When you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with

Occasionally I’ll be asked what’s the best camera. Is it a DSLR, superior to a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone? The answer is: it’s whatever you happen to have with you at the time.

It may sound a bit flippant, but if all you have is one type of camera and not the other, you don;’t want to miss the shot just because you’re pining away for something else.

(5/18/19)
People experience the interactive projections by artist Akiko Yamashita in the main gallery at Artechouse in Washington D.C. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Case in point. Last month my family and I traveled to Washington D.C. to see my daughter receive her Masters degree. The ceremony was held at the base of the Washington Monument and I wanted to capture it with my DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera. With it, I could use a telephoto lens so that I could pick out my daughter out of the thousands of other graduates.

(5/18/19]
People experience the interactive projections by artist Akiko Yamashita in the main gallery at Artechouse in Washington D.C. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

We planned to arrive a few days early and stay a few days after to do some sightseeing. I had thought I had charged up the camera’s battery, but it showed less that 25% power (I think I may have left it on in the camera bag which may have allowed the power to drain). Wanting to use it during my daughter’s ceremonies (of which, there were 2), I left it in the hotel room during our other outings. What did use instead? My smartphone.

(5/18/19]
A visitor moves the interactive projections by artist Akiko Yamashita using hand gestures in the main gallery at Artechouse in Washington D.C. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

First we visited the Artechouse gallery in D.C. It’s an art installation that’s dedicated to art that technologically-based. In its main exhibit several projectors beam scenes of floating flowers against blank walls in a large room. People can move the flowers through hand/arm gestures picked by by sensors near the base of each wall. They be sent soaring across one way to another, spin in place or just hover in place. The exhibit’s polished floors reflected the images on the walls, doubling the visual experience. I kicked myself for not bringing my DLSR, but I was able to capture the experience with the only thing I had, my Apple iPhone. There were a few things that I couldn’t do with the phone that I could with a DSLR, namely to fine tune the exposure, but I concentrated on what it could do.

(5/18/19]
A visitor moves the interactive projections by artist Akiko Yamashita using hand gestures in the main gallery at Artechouse in Washington D.C. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The phone was good at recording the overall scene’s colors and silhouettes of the visitors. My phone’s aperture is set and unchanging. The camera determines the exposure by changing the shutter speed and/or ISO (light sensitivity). In low light situations such, as the gallery, I knew that the camera would probably use a slow shutter, so I concentrated on holding it as still as possible to avoid camera shake. I tried to take pictures when the people stopped moving to lessen the possibility of blur in them.

(5/18/19]
The Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture but was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Later on we visited the National Cathedral. In photographing the exterior I concentrated on using sound techniques that would with a DSLR. I used things in the foreground, such as trees and windows to help frame the gothic cathedral.

(5/18/19]
The Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture but was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

I tried to emphasize to capture the strong angles and solidity of the building. And got in as close as I could to photograph the details of the architecture. Inside, I tried to capture the moody subtly of the filtered light as well as the solemn grandeur of its grand vaulted ceilings.

(5/18/19]
Light through stained glass windows filters onto an altar in the interior of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Although the cathedral looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture, it was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

All in all, I liked the photos that I shot with the phone. Could I have done better with my DSLR? Perhaps, but I surely would have run down the battery and would not have been able to use a telephoto lens to photograph by daughter’s graduation ceremonies.

20190518
Light through stained glass windows filters into the interior of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Although the cathedral looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture, it was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(5/18/19]
The Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture but was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Today’s smartphone cameras are so advanced that they can rival bigger imaging devices such as the DSLR and one could make some great pictures with them. So why should one learn how to use a “higher” level camera? Every camera has its advantages and limits. And learning about a DSLR can also help you to learn basic principals of photography itself and use your smartphone to it’s best advantage. It’s like learning how to drive. One could just drive an automatic transmission. But if you also learn how to use a manual transmission you can drive both without missing a beat.

