Take chances, make mistakes, get messy

On occasion I’ll run across an article that’s titled something like “mistakes that every beginning photographer should avoid.” I’m a firm believer of learning through doing and it seems to me that if you avoid a mistake, then you’re missing an opportunity to learn something.

It’s not that you shouldn’t be aware of the pitfalls you may encounter but learning through “aversion therapy” can be very effective. For example, I shoot several assignments a day, each can have very different lighting conditions. There have been times in the past where I’ve forgotten to change my ISO settings (light sensitivity) from one assignment to another resulting in grossly over-or underexposed photos. Now, I make sure to set the ISO on my camera to what I might expect on the next assignment.

When I was a photo student while on a field trip to Yosemite. I climbed up the trail from Lower Yosemite falls to the upper falls, a distance of about 3.5 miles and a rise in elevation of about 2,5600 feet. I would stop every so often to take a picture and then move on. About 3/4ths of the way up, dusty and tired, I looked down at the film counter on the camera (yes, this was back in the stone age of film). It read 34 exposures but I thought I put in a 24-exposure roll. I fired off another frame and turned the advance lever. The rewind knob didn’t move as it should have if there was film in the camera. I spun the know and it turned freely. I opened up the camera and, sure enough, I had forgotten to load the camera with film. After that I developed nervous tic of tugging on the knob to make sure that there was always tension on it signifying that there was film in the camera.

A 300mm f/2.8 lens is a big, heavy piece of equipment. So much so, that it has it’s own tripod mount and carrying strap. Years ago, I was carrying one by the strap over my shoulder and the strap came undone. The expensive lens plummeted straight to the floor. It was only by the luck of the photo gods that is was able to catch it by the end of the 1/2-inch wide strap just inches before it hit the floor. After that I made sure that all the big lenses I used and their straps tightly secured.

There have been many times where I didn’t have the right equipment for the job like not having a long/short enough lens for a certain situation. I’ve left my flash in the car or back in the office for the sake of lightening my load only to find that I needed it after I got to my assignment.

These are just a few of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. You’re going to make mistakes, a lot of them. Sometimes you make the same ones more than once. But it’s all a part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them. If your pictures from an event are too dark or too light. Try to think about what you did and correct your mistake the next time similar situation happens.

If you find that your subject is too small in the picture, next time get in closer. If your access is blocked by someone stating in front of you, try to figure out how to get around them without being obtrusive. If the background in your photos are cluttered and distracting, next time look for a different, cleaner background or new angle to take the picture from.

As Miss Frizzle from the children’s educational tv show The Magic School Bus would say: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

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A super eclipse and hollandaise sauce

On Sunday, January 20, a super blood wolf moon eclipse graced the skies over North America and much of the rest of the world as well. The “super” refers to a full moon when it’s closest to the Earth in it’s slightly elliptical orbit. “Blood” specifies the red color that the moon turns during an eclipse. “Wolf” is a Native American term for the first full moon of the year. While it’s not an uncommon occurrence, I have photos of one that occurred in about a year ago, it doesn’t happen everyday.

I was looking forward to photographing this year’s event. The Stockton Astronomical Society had planned a viewing party at the Oak Grove Regional park in Stockton and I figured I could shoot it from there. I could get some relatively close shots and perhaps get some pictures with people in it too.

The very first phases of eclipse was to begin about 7:30 p.m. with the moon slipping totally into the earth’s shadow at about 8:40 p.m. and then ending at about 11:30 p.m. The only thing that could put a damper on the whole thing was the weather.

The forecast for that Sunday was rain and clouds which did not bode well for the viewing. As the forecast predicted, Sunday morning was greeted with grey, drizzly skies. Maybe it’ll clear up, I thought, and I kept my fingers crossed. Throughout the day I busied myself with errands and other tasks, occasionally checking the weather. 7:30 p.m. rolled around with the skies and visibility still poor. It’s then I gave up hope.

I realized that I was so wrapped up in hoping for the eclipse, that I forgot to make dinner for my wife, son and I. It took me a while but I started cooking. I figured on salmon with rice and broccoli with a hollandaise sauce, which I had never made before. I found a recipe online. Hollandaise is fairly simple with just a few ingredients but it takes a lot to attention with constant stirring over low heat.

