Readers Photo Challenge: Oh, what a day!

The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment is called “A Day in the Life Of.” For this challenge participants could pick any subject then wanted but with one caveat: The photos had to be shot on a specific day: Saturday, October 6. Some people got up early, a few others stayed up late and a couple shot through the day.

I expected most of the photos to be of Stockton and San Joaquin County, which the bulk of them were, but there a few were from out of state and there were even some from Mexico, which gave a bit of an international flavor to the assignment.

Twenty-one readers sent in 159 photos. Here a some of the top examples.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada got up early for her “day in the life of” photo. She used a Nikon D7200 DSLR camera to photograph the start of the Second Annual Morada Fire K Fun Run at Davis Elementary School at about 8:45 a.m. in Morada. One gets a sense of enthusiasm of the participants. The low angle of the sun creates nice light and long shadows.


Anthony Mignone of Stockton took his photo at about midday. He used a Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR camera to photograph his 6-year-old son Landon as he played on the playground equipment at Victory Park in Stockton. Mignone captures the playful energy of children at play.


In the afternoon Lillian McDonell of Stockton took a trip with her husband Dave and son Scott for a car show. At about 2:30 p.m. she used an Apple iPhone 6s to photograph them reflected in the reflection of a shiny hubcap while they were checking out the other cars the show.


Anne McCaughey of Stockton spent the late afternoon at a porch party at the home of Mikal Hoover in Stockton. Light streaming in through some blinds on the porch lights up a puff of smoke as Hoover smokes a pipe during the event.

McCaughey also got another shot from the party she was at. The late afternoon light hit an empty glass cup on a table and the cup’s cut design refracted the light and created a design of light onto the table.


Joseph Hey of Stockton took his photo during sunset at Lake Tahoe. At about 6:30 p.m., he used his Samsung G7 smartphone to captured giant clouds being painted with warm light as they hovered over the lake.

Hey got another shot later in the night of a tree next to a 2-story building. A security light from the building shone on the tree, lighting up its bare branches. Set against the dark of the night with some of the branches disappearing into the void, the scene is creepy ready for Halloween.


Carrie Walker has organized a photo walk in different locations over the past few years. This time the walk, set in downtown Stockton, coincided with the “day in the life of” challenge. Walker used a Nikon Coolpix P100 EFV point-and-shoot camera to photograph walk participant Ed Lindquist of Galt near St. Mary’s Church in downtown Stockton.

Carrie Walker also photographed the historic California Building in downtown Stockton. Shooting with an Apple iPad, she got close to the base of the building and shot upwards. The extreme angle added to the 134-ft height off the building creates an interesting distortion and a 3-point perspective.


Steven Rapaport of Stockton was on a trip to Washington D.C. on Oct. 6. And took an early photo walk around the city and sent in several photos. With his Canon EOS 5D mk IV DSLR camera he caught the Capital Rowing Club navigating the muddy waters of Anacostia River as they passed under the John Phillips Sousa Bridge.

Later in the day Rapaport shot artist Robert Jackson creating a painting on wood at the Eastern Market street fair in Washington, D.C. I was a classic example of an environmental portrait of an artisan at his craft.


Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph Carla Halford of Jackson, CA. working on her butterfly stroke during her Saturday morning swimming class at New York Fitness in Jackson.

Later Silva photographed Jeremy Monson of Elk Grove, left, Chris Garbarini of Ione, Donna Jackson of Lathrop, Yolanda Bennett of Ione and Lizzie Garbarini of Ione dressed in a Halloween costumes looking like a cross between the casts of Sweeney Todd and the Walking Dead at the Ione Business & Community Association Harvest Faire in Ione.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton, a frequent contributor to the challenge, is now attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. She used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph a single leaf sitting on a stump at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife refuge near Stevensville, Montana. The leaf’s bright yellow color stands out against the neutral grey of the wood.


Tameka Hopkins of Stockton used a Nikon D4300 DSLR camera to capture the joy on her 23-year-old daughter Imani’s face as she went for a “swim” in the marshmallow pit at Candytopia in San Francisco.


Joan Erreca of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 7 Plus to catch a quiet moment of her 2-year-old granddaughter Marian Erreca at the Letson Farms Community Playground in Bessemer, Alabama.


Erv Rifenburg of Lodi used a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera to photograph his 4-year-old grandson Luke Rifenburg and his yellow lab Penny at his ranchette near Lockeford.


