Letting go


Clifford Oto takes a picture at the Help-Portrait event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200. Photo by Claire Oto).


Marisol Manzo with daughter Mylee Tillery, 3, at the Family Shelter (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/11 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100. Photo by Clifford Oto).

There’s an old Buddhist joke that goes: “Why can’t Buddha vacuum under the couch? Because he has no attachments.” In Buddhism, an attachment is less about having a relationship with something or someone and more about having greed, desire or ego.


Randy Allen takes a portrait at the Help-Portrait event (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 400. Photo by Craig Sanders).

16-year-old Tiphany Holman at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 80mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 100. Photo by Jennifer Marie Matthews-Howell).

At the Help-Portrait event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless, there were six photographers, but only three laptop computers to download our digital images to. On top of that, the less experienced of the shooters were unfamiliar with the software we used to browse and edit the pictures.


Jennifer Belmares-Abrams and her children Maricella Valivia, 4, and Christian Abrams at the Family Shelter (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 40mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/11 w/Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 250. Photo by Clifford Oto).

Jennifer Belmares-Abrams and her daugther Maricella Valivia, 4, works with Clifford Oto to edit their pictures (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200. Photo by Claire Oto).

Clifford Oto helps Karen Kline, center, and her niece Ariel Rosso, edit pictures (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200. Photo by Claire Oto).

That’s one of the reasons Record photo editor Craig Sanders was out of the shooting loop, he was helping with the editing process. But he had to leave for work about midday, taking his computer with him, further exacerbating the backlog in workflow. I took over a lot of what Craig had been doing, downloading editing and working with the subjects to pick the best pictures. I wanted to get back to shooting. I felt that I wasn’t doing my share to help. Every time it seemed that I’d have a chance to get up and start taking pictures, someone was handing me another memory card to download.


Clifford Oto helps Marisol Manzo with daughter Mylee Tillery, 3, edit their pictures (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3 w/ flash. ISO: 250. Photo by Craig Sanders).


Jesse Brooks at the Family Shelter (Camera: Nikon D90. Lens: Nikkor 18-105mm @ 105mm. Exposure: 1/200th sec. @ f/14 w/ flash. ISO: 250. Photo by Ariel Rosso)

I was starting feel a bit resentful, when I glanced at my computer screen and saw an image of a smiling face looking back at me. It was, from the lighting to the subject’s expression, a wonderful picture. I looked up around the room and saw that pictures were being taken, and being done well.


Karen Kline, left, shoots a portrait while Tim Ulmer looks on during the Help-Portrait session at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/3.5. ISO: 200. Photo by Claire Oto).


Ava Decker looks at her portrait (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/3.5. ISO: 400. Photo by Craig Sanders).

I realized that all the people were having their portraits done and were in the best of hands. They were feeling good about themselves and having fun, the whole goal of the event. It was then I knew I had to let it go. Of the 128 portraits taken that day, I shot only seven, but it didn’t matter who took the pictures, just that it was being done.

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