Readers Photo Challenge: Open season

The first Readers Photo Challenge assignment of 2021 is going to be an open one. That is, the subject is open for you to decide. More over the time period, normally 2 weeks, will be extended retroactively to Dec. 22 and forward to Jan. 26.

(3/2/18) Storm clouds are reflected in a puddle as they approach Undine Road and Wing Levee Road in French Camp. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Some may think that having an unlimited choice of subjects may be a utopia but don’t forget about the parable of the dog with 2 bones. The dog couldn’t decide on which bone to choose so it didn’t make a choice and ended going hungry. Don’t get so caught up trying to decide what to photograph that you don’t take any pictures at all.

TOP: (11/4/18) Jennifer Sila of Florida takes pictures of sandhill cranes during sunset at the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve west of Lodi. BOTTOM LEFT: (2/1/18) The sun sets over the Port of Stockton’s turning basin in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (12/14/18) Clouds tinged with the colors of sunset rise behind palm trees along the Joan Darrah Promenade in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

This time of year is a good time to photograph sunsets due to the relatively early hour when the sun goes down at around 5:00 p.m. Try to find a sky with clouds if you can. Clouds can pick up the warm golden colors of the sunset rather than just having a flat, plain sky. Having something in the foreground, a person, a tree or even a flying bird, can add some visual interest to your sunset.

TOP: (1/4/21) A light rain falls as pedestrians cross the street at Weber Avenue and Hunter Street in downtown Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: (2/1/19) Rain drops cling to the window of a car near the Regal Stockton City Centre Stadium 16 movie theaters at Janet Leigh Plaza in downtown Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (1/24/08) Cyclists cross a rain-slickened El Dorado Street near Janet Leigh Plaza in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Rather than the constant sunshine of spring, summer and fall, winter weather can be the most interesting the photograph. There are more days of the aforementioned clouds which can be more interesting than a featureless sky. Inclement weather can also be advantageous for photography. Rain and raindrops can add a visual element of weather to your photos. Rain-sickened streets make a urbanscape more picturesque especially at night where the city lights can reflect off of the wet surfaces.

TOP: (5/6/16) McNair senior Gaby De Silva, left, sits with her mother Jhnaira “Jenny” De Silva at their home in Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: (9/25/04) 14-year-old Juan Martinez of Manteca waits in the wings for his turn to perform as a part of the Manteca-basaed Ballet Folklorico Mayra Gazcon at the International Day of the Migrant Bracero held at the Centro Communitario Mexicano in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (/17/16) Director of marketing and design Ian Bender, left, and owners Rodney and Gayla Schatz sit in the new “pop-up” tasting room at the Peltier Winery in Acampo. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

If portraits are your thing, the cold, wet weather may not be a benefit for you. But you could move your sittings indoors. Try looking for some soft window light to flatter your subjects which can include pets as well as their human counterparts.

TOP: (3/4/17) A flock of snow geese takes flight from the Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Elk Grove. BOTTOM LEFT: (9/28/20) A sandhill crane performs a mating dance in a flooded field at the Phil and Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road west of I-5 near Lodi. BOTTOM RIGHT: (1/12/17) A meadowlark perches on a fence at the Phil and Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve in Woodbridge.[CLIFFORD OTO/STOCKTON RECORD]

This is also a good time to take pictures of birds. Migratory birds are currently wintering in the area. Birds such as sandhill cranes or snow geese can be found places like, the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve outside of Lodi, Staten Island near Walnut Grove and the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. Smaller birds such as sparrows, pigeons and humming birds can be found as close as your own backyard.

TOP LEFT: (11/22/13) A shaft of light illuminates a saltshaker in the kitchen of Clifford Oto. TOP RIGHT: (6/28/13) Record Photographer Clifford Oto takes a self-portrait in the broken window on Market Street near California Street in downtown Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: (1/21/20) An otter swims with a fresh catch of a fish in tow in the waters of McLeod Lake at the head of the Stockton deep water channel in downtown Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (11/5/11) Snow covers the ground and trees outside of Dardanelle along Highway 108 in the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

You need not limit yourself to just these suggestions. The possibilities for photos are endless. From still life to selfies, from animals to landscapes, the limitations are only your imagination. As the Nike ad says, all you have to do is to get out and just “do it.”

(2/10/19) A horse stands in a snow-covered pasture along Highway 4 on Sunday after storms left several inches of snow in the Mother Lode town of Douglas Flat, elevation 1965′. The tree and snowy landscape are pretty enough but the addition of the horse help to put things in scale and balances out the composition. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to The preferred format is jpeg. Type in “Open” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be taken between December 22 and January 26.

3. The number of photos is limited to 10.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, the kind of device you used, how you got your close up and where the photo was taken (eg.: John Doe of Stockton, Canon Rebel T6i with 50mm macro lens. At Victory Park in Stockton).

5. If there is a recognizable person or persons in the photo please identify them (name, age, hometown) and describe what is going on in the photo (eg.: “Jane Doe walks her dog Fido past a tree wit fall leaves at Victory Park in Stockton”). Please indicate how they are related to you (friend, mother, father, daughter, son, etc).

6. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

7. The deadline for submission is January 26. The top examples will be published on February 8, with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at

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