Random photo #57: Soccer dad

Anthony Dal Porto of Petaluma plays goalie with the help of his 3-year-old daughter Gabriella on his shoulders while playing soccer with his 6-year-old daughter Cecelia at Grupe Park in Stockton. Dal Porto and his family were in Stockton visiting family for the holidays.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Everything under the sun(set)

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
― Jo Walton

Nearly everyone loves a nice sunset. I’ve gone to places to photograph some only to find people already there ahead of me just to watch the sun go down. Along with sunrises, sunsets are the most beautiful times of the day. The normally blue sky can to a golden orange to hues of reds and pinks. For this challenge 16 readers sent in 77 photos which captured all those colors and more. Here are some of the top examples.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton went to the Village West Marina in Stockton and used an iPhone 6 to photograph the sunset. The evening clouds soaked up the sunset’s brilliant pink hues and reflected them in the waters of 14-mile slough.


The first inclination of most people approach a sunset as the main subject of the photograph. Mitch Bazzarre of Stockton
Used the sunset to enhance the main subject of his photo. Bazzarre used a Canon Rebel T5i DSLR camera to photograph the leading lines of the edges and center line of Armstrong Road near Lodi to create a vanishing point in the distance. Those lines lead to the remaining light of a fading sunset in the sky. That light skims also off of the asphalt road and gives and infuses the entire scene with an overall warmth.


Sometimes the addition of just a little something can make a big difference in a photo. Kenneth Buck of Stockton used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera to photograph the sunset on Tyler Island near Walnut Grove. The orb of the sun hangs low in the sky just before sinking below the horizon line. The heavens are painted in the sun’s orange glow and the color is also reflected in the waters of the Mokelumne River. In the lower right corner of the picture swims what appears to be an American coot. It’s just a small detail but it adds just some visual interest in a portion of the picture that is nearly featureless and provides a counterbalance to the sun I the upper left of the photo.


Occasionally there are times in getting any kind of photo having a good vantage point is half the battle. Carolyn Silva of Jackson had a great view of a sunset and she didn’t go far to get photograph it. Silva used a Nikon D5000 DSLR camera top photograph the sunset from a field behind her house. The setting sun set the clouds ablaze and silhouetted a stand of trees on a hill overlooking her backyard.


Sunsets are usually associated bold and bright colors. Subtlety isn’t necessarily something one thinks of. Dave Skinner of Stockton used Nikon D5100 DSLR camera to photograph the sunset from his backyard. The near-leafless branches of a neighbor’s tree provided a delicate screen of a foreground. The out of focus clouds in the background picked up the nuances of the onset of twilight.


To see a gallery of all the photos sent in go to recordnet.com. Stay tuned for a new challenge assignment next Thursday.

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There are times when serendipity, chance happenings, produces some great photos. Who needs years of training and experience when luck is on your side? Sometimes, great photos are made just by being at the right place at the right time, or so it may seem. Knowledge of things like shutter speeds, apertures and lens choices while help you get the proper exposure. Luck can provide those special moments. Experience will help you tie those two things together to make memorable pictures.

A few weeks ago I waited for a sunset to happen at the turning basin at the Port of Stockton. As the sun sank lower in the sky its warm light reflected off of the basin’s waters. As I looked upon the scene I thought to myself that it needed a little something more, a subject to act as a focal point to the composition. A bird would be too small but a boat would be perfect situated in the bright patch on the water. However, there wasn’t one in sight in any direction. I repeated the mantra of “I need a boat” in my head. The sun lowered behind some of the port’s buildings and I knew I only had a few more minutes before it dropped below the horizon taking the sparkling light on the water with it. I was just about to leave when I spied a small dot moving at the far west end of the deep water channel. It was a boat speeding towards me except to it was to far on the other side of the channel. It would be too small in the picture, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right? Then for some unexplained reason the board veered to its left and began carving its way up the center of the channel, right where I wanted it to, compositionally speaking. In a few minutes the boat was in optimum position and I fired off several frames as is skimmed across the water in front of me.