(5/18/19]
Arched doorways grace the interior of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Although the cathedral looks centuries old with it’s gothic architecture, it was built in the 20th century. Work began in 1907 and only was completed in 1990. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Bringing out the animal in you

(3/24/02) Ron, left, and Marti Inouye of Morada, take their pet llamas, Sir Lipton, left, and Earl Grey, out for a weekend walk down Quashnick Road near Oakwilde Avenue in Morada. (Camera: Nikon D1H. Lens: Nikon 70-200mm @ 155mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).[CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Animals are the subjects for June’s Readers Photo Challenge. Most people have an affinity to on sort of creature or another and this challenge will encompass them all: mammals, birds, reptiles fish and insects. Whatever strikes your fancy and you can photograph it is fair game.

(12/1/17) 8-month-old Pomeranian Simvol Goda Kelly from Klamath Falls, Oregon awaits judging at the Golden Valley Kennel Club’s annual dog show at the San Joaquin Fairgrounds in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(7/30/18) Cathy Garvish of Lodi paddles a kayak with her 5-year-old border collie/doberman pinscher-mix Zane aboard during the Headwaters Kayaks’ Dog Paddle event at Lodi Lake in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm w/1.7 extender @ 650mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 800). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Pets are a natural source of subjects for most people. Some can ham it up for the camera others shy away from it. Pets are a part of our families. You know your pet the best. Try to capture it’s personality as well as its likeness. Also you can control when and where you take your pet’s picture. Look for good light, like in the early morning or late afternoon and watch your backgrounds. Try to avoid cluttered and visually confusing backdrops. Also look for people with their pets. Human/animal interactions can make for some great moments to capture with your camera.

(11/1/07) Shrouded in a blanket of fog, horse graze in a pasture along Highway 12 near Wallace (Camera: Nikon D2x. Lens: Nikon 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD].


(6/20/15) A tourist takes pictures of sea lions on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm w/1.4. extender @ 260mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO:200). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

While you can use a wide angle lens to photograph your pets, they are used to you and usually will allow you to get close to them with a camera, other kinds of animals are another story. Domesticated animals such as cows or sheep are usually seen in a field or pasture. If you can’t get permission from the farmer then you’ll have to photograph them from the side of the road, requiring a long telephoto lens if you want to get a close, tight shot. Animals and birds found in the wild are usually very skittish and can sense you coming a mile away. Long lenses are a must for taking pictures of them. A word of warning about wild animals. Many people don’t realize that they are really wild and are unpredictable and dangerous. Too many people try to take a selfie with a sea lion or bear only to get bitten, mauled or even killed. Keep your distance and stay safe.

(12/26/07) A mountain lion rests in it’s enclosure at the Micke Grove Zoo. The camera is too far away from the fence so that it still can be seen in the photo (Camera:Nikon D2x. Lens: Nikkor 1/12th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(10/27/05) A mountain lion rests in its enclosure at the Micke Grove Park Zoo in Lodi. The camera is close enough to the fence to render it basically invisible (Camera: Nikon D2H. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

A safe way to photograph wild or exotic animals is to simply go to a zoo. With lions, tigers, bears and more, you can see animals that you’d have to travel across the globe to see. Some zoo enclosures can present problems in shooting. Chainlink fences can pose a obstacles to shoot through. There’s a trick to minimizing or even eliminating them. Using a telephoto lens, try to get as close to the fencing as you can while simultaneously having the animal be as far away from the fence as possible. This will throw the fence extremely out of focus, rendering it virtually invisible to the camera.

(5/7/08) A California sea lion basks in the sun at the end of a dock at the downtown yacht harbor in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The key to taking any animal picture is patience. In photographing a wild animal you may have stalk it much like a hunter would. Even after you find one you may have to wait for it to get into the right light or the perfect place in your composition. Some pets may become over excited. It may run around frantically because of it, making it difficult to get a shot of it. You may have to wait for it to calm down enough for you to get a picture. Others are shy and you may have to wait for it to open up enough to get a shot.

(8/20/14) 19-month-old Samantha Morgan of Stockton pets a llama at the Critter Corral at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D3s. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 160mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @. f/4. ISO: 200). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Whether wild or domestic, animals are fascinating subjects and with a little patience you can get a great photo of them.