It’s easy to concentrate on the big things like sunsets and tall buildings for your photo subjects but Dave Skinner of Stockton didn’t forget about the little things. Skinner used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera to photograph a variegated meadowhawk dragonfly perched on a dried tule reed at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton.


Holly Stone of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 7 to photograph her 3-year-old grandson Jeff Stone having fun on a ride at the Manteca Pumpkin Fair.


Linda Wells-Hott of Stockton used a Canon PowerShot S5 IS EVF digital point-and-shoot camera to photograph Belinda Doleman of Oxnard, who went with Wells-Hott on vacation, enjoying one of the many pools at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun. The photos shows Doleman smiling and obviously having a great time while relaxing in the pool.


Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph some curbside weeds near her home. The weeds, long since dead, are dried and withered. Their light tone stands out against the darkness of the curb’s shadow.


All of the photos are in an online gallery at Stay tuned for a new assignment on Oct. 23.

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Weather or not

Photojournalists are used to working in all kinds weather conditions and, from heat waves to rainstorms and we’re usually prepared for them. But there are sometimes that we can be caught off guard.

Last Wednesday, I was assigned to cover the Stockton Pro Open tennis tournament at the University of the Pacific’s Eve Zimmerman Tennis Complex. I shot top-seeded Madison Brengle who played Norway’s Ulrikke Eikeri in a women’s singles match. The match after that featured Mari Osaka, sister of U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, against Maria Sanchez.

It was a beautiful day with the noontime sun shining through just a few high clouds overhead. I don’t know what the temperature was but it felt like it was about the mid-80s. There was a forecast of a possibility of showers but for much later in the day. I was dressed in my usual attire a button-down shirt and slacks, plus I had a wide-brimmed hat with a mesh top to me keep cool from the sun.

Brengle won the first set relatively easily, 6-4. I hadn’t noticed too much, but more clouds had moved in, though it was still warm and mostly sunny. Occasionally a cloud would block the sun for a few minutes and give some relief from the heat, but it would move on and things would heat up again.

In the second set Eikeri fought back and made things interesting. Even more clouds filled the sky and Brengle, who started the match wearing dark glasses, took them off near the end. While Brengle still won, Eikeri made it a very close 7-5, playing hard up until the very last point.

The officials took a very short break between matches then Osaka and Sanchez began to warm. It was then I looked up and saw that the clouds had become darker. Although it’s now he start of fall, we were still having summer-like weather and I thought any rain that might happen will hold off until the end, and at most it would be a light summer sprinkling.

Osaka started the match facing my position in the bleacher area at the end of the court. She won the close first game then she and Sanchez switched sides. It was then I felt a raindrop land on my wrist. A single drop does not a storm make, I thought. Sanchez hit two serves and I felt several more drops fall on me. She was about to hit a third serve when the umpire, who was seated in his high chair with his back to the approaching clouds, stopped play. I looked at the other courts and the officials did the same to their matches.

Now I’ve covered baseball games where they’ve played in rain much heavier than this so I thought these umpires were exercising an undue overabundance of caution. Boy, was I wrong. As the players and officials exited from courts the rain quickly increased, though it still could be called a light sprinkle. I thought about staying in my spot but then I changed my mind and moved to one of several pop-up tents set up for shade for the spectators.

With every step the rain became slightly heavier. I got to a tent along the concourse near the clubhouse. There were about a half dozen other people with me. Then the weather went from a sprinkle to a steady rain. The other tents, along the concourse and the area between courts sheltered spectators, coaches and players alike.

Then the wind began to pick up and the rain increased exponentially. It was as if turned up the volume on the radio from about a 7 or 8 to an 11. The wind began to force the rain sideways. One of the tents blew over onto the courts, sending the people under it scurrying for cover. I looked at the next tent over and most of those people were holding onto it’s metal frame to try and keep it from taking off too. I then that looked around the tent that I was under and only one young man was holding onto it. I reached up to help him out.

As the wind increased and the rains became more horizontal, the tents gave less protection. One by one people made the decision to make a break for it and run to the clubhouse. After a few minutes I looked around again and saw that there only three of us left: the young man, a line judge and myself.

The three of us endured the buffeting until I saw a flash of light in the sky. It was then I decided to abandon ship. I turned to my tent mates and said “sorry fellas, but I’m going to bail.” By the time I stepped out from under the tent the low rumble of thunder reverberated over the courts.

