still, even those can number from 700 to more than 2,000, depending on how good a year I had. 

(10/5/12) Edison’s Calvin Gray is facemasked by Stagg’s Daelen Surrell during a varsity football game at Edison’s Magnasco Stadium in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

Fortunately, I had another resource to help edit the photos: my past slideshows. By simply watching the shows that I had done before, I dramatically downsized the number of photos I had to edit from an estimated 10,000 to a more manageable 520. I still needed a logical strategy cull them down even more. 

(7/16/15) Mother and husband of Misty Holt-Singh, Karen farmer and Paul Singh comfort each other a candlelight vigil on Thornton Road and Otto Drive in Stockton memorializing Misty Holt-Singh, who died in a gun battle between police and bank robbers one year earlier. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Most photojournalistic images fall into 5 categories: feature, news, pictorial, portrait, and sports. I decided to pick one image from each category from every year and then a bonus photo from any one of the categories. That gave me a goal of 60 pictures in total.

(1/11/17) Stockton Police officer Manuel Ortiz, left, drives in for a layup while playing basketball with Nickolas Regohos, 13, center, his twin brother Pete Regohos and Jaylon Harris, 10, at a curbside hoop in front of the Regohos’ home on Mission Road and La Jolla Drive in Stockton. Ortiz is one of several strategic community officers with the department tasked with outreach within the neighborhoods of Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

A feature photos is usually a slice of life picture. Often times they’re humorous but they can be poignant or thought-provoking. Usually they’re found situations or random happenings.

(10/3/13) Stockton firefighters battle a blaze at the Newark Stockton Recycling Center at 800 West Church Street in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]
(5/21/16) Pastor Ronnie Murray with the Christ Side Disciples Movement Center leads a group of about 60 people in prayer before a march that was a part of a prayer vigil held against recent area violence in south Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Most people think a news photo is of something like an accident, natural disaster or of a crime scene, and that’s true, but they can also include planned events such as a rally, press conference or even concert. 

(10/6/10) Lightning strikes in the distance beyond the Port of Stockton’s turning basin in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

A pictorial is basically just a pretty picture. I could be something like a sunset, landscape or intricate urban pattern. I like to include what’s known in the business as a “news hook.” That’s something interesting to the reader and not just pleasing to look at.

(8/24/11) John Harris is an associate elder at the Greater White Rose Church of God in Christ in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

Portraits are just what they sound like: pictures of people. The subjects are aware of the photographer’s presence and often are posing for them. Most are what’s called an environmental portrait in which the subject is in a place or situation that relates to them.

(7/8/19) Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea, who has been injured since September, has his form captured in a multiple exposure photo as he delivers a pitch against the Visalia Rawhide while on a rehab assignment with the Stockton Ports at the Stockton Ballpark. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]
(1/12/10) Stockton Thunder’s Garet Hunt (24) brawls with Bakersfield Condors’ Pascal Morency (32) two seconds into the first period of an ECHL hockey game at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

When you think of a sports photo you think of an athlete making a game-winning catch, dunking the ball or slamming an overhead smash. All that is true for sports action but sports photos can encompass more than that. There can be interesting things away from the action. Those photos are known as “sports features.” It could be anything from athletes celebrating winning a point or game to them performing funny antics between innings to unusual fan reactions.

(9/10/14) Construction worker Fernando Mendoza with the Concord-based Conco is caught up un the concentric rings of a 58-ft- long rebar support structure as he works to assemble it for the west extension of the Crosstown Freeway in the Boggs Tract area of Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

Some pictures aren’t purely one thing or another but can overlap categories. A pictorial may have some qualities of a feature picture. Or a feature may have some news value to it. Hence the inclusion of the bonus picture for those photos that don’t fit neatly into one category or another.


(4/14/12) A wandering band of musicians plays traditional Cambodian music at the Cambodian New Years Celebration at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist temple in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

After lots of hemming, hawing and hair-pulling, I whittled the 520 photos down to 60. Over the years I’ve used a couple of applications to produce the show itself. YouTube and Facebook had features for making slideshows, which I’ve used a few times, but they have discontinued and are no longer available. For this show as well as many others, I used a program called Soundslides. It’s been around a while and it’s quick and easy to use. 