Momentarily hubris got the better of me. I thought to myself: All I have to do is conceive of it in my head, and then it will happen. Of course, nothing is further from the truth. I have no such super power but I believe that all things that can happen, will happen. Sunsets happen everyday, boats travel on the channel everyday. It’s serendipity that brought them both together.

The Karl Ross American Legion Post in Stockton held its annual Veterans Day observance which also rededicated the Vietnam Veterans memorial that was moved to the post from its site in Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in downtown Stockton to make way for a new memorial. The ceremony was held at the grassy circle in front of the post where the polished granite monument sits with other smaller stone makers and flagpole. The post’s Silent Sentinel flags, flags donated by the families of deceased veterans, were placed at about 10-ft intervals around the outside of the circle. The flags hung limply in the still morning air. At one point in the ceremony, veteran Rick Caccam performed Taps on his bugle. As he played a slight breeze welled up and unfurled a flag behind him making for a patriotic backdrop. Not only did the flag provide more context to the photo but it blocked the distracting elements of the out of focus people in the background.

We had our first foggy day in quite a while in downtown Stockton last week. I shot cars traveling down California Street as they made their way through the mist. The photos were OK but I felt they needed a little something else. There were very few people out and about due to the chilly weather that day, but I still hoped for a person to walk by for my shot. Just then Patrick Garduno of Stockton emerged out of the morning fog walking up the sidewalk toward me. He sat down on a nearby bench and provided a nice counterpoint to the vehicles driving down the fog-shrouded streets. Was I lucky or was it skill that I was able to capture the scene?

So where does photographic knowledge and ability come in? Is it better to be lucky or good? The answer is: Both. There’s a saying “luck favors the prepared mind.” It means that, yes, luck does happen, but training, experience, knowledge and talent will help you recognize those moments of serendipity and be ready for them when they happen.

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Random photo #56: Puddle clouds

Clouds are reflected in a puddle left by recent rains on the tennis courts at Louis Park in Stockton.

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October outtakes

“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.” – Thomas Wolfe

My apologies for being late in posting the outtakes from October. Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from the year’s 10th month.













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Living on the edge

Last weekend I participated in the Journalism Association of Community College’s NorCal conference. The event was attended by students from community college newspapers from around the northern state. I started out at a community college, taking photo courses and being a staff member on the school’s paper, so when thinking of a topic for my lecture I wondered what advice would I give my 20-something-year-old self. I decided on something I now use nearly every day: Look for the “edges” when covering an event.

A lot of what news photographers do is covering events. One can just rely on the main subject of an event, but that means you have to hope that it’s something worth taking pictures of. If the event is visually interesting then it’s not a problem, but if it’s a dud, then you’re in trouble. By looking around the edges of an event on can find something that can supplement or even be better than the main subject of the event itself.

The adage of “Go early, stay late” is very important to finding the edges of event. In January Tori Verber Salazar was sworn in as San Joaquin County’s first woman district attorney. I got shots Verber Salazar raising her right hand as Consuelo “Connie” María Callahan, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit judge, reads the oath of office. It’s a perfectly functional shot if a bit static. I stayed around for a while after the ceremony was over and got a shot of her happily greeting well-wishers. The second photo was a much more natural, less stiff moment.

Edge thinking can even be extended to sports. Every prep football season we cover the games as thoroughly as we can. With each game we at the Record produce a gallery of photos for our online edition. In addition to the action shots we also include the things that surround the games themselves. On Oct. 23 I covered the Tracy at St. Mary’s football game. I got there while the JV game was still playing (once again, “go early, stay late”). The setting sun brilliantly lit up clouds in the evening sky. I got a shot of it as the Tracy cheerleaders performed a routine in the foreground. One doesn’t normally think of a sporting event producing pretty pictures but you can find them by looking at the edges of what’s happening.

Once you learn to look at the edges of event you can apply the same mentality to your main subject. It’s all about looking at things in a different way. In August I covered the Signature For Life car show benefitting the Shriners Hospital at the Lodi Grape Bowl. Car shows come down to basically one thing: People looking at cars. At this event I considered a different tact. What would it look like if the cars looked back? I shot the flanks of a vehicle with a person reflected in its custom paint job.