Fortunately, as I ran the wind was to my back so I didn’t have a face full of rain. The clubhouse was about 10 to 15 yards away. By the time I got there my back, from my ankles to my head, were soaked.

In the snack bar area of the clubhouse it was standing room only. People peered out of the garage door-sized opening to see if the storm was abating. Thunder roared several more times and then we could see the dark clouds move off to the northeast of us leaving the light summer shower that I was expecting from the start. About 1/2-inch to 1-inch of standing water covered the courts. Many of the sun umbrellas on the umpires chairs were turned inside-out. Some score keeper placards were in disarray. The remaining matches were postponed until the next day.

There’s unwritten rule about weather photos that states that to get a good weather shot you have to get out into it. Well, I hope mine were good because I was certainly in it, though I wouldn’t want to repeat it anytime soon.

Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or Follow him at

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Outtakes: Remembering September

“September: It was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows and regret.” – Alexander Theroux

September is over and with it the last of summer. Here are 10 of my favorite photos from the month.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: A day in the life

In the 1980s, photojournalist Rick Smolan created a unique and ambitious project: photograph an entire country in a single day. Thus the Day In The Life Of Australia was born. Smolan got cadre of elite photographers to scour the “Land Down Under” for a 24-hour period. Smolan subsequently went on to produce several other Day In The Life Of (DITLO) projects including, Japan, Canada, the U.S. and more.

The latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is inspired by those DITLO projects. The subjects and places to shoot are up to you to pick, but instead of the usual 2-week period, you’ll get only 1 day to do it in. That day will be this Saturday, October 6. I picked it because it’s a weekend day, so most people will likely be off of work.

While I said that the subjects are for you to decide, there are a few things that I’m looking for. First: People. I know that photographing people can be hard for some of you, but having a person in your photo, whether candid or posed, can give some context to your shot.

For the best light try to concentrate your time around sunrise or sunset to get that golden glow to your pictures. This isn’t to say that if there’s something going on midday that you should avoid it, but beginning and the end of daylight hours will give you the best light.

Finally, with the time period being from midnight to midnight on October 6, I’m looking for at least a few of you to take some night shots.


If you’re looking for event oriented photos, there will be several on October 6.

For the 6th year Carrie Walker, a frequent contributor to the challenge, will be holding a photo walk in downtown Stockton. You can meet her at the RTD Transit Center at 421 E. Weber Avenue at 9:00 a.m. The Dell’ Osso Farms’ Pumpkin Farm will be up and running in Lathrop. The Port City Roller Girls roller derby team will hold it’s last bout and the Stockton Heat’s Opening Day will both be on that day.

Once again, the place and subject are your choice. And whether you used a DSLR, point-and-shoot cameras or a smart-phone, it doesn’t matter what device you use to shoot it with. What I’m looking is a photo from a day in your life and, hopefully, we can get enough of them to represent a day in all our lives (Note: The deadline is Tuesday, October 9, only three days after the event. I know the time is shorter than normal, but I know you’ll be up to the challenge).

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed as a jpeg attachment to Type in “Day” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot on Saturday, October 6, from midnight to midnight.

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 (ie: “John Doe, Stockton. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. 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.

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

7. The deadline for submission is Tuesday, October 9 . The top examples will be published on Tuesday, October 16 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: As smooth as glass

This months assignment was “glass.” Even in this is the age of plastics, glass is still used widely. Items made of glass can be functional or decorative. They can range from windows to ornamental snow globes and beyond.

Here are some of the best examples of the 45 photos that 15 readers sent in.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used simple lighting to illuminate glass chess pieces at her home. Shooting with a Nikon Nikon D7200 DSLR camera, she set up the pieces on a table and lit them with a single lamp set behind and off to the side. The dark background helps to make the clear and frosted pieces stand out.


Paul Yang of Stockton took a different approach to lighting his glass items. He sent up a tableau of a vase, a glass aquarium and some bottles at his home. Yang then used a computer desk lamp, a portable mechanic’s lamp, and a few old cell phone flashlights along with an LED light strip. The lights were placed above and below as well as to each side. All this helped everything to pop out against the black background. Yang photograph the scene with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II DSLR camera.


Susan Scott of Stockton put a star-shaped candy dish outside in her backyard. She filled it about halfway with water and let sunshine light it. She photographed it with a Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera and captured the light refracting through the water and glass, creating interesting patterns in the dish’s shadow.