(9/16/14) A butterfly rests on a wild sunflower growing along Highway 4 near Roberts Road in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD PHOTO]

I set the photos in my slideshows to music. For a couple years I used songs by a pianist/composer friend of mine Chris Goslow from Sacramento (with permission), but mostly I used music from a couple of royalty-free sites, Incompetech by Kevin MacLeod and AudionautiX by Jason Shaw. The music is totally free and without any copyright restrictions other than giving the artists credit in the show.

Now, I’ve got a system and a little practice at doing a show of this magnitude. All I have do is wait a decade to do another one.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Shooting from 3-point range

The first photo challenge assignment of 2020 is going to be a little different than what we’ve done before. It isn’t a specific thing, instead it’s a number: the number three.

The sculpture atop the Podesto Impact Teen Center casts a shadow that looks like the number “3” on El Dorado and Flora streets in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

One way is to photograph the actual number on a sign or billboard. There are plenty of signs on buildings or road signs where you can find numbers as well as letters. You can also try to find something that looks like the number 3. Several years ago I got a shot of the spiral sculpture atop of the Modesto Impact Teen Center as it cast a shadow that looked like a “3” on a nearby building in downtown Stockton.

Janine Jacinto, left, Lynn Taylor and Carmen Hoffman, all of Lodi, jog through Lodi Lake Park in Lodi. The three runners recently completed the Boston Marathon. Photographing them at an angle rather than straight on helps to bring them visually closer together for a tighter composition. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Lincoln athletes Rodney Jones, left, Quinn Cichocki and Cameron Crump signed letters of intent on signing day at the school’s gym in Stockton. Jones has signed to play football at UNLV, Crump signed with the Cal Poly SLO football program and Cichocki with Sacred Heart to play lacrosse. Photographing them at an angle rather than straight on helps to bring them visually closer together for a tighter composition. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Another approach is an image with 3 subjects. The natural impulse is to arrange the three subjects so that they’re lined up equally in the frame. But quite often that leads to a static and boring photo. You can emphasize one or two of the subjects by moving them forward in the frame or off to one side while having the others a little more in the background or to the other side of the frame.

A small flock of 3 geese glide across the water during sunset at Lodi Lake in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

A sandhill crane flies in at the Phil and Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road west of Lodi and I-5. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

You also have to make clear and unambiguous which 3 are your subjects. Say it’s birds. You may have a trio of geese in your photo but they are surrounded by other geese or species of fowl, they may be be hard to make out in the visual confusion. It’s best if you try to isolate your subjects to make them stand out.

Pacific fans cheer on the men’s water polo team during a game against Pepperdine at Kjeldsen Pool on the UOP campus in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

You can also use color to unify the three to make them stand out together. Think of the portrait photographers who have their subjects dress alike or in similar colors to help unify the photo.

Juliana Browning, left, pushes her 10-year-old daughter Alyssa Browning on her skates, center, who in turn pushes her 9-year-old step-sister Lucy Register riding a cart through Grupe Park in Stockton. The two girls were trying out their new Christmas presents with a little help from mom. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]
Transmission Reference: REC1801101835545348

Chef Rima Barkett, left, shows sous chef Leonel Castillo and executive assistant Nubia Vargas how to plate the first course of the Record’s From the Vine End of Harvest Winemaker Dinner at the Bella Vista Restaurant in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Stockton Diocese Bishop Myron Cotta, center, talks with Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones, left, and San Joaquin County Sheriff Patrick Withrow before the start of the Blue Mass at St. Mary’s High School in Stockton honoring law enforcement and firefighters. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

There isn’t any specific subject that you have to pick. You can set up your scene or find one in a natural or urban setting. Your photo can be of people, animals, trees, etc., anything that strikes your fancy, just as long as there’s 3 of them.

Bob Nii of San Anselmo, center, hits from the 17th tee as golf mates Frank Yoneshige, left, and Norio Kawai look on at the Swenson Park Golf Course in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to The preferred format is jpeg. Type in “Three” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be taken between January 7 and January 21.

3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, the kind of device you used and there the photo was taken (eg.: John Doe of Stockton, Canon Rebel T6i with 18-55mm lens. Victory Park, Thornton).

5. If there is a recognizable person or persons in the photo please identify them (name, age, hometown) and describe what is going on in the photo (eg.: “Jane Doe, 18, walks her 3 dogs Fido, Spot and Arnold through Victory Park in Stockton.”)

