Walking in the rain


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200)

As any dog owner knows, when your pet feels the call of nature, you have to take them out whatever the conditions. This time of year that means put on a coat and breaking out an umbrella.



Our dog Lucy is a black labrador/golden retriever-mix. She has the long hair of the retriever with the color of the lab. Being an all-black dog, she soaks up solar radiation like a sponge. Subsequently she gets very hot, very quickly, on a sunny day. Conversely, she loves the cold, wet weather we’ve been having lately.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/3.5. ISO: 400)

Lucy will romp and run tirelessly on a rainy day. She loves to dig in any patch of mud or muck she can find. Although the raindrops will initially bead up on her coat, after a while some will finally get through to her skin. But with a simple full-body shake, she’s off and running again.

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Let an umbrella be your smile


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 16-35mm @ 35mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200)

A good part of my recent vacation was spent under a cloud of drab, dreary, rainy days. However, there is also a transformative power to the rain. Even a common umbrella can become a source of visual wonder.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200)

Raindrops bead up on the water resistant surface like glistening jewels. They precariously hang on the edge of fabric until they gain more mass or a movement or breeze causes them to free fall to the ground. Move the umbrella slightly and the drops collect and cascade off in rivulets of water.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 50mm macro. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200)

As with many other things, sometimes beauty can be found in the simplest of things.

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Last year’s last month

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

Where has the time gone? It seems like 2008 began just yesterday and now here we are at the start of 2009. December flew by quickly but not unproductively. Here are some of my favorites from last month.

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12/5/08:

Jim Loveland of Stockton wraps his daughter’s chihuahua Hercules in his sweatshirt as he takes the pet for a walk on Hunter Street near Harding Way in Stockton. “I usually don’t take him that far, but he doesn’t like the cold” says Loveland. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

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12/6/08:


People watch the annual Delta Reflections lighted boat parade at the head of the deep water channel in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 140mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

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12/7/08:


Fabiola Marilla portray the the Virgin of Guadalupe on the Presentation Church’s float in the annual Virgin of Guadalupe parade in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 180mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)


San Jose residents Joey Guevara, 16, right, follows skate boarder and friend Matt Montoya, 16, while riding his own skateboard with camera in hand to tape Montoya for a skating video the pari were making at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 100)

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12/13/08:


Comedian George Lopez performs at the Bob Hope Theater in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 500)

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12/14/08:


Bidders assistant George Lumm calls out bidders offers at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium in downtown Stockton during an auction of foreclosed homes. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1000)


Nicole Nino of Stockton and her 10-year-old daughter Alexia Mata hug each other to keep warm while waiting for a movie at the City Centre Cinemas at Janet Leigh Plaza in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

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12/15/08:


Convicted serial killer William Jennings Choyce, seated between his attorneys William Fattarsi, left, and Lorna Patton-Brown, listens to proceedings in his sentencing hearing at Department 33 of the San Joaquin County Courthouse in downtown Stockton. Choyce was sentenced to death for the killings of three women. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1000)

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12/17/08:


A pedestrian is greeted by sunshine as he walks down El Dorado Street near Main Street in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 100mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

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12/19/08:


As recent storms abate, a calm descends over Buckley Cove at sunset in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

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Joya’e to the world

“Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Glenn Kumamoto, right, rings a bonsho bell as Reverend Kazuaki Nakata, far left, looks on during the Joya’e New Year’s Eve observance at the Sacramento Buddhist Church in Sacramento.(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! That’s “Happy New Year” in Japanese.

My family and I attended the Joya’e New Year’s Eve observance at the Sacramento Buddhist Church on Wednesday night. It’s held to reflect upon the past year and to mark the beginning of a new one. The Sacramento Betsuin’s Reverend Kazuaki Nakata (who will become the resident minister at the Lodi Buddhist Church in May), explained that the term “Joya’e” (pronounced jo-ya-eh) means to reset one’s mind to have a fresh outlook for the coming year.

At the end of the service each member of the assembly gets a chance to ring the kansho, the temple bell normally rung to announce the start of regular services. Ostensibly, on New Year’s Eve it’s struck 108 times to get rid of the bad karma in the previous year. But for most people it’s just fun to take the mallet and make a big noise to ring in the new year.