Stephen Hey of Stockton went to work at his business Pro-Tech Smog on El Dorado Street in Stockton when he noticed a hole in the window of a neighboring vacant business which he photographed with his Samsung G7 smartphone. The incongruity of the broken glass not only makes it stand out against the uniformity of the remaining glass and other windows, but also makes one wonder about its context. Was it made by a rock, pellet or bullet? Was it done intentionally or was it an accident? Hey converted the image to black and white which also lends an air of mystery to the photo as well.


Carrie Walker of Stockton also found beauty in the damaged and discarded. While out for a walk in her neighborhood she caught a glimpse of a small glass shard on the ground. With and Apple iPad she photograph the piece of clear broken glass which looked diamond-like as it stood out against the darker asphalt of the street.


Donn Sperry of Stockton used a Sony Alpha NEX-7 mirrorless digital camera to photograph the sunset reflecting off the windows of his home. Each pane of the 3 windows captured a slightly different aspect of the sunset.


Steven Rapaport of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 8 Plus to photograph artist Tony Ramirez working on making a stained glass window at his Ram Studios in Stockton. Rapaport’s photo is what’s known as an environmental portrait and not only captures Ramirez, but some of his works and his surrounding workspace as well.


All of the photos can be seen in an online gallery at A new challenge assignment will be issued on October 2.

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August Outtakes: Just in time

My how time flies, I nearly forgot the August outtakes, too. Here are 10 of my favorite photos from the 8th month of 2018.

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July outtakes: Oops, I did it again, again

Once again I got busy and I missed posting a monthly outtakes photos, this time for July, and I’m late for August as well. Without further adieu here are 10 of my favorite photos from July.

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Safety first

On September 10, an 18-year-old Israeli tourist fell to his death while taking a selfie at Yosemite National Park. He was at the top of Nevada Falls when he tried to take a picture of himself, lost his balance and plunged 820-ft to the bottom.

A 2015 report found that selfies now lead to more deaths than shark attacks. Part of the problem is that when someone is taking a selfie, quite often they’re looking up while holding your phone high above themselves in order to get in the background or for a more flattering angle. It’s a posture that can cause one to lose their balance. Another complication can be that people are concentrating on taking the picture of themselves that they aren’t paying attention to things like their footing or their surroundings.

While photography isn’t necessarily a hazardous endeavor, there can be other dangers when taking photos other than selfies.

My wife is the self-appointed “safety officer” of our family. When our kids were younger she made sure that they avoided dangerous places of situations. They were lessons that they learned well.

On a recent trip to San Francisco with my now adult son and daughter, we visited the Sutro Baths ruins along the coast. My son and I explored a dark tunnel bored into the seaside bluffs. At the south end a metal barricade allowed access to the tunnel but blocked people from venturing to some precarious rocks just outside. The fencing at the north end let people to see out onto the ocean but kept people from going all the way through the tunnel. I thought about skirting around each obstacle, which I could have easily done, but my son assumed the role of safety officer and convinced me from doing so.

Photographers are always looking for a different angle or new vantage point to take their pictures and sometimes they can get into dangerous situations. Sometimes they don’t realize the extent of the danger or even willing to ignore or circumvent the warnings.

In 2012, 52-year-old instructor at St. Francis High Kathy Carlisle was photographing a moving train from an adjacent track when she was struck and killed from behind by another train headed in the opposite direction in Sacramento.

More recently in August, 63-year-old Jiyoun Park of Lodi, died after he fell from a parking structure in downtown Lodi while taking pictures. Apparently Park was leaning over the edge when fell about 40-feet to the street.

In both these cases being aware of and alert to one’s surroundings could have prevented these tragedies.

It’s never recommended to take pictures while on railroad tracks. The dangers are numerous. Trains are big, lumbering machines and can’t swerve out the way, nor can they stop on a dime. Photography often takes our full attention and one’s can be concentrating so much on taking the picture one can lose track on what’s going on around them. It’s likely Carlisle didn’t hear the second train due to noise from the first one. If you want to take photos of a train do it well away from the tracks. Try shooting at a crossing where there are warning bells lights and crossing arms that can alert you to an approaching train.

As people age they can lose some physical abilities and you may not be able to do something that you did when you were younger. On my trip to San Francisco, near Fort Point I scrambled down some rocks to take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. On my way back up, I realized that I wasn’t as spry and agile as I used to be and had to carefully climb out with focus and thoughtfulness in my actions. I don’t know if something similar happened to Jiyoun Park in Lodi but it could have been a factor.

