Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Sky high

The sky’s the limit for the newest Readers Photo Challenge because the subject for the assignment is literally the sky.

This time of year is the perfect time to get photos of the sky. One can almost call it the “sky season.” With the ending of daylight savings time and the turning of our clocks back an hour on November 5, the sun goes down at around 5:00 p.m. That means you can get a nice sunset shot without staying up too late. If you’re an early riser then you still can get a sunrise as well. It takes a little bit of experience to know when a sunset/sunrise will be at its peak. If you stop shooting too soon and pack up and leave you may miss the peak. Start too late you may miss it altogether. It’s best to pick out a place to photograph from a little before the start of a sunset then shoot until it’s dark.

Another reason that fall is a great season for the sky is the weather. Gone are the featureless blue skies of summer. Storms and the clouds that come with them are more common place. Clouds, whether puffy cumulus or high wispy cirrus ones, can add some visual interest to the sky and your pictures.

The sky in and of itself can be the subject or it can make for a perfect background for other types of photos.

A bright blue sky can add color to a landscape or portrait. Clouds can add visual and/or compositional elements to your photos.

Birds are denizens of the sky and the sky makes for a natural background for them whether they’re in flight or at rest on a fence, power line or tree branch.

Don’t forget shooting at night. A rising moon or starry night are great subjects for you sky photos. While the moon is bright enough to hand-hold your camera, a tripod is necessary for long time-exposures (of 30-seconds or more) needed to capture the much fainter stars.

The sky must comprise a significant portion of the picture or the reason for taking the photo. It shouldn’t be only a small portion of the frame of just an incidental to the picture.

Whether the sky is the subject itself or just the background for your photo, your assignment is the capture the beauty of the great blue yonder.

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How to Enter:

1. Email your entries to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Sky” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between November 16 and December 7.

3. Entries are limited to up to 12 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (e.g.: “John Doe of Stockton. Location: Pershing Avenue, Stockton. Camera: Canon Rebel T3 w/ 55-300mm lens”).

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos and where they are. (e.g.: Jimmy Doe, 6, of Stockton plays at Victory Park in Stockton).

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

7. The deadline for submission is Thursday, December 7. A photo gallery of all the pictures submitted will be run on December 14 at recordnet.com.

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The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

LEFT: 102-year-old WWII Marine veteran Bill White, left, and Iraq War veteran Maria Estrada post the flag at the Veterans Day observance at the Bob Hope Theater in downtown Stockton. TOP RIGHT: 94-year-old WWII and Korean War Marine veteran Ted “Gunny” Salisbury attends the Veterans Day observance at the Bob Hope Theater. UPPER MIDDLE RIGHT: Vietnam Veteran Al Baker salutes at the Veterans Day observance. LOWER MIDDLE RIGHT: Vietnam veteran Rupert Rivera attends the Veterans Day observance in downtown Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: Navy veteran Dave Lurgio, left, salutes at the Veterans Day observance at the Bob Hope Theater in downtown Stockton.

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Cloudy skies

TOP: Clouds move in fill the skies over Lodi Lake in Lodi. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies for the next few days with the possibility of rain on Monday. BOTTOM LEFT: The leaves of a vine on an arbor turn yellow against cloudy skies at Lodi Lake. BOTTOM RIGHT: Kyle Loock of Lodi and his 19-month-old son Hunter fish under of cloudy skies at Lodi Lake.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Open season

The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment is an open one, meaning the subject was up to each photographer to choose on their own. Entries ran the gamut of possibilities. Most sent in pictures of the natural world while others tried their hand at portraits, pets and even sports.

Seventy-five photos were sent in by 14 readers. Here are some of the top examples.

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Even before the Lodi Sandhill Crane Festival opened Dave Skinner of Stockton was out photographing the majestic birds. Skinner, an early bird himself, ventured out into the cool mornings to the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. Armed with his Nikon D7100 DSLR camera he captured the antics of the birds before they took off to hunt for food during the day.

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Carolyn Silva of Jackson ventured further into Sierras to capture the colors of fall. She intended to photograph in the Hope Valley area along Highway 88 but was too late. However she did manage to find some color in the Tahoe Basin. Silva used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph a grove of aspen trees along S. Upper Truckee Road in South Lake Tahoe as they turned to their golden yellow hues.

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Steven Rapaport of Stockton was out shooting the sunset from the Village West Marina in Stockton when he saw a family of otters swimming towards him. They swam under the dock he was standing on and onto the nearby shore, but not before Rapaport got a photo of the with his Canon EOS 70D DSLR.