(3/2/15) A baby golden lion tamarin, born of Jan. 29, clings to the back of its mother in their enclosure at the Micke Grove Zoo in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D3s. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 800). [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

How to enter:

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

2. Photos have to be shot between June 4 and June 18.

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, 15, walks her dog Skippy 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 June 18. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, June 25 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

(3/20/08) A Maylasian tiger looks up from eating in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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All in a day’s work (or play)

People at work or play was the subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment. The idea of the assignment was not just to photograph the activities, which can be very different from each other, but rather to get pictures of people engaged in doing something and not just sitting for a portrait.

Ten readers sent in 38 photos. Here are the top picks.

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Having your fill (flash)

Some of you may think that outside during the day is the best time to take a portrait because there’s plenty of light. That’s true but it’s not always the best light. The best outdoor light is early or late in the day when the sun is near the horizon. Midday sun is the worst. The light is coming straight down and creates harsh and unflattering shadows on your subject’s face. Moving them into a shaded area where the light is more even is one solution, but there is another: use your flash. It may seem a bit counterintuitive because if there’s lots of light, then why do you need to use a flash?

(04/14/19) Nine-year-old Sukha Singh of Stockton, left, is helped by Gurdeep Singh of Lodi to blow a narsingha horn to herald a float carrying the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib in the Stockton Gurdwara’s annual Nagar Kirtan parade in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/9 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

The technique is called fill-flash (some people know by it’s reversed name flash-fill). As the name suggests, by using your flash you can fill and lessen or eliminated those shadows under the eye sockets and nose to create a more pleasing look.

(4/25/19) Pittman Charter School 6th grader Rubi Gonzalez reads her poem at the 3rd anniversary of the University Park World Peace Rose Garden in Stockton. Students from 4 area schools entered a poem contest and had plaques containing their work unveiled during the ceremony. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11 w/fill-flash. ISO: 400)

Polaroid knew this many years ago and had their instant cameras fire their flashes with every shot whether you were inside or out or whether it was night or day.

(4/19/19)Singer Samantha Fong provides the entertainment during the 3rd annual Earth Day Garden Party at the Ted and Chris Robb Garden on the UOP campus in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/20 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

In the old days of non-automatic flashes one had to calculate the power of the flash and the ambient exposure manually, which was a pain. It’s probably why so few photographers eschewed fill-flash back in those days. Today, all you have to do is attach your flash and turn it on. If you have a camera with a built-in flash, that’s one less step you need to take.

(4/19/19) Erica Standifer reads aloud a passage from the Bible as a parts of a Good Friday observance at the First Baptist Church in Stockton. About 90 congregation members read different passages from the Bible around and in front of the church’s campus from 5:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m. and finished in about an hour ahead of the church’s 7:00 p.m. Good Friday service. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/16 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

If you find that the fill is too much or too little, most flashes have controls to incrementally compensate up or down. Read your owners manual to find out how to do it.

(4/21/19) Artist Rocio House creates an Easter-inspired painting at the annual citywide Easter Sunrise Service at the Weber Point events Center in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

On-camera fill-flash can look a little flat (though infinitely better than the awkward shadows that an overhead sun can create), that’s why I like to use my flash off camera. There’s a couple of ways you can do it. You can get a wireless transmitter to trigger your flash. Some use invisible infrared light pulses to fire the flash while some others use radio waves. You can set the flash on a light stand anywhere you want. The downside is the added cost of the transmitter. I like to use an off-camera sync cord. It’s a cord that attaches to the accessory hotshoe at the top of the camera and the flash. It allows me to hold the flash at arms length and get some directionality from the light.

(5/2/19) Manuel Gonzalez of Stockton puts gas into his V-10 Ford F250 pickup truck at the Western Food and Fuel gas station on Waterloo Road and Sutro Avenue in Stockton. The price for regular there is $3.99.9 per gallon. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

There are a couple of restrictions where fill-flash doesn’t work so well. First is distance. The technique will only work within about 10 feet or so. Any farther away than that your flash won’t be strong enough to make a difference. Secondly, the technique really won’t work for smartphone cameras. Most have some sort of a “flash” function but it’s really just using the phone’s flashlight which is too weak to overcome a daylight exposure no matter how close you are to your subject.