I always advocate a going out to take pictures with what I call a “photo buddy.” They can be fellow photographers or someone who’s there just to keep you company. It’s fun to go with a friend or group of friends on photo walks. More importantly, they can look out for you and you them.

The phrase “safety in numbers” is true with photography. Your photo buddies can alert you to unsavory characters and help to keep them at bay. They can advise you on the safety or hazardousness of a location or situation. Finally, if you do get in trouble, they can give aid or call for help.

Whether you go with a group or alone, when taking pictures it’s always good to have a situational awareness and to be able assess the risks to minimize any danger that might potentially occur.

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Practice makes perfect

One of the main goals of the monthly Readers Photo Challenge is to have you go out and actually take some pictures. Occasionally, someone will come up to me an say that they like the tips that are given in this column but they can’t take good pictures. To that I say “practice, practice, practice.”

Photography is a practical art and there’s only so much you get out of reading a book or taking an online class about it. You need hands on experience for things to sink in.

Some people think they’re photos aren’t improving so they give up. I think part of the problem that many people think that they should be perfect right from the start, that they shouldn’t make mistakes. But often, we learn when we make those mistakes. It could be that people are afraid of looking foolish or ignorant. But to really learn something, especially when you’re first starting out, there are no dumb questions, as they say. As Mz. Frizzle from the children’s program The Magic School Bus would say “ Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Another part of the problem is that change comes incrementally. Often we don’t notice our improvement because it happens so slowly.

My wife is currently taking piano lessons once a week. She then does some additional practice on her own during the rest of the week. She, like everyone else, has a busy life with work and other obligations, so she isn’t always able to practice as much as she likes and her progress has been slow. However, progress has been made. Now, as I hear her practice from the other room, she is much better than when she started. But she thinks her skills have been stagnant, and even though she’s not at concert pianist-level yet, I can tell that she’s better than before.

I realize that everyone has busy lives and that you can’t go out to take pictures everyday, but don’t be discouraged. If you keep at it progress will come, perhaps slowly, but It will come.

The great photographer Henri Catier-Bresson once said that “your first 10,000 pictures are your worst.” You’re going to take a lot of bad pictures before they start getting good. It’s just a part of the learning process.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Glass

Glass is the subject of the next Readers Photo Challenge assignment.

Glass objects are notoriously difficult to photograph. Take time in looking at the subject carefully before taking a picture of it. Unwanted reflections, including your own, can be a problem. Take steps to remove those reflections. If it’s a light, turn it off. Sometimes turning the object or moving your vantage point, even just a little, can cause the reflection to go away.

Lighting glass can also be tricky. You can purchase or even build for yourself what’s called a “light tent” to help. I’ve made my own out of PVC pipe. It can be a box-like frame in which you drape a relatively thin white cloth or paper around. Set your glass object inside it and place lights or flashes outside the fabric. The light passes through, bounces around inside the box and gives a nice even light with minimal reflections.

While unwanted reflections are undesirable, you can sometimes use a reflection to your advantage. Mirrors or even dark glass can be used as a compositional element in your photos by having your subject reflected in them.

You can also approach the assignment like a still life. Glass figurines are acceptable subjects as well as stained glass. You can shoot close ups of glass baubles or jewelry, too. A glass cup or goblet with wine or other drink are also good objects.

There are all sorts of things you can shoot that contain glass in them. Windows, buildings with glass exteriors, cups, even portraits, but remember, the glass should be the subject of your picture and not necessarily what you can see through it. Just take your time and really look at what you’re taking pictures of and things should go as smooth as glass.

How to enter:

1. Email your entries to Type in “Glass” in the subject line

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

3. Entries are limited to no more than 12 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your first and last name, where you live, the kind of camera /lens you used and where the photo was taken (e.g.: “Photographer: John Doe of Stockton. Location: Victory Park in Stockton. Camera: Canon Rebel T3i w/55-300mm lens”).

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they’re doing in the picture (e.g: “Janie Doe of Stockton, 15, takes a sip from a water glass at her home in Stockton).

6. Please feel free to add any anecdotes or stories about how and why you took the photo.

7. The deadline for submission is Tuesday, September 18. A photo gallery of all the pictures submitted will be run on September 25 at

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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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