Walk on the wild side

I recently took a walk near the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Elk Grove. Perhaps it’s due to the drought and spring rains that have only come recently, but it seems that some of the wildflowers are a bit late and are just now starting to bloom. I saw emerging lavender carpets of long-beaked filaree and yellow-orange goldfields left in swathes left in the place of now evaporated vernal pools.

Golden California poppies and fiddlenecks were just starting to appear as was the deep purple of winter vetch. All this emerging beauty is the inspiration of the next Reader’s Photo Challenge assignment: Wildflowers.

The very first challenge assignment was “flowers” but this is a little different. The submissions are to be limited to blossoms growing in the wild. No photos of gardens, orchards, planter boxes, or houseplants will be accepted. Now this doesn’t mean you have to travel way out into the boonies to get your photo (though if you’re so inclined you’re perfectly welcome to). There are many flowers, such as wild mustard and wild radishes, growing naturally in open lots and along roadsides within the city or in rural areas just outside of city limits. Traveling way up into the foothills and the Sierras may afford you a greater variety of flowers but there are plenty of blossoms within less than an hour’s drive from Stockton. Within the next few weeks most of them should be blooming in full swing.

You can shoot a close up of the flowers themselves or they can just be a part of the composition such as a foreground or background. They can be an accent to a portrait or you can even pick some and put them in a vase for a still life photo. They just have to either be a photo of a wildflower or be incorporated into the picture in a recognizable way.

As with any photo the best times of day will be either in the early morning or the late afternoon/early evening for the best light. For close ups a macro lens will help you to get in close to the wildflowers with tend to have smaller blossoms than domesticated plants. Wide angles are good for an overall scene. Try to avoid front lighting the flower. It can make an otherwise colorful flower look dull and washed out. Backlighting tends to have the best results because the sunlight can shine through the blossoms’ thin petals and really make the colors pop out.

Whether you travel near or far, go for a close up or an overall, go out early or stay late, this challenge assignment will allow you to get out and walk on the wild side.

Here are the rules:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Wildflowers” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between April 14 and April 27.

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

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown). If possible, try to identify the type of wildflower in the photo.

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

6. The deadline for submission is Sunday, April. 27. The top examples will be published on Monday, May 5 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Random photo #19: Color run

A recent sunset paints the sky over the Stockton Marina a bright orange as a jogger runs around the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.

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Peace out

The symbol of two raised fingers, the index and middle, have meant a number of things over the years. First, it represents the number 2. In American Sign Language it stands for that number as well as the letter “V.” It’s also known a sign for “victory” used most notably by Winston Churchill in the ‘30s and ‘40s and Richard Nixon in the 1960s. Also in the ‘60’s it became a symbol of peace for the counter culture. Today it’s often used as a greeting or sign-off in the hip-hop culture (“peace out, yo”).

Recently I was stopped at a traffic light on Union Road at Kelley Drive in Manteca. I glanced over to my left and saw the walk/don’t walk sign with the stylized silhouette of a walking man illuminated in white. When my light turned green the sign at the corner should have turned to the familiar red open palm telling the pedestrians to halt. But this sign looked a bit different. A number of the LED bulbs had burned out and it appeared that it was flashing a peace sign (or victory if you choose).

There are a number of hand gestures that aren’t as friendly as the two-fingered peace sign. Let’s hope that the sign at Union and Kelley doesn’t lose any more lights.

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Random photo #18: Rain ride

On a rainy night last week, streetlights shimmered off of the wet pavement in downtown Stockton.

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Upon reflection

A reflection can be one of those things that stares you right in the face and yet still go unnoticed.

Often we’re too busy or distracted to see them. Sometimes when taking photos we can get into a certain mindset and not even consider the possibilities of using a reflection in a photo. Seeing how to use a reflection in a photo can sometimes mean just taking a step back and seeing the entire scene in front of you.

For the latest readers Photo Challenge assignment: “Reflections,” 22 people sent in a total of 70 photos. Here are some of the best examples that use reflections to great effect.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera with a Nikkor 18-55mm lens to photograph the reflection of the trees surrounding the koi pond at the Japanese tea garden at Micke Grove Park. A fish glides serenely just under the water’s surface but the reflections of the trees and sky makes it look like it’s lazily floating in midair. There is some distortion due to ripples in the water, but it just enhances the dream-like quality of the photo.


Ann Scott of Stockton used an iPhone5 to photograph trees reflected in a puddle in front of her home. The bare limbs of the tree are silhouetted on the water of the shallow puddle so that the sand and gravel underneath shows through. The resulting photo has a desert-like feeling to it despite the fact that it’s the water that makes it possible.


Most times we see the world in a certain way. We color within the lines and think inside of the box. But to expand our creativity sometimes we need to see things differently.