I finally got dinner on the table at about 9:00 p.m. The hollandaise was a bit runny but tasted fine. We were all just a few bites into the meal when I happed to turn and lookout the window. I saw a star in the darkened sky.

I jumped up from the table and out the kitchen door into the backyard. A large hole in the clouds had opened up. It took a few seconds but I spotted the pale red orb that the moon had become.

I excitedly ran back into the house proclaiming the eclipsed had arrived. I thought about hopping into the car and driving to Oak Grove Park but I figured that it would take too long to get there. Also, there was no guarantee that the clouds would be clear there for the astronomical society would be there. I gathered up my camera and tripod and decided to shoot from the backyard.

I set up my equipment and started shooting. My son also wanted to shots of the moon and was a few steps behind me. I helped him set up his camera and tripod.

It was still cold and bit windy and I was wearing a t-shirt, jeans and slippers. I went back inside to put some warmer clothes on. When I got back out the clouds had moved back in and the moon was gone. I asked my son which way were the clouds moving. He indicated from the north to south. I scrambled through the house to the front, which was north, and looked up. I could see another clear patch traveling towards us. I made my way through the house to the backyard and once again the skies cleared. We were able to get more shots before the clouds covered up for good.

The whole thing lasted no more than a half-hour. We sat down to finish our dinner which was now cold but at least we got some shots of the eclipse and the hollandaise was no longer runny.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Red letter days

We’ve done the colors blue and green as subjects for the Readers Photo Challenge and the latest assignment will be another color: Red.

Recently, social media was all atwitter (no pun intended) over the red coat that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore after the meeting that she and Senator Chuck Shumer had with President Trump. They are shown in a photo leaving the White House with Pelosi buttoning up the coat. Aside from the context of the story, would there have been such a buzz over the picture if her coat was a different color, such as grey, brown or black like the one that Shumer wore? Perhaps not.

Red is a very intense color. It has many different meanings. It’s the color of danger and warning, think firetrucks, stop signs and stop lights. It’s the color of love and passion as exemplified in roses and Valentine’s Day hearts. It’s the color of power and speed. Why else would it be the go-to color for Ferrari? The red in our flag stands for valor and courage.

You can use red as an accent color to help bring the viewers’ eyes to your subject. Having a person wear a red shirt, jacket or hat against a neutral or drab background can make them stand out.

Conversely, in a scene of mostly red, having someone wear a neutral or complementary color, can also bring attention to them.

Red can be found in nature. There are trees, bushes and flowers there red. It can be found in fruit and veggies such as tomatoes and strawberries. The sky can turn red when deep in the throes of a sunset.

Shooters of the old slide film Kodachrome used to live for the color red which the film used to vividly reproduce. Red is an vibrant, eye-catching color and can add that special something to your photos. The limits are only your own imagination.

How to enter:
1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Red” in the subject line.
2. Photos have to be shot between February 5 and February 19.
3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person
4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of device you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. iPhone6s”)

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (eg.: Jane Doe, 6, plays on the playground equipment at 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 February 19. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, February 26 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: A cold day in January

This month’s challenge assignment takes advantage of winter’s chilly temperatures. Readers were asked to go out and take pictures of the cold and/or the people dealing with it.

Only 32 photos were sent in by 10 readers making it one of the lowest attended challenges. Perhaps the weather kept most people from looking for photos. But the souls who braved the brisk temperatures were rewarded with some great photos. Here are some of the top examples.

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Annamarie Bambas of Stockton captured a photo of a snowy scene that was both cold and cozy at the same time. With an Apple iPhone X she photographed a fresh snowfall covering everything in sight along the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The trees, shrubs, and ground is blanketed with white. In the center, also covered in snow, sits a quaint cottage. While the outside scene is definitely cold-looking, one can image the residents of house bundled up inside next to a roaring fire or warm heater, sipping on a hot mug of cocoa or coffee.