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

7. The deadline for submission is January 21 The top examples will be published on January 28 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at

Stockton Heat’s Eetu Tuulola, center, ekes between Tucson Roadrunners’ Kevin Hancock, left, and Hudson Fasching during an AHL game on the Heat’s “Stick It To Cancer” night at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. The Heat sported new purple jersey’s for the occasion. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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2019: A year in pictures

Here’s a slideshow of 52 of my favorite photos from 2019. I’ve been producing these yearend shows since 2010. They’ve always been in the 3 – 4 minute range which tends to be optimal for a slideshow. Any longer and people tend to get bored and move on to something else. 

In that first year I chose 52 images. I was shooting for about 50 but couldn’t edit out those last two. I justified that number by saying that there’s 52 weeks in a year, even though not all of them are from each week. It’s been 52 every year and has come something of a tradition with me. So I hope you enjoy my favorite photos from 2019.

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2019’s Top 12

2019 is coming to a close and it’s a time for reflection. I’ve produced a slideshow of 52 of my favorite photos from the year (which you can view here). You may ask “why 52?” Well, there are 52 cards in a deck and 52 weeks in a year. In other words, it’s just an arbitrary number. It turns out that around 50 photos is a good number for a 3-4 minute slideshow, I just added a couple more.

I also picked my top 12 favorite images as well. Why a top 12 instead of the ubiquitous top 10? You may think that it’s as subjective as my top 52, but it’s not. Each one represents a favorite photo from each month of the year.

Editing the hundreds of favorite photos down to 52 was tough enough, but cutting them down to 12 was an even more gut wrenching experience. It took a lot of time and hair-pulling to pick them all. So here, without further ado, are the best from each month of 2019.


A Stockton firefighter battles fires in 2 large dumpsters full of cardboard to be recycled at the Goodwill facility on Market and Grant streets in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

January started out with a dumpster fire, literally. On Jan. 2, I was on the Crosstown Freeway in Stockton on my way back from an evening assignment, I spotted a large fire near my exit of Stanislaus Street. It was in the back lot of the Goodwill facility in downtown Stockton. I quickly exited the freeway and around a block to get to it. It turns out it was a dumpster full of recycling material (mostly cardboard). Most fires I usually arrive well after the fire’s out, but with this one I got there almost simultaneously as the fire department. While it was a simple dumpster fire, the bright orange flames leapt high into the air. The firefighters made quick work of the fire and kept it from spreading.


A horse stands in a snow-covered pasture along Highway 4 on Sunday after storms left several inches of snow in the Mother Lode town of Douglas Flat, elevation 1965′. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 120mm: Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200).

February herald in a series of storms which brought snow the Mother Lode elevations as low as about 1,200 ft. On Feb. 10. I took a quick jaunt up to Calaveras County. It was. Bright sunny day and by the time I got to Angels Camp (1,378 ft.), there was still a good inch or two sticking to the ground. When I got to Murphys (2172-ft.) people were sledding and making snowmen. On my way back down, just outside of Murphys at Douglas Flat, a horse wandered a snow-covered pasture next to a leafless, gnarled oak tree covered in a dusting of snow.


Delta College track shot putter James McClain winds up for a throw under ominously cloudy skies during a team practice at the Raydell Barkley Track Throwing Area on the Delta campus in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm: Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/10 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200).

Sometimes you just need a single element to help complete a composition. Dramatic clouds filled the skies over Stockton on March 5. I was driving around looking for that certain something that would serve as a focal point against a cloudy backdrop. Then I saw the Delta College throwing team practicing at the Raydell Barkley Track Throwing Area on the Delta campus. Using fill-flash to fill in the shadows, I got a shot of James McClain as he wound up to throw the shot as the clouds swirled in the background behind him.


Sharan Hira of Sacramento has a reflective moment while resting at about the halfway point of the Stockton Gurdwara’s annual Nagar Kirtan parade on San Joaquin Street at Washington Street in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm: Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600).

Stockton Gurdwara’s annual Nagar Kirtan parade was held on April 14. Thousands of Sikh from all over northern California descend of Stockton to march from the Sikh temple in south Stockton to downtown and back again. When it gets to downtown the procession takes a short break under The crosstown Freeway for it’s participants to rest and partake in free food donated by a cadre of volunteers. The shade of the freeway overpass creates some nice, soft indirect light. I got a shot of Sharan Hira of Sacramento bathed in that beautiful light that enhanced a reflective moment.