If you’re not an aspiring photojournalist how does looking at the edges apply to you? A few years ago I attended the wedding of a cousin’s son. During the receptions while the cake cutting and toasts were happening, I noticed another cousin’s son-in-law sitting on the floor at the back of the reception hall playing with his toddler children. The wedding photographer was busy getting the other photos. I didn’t have my main camera with me so I made a few cellphone photos of the cute scene. I don’t blame the photographer for missing the out of the way shot because he was specifically tasked to get those main event photos. But as a guest I could get those away-from-the main-action pictures without getting in his way.

Looking for the edge isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally. It’s a skill that can be learned. After 30 years as a newspaper photographer it’s now become second nature to me. It’s one of the first things I do when I cover an event. Sometimes an edge photo can come before the event starts while other times when it’s done. If you want a picture that more than just what’s presented and something different than what other photographers who are on the scene, you need to start looking at the event’s edges.

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Reader Photo Challenge assignment: Sunsets

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Who doesn’t love a good sunset? Not me, I love them. Who can resist the warm colors spread across the sky at the end of the day? Not many. That’s why the newest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “sunsets.”

With the coming of daylight saving time, fall is a great time for photographing sunsets with the end of daylight come earlier in the day, around 6:00 p.m. or so. That means one doesn’t have to stay up near their bedtime (or in my middle-aged case past their bedtime).

To me, the best sunsets are ones with cloudy skies. The clouds can absorb the reds, pinks and oranges of the sinking sun and spread its color across the sky. The flipside is that if the cloud cover is too heavy it can block all light and ruin your view of the sunset.

Sunsets can be good backdrops for photographing people. Due to the difference in light intensity between the sunset and your subject you’re likely to get a silhouetting of your subject, which could make for a bold photographing statement. If you want to see the face of your subject and get the sunset at the same time there a couple of things you can do. First is that you can use a flash to fill-in the shadow side of your subject and bring the exposure of the two scenes (subject and background) closer together. Secondly, as the sun goes below the horizon the amount of light in the sky naturally decreases. At a certain point it comes closer to amount of ambient light on the ground and you might get both subject and sunset in the same photo without the flash. This can be tricky because the time when both exposures are aligned is short. Also, you may lose the color in the sky before the exposures equalize.

Patience is the key with sunsets. Don’t be too hasty. One may think they got a nice shot, pack up their equipment to leave, and find that the colors got even more intense or clouds had moved to a better position. A mediocre sunset may turn into a good one and a good one may often turn great even as the sun settles below the horizon. You just have to wait it out until all color fades from view.

How to enter:

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

2. Photos have to be shot between Nov 5. and Nov. 19. They can be of any subject but they must be taken during sunset and incorporate light from the sunset.

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. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos.

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

6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, Nov. 19. The top examples will be published on Thursday, Nov. 26 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Filling the void

The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment, “fill-flash,” may proved too challenging for some. Only 2 people sent in all of 3 qualified photos. I can understand trying a new technique can be intimidating but this one is an important one to learn. I use it all the time. In the two weeks between the issuance and the deadline of challenge, I employed fill-flash on 5 assignments even though I was off for 4 of those days). If you’re taking an outdoor portrait fill-flash helps to fill in those shadows that the harsh sunlight can cause and lead to a more pleasing picture.

Here are the entries.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera to photograph her 3-year-old neighbor Theodora Graham at her on the front porch of her home in Stockton. Spurgeon used the built-in pop-up flash on the camera to augment the open shade of the porch. Spurgeon’s effort is an example of using just barely enough light rather than overwhelming force. The flash added just enough light to even out the tones in Graham’s face and make her stand out against the neutral background while still making her look natural.