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Batting a thousand

In my previous entry, I said that I shot nearly a thousand assignments for the year. Earlier today, after that post, I reached the 1,000 mark.

Over the year I’ve done sports, news, portraits and more. A few things were shot specifically for this blog. Many assignments were enterprise features, found situations with a human interest angle or just pretty pictures.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 105mm micro. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

I started the day at 995, but the outlook for reaching 1,000 looked bleak. It was a slow day and I had just one assignment (a pretty rare event for me). I was sent to the Stockton Police department to photograph a cache of drugs and money seized by the police in a raid yesterday. It wasn’t much of a shot, but at least it got me out of the office.

From there, I drove around looking for a feature. I got a quick shot of a man walking through the fog. A little while later, I stopped at Victory Park in Stockton to get a picture of walkers bundled up from the cold as the circled the park. As I shot that, I found a guy whose dog climbed trees. That brought me to 999.

I drove out to Louis Park in Stockton. This was a low-percentage gambit. Part of the park is closed for renovation and finding someone using it would be a challenge on a warm sunny day, let alone on a cold, overcast New Years Eve.

I walked through the park, and sure enough, I didn’t see anyone. I enjoyed the peaceful serenity, listening to the quite rustle of grass and leaves beneath my shoes, not even thinking of getting a shot. Then, there at my feet, was a picture. On the fuzzy fluff of a dandelion balanced hundreds of dew drops like tiny crystal ornaments. I took out a macro lens and got a close up shot of number 1,000.

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Hanging ten

Here are 10 of my favorite pictures from the past year. I’ve shot nearly 1,000 assignments in 2008 and I could have easily come up with 10 completely different photos that I’d be happy with. As in past years, I set aside a folder of favorite photos from those assignments. They could be great shots or great stories behind the shot, but they’re pictures that in some way have stood out for me. This year’s count was well over 700 photos.



Editing pictures can be a tough job. There might be pictures that you have an emotional attachment to but are not among your best. One has to view them with a dispassionate eye. I culled down the 700 to 60 of my favorites for a year-end online gall
ery and slide show (click on the above links to view them).



It was hard enough to get it down to those, but it took quite a bit more hair-pulling to edit them down to the ten you see here (I’m still second guessing myself). I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did shooting them. Here’s another fruitful and productive year.

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Light savings


(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 50mm macro. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.5. ISO: 400)

My family usually puts up our Christmas lights a little after Thanksgiving and takes them down around the first of the year. A couple of years ago we invested in some LED lights. Although more expensive than the traditional incandescent light bulbs, they use far less energy to run and are much more durable. I’ve manhandled the LEDs in ways that would have left every last bulb on a traditional strand of lights in a shattered mess, with nary a scratch.

We haven’t compared our electric bill with previous years, but I can tell that they use less electricity than the old lights. The LEDs are cold to the touch when lit. With the old incandescents, I would plug them in to keep my hands warm from the chilly Fall weather. I figure it may take a few years to recoup the costs through a lower energy bills, but that, combined with a near unbreakablity, makes up for a few cold fingers.

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Say goodbye to Fall


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 27mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 100

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.” -  Robert Frost


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO:200)

As Fall transitions into Winter, here’s one last hurrah before all the trees are laid bare and the autumnal colors fade to brown and grey. Wintertime’s icy grip will eventually give way to Spring and the seasonal cycle will start all over again.

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Season’s greetings!

“Happy holidays, happy holidays
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your every wish come true” - Happy Holiday- Irving Berlin


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

I’m taking a few days off. I’ll be back on January 29. Until then, here’s a little holiday cheer for you.

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Blast from the past: Festival of lights

San Joaquin County Historical Museum’s Festival of Trees is held every year at Micke Grove Park near Lodi. There are several rooms set up to show what life was like for Stockton’s founding family, the Webers. During the festival, trees are set up in those rooms as well as around the museum’s facility for people to get into the Christmas spirit.



In 1996 I shot Ashley Pinnell, 4, of Angels Camp, looking through a window of one of those rooms at one of the lavishly decorated trees. I was able to step just inside the front door of the room where there was another viewing area. The lights of the tree reflecting off the glass of the window and the look on the girl’s face gives the photo a sense of Christmas wonderment.

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    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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