The referee declares a knock out of Eduardo Pereira, left, by Stockton’s Gabe Flores, Jr., right, in a lightweight bout at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 6400)

On May 4, 19-year-old flyweight Gabe Flores, Jr. fought a bout against Eduardo Pereira in front of a hometown crowd at the Stockton Arena. The sellout audience of more than 10,000 chanted “209, 209!” as Flores entered the ring. He dominated the match and with a sharp left hand to the chin at 1 minute, 14 seconds into the 3rd round, Flores sent Pereira to the canvas. My favorite shot from the night (and the whole month) was of the referee kneeling over Pereira, waving his hand as he called the fight while Flores stood in a neutral corner.


Eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Avila with the Ripon FFA relaxes in a pen with her pig Zuri at the annual AgFest at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600)

The annual Agfest at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds is all about young future farmers showing their livestock. The kids dress up in their organization’s uniforms (FFA, 4-H) and parade their animals for judging. There are quieter moments as well. On June 9 I got a shot of Eighteen-year-old Kaitlyn Avila with the Ripon FFA relaxes in a pen with her pig Zuri between judgings.


Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea, who has been injured since September, has his form captured in a multiple exposure photo as he delivers a pitch against the Visalia Rawhide while on a rehab assignment with the Stockton Ports at the Stockton Ballpark. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 330mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

July’s photo stretches the parameters of the 1 photo per month a bit. It’s actual 8 images in one. On July 8, Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea, on a rehab assignment, started a Ports game against the Visalia Rawhide at the Stockton Ballpark. I used my camera’s multiple exposure mode to capture Manaea’s form as several different points in a pitch in a single frame.


A visitors check out pictures on their phones at the art installation Field of Light at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro, which consists of more than 58,800 LED lights on stalks nestled in a gently sloping ravine a few miles out side of Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. (Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk II. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/3.2. ISO: 6400) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The Paso Robles art installation of the Field of Lights at Sensorio by artist Bruce Munro opened in May but I wasn’t able to get down there until August 3, but it was worth the wait. The installation featured 58,000 small glowing globes mounted on 2-ft tall stalks. The lights were situated in a 15-acre, gently sloped ravine a mile or so outside of Paso Robles. The each of the solar-powered lights slowly cycled through a rainbow of colors. I got a shot of a couple looking at a picture of the lights that they took with their phone. The light of the illuminated their faces as the field of lights glowed in the background behind them.


Lodi’s Lucas Padilla, left, Korbin Mason and Christian Zamora celebrate a touchdown by Zamora during a varsity football game at Tokay High in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

My first high school football game came on Sept. 9. It was Stagg against Lodi High on Tokay High’s new artificial turf field in Lodi. Other than game action two staples of sports photographers are jubilation and dejection photos. Usually it’s one or the other. One can get athletes celebrating winning a play/game or the opposing side agonizing over a missed play or lost game. I got a shot that from the Lodi/Stagg game that incorporates both. Lodi’s Christian Zamora scored a touchdown. Immediately afterward teammates Lucas Padilla and Korbin Mason leapt in the air with Zamora in a victory dance. In the foreground is a Stage defender bent over in frustration. It’s the classic “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” in a single shot.


Brenda Sanchez competes in the Catrina Pageant at the Dia De Los Muertos Street Fiesta in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The Mexican Heritage Center held it’s second Dia De Los Muertos Street Fiesta on October 26 which featured the Catrina Pageant. La Calavera Catrina was an etching by artist Jose Quadalupe Posada in the early 1900s that has become an icon of the Mexican Dia De Los Muertos. Contestants dress up in extravagantly colored costumes while wearing Day of the Dead face paint. I got a shot of Brenda Sanchez in her monarch butterfly-themed costume as she stoically paraded before some of the contestants who had gone before her.


Evan Botley, left, and his mother Leeanna Botley pray before eating during the Thanksgiving dinner at the St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

It’s always heart-wrenching to cover the St. Mary’s Dining Room’s annual Thanksgiving day meal. Hundreds of homeless individuals and families who are down on their luck are given a hot holiday dinner. I photographed Leeanna Botley and her 24-year-old son Evan Botley as they sat down to eat their meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and the rest of the fixings for Thanksgiving. Before they ate they held hands, closed their eyes smiled and said a prayer of thanks. The day for me went from heart-wrenching to heart-warming in that moment.


