12 from 14

There is a natural tendency for us to take a look back at the old year before boldly stepping into the new one and I guess I’m no different in that. This the time of year for top 10 lists of this, that or the other thing of events that happened in 2014. It’s not an easy job. I had to sort through the 1,000 assignments I shot during the year to whittle them down to just a few. As it has become my tradition, I’ve compiled my own list of my top 12 photos of the year, one from each month. Here they are in chronological order

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January:

Murders were up in 2014 and I was in court many times last year to cover arraignments of homicide suspects. On one of the first ones on Jan. 24, as I waited in line to get into the courthouse, I looked up and saw a scene on the glass enclosed breezeway that connects the administrative side of the building to the courtrooms. A woman was silhouetted against the light coming in from the opposite side of the building. Several white orbs that were lamps are to light up the breezeway looked like they hung around her (they actually hang on either side of the breezeway) which made for an interesting composition and an unexpected cool photo from a perhaps otherwise not-so pleasant assignment.

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February:

On Feb. 2, I was driving around looking for an enterprise photo. It was getting late and the sun was starting to fade below the horizon. I was starting to lose hope in finding anything. I was out in the rural area west of Lodi when I turned down Guard Road just south of Highway 12. It was a road I had never been on before and I took it out of desperation. I drove down about ½ mile or so when I saw a small flock of sandhill cranes foraging in an empty field on the west side of the road. I got some shots of the cranes on the ground and started to get back into my car when they took flight just as the sunset was turning the clouds a golden hue. I missed the first ones while getting my camera ready but managed to get a shot of a group of six or seven cranes. Two more took off they headed west and soon after the last one launched itself it the air, gave me a full profile before turning and joining it’s brethren in the sunset.

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March:

In a scene from the 1989 film the Dead Poets Society, the late Robin Williams character John Keating urges his class of prep school students to stand on their desks to see their surroundings from a different viewpoint. In photography sometimes getting something different is what a photo is all about.

On March 28 I was looking for a feature shot when I saw students from the Stockton International Collegiate School participating in P.E. at the park at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. Most of the children were running laps around the park, which I thought I could make a nice-weather photo out of. As I was watching the kids run I turned around and saw three girls who had finished their mile run and sat down on a nearby bench to rest. Except two of the girls sat on the bench upside down. I got a shot of them as they viewed the world from a different angle.

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April:

On April 30 the temperature had spiked up from the normal spring levels up into the 90s and I was looking for a hot weather picture. I was driving through the Conway homes area near Van Buskirk Park when I spotted a couple of kids playing with a hose. They were spraying each other with it to cool off. I should say they were getting wet up to a point. One of the kids, already soaked to the bone, huddle beneath an umbrella as the other pointed the stream of water at him. I guess even on a hot day one can get cooled off enough.

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May:

On May 25 I covered the annual Not Forgotten Memorial Day observance at Woodward Park in Manteca. One of the event’s features are large panels engraved with the names of area military troops who were killed in action.

Wheelchair-bound Korean War veteran Gilbert Rosas Sr. was helped by his family under the tent where the panels were located, set up in a circular arrangement. As Rosas looked for the names of his fallen comrades I captured his reflection in the glass that encased the panels.

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June:

In June the traveling Discover the Dinosaurs event came to the Stockton Arena for several days. There were many dino-themed displays as well as several animatronic dinosaurs. One of the most popular was a replica of a tyrannosaurus rex’s head. People lined up to take their picture sitting in it’s gaping jaws. It was ok, the fierce-looking teeth were made of foam rubber and only looked deadly. Most people would smile or giggle while they were posing for their pictures but when I was there on June 27, 5-year-old Ayden Louie of Manteca gave a look for a picture by his mom Ashley Louie as if he was actually being swallowed whole by the “terrible lizard.”

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July:

In July an armed robbery at the Bank of the West on Thornton Road in Stockton went bad. Three robbers took three female hostages and led police on a high speed chase across the county while shooting at their pursuers.

During the chase two of the hostages either leapt or were pushed from the moving vehicle. The chased ended in north Stockton in a literal hail of gunfire. In the end two suspects and the remaining hostage, Misty Holt-Singh were dead.

People identified with Holt-Singh, 41, a devoted wife and mother of two. She had just popped into the bank for a quick transaction when things went bad. The tragedy touched many across the community.

On July 17 several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil/memorial held for Holt-Singh in the courtyard of the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel in downtown Stockton. City officials and clergy got up to speak at the event. The candles were lit and raised and in a moment everyone was united in support, solidarity and solace for Misty Holt-Singh and her family.

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August:

Sports photography is usually is associated with spectacularly timed action shots of the athletes. While they may have a certain aesthetic quality of their own, sports photos aren’t generally known for their beauty.

On Aug. 29 I shot my first prep football game between Stagg and Lincoln at Lincoln’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton.
As the teams warmed up, the sun dipped below the western horizon. The clouds turned a fiery scarlet just as the Lincoln squad knelt for a team prayer. By the time the game started the color as almost gone but I got an image of beauty as perfectly timed as any sports shot.

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September:

“A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end – and if you put several circles over each other, then you get a spiral.” – Maynard James Keenan

Looking for an enterprise feature on Sept. 9 I drove by the construction site of the Crosstown Freeway extension through Boggs Tract. There a crew was assembling a rebar structure for a support column for the elevated overpass sections of the freeway. Lain on its side the construct created a tube of sorts. 2 workers tied the structure together from the outside while another, Fernando Mendoza with Concord-based Conco, worked from within. The receeding repetition of the rings that made up the “tunnel” gave the photo a very graphic look to its composition.

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October:

On Oct. 17, I was sent to take a portrait of 77-year-old Gail Bedell. Bedell, a cancer patient, has a 50-year old son Jay Jay Ford who was born with cerebral palsy and has developed other medical conditions that she drives to doctors appointments from the care home in which he lives in Stockton. Friends, who describe Bedell as a selfless person caring only for her son, raised money to buy new tires for her 1993 Plymouth minivan. On Oct. 13 someone stole the van with her wheelchair inside. A couple days later the van was recovered but it was stripped, new tires and all. Bedell was at first hesitant but then reluctantly agreed to the story because she thought that there were more important stories that we could tell.

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November:

Sports photos are not only about action but expression as well. It’s when the two come together do great images are made.

On Nov. 9, I covered San Joaquin Delta College’s Jocelyn Mancebo women’s basketball tournament final at Delta’s Blanchard Gym in Stockton between Delta and Chabot College. During the game Delta’s Priscilla Mora fought for a rebound with Chabot College’s Michelle Townsend. The ball was flung from their struggles and their effort was shwn in the grimaces on their faces.

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December:

As a kid I watched the 1960 TV show “The Time Tunnel” starring Robert Colbert and James Darren. The only thing I really remember of it was the cool time machine. It consisted of these groovy giant concentric rings through which the intrepid heroes would walk into the past.

On Dec. a crew from the Stockton’s facilities maintenance department erected the city’s annual Christmas tree at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. Looking up through the frame of the artificial tree as workers climbed on it reminded me of the old television show.

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Any list can be imperfect. In my top 12 there were 2 or 3 photos in some months that were better than those in other months but were eliminated due to the “best-from-each-month” criteria. I’ve also picked 52 of my favorites from 2014. I decided on that number because 52 is the number of weeks in a year (although the photos don’t represent each week because I didn’t work all 52 weeks due to vacations and sick days). Those photos can be seen in a gallery at Recordnet.com and a slide show here.

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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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