12 from ’16

In addition to my 52 favorite photos slideshow, I’ve also compiled shorter yearend lists over the last several years.

Top 10 lists are popular but they can be a bit limiting. if you had several great photos in just a month or two, that would leave the rest of the year unrepresented. That could be resolved with a larger list, such as a top 100, but a lineup like that can be overwhelming and cumbersome.

Any criteria one uses will be a compromise, but the one I’ve chosen is a top 12, a favorite picture for every month of the year. It keeps the list small yet it keeps track of my progress throughout the year. Like I said, I’ve been doing it for the past several years and at this point its become tradition for me.


January 27: The year started out not with a bang, but with a bump. While driving through the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton looking for a feature picture, I noticed several large inflatable spheres lying on the lawn outside of the DeRosa University Center.

The Theta Chi fraternity was holding a recruitment event by playing “bubble soccer” to entice new students to join their organization. They donned the spheres and ran headlong at each other in what looked like a cross between soccer and bumper cars. I don’t know how many new members toe got that day, but I was a convert.


February 10: Sports photos are all about peak action and intensity. When covering an Edison at McNair boys varsity basketball game in Stockton, I captured McNair’s Darrell Harris as he attacked the basket. He’s frozen in mid-air with a look of ferocity and concentration on his face.


March 31: During the NorCal Classic softball at the Tracy Softball Complex, I photographed the precise moment when Tracy catcher Cierra Hylton applied a tag for the out as Gregori’s Nichole Alexander tried to sneak around her at home plate.


April 22: I photographed a tattoo removal event at Mary Magdalene Community Services in downtown Stockton. Derek Salceda, who had done previous treatments and had yet many tattoos to go, sat down for the laser procedure. He said that having it done to one’s fingers is the most painful part. Judging from Salceda’s grimaces and writhing in his chair, he was right.


May 21: The south side of Stockton near the Sierra Vista neighborhood had experienced a spate of violent incidences that left one dead and several wounded. Area activist Georgia Brownlee organized a prayer vigil to stand up against the violence. About 5 dozen people gathered in support of the cause in a lot Airport Way and 8th Street. As they stood in a circle, hand-in-hand, Pastor Ronnie Murray with the Christ Side Disciples Movement Center gave a prayer before they set out on a march to nearby Rev. A.E. Williams Brotherhood Park. I photograph Murray as he spoke framed by the clasped hands of two of the participants in the foreground.


June 8: I was on the look for a sunset shot on the deep water channel out on the west end of March Lane in Stockton. As the sun sank in the west I waited for a boat to cruise by or perhaps a flock of birds to soar past to act as subjects to be set against the colorful sky.

A couple of small boats zipped down the channel but I waited for something more. Then I saw something that I hadn’t noticed earlier. In the distance, mostly silhouetted against channel’s far levee, it looked like some sort building but it wasn’t there before, was it?

But then it appeared to be getting slowly larger. It took a while but I realized it was a cargo ship churning its way up the channel to the Port of Stockton. It was what I was looking for. The only problem was that I hoped that it would get close enough before the sunset lost all of hits beautiful color. The ship managed to get to my position while the sky still held a deep orange hue then rounded a bend to continued on to the port.


July 28: I got to a Stockton Ports baseball game a little early and saw Ports relief pitcher Carlos Navas taking the field while wearing a child’s pink backpack. Just after the game started I was shooting from the dugout when I asked a couple of players what was up with the backpack.

They said that Navas had lost a bet. The previous night he had a homerun hit off of him and as a part of the bet he had to wear the backpack. Not only that, but he had to wear it every game until another reliever had a homer hit off of them.


August 10: One of the things I look for is something with a slightly different twist. I photographed Sabrina Price as she waited to pick up her granddaughter from her first day of school at Acaia Elementary School in Stockton. Nothing to different there, but as she waited Price’s 2-year old Chihuahua happily balanced on her shoulder adding an element of the unusual to the photo.


September 27: In September 3-year-old Melanie Martinez was riding in a car driven by her mother when it was targeted in a hail of gunfire. Melanie was struck by one of the bullets. They drove to her directly to a hospital where she was pronounced dead from her wounds.

News of Melanie’s murder struck a chord with Stocktonians of all walks of life. A few days after her death a public vigil was organized at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza in downtown Stockton. Hundreds of people attended to show their sympathies and condolences for Melanie and her family. Her young parents, Lino Martine and Kimberly Botelo, sat during the vigil, quietly crying and embracing each, other surrounded by the love and support of an entire community.


October 20: Another thing I look for is people doing something in an unusual place. I happened upon James Macias and Jasmin Ordonez of Stockton as they practiced a salsa dance routine at the Louis Park boat ramp to the deep water channel in Stockton while Latin music played from their nearby pickup truck as they prepared for an October 29 Dia De Los Muertos performance at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi.


November 17: Army Sgt. John Perry was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan. A memorial service for Perry was quickly incorporated into an already scheduled flag retirement ceremony at One Stop Security and Technology in Stockton. During the solemn ceremony Perry’s father, Stewart Perry of Stockton fought back his grief as he was presented with a folded flag by Tino Adame, state chairman of Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation.


December 17: Every year the Good Samaritan Training Center holds it’s Operation Dreamkeeper event at the county fairgrounds in Stockton. It’s basically a big Christmas party for hundreds disadvantaged youth in the community. After songs and treats, the highlight of the afternoon is the giving of free presents to the children who may otherwise not get one for the holidays.

Most kids express joy and excitement upon opening their gifts. Seven-year-old Tavi Smith, a bit overwhelmed by the experience, simply but gratefully hugged the Star Wars action figure that he got.

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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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