The ones that got away

(10/19/19) Delta College’s Alvin Howard, right, reaches out for a pass past Fresno City College’s Tremell Harrell during a football game at Delta’s DeRicco Field in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

I remember one the first times I covered a prep football game as a young photographer. The quarterback faded back and threw the ball in a beautiful arc. It sailed gracefully in the air and the receiver made a perfect fingertip catch. I remember it so vividly because when the play was over I realized that I was holding my camera in my hands but not looking though it. The whole play happened right in front of me and I hadn’t taken a single frame.

Every photographer has a story about the shots that they’ve missed. Many, like me, have multiple tales of the ones that got away.

(10/15/20) Austin Cushman gets a flu shot from Stockton Unified School District nurse Sharon Lal at the drive-up/walk-up flu clinic held at the School for Adults parking lot on Pacific Avenue near Harding Way in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Recently I photographed a drive-thru flus clinic held at the SUSD School for Adults in Stockton. I asked a woman who drove up I she wouldn’t mind having her picture taken and she agreed. When the nurse came up to give her the shot I was standing outside the driver’s door. The woman turned her head away so as not to look at the needle going in her arm, so I hustled around to the other side of the car to shoot through the passenger side window. But when I did he woman changed her mind, turned her head back the other way and I missed the photo.

(10/13/17) University of the Pacific student Prajakta Prasana, left, shows her camera’s monitor to fellow student Lena Perry after taking her picture in a photo studio at the DeRosa University Center on the UOP campus in the Stockton. ” [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

One of the things I see other photographers do when they miss a shot is when they “chimp.” Chimping is a slang term for looking at the monitor on the back of the camera. In and of itself chimping isn’t bad. It’s when you do it that’s a problem. Quite often something picture-worthy will happen right in front of them and they’’ll be looking at a photo that they shot previously. Chimp only when you’re sure that there’s a lull in the action and not when it’s still going on.

(3/28/13) Lodi’s Logan Morita, right, waits for the throw as East Union’s Mason James dives safely back to second on a pickoff attempt during a varsity baseball game at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Baseball is the bane of my sports shooting existence. You have to practice constant vigilance. But there can be inning upon inning, sometimes entire games, where nothing happens. It’s easy to have my mind wander off to what other assignments I may have, or what to have for dinner or even to think my your taxes. But then, in an instant, all hell can break loose. A runner can decide to steal a base, a batter, who’s previous at-bats have produced nil, may hit a grand slam or a shortstop may make a diving catch. Over time I’ve learned to focus on the game, but I can’t count the times when I’ve been daydreaming and missed a shot.

(5/9/09) Matt and Christa King leave their wedding ceremony at the Catta Verdura Country Club in Lincoln. [CLIFFORD OTO]

Preparation and experience accounts for a lot when it comes to getting the shot. Many wedding photographers will attend the wedding rehearsal and ask questions so they know things like what the layout of the church is like, or when the cutting of the cake or first dance is going to be. The more you know going into any event, the better off you’re going to be.

(11/22/19) Manteca’s Sunny Dozier, right, catches a pass over Capital Christian’s Carlos Wilson in the end zone but the catch was ruled out of bounds during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football semi-final at Capital Christian High school in Sacramento. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Many people think that photographers capture everything that happens at an event. The trick is to get the right shot at the right time and not to worry about getting every single thing.

You can’t be everywhere, all the time. You’re going to miss some shots. It’s inevitable. With focus and vigilance, hopefully it won’t be THE shot.

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