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Matt Baker of Stockton used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph an egret along Lower Sacramento Road north of Eight Mile Road just outside of Stockton. The low angle of an early morning sun is just hitting the bird standing on one leg. It seems to be huddling up against the cold morning. White frost covers the grass on the ground adding to the feeling of coldness in the photo.

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Teresa Mahnken of Morada also got up early to get her picture. With a Nikon D7200 DSLR and a new 70-200mm lens she photographed a pair of sandhill cranes at the Staten Island Nature Conservancy near the Delta town of Walnut Grove. A light fog surrounds the birds as the early morning light infuses it with a nice warm glow.

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Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton photographer her brother’s dog Bohdi while on a trip to Denver. With a Nikon D500 DSLR camera she captured the dog’s disregard of the old and eagerness to play despite the snow falling around him.

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Kurt Gatjens of Elk Grove used a Nikon D610 DSLR to photograph a scrub jay huddled against a cold rain in a tree in Elk Grove. You can see a few rain drops lining to the bird’s feathers adding to the sense of coldness.

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Janet Baniewich of Stockon used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph her daughter Christine Holland shoveling snow from her driveway in Billings, Montana. While I would have like to see Holland from the front, you really get a sense of how cold it was with snowflakes in the air, the wind blowing her hair and snow all around.

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Steven Rapaport of Stockton went a little outside of the box to get his “cold” picture. He photographed his wife Linda with his Canon 70D DSLR camera as she blew her nose with a tissue as she was suffering from a cold. Kudos to Steven for his thinking differently and thanks to Linda for putting up with it.

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All the photos sent in can be seen in an online gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge will issued on February, 5.

Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or coto@recordnet.com.

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

Silhouettes in profile

One of my favorite things to shoot or just to look at is a well done silhouette. A Nicely done one can be a strong compositional element and can make your subject really stand out. Some may think that shooting a silhouette is a tricky thing but it’s actually a relatively easy thing to do.

A silhouette is when there’s a large discrepancy in exposure between your subject and the background. Typically your subject will be in shadow and the background is well lit. If you exposure for the subject, then the background will be overexposed. A silhouette happens when the lighter background is well-exposed which caused the darker subject to become a silhouette. Exposing for the light coming from behind in a backlighting situation will yield the same results.

The tricky thing about silhouettes is being able to isolate your subject. If you have too many things in the foreground or background that are in the way or overlapping with your subject, such as branches of tree, then they will become part of your silhouette as well. A few can be acceptable, but it there are too many or they’re too big, they can obscure your subject to the point of being unrecognizable.

Try shooting from a low angle, then you can have a clear sky as a background. One time where a high angle may work is when you have the light from a setting sun shining off of a body of water.

If you’re photographing a person, try to shoot them in profile, looking to one side or the other. Then you can have their eyebrows, nose, lips and chin in the photo. If you shoot them straight on, the best you can hope for is getting their ears in the shot.

Whether taking a shot of a person or thing make sure it has a distinctive shape. Alone tree, bridge or person can make great silhouettes but something more amorphous, like a undefined bush can be harder to make out.

Quite often people think of silhouetted photos as outdoor shots but you can get them indoors as well. Setting your subject up in front of a window with light pouring in can be very effective as a silhouette.

Silhouettes can make for very strong photos, compositionally speaking. It just takes a few simple steps to make them work for you.

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Under control

“Control. Control. You must learn control.” Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back

So, you got a shiny new digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera for Christmas. Now you’re going to take better pictures than you have with your old point-and-shoot or smartphone, right? Not necessarily so.

If you set your new camera on auto and just hold it up then press the button, don’t expect photos that are much different from what you were using before.
The main advantage of a DSLR is the ability to control the camera to make it do what you want it to do. Automatic settings, such as shutter priority (you set the shutter speed; the camera sets the aperture), aperture priority (just the opposite) or program mode (the camera sets both shutter and aperture) are convenient to be sure, but they may not give you what you want or even be totally accurate.


Auto settings tend to average out the exposure for a scene. If there’s a situation where there’s too much dark or too much light areas, it may throw off the camera and cause it to over- or underexpose the scene. Conversely, there may be times you want to over/underexpose your photo for creative purposes. The camera isn’t capable of deciding when to or not to, do that. Only you, as the photographer, can do that.