Ripon coach Chris Musseman ,left, congratulates Nathan Valdez who kicked the game-winning field goal in the CIF Division IV-AA football state championship game against Highland at Ripon High School. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

My last high school football game came on December 14. Ripon played at home against Highland for the Division IV-AA football state championship. The weather forecast called for a clear, rainless night. The first half ended with Ripon leading 21-6. I retired to my car to download what I had shot to my laptop computer, caption & tone them and finally transmit them back to the office. I got back to the game in the early part of the 4th quarter. In my absence, Highland had taken a 22-21 lead. Ripon came back and scored another touchdown to make it 28-22. Highland made another TD but failed on the 2-point conversion leaving the score tied at 28. With just a few minutes remaining Ripon took the ball for the last time. The forecasted rainless night began to rain, lightly at first. At first things looked good for Ripon. As the rain picked up, they methodically marched the ball down the field from their own 38 to Highland’s 20-yard line. The Ripon drive then stalled. On 4th down with about 32-seconds left on the clock, kicker Nathan Valdez came out to make a field goal attempt. After both sides called time outs, the ball was finally snapped to placeholder quarterback Nico Ilardi. The rain blew in Valdez’s face. It was as if weather gods were conspiring against Ripon, but, Valdez kicked the ball through the uprights and won the Ripon’s first state title. When it came time for someone to hoist up the first place trophy at the post game awards ceremony, Ripon coach Chris Musseman rubbed Valdez’s head and said “you deserve it” and sent him to accept the championship plaque on the team’s behalf.

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November in review

“The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.” – Henry Rollins

Here are my top 10 from November.


Ariel Lara plays clarinet with the Tokay Royal Regiment marching band as it performs in the Grape Bowl Classic Band Review’s parade down North Stockton Street in Lodi. A total of 41 high school and middle school bands from around Northern California participated in the parade, field review and jazz band competitions in the all-day event. The event is hosted by Lodi and Tokay high schools. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


A fire that consumed a homeless encampment under the connecting ramp bridge from the westbound Crosstown Freeway to northbound I-5 over Mormon Slough sent clouds of smoke billowing over downtown Stockton. One woman was reportedly received burns in the fire. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Cindy Johnston, right, gets a shingles immunization from UOP pharmacy student Huy Pham at the free Medicare clinic and Part D enrollment at the Sierra Vista Community Center in south Stockton.


WWII veteran Mel Corren salutes during the retiring of the colors at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Bob Hope Theatre in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Stockton Heat’s Dillon Dube, left, gets past San Diego Gulls’ Simon Benoit during a AHL hockey game at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Stockton Kings’ DaQuan Jeffries, left, goes to the hoop past Sioux Falls Skyforce’s Trey Mourning during a G-League game at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton.[CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Manteca’s Sunny Dozier, right, catches a pass over Capital Christian’s Carlos Wilson in the end zone but the catch was ruled out of bounds during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football semi-final at Capital Christian High school in Sacramento. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Raquel Order, left, and Abel Rivas braved the rain and wind to take a selfie in front of the Hospice of San Joaquin’s Tree of Lights in front of Delta College after attending the lighting ceremony which was held indoors at Atherton Auditorium on the Delta campus in Stockton due to the inclement weather. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


Runners participate in the annual Run and Walk Against Hunger which benefits the Emergency Food Bank. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Evan Botley, left, and his mother Leeanna Botley pray before eating during the Thanksgiving dinner at the St. Mary’s Dining Room in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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Readers Photo Challenge: Fine feathered friends

Birds are popular subjects for photographers. First, they can be found everywhere, from out in nature to urban cityscapes to to one’s backyard. Secondly, they are graceful creatures. Whether perched on a branch or in flight they are beautiful sights to behold. Lastly, given the skittish nature of many birds, it can be challenging to get a shot of them, but that can be part of the appeal. Whether through stealth or innovation, it’s very satisfying to be able to photograph a bird that could fly away at any moment. Readers were up to the challenge in capturing images of our fine feathers friends. Eighteen of them sent in a total of 125 photos. Here are some of the top picks.