(4/3/19) Dancer Liz LaGrange leads students in a dance at the High School Nation traveling music and arts festival at the Cesar Chavez High School football field in Stockton. The event featured a concert of recording artist, hands-on time with musical instruments, as well as other activities. (Camera: Nikon D5, Lens: Nikon 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

With fill-flash you don’t have to wait for the best time of day for light, or be a slave to the lighting conditions. You can use your flash to take control of the situation yourself.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Working (and playing) for a living

The former San Joaquin County Fair photo contest and exhibition used to have a category titled “people at work or play.” It was sort of a catchall class for pictures of people that did’t fit the description of a formal portrait. It’s something that newspaper shooters do everyday but not necessarily your average amateur photographer might do on a regular basis. So people at work or play is the newest challenge and is designed to expand your skills.

(7/2/16) A jet skier catches some air while crusing down the deep water channel near Windmill Cove in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Some people play at work while others work at play so sometimes the line between either can be a bit blurry. The idea of the assignment is to get people either enjoying or engrossed (or both) in what they’re doing.

(03/18/19) Oak Park Tennis Center head pro Peter Juarez strings a racquet at the center’s pro shop in Stockton Juarez is set to retire on March 31 after 21 years of running the facility and teaching lessons. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600)

While your subject may or may not know you’re taking their picture, the idea is to get them doing something so it at least gives the impression that they’re not paying any attention to the camera. One way to do this is to use a telephoto lens. With one you can put some distance between you and them to get more candid pictures. Another way is to use a wide angle lens and set close in with your subject. This a little harder to get candid picture, he or she would likely be compelled to look at and smile for the camera, but if you tell them just to ignore you, given time, you can get a spontaneous photo. This takes longer to get a decent shot but a little extra patience will pay off.

(3/2/19) San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow, right, leads the Sheriff’s mounted posse in the annual Chinese New Year Parade in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 112mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 200)

Whichever technique you use, getting them doing an activity is key. It could be something a innocuous as cooking, fishing or driving. Get them doing so something, hence the “work or play” aspect of the assignment.

(3/25/19) Marco Pires with the Lodi-based Luso Masonry, applies new grout to the seams between panels on the prefabricated concrete columns of the arbor at the Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden at Victory Park in Stockton. Pires was a part of a crew doing a 2-3 day re-grouting job of the columns. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/9 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

You can get photos of your co-workers at your job, just make sure you get an OK from your employer (if you’re the boss then that makes things easier). You can also get strangers at their work but, again, it’s a good idea to get their permission first. There are some who do their jobs in public like police officers, firefighters and construction workers who you can photograph just don’t get in the way of their duties.

(04/05/19) Delta College’s Clarissa Menil competes in the long jump in the Raydell Barkley Field Events Festival at the Merv Smith Track Complex at Delta’s DeRicco Field in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

People at play can be a bit easier. There are plenty of high school sports, baseball, softball, track, etc., that you can take pictures of.

(4/4/19) Singer Breana Raquel performs a song at the High School Nation traveling music and arts festival at the Cesar Chavez High School football field in Stockton. The event featured a concert of recording artist, hands-on time with musical instruments, as well as other activities. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 400)

While some larger musical performers limit or restrict picture taking during their concerts, ones that aren’t as famous playing in smaller venues can be accessible.

(4/6/19) Six-year-old Maria Elena Torres works on decorating eggs at an Easter egg decorating session at the Shades of Color Paint art studio in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

Lastly you can photograph friends or family as the doing some recreation activity in a park or at home. If you’re brave enough you can even approach a stranger and ask them to take their picture (extra points for that).

I know that taking pictures of people, whether formally or informally, goes beyond many people’s comfort zone so you’ll have an extra week to get this challenge done.