Determining how much depth of field (what’s in focus, from front to back, in a scene) is also up to you. Sometimes you may want a lot, other times very little. If you use an auto setting the camera will probably give you something in-between; an average.

To get the most out of your DSLR, I suggest you study up. Taking a class is the most obvious path. Community college such as Delta offer comprehensive classes that can help you learn how to use your camera. There are also online classes. The main advantage is that you can learn at your own pace. Honestly, I’m old school so I don’t know how effective they are or which ones are better than others. Like anything else, the more work and effort you put into them, the more you will get out of them.
Camera clubs, such as the Stockton Camera Club, are also great resources. Members tend to free with advice and tips. They have workshops and field trips. It makes learning more fun when you’re out with like-minded colleagues. I’ve judged the Stockton Camera Club’s monthly photo contest several times now and I’ve seen people advance from rank amateurs to accomplished photographers.

Legendary photographer Ansel Adams is reported to have said “the single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!” Once you’ve learned how to control your camera with proficiency, to make the technical decisions without thinking, then you spend your time and energy making the creative choices that will take your photos to the next level.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Baby, it’s cold outside

Since it’s the middle of winter, the first readers Photo Challenge assignment of 2018 will be appropriate to the season: The subject will be “Cold.”

Recent storms have brought snow to the Sierras which are only a few hours away. Snow-capped mountains and white, Christmasy pine trees are perfect for this challenge. People sledding, skiing or otherwise playing in the snow are also appropriate.

If you’re unable to make up to the mountains you can find images of the cold right here in the Valley. Granted, even at this time of the year, the high temperatures can be in the 50s to 60s, not too conducive for cold weather images, but the lows can drop to around freezing. Look for morning frost locally. It can cover leaves, blades of grass and whatever else is exposed to the elements. Photos of frost tend to be shot best as close-ups. Use of a macro lens can help a lot. You’ll have to work fast. The tiny ice particles will melt quickly soon after the first rays of sunlight hits them.

Also, look for people dealing with the cold. People bundled up while out and about are great subjects. The shooting period for this assignment is extended retroactively to January 1, so if you’ve shot any kind of “polar plunge” photos, they’re also eligible.

If still life images are you’re thing, try setting something up with perhaps a glassful of ice from your freezer. A closeup shot of cold condensation on the outside of a cup will work.

Lastly, there’s a school of thought that says that you can’t get good weather pictures without being in it. Be sure to bundle up while you’re out in the cold. Unless you’re in the subzero temperatures of the arctic/antarctic, most cameras can handle the cold. If you’re out in the cold for an extended period of time then come back into the warmth of your home or other building, moisture can condense on the cold metal and glass of your lenses. I suggest that you try to warm up your equipment gradually to avoid the condensation.

How to enter:
1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Cold” in the subject line.
2. Photos have to be shot between January 1 and January 22.
3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person
4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of phone you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. iPhone6s”)
5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (eg.: Jane Doe, 6, plays on the playground equipment at 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 Tuesday, January 22. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, December 11 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

Posted in Readers Photo Challenge, Weather | Tagged , | Leave a comment

12 from 18

For the past several years, I have compiled a top 12 list of my favorite pictures from the the year. Why 12 and not 10? This list is a little different because I pick one favorite from each month, thus 12.

Every list is imperfect and arbitrary. With a top 10, a list may not always reflect one’s efforts for the whole year as it’s possible that a majority of the photos could weighted from a certain quarter, month or even week of the year.

I also do a yearend slideshow featuring 52 photos from the year. Why 52? I chose that number because there are 52 weeks in the year, though, because of vacations and such, I don’t work every week. But it shows more of how my work progress throughout the year.

However, while 52 is a good number for a slideshow, it’s far too large for an easily read list. A top 12, one from each month, is much more digestible and shows my work throughout the year.

So, without further ado, my top 12 from 2018.

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January ended with a celestial event in the sky: A super blood moon. While it sounds rather ominous the event is rather benign. The “super” part refers to when a full moon is at it’s closest in its slightly elliptical orbit to the Earth and the “blood” describes the deep red-orange color the moon turns at the height of a lunar eclipse.

