Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Water works

(1/21/20) The University Plaza Waterfront Hotel is reflected in the still waters of McLeod Lake at the head of the Stockton deep water channel in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The subject for this month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment is water. Water is an interesting substance to photograph. In its purest form it’s colorless. You can add color to it and it can take on color from what’s around it. It’s also formless, taking its shape from whatever it’s contained in. It’s transparent but under certain conditions it can also be nearly as reflective as a mirror.

TOP: (9/12/19) Moses Rodriguez Sr. of Lodi, left, and his son Moses Jr., fish from the banks of Lodi Lake as the sun goes down. BOTTOM LEFT: (1/12/14) A woman watches the Pacific Ocean from a bench along the Sunset Cliffs area of San Diego. BOTTOM RIGHT: (10/23/03) Chris Collins of Lodi is reflected in the still waters of the Mokelumne River as he paddles along for a leisurely cruise down the river in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

You can get people using water for recreation, swimming, skiing, wake boarding, though they may be scarce this time of year. But there are people who get onto the water in boats to fish or sail regardless of weather.
Speaking of weather, this is the perfect time for rain photos. You can get people walking down the street under umbrellas or raindrops clinging to flower petals, leaves and branches. Even if the rain stops you can use the puddles left behind as compositional elements to capture reflections of the sky and surroundings.

TOP: (11/11/02) The colors of fall leaves are reflected in the water like an impressionistic painting as an egret flies low over Yosemite Lake at American Legion Park in Stockton. BOTTOM LEFT: (10/23/19) A Sandhill crane takes flight over Desmond Road in the Cosumnes River preserve near Thornton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (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. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Stockton and the surrounding area abounds with bodies of water; rivers, sloughs, creeks etc., to use a subjects. Also local fields that lay fallow are often flooded this time of year. The are also a plethora of animals; birds, turtles, otters, even the occasional wayward sea lion, that can be found along these waterways.

TOP: (10/3/16) Anglers cruise the waters of the Sacramento River in search of a catch near the confluence of Georgiana Slough in the Delta town of Walnut Grove. BOTTOM LEFT: (5/16/17) The waning golden light from a sunset glints off the water around a rock in the deep water channel just off the shore of Buckley Cove in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT (2/9/12) Sunset at the Miller’s Ferry Bridge over the Mokelumne River in Walnut Grove. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Sunsets and sunrises and water can go hand-in-hand. Getting the setting or rising sun reflected in a river, lake of ocean can double the amount of warm golden color in a scene.

TOP: (10/27/09) Water flows at Park Creek at Sly Park near Pollock Pines. BOTTOM LEFT: (7/12/18) Water flows down the fountain at Budd Center on the San Joaquin Delta College campus in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (4/16/19) Water from recent rains flowS down a small waterfall at the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve near Oroville. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

A technique to photograph flowing water in a fast moving river or stream, is to set your camera on a tripod and use a slow shutter speed to capture the motion of water. The water will look blurred or even misty depending on how long you leave the shutter open. This can give your photo a sense of motion and energy.

TOP: (8/20/06) A water drop splashes into a cup. BOTTOM LEFT: (11/29/11) Chinese pistache trees are turned into an impressionistic art as seen through the condensation covered the windows of the indoor Hutchins Street Square Pool in Lodi. BOTTOM RIGHT: (1/29/17) Water drops condense on the outside of a water goblet. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

If you’re homebound like many of us are during the pandemic you still can use water as your subject. Fill a glass cup with water and see how the incoming window light affects it. Place it against a light background, then a dark one. See how each changes how the cup of water looks. You can photograph raindrops on a window or window screen. Also you can try to capture water drops as they splash into a cup, bowl or other container. This takes a lot of patience and practice to get it just right. I’d set the camera on a tripod and focus on the surface of the water in the receptacle of your choice. Have a family member assist you by using an eyedropper to release the water drop from a height out of the frame of the camera. Using a fast shutter speed to eliminate blur, try to capture the drop as it hist the water and then rebounds upwards. Like I said, it will take a lot of practice and perseverance but once you get the timing down, the results can be worth it.

(6/24/13) Water pours from a pipe to irrigate a row of grapes in a vineyard on Turner Road near DeVries Road in Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

If you venture out during inclement weather try to protect you camera as much as you can. A good DIY solution is to use a plastic garbage bag to cover your gear by poking a hole in the closed end to stick the lens out of and using the open end to look through the camera. This is one assignment where being “all wet” or “wet behind the ears” is a good thing.

(10/26/15) A fisherman trolls his boat as wisps of an early morning fog rise off of the waters of the Sacramento River near the Delta town of Locke. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

How to enter:

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

2. Photos have to be taken between February 9 and February 23.

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 is reflected in a puddle as she walks her dog Fido 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 February 23. The top examples will be published on March 2, with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at

(10/27/09) Indirect sunlight reflects off the water of Park Creek at Sly Park near Pollock Pines. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

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