(3/1/19) University of the Pacific music student Joshua Lopez takes advantage of a break between storms to practice his euphonium outdoors on the lawn near Buck Memorial Hall on the UOP campus in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

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Readers Photo Challenge: Flower power

Flowers are the symbols of renewal and rebirth which made them the perfect subjects for a springtime challenge. Some people sent in wildflowers while other chose domesticated blossoms to photograph. Either way, they showed the visual power of flowers. Twenty-nine readers sent in 164 photos. Here are some of the top examples.

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Steven Rapaport of Stockton 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.

Steven Rapaport of Stockton took a trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster in southern California where there is a full-blown super bloom happening. The hills of the valley are blanketed with millions of the orange blossoms as well as other wildflowers. Rapaport not only caught the beautiful and brightly colored scenery but a couple in a springtime embrace for spring is also the season of love.

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Mike Ratekin of French Camp used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III to photograph his 11-year-old granddaughter Josephine Ceja with some wild radishes along Manthey road near Leo Grion Drive in French Camp.

Mike Ratekin of French Camp took a beautiful photo of his 11-year-old granddaughter Josephine Ceja with some wildflowers. He found some poppies growing near the San Joaquin County General Hospital on Manthey Road not far from his home. Then they picked a basketful of wild radishes a prop. Photographing the scene with a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR camera equipped with an off-camera flash Ratekin related a photo that he, Ceja and her parents will cherish forever.

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Will Hereford of Lodi used an iPhone 7 to photograph a swallowtail butterfly on a flowering cherry tree in his front yard.

Will Heryford of Lodi is a veteran videographer of KCRA 3 and is used to capturing moving pictures with his camera but sent in a photo for the challenge that shows that he is equally adept at taking stills too. With an Apple iPhone 7, he photograph a swallowtail butterfly that landed a flowering cherry tree in his front yard. He was get in close to capture Bothe the beauty of the butterfly as well as the cherry blossoms.

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Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D7300 DSLR camera to photograph poppies near the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery near Clements.

Some of our readers didn’t have to find a super bloom for their flower pictures. Teresa Mahnken of Morada saw this small hillside covered with poppies at the day use area of the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery near Clements. She used a Nikon D7300 DSLR camera to photograph them bathed in early morning light which helped to make the orange blossoms pop out against the green of the stems and grasses below.

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Janet Baniewich used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph 2 women sitting in a field of wildflowers off of Highway 58 in San Luis Obispo County.

Janet Baniewich of Stockton took a wrong turn on her way to Carrizo Plain Nation Monument in San Luis Obispo County. Instead of turning around she followed GPS directions through some narrow backroads to a small valley full of flowers. She stopped and got out on foot. She saw a pair of women having a picnic among the flowers and captured the scene with her Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. It’s a prime example of the saying “ It’s not the destination but the journey that’s important.”

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Matt Baker of Stockton used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph a bee on some Otto quast lavender on Lower Sacramento road near Eight Mile Road in Stockton

Matthew Baker of Stockton photographed a bee looking for nectar on a Otto quast lavender growing as part of the landscaping at the the Delta Water Supply Project on Lower Sacramento Road near Eight Mile Road in north Stockton. He used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to capture the orange bee against the purple blossoms.

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Carolyn Silva in Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph tulips in a neighbor’s yard.

Carolyn Silva of Jackson photographed some striped tulips in a neighbors yard with her Nikon D7500 DSLR camera. I liked how she used the stripes in a grouping of overlapping flowers similarly to a herd of zebras use their own camouflage to confuse their predators. But instead of causing confusion, the stripes become a unifying theme for her photo.

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Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera to photograph a white fairy lantern wildflower along Electra Road in Jackson.

Most people chose flowers of bright colors but Dave Skinner of Stockton to a different route with his photo. Near Jackson, along Electra Road, which is experiencing a mini super bloom, he found a white globe lily (also called a white fairy lantern), With his Nikon D7000 DLSr camera equipped with a macro lens he photographed a hanging blossom in a golden spiral composition to capture the flower’s subtle beauty.