The 2 coincided in the wee hours of January 31. It was a foggy morning and I took a chance, hoping it would clear.
I drove out to the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton for the rural darkness would. After waiting alone in the preserve’s parking lot a while the fog did clear enough to reveal the blood moon. I thought to myself that the scene needed something or someone in the foreground. Almost as soon as I had the thought, a car pulled up a 2 people got out. Siblings Angela and Samuel Tsubera, like me, wanted to see the eclipse. They stood in the dark stillness and watched as they became a part of my photo.

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On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others.

On February 28, students from the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Venture Academy participated in a walkout around the school’s campus at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton in support of the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to protest gun violence.

The students ended their walkout in a large athletic field. The formed a large circle, grasped each other’s hands and held a moment of silence. I focused on a pair of students’ hands with the rest of the circle in the background which symbolized the unity they shared with their fellow students in Florida.

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March 15 brought the installation of Stockton Catholic Diocese Bishop Myron Cotta who replaced the retiring Bishop Stephen Blaire. The ceremony was held at St. Stanislaus Church in Modesto and was full of pomp and circumstance one would expect of such an occasion. At the end, the newly consecrated bishop made his way out of the large, modern church, waving to the people along the way.

Outside, Cotta remained to greet well-wishers. People shook hands and hugged him. While I was taking pictures of this informal, post-ceremony scene, Myrna Taa of Modesto took a selfie with Cotta, making him not only a man of God, but of the people as well.

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I started with more than 1,600 favorite photos for the year and to get them down to 52, one has to be brutal in editing. It was just a luck of the draw that April’s top pick didn’t make the 52 of my yearend slideshow.

On April 29 I was looking for photos along Dad’s Point in Stockton. The point is a long finger of land that separates the boat launch ramp at Louis Park from the deep water channel across from the Port of Stockton. I didn’t see anything on my walk out to the end of the point, but on my way back I noticed something unusual.

Monrovia-flagged cargo ship Ken Giant was moored at the port’s Rough and Ready Island. At the rear of the craft, on it’s rudder they was partial exposed above the water, lay a sea lion sunning itself. I didn’t noticed it at first because it’s brown color nearly blended in with the rust color paint of the ship’s hull.

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May 20 brought the Calaveras County fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee which is always a great event to shoot and always produces fun images. And this year was no different. My favorite from the frog jumps and the month was a shot of Aurora Lewis with the VG Frogs team jumping her frog, Bubba Lewis in the international Frog Jump finals. Aurora is bent over with a scowl on her face as she yells at Bubba, trying to get him to jump. Bubba, for his part, is in mid-leap as he starts togged airborne.

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On June 21, Weston Ranch librarian Jackie Rea came up with a novel idea to get people into her branch of the library system. In June, She combine the latest craze of paint parties with the popularity of late PBS painting show host Bob Ross. In the library’s community room, she held a painting session where participants got to follow along with a video of Ross painting. In the spirit of things she wore a t-shirt with Ross’ likeness on it and sported a wig that was similar to his signature afro.

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July is typically one of the hottest months of the year in the Central Valley. The Pixie Woods children’s amusement park installed an interactive fountain for the kids to play and cool off in several years ago and is a popular attraction on a hot day. On July 12, I shot 8-year-old Malachi Brown of Stockton as he enjoyed being blasted by jets of water at the park for some cooling fun.

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On August 19 a water main broke under Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard between Harrison and Lincoln streets in south Stockton flooding portions of each street. When I arrived on the scenes 2 California Water workers were in a water-filled hole that their crew dug with a backhoe. Water was still pouring from the pipe and they were standing in a chest-high pool of it. While trying to stem the breach, one of them would dive under for several seconds with only the soles of his work boots visible. While it was wet, miserable work, I guessing that they were thankful that the break happened during the heat of August rather than in a frigid December.

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On September 22 I covered an event for the first time. The annual CoyoteFest is held in the Mother Lode town of Coulterville. The quaint festival features folk/country music , a parade and, what I was most interested in, the “coyote howl.”