Cynthia Barker of Stockton used a Canon EOS Rebel T3 DSLR camera with a 75-300mm lens to photograph a wild turkey in a wooded area near her brother’s home in Fair Oaks.

Part of photographing birds is trying to capture their behavior. One must have to have some patience in order to wait for the birds to do something other than sit on a branch or take off flying. Cynthia Barker of Stockton was walk though a wooded area near her brother’s home in Fair Oaks. With a Canon EOS Rebel T3 and 75-300mm telephoto zoom lens, she was able to catch and image of a wild turkey as it flapped its wings and proudly strutted like the cock-of-the-walk.


Dave Skinner of Stockton used Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph northern harrier flying over a fog-shrouded field at the Cosumnes River preserve near Thornton.

Stockton resident Dave Skinner’s image isn’t a bird picture, per se. It’s more of a landscape photo with a bird in it. It’s a perfect example of using a bird as an accent to enhance an already picturesque scene. With his Nikon D7500 DSLR camera, Skinner photographed the early morning fog as it rose from the wetlands at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. It’s a beautifully moody picture with the fog, reeds and water. A lone tree is just off to the right in the frame and a northern harrier flies to the other side of the picture to balance out the composition.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D7200 DSLR camera to photograph an egret in a field at the Nature Conservancy at Staten Island near the Delta town of Walnut Grove.

Teresa Mahnken’s photo is similar to Skinner’s in that the bird that photograph is just a small part of the entire image. During sunset at the Nature Conservancy at Staten Island near the Delta town of Walnut Grove. With her Nikon D7200 DSLR camera, Mahnken of Morada captured an egret as it foraged in a field. Behind it are couple of cows grazing and a beautiful golden sunset breaking through the clouds. Mahnken used the egret’s white plumage to set it apart from the darker grasses around it.


Kurt Gaetjen of Elk Grove used a Nikon D610 DSLR camera with a Nikkor 200-500mm lens to photograph an egret at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton.

Getting a shot of a bird in flight is no easy feat. One has to be able to quickly focus and track the animal and keep it in the frame while panning the camera along its flight path. Kurt Gaetjen of Elk Grove did just that. With his Nikon D610 DSLr camera equipped with a 200-500mm telephoto zoom lens, he captured an egret taking flight at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. A fast shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second freezes the bird’s graceful motion. The bird’s white plumage stands out against the brown/beige of the dried grasses in the background which is just out of focus enough to eliminate any visual distractions.


James Hoagland of Stockton used a Nikon 850 DSLR camera to photograph a hawk flying over the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Woodbridge.

James Hoagland of Stockton also captured a bird in flight. His photo emphasizes the power and strength of a hawk as it soars over the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Woodbridge. its clear, steely eyes are focused straight ahead, perhaps scanning for prey. Its wings are upswept, nearly to their full extension, about ready to make a powerful down sweep.


Christine Morrissey of Stockton, founder of the Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, used an Apple iPhone to photograph rescued turkey Sadey at the sanctuary.

You don’t normally think of birds as having personalities like a dog or cat, but Christine Morrissey’s photo of her turkey Sadey is full charisma. Morrissey, the executive director of the Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, takes Sadey, a rescued turkey, to schools and libraries for visits where she’s become somewhat of a celebrity. Morrissey says Sadey likes the attention. With an Apple iPhone Morrissey photographed Sadey on her porch, neatly framed by the porch’s pillars, eaves and steps, with Sadey looking as though she’s ready to go on another outing.


Dan Hackley of Stockton used a Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm Lens to photograph a great blue heron in flight over the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery day use area near Clements.

Scientists have linked modern day birds to the ancient dinosaurs. Stocktonian Dan Hackley’s picture of a great blue heron seems to give weight to that theory. Using a Nikon D500 DSLR camera with 200-500mm telephoto zoom lens, he photographed the bird as it flew over the day use area near the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery outside of Clements. With it’s outstretched wings and beak slightly agape, you could almost see the lineage of a pterodactyl in its features.


Susan Scott of Stockton used a Canon EOS Rebel XS DSLR camera at photograph a turkey at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton.