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Juana Solozano of Stockton used an Apple iPhone to photograph Jesus and Nani Magaña of Stockton in a field of wild mustard on Finkbohner Road in Stockton.

Juana Solorzano of Stockton took pictures of Nani and Jesus Magaña ahead of an upcoming wedding. She placed them in a field of wild mustard on Finkbohner Road in rural Stockton. Nani’s yellow dress matches the color of the mustard and a coy kiss behind Jesus’ hat completes the playfulness of the picture.

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All of the photos can bee seen in an online gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on April 20.

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Pressed for time

(11/11/17) Pacific’s Ashlyn Fleming prepares to spike the ball against St. Mary’s Alex O’Sullivan during a women’s volleyball match at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 12,800)

I remember many years ago after covering UOP volleyball for several years,

I had a night off so I took my wife to see the Tigers play. It was my first time watching a match without having to cover it. We were having a fine time following the action up until somewhere near the end of the second game. I began feeling a bit antsy. I could tell my pulse rate was up a bit and maybe even my blood pressure too. By the end of game 2, I had the urge to get up and leave. I wasn’t sure what was going on until it hit me: I had never stayed beyond 2 games before. I always had to leave to make deadline for the next day’s paper. It had become so ingrained in me that I developed sort of an internal clock that let me know when it was time to leave.

(10/09/14) University of the Pacific’s Katrin Gotterba makes a diving save during a women’s volleyball match against BYU at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D3s. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 4000)

Working photographers know that deadlines are very important, especially so in newspapers. If I’m late with my photos, that pushes back editors’ decisions on what runs in the paper, which makes it late for the people doing the layout, which pushes back the people delivering the paper on your doorstep.

(9/16/17) Pacific’s Kaitlyn Lines cheers winning a point during a volleyball match against Cal at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. Camera: Nikon D%. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 12,800)

Most people will see me take a picture that think that’s the extent of my job but there’s more. I have to download the images to my computer and pick out my best ones which go to an editor to cull down further. I have to crop, then tone the photos for contrast, color, lightness and darkness. Lastly, I have to provide caption information for each one. If it’s a sporting event, I have to match the number on the player’s jersey with their name.

(5/24/06) Graduate Alexandra Shaull has a formal portrait taken before the start of graduation ceremonies for Lindbergh Adult School at Calvary Community Church in Manteca. (Camera: Nikon D2H. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 80mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

Photographers doing other kind of work also have deadlines. A photographer shooting senior portraits has to provide proofs to their client for them to pick the shots they want then make prints in time for them to send out in graduation announcements.

(9/8/12) Newlyweds Kelly and Anders Ornberg have their picture take by wedding photographer Jerrad Miller at Crescent Lake, Oregon. (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 190mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Wedding photographers shoot hundreds if not thousands of photos in a single night. All those have to be edited down so that their best work is presented to the client who then picks from those, all in a timely manner.

(1/12/07) Delta College nursing student Kris Johnson sits for a portrait by Stockton photographer Wayne Denning on the college’s quad for a picture for her graduation for the college’s nursing program. (Camera: Nikon D1H, Lens: Nikon 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

If you’re looking to make photography your profession then you’ll have to learn to work within the time that your clients have form you to shoot and deliver their photos within a deadline.

(11/21/06) 3-year-old Garbiel Valeros, wearing an angel costume, has his portrait taken by photographer Cameo Rose of the Stockton-based Fritz Chin Photography at American Legion Park in Stockton. Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

You might think that deadlines can put the kibosh on creativity, not so. Knowing that you only have, say, and hour to shoot and event can get you concentrate on what’s important and ignore the superfluous minutiae (though you also have to keep you mind open to those details that might actually be important). Once you get used to working within time constraints you’ll get used to it and meeting deadlines will become second nature to you.

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Curse me for a novice

“Curse me for a novice” was, as any comic book geek like me would know, something that Dr. Strange would say in the comics. He would utter it when he made an easy mistake or forgot something simple in casting his magic spells, which was surprisingly quite often for someone billed as the Sorcerer Supreme. But it proves a point that even the best of us, no matter how skilled, can mess up at times. Even after 35 years as a working photographer, I had my own curse-me-for-a-novice moment recently.