The howl is a contest where humans give their best impression of the wild canine that’s the festival’s namesake.
Individuals went first. All gave impressive performances. Then came the group howl. At one point Morgan Dalke, 10, Alexandria Rivette, 8, and Anna Botani, 8, stepped up to the microphone held by emcee Leslie Farrow. The discordant harmonics of the 3 girls was ear-piercing, much like dogs howling to a fire siren, causing a stunned look on Farrow’s face.

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About a week before Halloween, the University of the Pacific held it’s annual Safe Trick or Treat event on October 24. Thousands of children and their families swarm the Stockton campus and were given treats by the faculty and students. This year, I took a sweet photo of 7-year-old Ben Blicharz of Lockeford, dressed as Batman, giving his 4-year-old sister Ivy a bite of some of his candy as they and their mother took a break from trick or treating.

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Sometimes getting a picture requires the patience of a fisherman. You need to cast your line and hope for a bite. On November 26, I saw and egret sitting on a dock across Smith Canal in Stockton. I got out of my car, put a telephoto lens on my camera and waited for it to do something.

The bird stood still and silently as it peered into the water for a tasty fish to swim by. After several false starts, the egret dove into the water, wings spread wide. I caught it just reflected in the water before it broke the surface. Just as fast as it dove in, the bird leapt back onto its perch. I didn’t see a fish in its beak so I’m guessing it was unsuccessful but it didn’t matter to me because I was.

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December brings the annual Christmas light display at the home of Jim Galindo on Gibson Street in Stockton. The thousands of lights are community show-stopper. He actually starts putting up the lights that are mostly on the trees in his front yard, in August. On December 12, his family gathered at the house for the first official lighting. This year, I caught Galindo’s 7-year-old granddaughter Alivia Mitchell admiring the lights of the tree with the wonder only a child can bring.

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Favorites of 2018

Here is a yearend collection of my photos from 2018. I chose 52 of my favorites and presented them in the slideshow above. Why 52? I figure that there are 52 weeks in a year and while I don’t work all 52, due to vacations and such, it’s as good a number as any. Here’s to looking forward to a new year!

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A portrait of a family

The annual Help-Portrait event was held at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless as it has for the previous 10 years. Each year I help gather talented local photographers, hair stylists and makeup artist to provide Christmas portraits for those living at the shelter. This year’s event was on December 1.

Every year there has been one or two adults who only want to have pictures take of the kids but not of themselves and this year was no different.

Shelter resident Special Valdovinos brought her 3 sons, Jacob, 10, Joshua, 4, and Lincoln 2, to our makeshift studio in the the facility’s multi-purpose room in the morning, one of our first clients. She wanted photos of them but not of herself. She watched as Shumesa Mohsin, a University of the Pacific student and talented young photographer, took their photo.

I sidled up to Valdovinos and suggested that we could take a photo of her with her sons but she demurred. She suggested that she wasn’t picture worthy referring to her appearance. Several months pregnant, she was searing sweatpants and a t-shirt. She wore no makeup and her shoulder-shoulder-length black hair was pulled tightly back in a bun. I told her that she looked great but if she wanted, we had people there to do hair and makeup, but she shyly declined. I then told her that we’d be there most of the day in case she changed her mind.

The day got busier after that with a flurry of activity of photos being shot, edited then printed. At one point I went to check on the women doing the hair and makeup to see how they were doing when I ran into Valdovinos in the hallway. I once again offered to have her and her kids photographed and once more she gave a shy smile but declined. Then I told her that when her kids were older, they are going to want a photo of them all together. It would be a reminder to them that, even in hard times, they were a family. I lost track of Valdovinos after that.

Near the end of the day we were finishing up the last portraits when I noticed Valdovinos again. She was waiting for her pictures to be printed. At first I didn’t recognize her. She had changed her clothes to black pants, a black leather jacket and a red shirt. Her hair and makeup made her the envy of any fashion model. I found out later they were done by volunteer Lissette Andrade who did and incredible job bringing Valdoinos’ inner beauty to the surface.

Valdovinos held the 4 x 6- inch prints in her hands and smiled at her happy family in the pictures.

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    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
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