12 for ’12

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
Hal Borland

For the past few years I’ve complied my top 12 photos of the year, a favorite from each month of the year. It’s easier said than done. Each year I shoot an average of around 900 assignments (this year more than 950). From those I cull it down to 52 for my yearend photo gallery and slide show, which in and of itself was a hard, hair-pulling edit, let me tell you. Then it’s down to the final 12.

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Jan. 14, 2012:

The sun was setting quite nicely over the Port of Stockton’s turning basin that day. It made for a pleasant shot, but the 6th unofficial rule of photography states: “always have a subject.” This particular scene, while nice, didn’t have a central point of focus. Then I saw a guy rowing a small boat through the shadows of the port’s grain elevators and storage buildings. I waited and hoped that the sun would still be above the horizon when he rowed into the scene. He finally found a gap where the sunlight broke between the buildings and reflected off the water just a few minutes before the sun set.

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Feb. 6, 2012:

In the past, when shooting clouds, finding a good subject to place in the foreground would be as easy as finding a construction site. Looking for workers up high while, say, framing single family home or working on the beams of a tall building would be a quick way to find a point of focus for a cloud photo. But in these hard economic times the building trades and the jobs that go with them have been few and far between. I had an assignment at Edison High School in Stockton. When I was done and headed back to my car, students were out playing basketball for P.E. I shot from a low angle, and they made the perfect silhouettes against a cloudy sky.

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March, 23, 2012:

There’s a saying in the news biz of “man bites dog” meaning that it’s the unusual that makes things newsworthy. It was a warm pleasant day out when I saw Christine Craft playing catch with her dog Dakota at Victory Park in Stockton. It was a slow day, and I thought it might make for a nice weather picture. She tossed the ball for the dog to fetch a few times, and photo-wise, it wasn’t very exciting. I was about to give up when Craft gripped the ball in her teeth and began a game of tug-of-war-with Dakota and put a different spin on things.

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April, 14, 2012:

Everybody’s a critic. It was the Cambodian New Year at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in south Stockton. A roving band of musicians played traditional Cambodian music (with one decidedly untraditional Cambodian instrument – a banjo – among them). As they wandered through the temple grounds, they came upon a young boy who was not a music lover and covered his ears until they left.

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May 2, 2012:

The sweetness of victory is all that much sweeter when it’s against your rivals in your rival’s house. During a girl’s soccer game between the East Union Lancers and the Manteca Buffaloes at Manteca High, EU’s Isela Rivera scored a goal resulting in a celebratory group hug among her, her sister, Isabela Rivera, and teammate Meghan Wallace.

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June 19, 2012:

Sometimes the setup is better than the actual event. A carnival went up on Hammer Lane near Girardi Way in Stockton. I like how the graphic composition of the workers caught up in the bright colors and geometric lines of the beams as they worked to erect a ferris wheel.

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July 6 , 2012

Sometimes there’s nothing like the joy of being a kid. Five-year-old Jordan McMurray cooled off on a hot summer’s day by running back and forth through the dragon fountain at Pixie Woods.

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Aug. 28, 2012:

In soccer, headers are usually between two players (sometimes even just one). In a boys soccer game between Edison and Lincoln at Lincoln High, four players were involved. The composition of the photo created an arch as Edison forwards Brian Tovar and Javier Macias lept to head the ball against Lincoln defender Marqus Pena, and goalkeeper Ivan Ramirez waited in anticipation.

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Sept. 19, 2012:

Some pictures are all about the angle at which you take them. I was shooting preparations for the county fair in Stockton when I spied workers cleaning the colorful tents. From the outside, it just wasn’t working for me. The colors were dull and the backgrounds too busy. It was when I shot from underneath that things began to blossom. The backlit colors were vibrant and caused a worker to be silhouetted against the bold patterns of the tent.

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Oct. 5, 2012:

In sports, some things just look painful. In a varsity football game between Edison and Stagg at Edison’s Magnasco Stadium in Stockton, Stagg defender Daelen Surrell reached out to grab Edison’s Calvin Gray, who was outdistancing him. Surrell’s fingers latched onto Gray’s facemask, causing his head to lurch around to his right and rearward, and he went down to the ground. Seeing it all unfold in seemingly slow-motion, all I could think was “ouch!” and prayed that he wasn’t seriously hurt. The refs caught the infraction and called a 15-yard penalty. Gray quickly got back up and seemed none the worse for wear.

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Nov. 27, 2012:

In the trailer for the movie “Life of Pi” (I’ve yet to see the full movie myself), there’s a scene of a boat floating serenely on water that appears still as glass with beautiful clouds reflected in it. It was a calm day and the sun was setting over the Port of Stockton’s turning basin. Beautiful clouds caught the changing colors of the sky and were reflected in the basin’s then-still waters. A boat was anchored just off the shore and its occupant, who was below deck earlier, climbed topside and completed the scene.

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Dec. 16, 2012:

The Stockton Mini-Con celebrated comics and pop culture at the University of the Pacific for a second time in 2012. Piggybacking on the success of the larger Stockton-Con in August, the Mini-Con was also a hit. Many people dressed up in various costumes of pop heroes and villains. Among the best, or at least most eye-catching, were Eddie Hargreaves of Stockton (the Haggin Museum’s publicity director) and his girlfriend, Jennifer Hastings of Ripon. Hargreaves dressed as Sinestro (Green Lantern’s nemesis, though Hargreaves decided to go against Sinestro’s pink/purple skin coloring), and Hastings was Wonder Woman in spot-on costumes made by Hastings.

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  • Blog Author

    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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