The challenge assignment was Stockton resident Steven Rapaport’s first attempt at trying a fill-flash technique. He sent in 2 photos for the challenge and although he describes his experience with flash as “poor,” Rapaport’s entries are great illustrations of why one should use flash during the day. The first photo, of his wife Linda, is a classic example of the use of fill-flash. She’s back/side lit in bright sunlight and normally she would be in deep shadow, but Rapaport used a Canon 70D DSLR camera with a Canon 580EX II Speedlite flash which illuminated the shadows and brought out the pleasant details of her face.

Being a owner of a black dog I can relate to the problems in photographing one outdoors. The harsh sunlight can create shadows that are hard to differentiate from a dog’s dark coat make it look like just a black blob with two eyes peering out.

The flash in Rapaport’s second photo, of his pet dog Bonnie, illuminates her coat and helps bring detail to his pet that might otherwise been lost.


Although this challenge is over it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn how to use fill-flash on your own. It’s a useful skill to learn and can become an invaluable tool in your photographic repertoire and help liven up your portraits. Stay tuned for next Thursday for a new assignment.

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Asking for the moon

On September 27, a rare celestial event occurred: A supermoon eclipse. A supermoon is a full or new moon that happens when it is closest in its slightly elliptical orbit around the earth. It appears 14% bigger and shines 30% more light than a normal moon. Supermoons occur about once in every 14 moons. A lunar eclipse, where a full moon passes through Earth’s shadow, can happen anywhere from 0 to 3 times a year. But happening at the same time is a much rarer event. The last year when a supermoon and a total lunar eclipse coincided was in 1982, 2 years before I started working at The Record. The next one won’t be until 2033 when I’ll be in my mid-70s. Needless to say I was eager to get a shot of it this time around.

It was cloudy when I woke up on Sept. 27. I checked the forecast online said that it would be partly cloudy to mostly cloudy all day. A weather satellite image showed a large swath of clouds emanating from way out in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Stockton. It covered all of San Joaquin County as well as parts of Sacramento and Stanislaus Counties and headed northeast all the way into Nevada. It didn’t look good but I kept up my optimism. Perhaps the clouds would peter out by the time the eclipse occurred.

The eclipse was scheduled for just after moonrise early in the evening just after sunset and it would be low on the horizon. This meant that, if the skies cleared, it would happen during the blue hour rather than in the inky blackness later in the night. An eclipse is also called a “blood moon” because when it’s completely engulfed in the Earth’s shadow, the moon can turn a deep red or orange. It’s due to sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, as if all the world’s sunsets and sunrises happened simultaneously and landing on the darkened moon. I envisioned a shot of a crimson moon set against a deep indigo sky rising above a landmark or building which would still be illuminated with enough surrounding ambient light.

I did some mental calculations and determined that, viewed from the street just outside of the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton, the moon should rise somewhere near the 12-story Medico-Dental Building. Now if the weather would just cooperate. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The eclipse was to peak at around 7:45 p.m. and I arrived at Weber Point in downtown Stockton at about 7:00 p.m. just as the sun was setting. Unfortunately, clouds still filled the sky. There was some clearing toward north and I debated on driving that way to find some open air, but not knowing how far the clouds extended, I decided to stay put and try my luck where I was. The eclipse was well under way but the cloud cover was so thick that the light from a bright full moon would have been completely blocked let alone and eclipsed one. But I still hoped for even a small gap that I might get a shot.

As I hoped and waited for the clouds to part, I wandered down to the water’s edge where the head of the deep water channel reaches into downtown. Sert Keo of Stockton sat on a bollard or mooring post. Keo was also waiting to watch the eclipse and was even more hopeful than I that we’d be able see it. The sun had just sunk below the horizon and its warm rays were turning the clouds a brilliant scarlet red. After a few minutes the color deepened and intensified and the sky’s beauty moved Keo to get up and take a picture. The cloud cover never dissipated that evening and we missed viewing the supermoon eclipse but were treated to another kind of light show. I wanted to curse the clouds for blocking out the once-in-a-lifetime event, but oh, what clouds they were.

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Thirty days hath September: Outtakes

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” – Henry Rollins

September saw fiery sunsets, unseasonably hot days and Mexican Heritage Month. Here are 10 favorite from month number 9.

















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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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