On Sunday, March 31, my 21-year-old son Christopher and I took a trip up to Daffodil Hill near the Mother Lode town of Volcano for the attraction’s opening weekend. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and pleasant temperatures. Thousands upon thousands of the white or yellow blossoms dotted the 36-acre ranch. I took my camera out of my bag and realized that I had broken the 9th unofficial rule of photography: always have batteries. 

Technically, my camera had a battery, it was just dead. for I had forgotten to make sure that it was charged up before leaving the house. I had a second battery but it was sitting on a charger at home, about an hour and half away. 

There’s a trick that you can do if your battery goes dead while shooting and you don’t have a spare. Turn the camera off, take the battery out, then re-insert it. Sometimes there’s enough of a reserve charge to fire of a frame or two. I tried it, but the battery was so depleted that it didn’t work. So my camera became an expensive, 3-lb paperweight having on my shoulder.

Fortunately my son had is camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T6, and graciously let me use it. I worked as quickly as I could because I knew that he wanted to take pictures too, The Rebel is an excellent beginners camera but I’m used to a pro level machine, so I had to adjust to it. 

The Rebel is small, again, great for novices, but since I was the one who made the novice mistake, I had to get used to how it handled. It felt too small for my hands. My pinky finger hung off of it’s grip with nothing to hold onto. It’s smallness also translates to it’s weight. It weighs about 1-lb, lighter than the lenses I was using, which made it front-heavy. 

Canon must believe that most users of the Rebel will be using an automatic setting because changing exposure settings manually on it took more steps than on my camera. I had going the camera’s menu then press a button then turn a dial to change the aperture and then again for the shutter speeds, taking the camera from my eye each time. With my professional camera I had to do is to turn a dial for each never having look away from the viewfinder if I didn’t want to.

I got my photos and returned the camera to my son who was off taking pictures with his phone while I was shooting. That gave me the idea of taking some with my own phone. 

The curse of being a novice can also be a blessing, because if you want to improve your photos you should slow your process down and think more. Shooting with my son’s camera and then with my phone, made me slow down and consider my pictures carefully. I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would have but the ones I did take were all the better for it.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Coming into bloom

The coming of spring brings with it the blossoming of flowers which is the latest subject of the Readers Photo Challenge. Remember, this is a photography challenge, not just a one about flowers. Just because a flower is pretty, it doesn’t mean that it will automatically make a good picture. How you approach your subject will make the difference between a mediocre picture and a great one.

Wild radishes and wild mustard, which are often seen growing in wide swathes in open fields, tend to grow year-round. The mustard are bright yellow while the radishes are multi-colored in yellow, white and lilac. It’s a little early for many wildflowers but are likely to bloom within a few weeks.

The Mother Lode is a great place to find flowers. Poppies are just starting to spring up around near Jackson and Daffodil Hill near Volcano opened up this past weekend.

Wildflowers can be found in the Valley as well. The aforementioned wild radishes and mustard can be see just about anywhere there’s an open field. Other flowers such as fiddleneck, winter vetch and goldfields maybe a little harder to find at this time of year but should soon be blooming in noticeable numbers. There are a few places that are relatively close such as the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton that flowers can be found. You can also use take drive one of the county’s many rural roads to find them as well.

You needn’t confine yourself to wildflowers. Garden-grown or even store bought flowers are acceptable as well. Whichever you pick, always look for good light in which to photograph them in. With outdoors flowers, early morning or late afternoon light, with it’s warm tone and low angle, is the best. Try to avoid the mid-afternoon sun which tends to wash out the colors. With indoor blossoms look for some nice, soft window light.

For close-ups a macro lens is the best choice. Close-up filters which fit over the front of your camera’s lens is a cheaper alternative but usually at the cost of sharpness. The best way to use either one is to turn the autofocus off and move the camera (an/or yourself) in and out to focus. Other lenses can be effective as well. A telephoto can bring in things at a distance, a wide-angle can take in an overall scene. With a wide lens try focusing at it’s closest at, say, a field of flowers. Then you can get both close and wide in a single shot.

