Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Working (and playing) for a living

The former San Joaquin County Fair photo contest and exhibition used to have a category titled “people at work or play.” It was sort of a catchall class for pictures of people that did’t fit the description of a formal portrait. It’s something that newspaper shooters do everyday but not necessarily your average amateur photographer might do on a regular basis. So people at work or play is the newest challenge and is designed to expand your skills.

(7/2/16) A jet skier catches some air while crusing down the deep water channel near Windmill Cove in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Some people play at work while others work at play so sometimes the line between either can be a bit blurry. The idea of the assignment is to get people either enjoying or engrossed (or both) in what they’re doing.

(03/18/19) Oak Park Tennis Center head pro Peter Juarez strings a racquet at the center’s pro shop in Stockton Juarez is set to retire on March 31 after 21 years of running the facility and teaching lessons. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600)

While your subject may or may not know you’re taking their picture, the idea is to get them doing something so it at least gives the impression that they’re not paying any attention to the camera. One way to do this is to use a telephoto lens. With one you can put some distance between you and them to get more candid pictures. Another way is to use a wide angle lens and set close in with your subject. This a little harder to get candid picture, he or she would likely be compelled to look at and smile for the camera, but if you tell them just to ignore you, given time, you can get a spontaneous photo. This takes longer to get a decent shot but a little extra patience will pay off.

(3/2/19) San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow, right, leads the Sheriff’s mounted posse in the annual Chinese New Year Parade in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 112mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 200)

Whichever technique you use, getting them doing an activity is key. It could be something a innocuous as cooking, fishing or driving. Get them doing so something, hence the “work or play” aspect of the assignment.

(3/25/19) Marco Pires with the Lodi-based Luso Masonry, applies new grout to the seams between panels on the prefabricated concrete columns of the arbor at the Gerry Dunlap Rose Garden at Victory Park in Stockton. Pires was a part of a crew doing a 2-3 day re-grouting job of the columns. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/9 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

You can get photos of your co-workers at your job, just make sure you get an OK from your employer (if you’re the boss then that makes things easier). You can also get strangers at their work but, again, it’s a good idea to get their permission first. There are some who do their jobs in public like police officers, firefighters and construction workers who you can photograph just don’t get in the way of their duties.

(04/05/19) Delta College’s Clarissa Menil competes in the long jump in the Raydell Barkley Field Events Festival at the Merv Smith Track Complex at Delta’s DeRicco Field in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

People at play can be a bit easier. There are plenty of high school sports, baseball, softball, track, etc., that you can take pictures of.

(4/4/19) Singer Breana Raquel performs a song at the High School Nation traveling music and arts festival at the Cesar Chavez High School football field in Stockton. The event featured a concert of recording artist, hands-on time with musical instruments, as well as other activities. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 400)

While some larger musical performers limit or restrict picture taking during their concerts, ones that aren’t as famous playing in smaller venues can be accessible.

(4/6/19) Six-year-old Maria Elena Torres works on decorating eggs at an Easter egg decorating session at the Shades of Color Paint art studio in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

Lastly you can photograph friends or family as the doing some recreation activity in a park or at home. If you’re brave enough you can even approach a stranger and ask them to take their picture (extra points for that).

I know that taking pictures of people, whether formally or informally, goes beyond many people’s comfort zone so you’ll have an extra week to get this challenge done.

(3/1/19) University of the Pacific music student Joshua Lopez takes advantage of a break between storms to practice his euphonium outdoors on the lawn near Buck Memorial Hall on the UOP campus in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200)

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “Work or Play” in the subject line

2. Photos have to be shot between April 30 and May 21.

3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of device you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. iPhone6s”)

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (eg.: Jane Doe waters the flowers at the Home Depot on Feather River Drive 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 May 21. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, May 28 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

(4/20/19) Stockton Ports’ Mitchell Jordan delivers a pitch during a California League game against the Modesto Nuts at the Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 1250)

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