Susan Scott of Stockton photographed a wild turkey at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton. With a Canon EOS Rebel XS DSLR camera she captured the feathered fowl in front of a large stand of dried wild grasses which seem to be radiating out from the center of the frame behind the turkey thus helping to bring the viewer’s eye to it.


Donn Sperry of Stockton used a Sony Alpha NEX-7 digital mirrorless camera with a 18-105mm lens to photograph a flock of cormorants taking flight on Brookside Lake in Stockton.

Donn Sperry of Stockton photographed a flock of cormorants as they take flight for the surface of Brookside Lake in Stockton. Sperry used a relatively slow shutter speed and panning technique with his Sony Alpha NEX-7 digital mirrorless camera for the fast moving birds. The technique allowed him to blur the background, giving a sense of motion while the bird at the center remains relatively sharp.


Ward Downs used a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera to photograph a crow sitting on a gate at Oceanside, California.

Ward Downs used a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera to photograph a crow sitting on a gate at Oceanside, California. The photo has a Edgar Allen Poe-esque feeling, seismically given the warning signs on the gate.


You can also see these top picks are at the recordnet’s Instagram. All of the photos sent in can be seen in an online gallery at The challenge is going on a bit of vacation for the holidays. A new assignment will be issued on January 7.

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To infinity and beyond!

(8/26/15) The Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9, is a striking example of a bipolar planetary nebula. Bipolar planetary nebulae are formed when the central object is not a single star, but a binary system. Via Hubble Space Telescope. [NASA]

Last month I wrote about the Library of Congress’s Digital Collections where anyone can browse and download any images from the collection for free. Now there is another great online asset that one can find some great and/or historic images.

(8/20/01) This image of the International Space Station (ISS) was photographed by one of the crew members of the STS-105 mission from the Shuttle Orbiter Discovery after separating from the ISS. [NASA]

The NASA Image and Video Library has made available the thousands of pictures, artist renderings and videos for anyone to look and and download all for free and all royalty-free.

(3/15/09) A nearly full Moon sets as the space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Wednesday, March 11, 2009. [NASA/Bill Ingalls]

If you’re into astronomy, space flight or history this is for you.
There are historical photos of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. From rockets sitting on the launch pad to lifting off from the Earth to orbiting the planet, there are pictures of spacecraft from every era of spaceflight, photographed from every conceivable angle.

(4/19/13) Astronomers used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory’s launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. [NASA]

There are images of our solar system and beyond. The Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps the most famous telescope in the world and there are images of stars, nebulae and galaxies taken by it in the catalog. But there are images from other telescopes as well, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Solar Dynamics Observatory to name just a couple. Often there are images of celestial bodies that are a combination of several of the telescopes.

(1/31/18) This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge. Directly behind the rover is the start of a clay-rich slope scientists are eager to begin exploring. In the coming week, Curiosity will begin to climb this slope. [NASA]

There are also pictures from the different probes and crafts we’ve sent out to explore the universe. Photos of the distant worlds and moons of our solar system taken by the Voyager spacecrafts. Detailed photographs of the Martian surface have been sent back by the Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers as well as the Viking lander.

(11/19/69) Astronaut Alan L. Bean holds a Special Environmental Sample Container filled with lunar soil collected during the extravehicular activity (EVA) in which astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., commander, and Bean, lunar module pilot, participated. Conrad, who took this picture, is reflected in Bean’s helmet visor. [NASA]

From training to spaceflight, there are photos of the astronauts as well. Some areas pedestrian as them a speaking engagements but there are others, such as spacewalks, that are truly awe-inspiring.

(6/28/95) The Space Shuttle Atlantis orbits Earth at a point above Uzbekistan and the southern Aral Sea, as photographed by one of the Mir-18 crew members aboard Russia’s Mir Space Station. The image was photographed prior to rendezvous and docking of the two spacecraft. [NASA]

The images taken by the astronauts and satellites that are incredible. There’s a saying in photograph that the best photos come from knowing where to stand, meaning you need to have the best vantage point. No telephoto lens or high flying drone can even come close to getting the angle at which pictures from the International Space Station or high flying satellite can be photographed from.

So if you’re a science/space buff take a look a the NASA Image and Video Library because this site is out of this world!

(7/20/6) Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the moon near a leg of the Lunar Module during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity (EVA). Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. The astronauts’ bootprints are clearly visible in the foreground. [NASA]

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