Flowers needn’t be the main focus of your photo. You can use them as a backdrop or prop in a portrait or wildlife photo. Speaking of wildlife. Look for insects or animals that can be an accent to your photo as they crawl on or amongst the flowers.

Whatever way you approach the subject, with whatever equipment you choose and wherever you find your flowers, make sure to take your time and think your photo out to let your talent blossom.

How to enter:


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

2. Photos have to be shot between April 2 and April 16.
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, 15, walks near a patch of flowers at Daffodil Hill near the Mother Lode town of Volcano).

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

7. The deadline for submission is April 16. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, April 23 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: On cloud nine

The subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment “clouds” was a a popular one. Not only were there a large number of entrants but half were from people who hadn’t entered before.

Fortunately, there were many days that were cloudy within the shooting timeframe. Some sent in white clouds, others setting grey clouds and still others sent in orange clouds. One person shot a scene with fog, which is essentially Fog on the ground.

Anyway they saw they clouds, the readers kept their heads in the clouds, which for this challenge, was a good thing.
Forty readers sent in a whopping 185 photos. Here are some of the top picks.

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Matthew Baker of Stockton photographed his clouds from the Weight Mile Road railroad overpass in Stockton. He used a wide angle lens mounted on a Nikon D7500 DSLR to great effect in capturing several compositional elements in his photo. First, the overpass’s railing and walls recede off to a vanishing point in the distance. Secondly the sun creates a starburst as it peeks through an opening in the railing. The sun also casts an interesting pattern of shadows on the ground as it shines through the decorative railing. Lastly, the clouds that fill a blue sky to complete the photo.

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Teresa Mahnken of Morada photographed clouds over at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton. The grounds of the temple are filled with giant statues depicting various stages of the Buddha’s life. Mahnken used a Samsung Galaxy 8 Samsung smartphone to photograph a smiling golden Buddha as white clouds billow against a blue sky behind it.

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One often things that to photograph a cloudy sky one has to get an overall, wide angle shot. But sometimes just getting a portion of the sky can be more effective. Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph a pair of palm trees in her yard against a backdrop of clouds. By using a telephoto lens she captured the trees with just a small part of the sky but came up with a more dramatic photo.

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Dave Skinner of Stockton found a sky full of less defined clouds but nonetheless impressive. Catching a sunrise at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton with his Nikon D7100 DSLR camera, he photographed the clouds which were colored with the warm tones of the morning sun as a flock of geese flew by.

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Most people look skyward to find their clouds but Joseph Hey of Stockton found his picture in different direction. Using a Samsung Galaxy 7 smartphone Hey looked to the ground to find clouds reflected a puddle at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton.

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Marcia Thompson of Murphys captured the clouds during sunset over Pennsylvania Gulch bear where she works in Murphys. Thompson not only got the warm light of the sunset turning the clouds a nice golden color, but she also got a wolf-shaped weather vane of a nearby building baying at the sky.

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Desiree Forsberg-Bogaard of Stockton, who is a teacher at Kohl Open School, managed to photographer her cloud photo on campus in Stockton. Between rain storms and classes, she used an Apple iPhone 6 plus to photograph the sun breaking through the clouds, it’s slight skimming off of the rain-soaked concrete of the school’s quad.

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Mike Ratekin of French Camp used an Apple Phone 7 Plus to photograph a tractor in a field near his home against sunset colored clouds. The pink clouds overhead compliment the red color of at the tractor in the foreground, visually connecting sky and ground in the photo.

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Michael Twitty of Lodi sedan Apple iPhone 6 to photograph clouds over the Japanese tea garden at Micke Grove Park in Lodi. He effectively used the trees in the foreground to frame the clouds.

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Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph the clouds at sunset near her home. She silhouetted a bare oak tree in the foreground against a band of clouds illuminated by the setting sun.

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All of the entries can be seen in a gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on April 2.

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