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Mike Ratekin of French Camp took on the dual challenge of sports and low-light photography. He used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR camera to photograph Manteca varsity QB Gino Campiotti on a quarterback keeper behind a wall of blockers during a Friday night game at Weston Ranch.

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Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton visited her brother and his wife in Denver, Colorado. Their dog Bohdi was eager for attention due to a newborn baby in the house and Spurgeon was happy to oblige. Using an Apple iPhone 6 she photographed the 1-year-old Hungarian retriever ready to play fetch with a tennis ball looming in the foreground.

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Reed Fujii, a longtime Record business reporter who retired last year, sent in a photo of a hummingbird in his backyard in Woodbridge. He used an Olympus OM‑D E‑M1 mirrorless digital camera to photograph the tiny bird as it perched in a fig tree. The graceful arc of the branch lends an elegance to the photo and the surrounding featureless blue sky in the background created negative space around the bird.

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While on a bike ride Rick Wilmot of Lodi spotted the flowers of a plumbago plant growing through the slats in a neighbor’s fence in an alley behind his home. Wilmot used a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone to photograph the light blue blossoms as they stood out against the drab color of the wood.

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With her Canon Rebel DSLR Susan Scott off Lodi was able to photograph a doe while on a walk through he Nature Area of Lodi Lake in Lodi.

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Peggy Gutierri of Stockton used an Apple iPhone to photograph herself and Melanie Parker in the chromed grill of a vintage Chevrolet at the Dia De Los Muertos Fiesta in Stockton.

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All the entries can be seen in an online photo gallery at recorcdnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on November 16.

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Outtakes: Images of October

“October proved a riot a riot to the senses and climaxed those giddy last weeks before Halloween.” – Keith Donohue

October is the heart of fall and with its passing Autumn starts it’s slide into winter. Here are 10 of my favorite images from the month.

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10/1/17:


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10/6/17:


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10/7/17:


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10/8/17:


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10/16/17:


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10/25/17:

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10/27/17:

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10/30/17


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10/31/17

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Getting the most out a situation

A few weeks ago I drove out to Santa Cruz to bring my son home for a weekend visit from college. I got there about 45 minutes before he got out of his last class of the day at 5:00 p.m., so I decided to kill a little time. I drove down to the West Cliff Drive area of town. It’s a picturesque 3-mile drive along the bluffs that overlook the ocean, starting from the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and ending at Natural Bridges State Park.

I stopped about halfway to get some shots. What drew me to the spot was that I could see the spray from some waves flew high enough to be seen above the cliffs which rose some 30 to 40 feet above the water’s surface.

A walking/biking path paralleled the road along the coast and as I watched the waves, some passersby would stop for a few minutes to get a shot or two and then continue on their way. I’ve seen this happen before. People would go to a scene, take a few pictures then move on not knowing if they just spent a little more time looking around, there may be more to photograph.

I figured I had about a half hour to shoot before I had to leave to pick up my son. Even though I was time-limited I managed to take photos of several different things. 

Of course, there was the obvious shots were of the waves pounding the shore which I, along with everyone else got pictures of, but there other things to shoot if one would only take a little time and do a little visual exploration.

A trio of people moved out onto a rocky outcrop that was lower than the bluff and closer to the waves. One of the group edged even closer, and while he was well out of harm’s way, he was able to feel the spray from waves rain down upon him. A shot of him against the waves helped to give a sense of scale. 

The crashing waves exemplified the ocean’s power and majesty but the sea can also be calm a peaceful. The lull between the waves perfectly showed that serenity. A woman sat on a rock on the bluff as the sun sank in the late afternoon sky. She appeared to be in a contemplative state as quietly soaked in her surroundings. I got a shot of her silhouetted by the setting sun as a seagull flew into the tranquil scene.

Ice plants covered the hillsides up and down the bluffs. Purple blossoms bloomed every so often. I was able to get to a spot where I could get a shot of one of them with the ocean in the background.  Using a fill-flash technique where I used my flash during the daylight to fill in the shadows and balance the foreground and background exposures. It was then just a matter of waiting to time my shot to coincide with the waves buffeting the shore.

I got several different photos in a span of just a few minutes and all within five yards of each other.

Too often people will walk away from a scene without fully exploring its potential. Don’t be satisfy with what may the most obvious subject. Take a little time, look around and get the most out of a situation.