Luis Rodriguez of Stockton used a Nikon D3200 with a 18-55mm lens to photograph his 17-year-old sister Mary Rodriguez reflected in a puddle in an open lot next to the Joan Darrah Promenade in downtown Stockton. it’s a nice photo: The sun and some clouds are reflected in the water and the figure of his sister is a bold silhouette. In all respects it’s a great photo. But Rodriguez went a step further. On his computer he inverted the image turning it upside down. Normally I’m not a big fan of upside down pictures but by doing this Rodriguez turns reality on its head. At first it takes you a little while to tell what’s real and what’s imagery and blurs an artistic line between reality and fantasy.


I have a friend who likes the obscure movie “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” It’s a bizarre little film (released in 1953) written by Dr. Seuss. In a dream sequence the deranged Dr. T. kidnaps little boys to play his 480,000-key piano. I vaguely remember seeing the movie as a kid, and specifically recall seeing a shot of all the children’s hands playing a seeming endless row of piano keys.

Susan Scott of Stockton pointed 2 mirrors towards each other and photographed her hand reflected between them with a Canon Rebel DSLR. The resulting reflection upon reflection makes it look like there’s and infinite alternate universes in which different versions of her hands exist. It reminded me of the image in my mind of “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” In 1953 the movie was a flop being panned by critics, and even some patrons reportedly walking out of the theaters. However Scott’s photo is definitely a boffo smash hit.


While most people who entered the challenge chose to shoot reflections that were accurate visual representations of their subjects Anne McCaughey of Stockton took a different route. Using a Canon Power Shot SX500 IS point-and-shoot digital camera she photographed the 2nd Street tunnel in Los Angeles. The artificial lights in the tunnel as well as light coming from one of its open ends and the taillights of the cars traveling in it, were reflected in the tunnel’s shiny, tiled walls. The result is an abstract swirl of color and light that goes beyond a mere representation of the scene to one of artistic impressionism.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton got her reflection photo by using her iPhone to take a picture of another iPhone. Using her phone camera she captured the reflection of a blossoming cherry tree in the glass surface of her mother’s phone. I wonder what the reflection in her own phone looked like?


My wife and I used to secretly joke about my late mother-in-law’s travel photos. Many of her pictures would include the passenger side mirror, probably due to the fact that my father-in-law’s insistence of driving non-stop to whatever destination they were heading to.

Rick Wilmot of Lodi made effective use of my mother-in-law’s “technique.” He photographed a blossoming cherry orchard on West Lane near Harney Lane in Lodi. Wilmot used the driver’s side mirror of his car to create a self-portrait along with the landscape of the orchard.


Rick Jorgenson of Lodi created his reflection picture rather than photographing a found situation. He placed a pair chromed bocce balls (the fanciest bocce balls I’ve ever seen) in a loosely rolled sheaf of polka dotted wrapping paper. The colorful paper as well as the Jorgenson’s backyard where the scene was set was reflected in the shiny orbs.


Darrin Denison of Stockton also created his photo. He placed a small bathroom mirror in his backyard to capture the reflection of the sky and clouds. He noticed a rainbow created by light passing through some crystals hanging in his kitchen window. Denison then sued another mirror to reflect that rainbow onto the first mirror to complete his scene and photographed with his iPhone.


Stay tuned for a new challenge assignment next Monday

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Being Human

University of the Pacific student Sophia Chou takes a “selfie” with Brandon Stanton, author of the Blog and New York Times best selling book “Humans of New York after he autographed a copy of his book for her at the Alex and Jeri Vereschagin Alumni House on the UOP campus in Stockton. Stanton then gave a talk at UOP’s Long Theater as a part of the Powell Scholars Program.

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Outtakes: March of time

March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.” – Khalil Gibran

March has come and gone and to paraphrase Tennessee Ernie Ford: “I’m another year older and deeper in debt” (it’s my birthday month). Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from 2013’s third month.









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Now back to our regularly scheduled program

For those who realized that the previous post was an April Fool’s Day prank (and for those who didn’t, too), here is the photo in living color.

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April 1 News

April 1, 2014 - The Record has just announced that starting today all photos printed in the paper and on its Web site Recordnet.com will be in black and white. As printing costs skyrocket all papers are looking for ways to save money and not having to buy the cyan, magenta and yellow inks can produce significant cost savings. To that effect, all of the photographers’ cameras have been modified to shoot only in black and white. The Web site photos will also lose their colors to save the number of pixels displayed on computers. The pictures won’t be as colorful but the upside is that they should load more quickly.

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Challenge reminder: “Reflections”

Only a day left in the latest Reader Photo Challenge assignment: “Reflections.” The recent rains have left a plethora of puddles, which are a great source of reflections. So there’s plenty of opportunities. Have fun and good shooting!

Here are the rules:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Reflections” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between Mar. 17 and Mar. 30.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (ie: “Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton.”

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown).

5. The subject can be a found situation or a created one.

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

7. The deadline for submission is Sunday, March 30. The top examples will be published on Monday, April 7 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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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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