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The great last-minute pumpkin hunt

TOP:  Brittany Wait and her 4-year-old daughter Zariah look for a last minute pumpkin at the Phillips Farms pumpkin patch on Highway 12 near I-5 in Lodi.  BOTTOM LEFT: A variety of pumpkins for sale at the Phillips Farms pumpkin patch.  BOTTOM RIGHT: Three-year-old Andrew Seed, left, and his 4-year-old sister Olivia Seed pose for a picture with Raggedy Ann and Andy scarecrows at the Phillips Farms pumpkin patch on Highway 12 near I-5 in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD] 

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Girls Masters golf

TOP: St. Mary’s Vanessa Perez blasts out a sand trap during the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Masters Golf Tournament at the reserve at Spanos Parkin Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: St. Mary’s Ellon Madill hits from the 1st tee during the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Masters Golf Tournament at the reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: Lincoln’s Hadiya Kennedy hits from the 5th fairway during the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Masters Golf Tournament at the reserve at Spanos Parkin Stockton.

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Safe Trick or Treat at UOP

TOP LEFT: Ten-month-old Alondra Merritt is dressed as a pineapple at the 18th annual Safe Trick or Treat event at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. TOP CENTER-LEFT: Five-year-old Solida Pen-Meach dressed as an space alien. TOP CENTER-RIGHT: Eight-year-old Year Juarez dressed as artist Frida Kahlo. TOP RIGHT: Six-year-old, Julian Rodriguez wears a Curious George costume. MIDDLE: Rachel Stice with the UOP Residential Life and Housing, right, hands out candy to 8-year-old Rayshaun Mayo, left, and 4-year-old Annaylah Alvarez at the 18th annual Safe Trick or Treat event at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: Marciano Collazo, 4, dressed as Nintendo video game character Mario gets some help from his mother adjusting his mustache. BOTTOM CENTER: Escorted by his step-mother Nhung Van, 5-year-old Johnathan Keo dressed as video game character Pac-Man. BOTTOM RIGHT: Dressed as Tinkerbell 3-year-old Amaiya Veg-Tatum poses for a picture by her mother Anna Haley at the 18th annual Safe Trick or Treat event at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Wide open

Most of the challenge assignments are of a single subject. Sometimes its something that I think might interesting, other times it may be about some technique that I think may be worth trying out. This assignment, however, will be an open one, meaning the subject is what ever you want it to be.

Sometimes I’ll be given an assignment by my editors to do. A football game, press conference or portrait, it could be any number of things. Other times the subject is up to me to find. We call these “enterprise” assignments. It could be something that I heard about or it could be something I see while just driving around.

You can approach this assignment in a couple of ways. First, you can find a thing, activity, or even person that you find interesting to photograph. If you like hiking then bring your camera along and take pictures along the way. If sports is your thing, then send in images from a sporting event (there are lots of high school sports happening this time of year). Maybe you’ll be celebrating a birthday of a loved one – a child, grandparent or favorite uncle – it’ll be a perfect time to take a portrait.

Another approach is to try something that you’re unfamiliar with. It could be a technique that you want to perfect like stopping motion or depth of field. If you’ve never taken a night shot, this is a great opportunity to try your hand at it. If your a little shy about approaching people to take their picture, try overcoming your fears and just ask someone. The worst they can say is “no.” It may require you to out of your respective comfort zones, but you’ll learn something new in the process.

Lastly, you could just set out without a specific plan or agenda. When Looking for an enterprise photo I often just drive around town looking for a photo. It can be an effective technique but you have to be ever vigilant and open to any all photo possibilities. You have to keep and eye out for unique or picturesque compositions or lighting situations.

The key is to follow the first rule of photography: “Always have your camera.” You never know when something might happen or appear or when inspiration might hit you. If you’re without a camera, then you’re out of luck. Most of us have at least a phone camera with us so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Whatever approach you choose the subject is ultimately up to you, just be sure to keep your options open.

How to Enter:

1. Email your entries to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Open” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between October 19 and November 2.

3. Entries are limited to up to 12 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (e.g.: “John Doe of Stockton. Location: Pershing Avenue, Stockton. Camera: Canon Rebel T3 w/ 55-300mm lens”).

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos and where they are. (e.g.: Jimmy Doe of Stockton plays at Victory Park in Stockton).

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

7. The deadline for submission is Thursday, November 2. A photo gallery of all the pictures submitted will be run on November 9 at recordnet.com.

 

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