Outsmarted

I was at the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse in Sacramento to shoot former San Joaquin County Sheriff Baxter Dunn, who is on probation for a 2005 mail fraud conviction. He was headed to court again for violating that probation with a misdemeanor DUI conviction last November. I had covered his earlier proceedings in 2005. Cameras aren’t allowed in the Federal court, so the plan was to do what I’ve done before and get some shots of him entering the courthouse. The hearing was set for 9:00 in the morning but I arrived at about 8:10 a.m. to make sure I was there in time.


Record reporter Scott Smith waits for former sheriff Baxter Dunn to show up at the Robert Matsui Federal Courthouse in downtown Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200 @70mm. Expsoure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

The morning sun was blocked by the 13-story courthouse and a cold wind whipped around the entry plaza where I was waiting. Record reporter Scott Smith joined me at about 8:30 and we both shivered as we waited for Dunn to show up. The light in the plaza was flat and grey, not the best for pictures. Looking from shelter from the cold, yet keeping an eye out for Baxter Dunn, we took a little bit of refuge next to some wide pillars at the building’s entrance. The light fell off precipitously from to the plaza to the doorway. In that transition from light to dark, the boring light transformed into something more interesting, like a soft, warm breeze mixing with the chilly morning.


Baxter Dunn’s attorney Albert Ellis approaches the Robert Matsui Federal Courthouse in downtown Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200 @70mm. Expsoure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

Dunn’s attorney Albert Ellis showed up and told us that former sheriff was indeed going to be there. 9:00 a.m. rolled around and still no Baxter Dunn.  Scott decided to go up to the courtroom to check things out. A few minutes later I got a cellphone call from him saying that Dunn was already there. He must’ve arrived really early to be able to avoid us. At least I was able to play with the light while I waited. We’ll get another chance at it, though. U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ordered Dunn, 60, to appear before him on June 19 for a full hearing in the case.

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Who’s your daddy?


Sarah Rouse works with 2-year-olds Ava Clanton, left, and Hannah Hiatt
in the Building Blocks progam at the Speech Therapy Associates in Lodi.
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-35mm @17mm. Exposure: 1/30 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

It’s hard to beat cute. I shot the Building Blocks program at the Speech Therapy Associates office in Lodi recently. Children from 18-months to 5-years-old with language delays attend play-group sessions to help develop their verbal skills. Not only do they learn from the speech therapists, but from each other as well.

Sara Rouse helps 2-year-olds Abby Moffatt, left, and Hannah Hiatt in
the Building Blocks progam at the Speech Therapy Associates in Lodi. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-35mm @17mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

As our kids get older, we tend to forget what they were like when they were little. From school to sports, we can get caught up in the accomplishments of the now or marvel at how tall they’re getting, and don’t remember their very first steps or words.


2-year-old Abby Moffatt participates in the Building Blocks progam at the Speech Therapy Associates in Lodi.  (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-35mm @17mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The two-year-olds that I shot were as cute as the proverbial button. It’s fun to see them absorb the world around them at that age, seeing things for the first time. Most were pretty much unaffected by my presence there. They definitely hadn’t learned “take my picture” yet. At most some were mildly curious of the camera, but just for a moment. One little girl was eager to show me what she learned. She held up a small plastic toy lamb to me and called me “daddy.” Then she said “sheep” and “baa”, “baa.” She then held up a paper cutout of a baby chick and again called me “daddy”. I said “chick” and then “cheep”, “cheep”, which she promptly repeated.

I know that at this age every man is “daddy” and every woman is “mommy.” My kids are 10 and nearly 13 and it’s been awhile since they called me “daddy”. It’s usually just “dad” (although my daughter, in a middle school-moment, once called me “dude”, which I quickly nipped in the bud). It was kind of fun being called “daddy” again.

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Jump!

Sonny Orifano, 10, has fun jumping on a trampoline in the front yard of his cousin’s house on Alpine Avenue in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17. Exposure: 1/320 sec., @ f/16, w/fill flash. ISO: 200)

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall” -  Ray Bradbury

Every kid loves a trampoline. It might be the feeling of soaring through the air, but nothing is quite as joyous as bouncing on one.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/4. ISO: 200)

I saw this one in front of Jayde Garcia’s house on Alpine Street in Stockton. There were a number of kids jumping on it. I stayed there a while until the numbers dwindled down to just a few. It tends to be easier to get a great shot by isolating one or maybe a few people rather than having a jumble of people.

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The white glove treatment


(Camera: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/16. ISO: 200)

I covered the grand opening of the Aisin Manufacturing California Plant in Stockton. They make Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe door frames for the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont. Part of the ceremony was the obligatory ribbon cutting.  On a nearby table lay seven golden scissors along with seven pairs of tasteful white gloves.


(Camera: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

At most ribbon cuttings I’ve been to, what’s used is a giant pair of (non-functioning) scissors. Usually a dignitary (or dignitaries) wields the oversized cutter while an underling stands nearby and cuts the ribbon with a regular pair of scissors. At the Aisin event, each person got their own pair of gold scissors and white gloves and cut the ribbon themselves in an elegant twist on a humdrum act.

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Hat trick

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm. Exposure: 1/320 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 3200)

At the Pacific women’s basketball game against UC Riverside at Spanos Center in Stockton, the pep band decided to have a “Crazy Hat Day.” From fedoras to tri-corner pirate hats to Mickey Mouse ears, most of the members wore some sort of oddball topper. Saxophone player George Pascoe went the economical route with just a simple paper cup.

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Parking spot


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)

“Politics ain’t worrying this country one-tenth as much as where to find a parking space” – Will Rogers

I guess this is one way of getting out of paying for parking. On the up side, there’s a free space open on California Street near Lafayette Street in downtown Stockton.

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A room with a view

“Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea” – Lord Alfred Tennyson


The moon rises behind palm fronds in San Diego.  (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon  70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250sec., @ f/18. ISO: 200)

With no mountains or hills to get in the way, sunsets on the coast can last a little bit longer than those farther inland. That means you can squeeze out every last bit of light before the sun sinks completely below the horizon.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/500sec., @ f/6.3. ISO: 200)

Our hotel, Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, was located on Shelter Island in San Diego. Not so much an island, but rather a narrow peninsula that juts a short way out onto San Diego Bay. We had a great view of the the Pacific Ocean to the south, Point Loma peninsula to the west and the North Island Naval Air Station and downtown San Diego to the east.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/125sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Twilight ebbed in like the tide on our first evening in San Diego and the very last bits of a flame-colored sunset kissed the windows of downtown’s high rise buildings.

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Seeing the light(house)

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own”.  – Ben Sweetland


A statue stands at the Cabrillo National Monument across the bay from downtown San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)

The Cabrillo National Monument occupies 160 natural acres at the tip of Point Loma peninsula, just west of San Diego. It was an unscheduled stop we managed to squeeze in on our whirlwind vacation. The park commemorates the landing in 1542 of Portuguese navigator/explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who was the first European to set foot on the west coast of the continent, claiming his discovery for Mexico.


A squirrel sits in a bush at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)


California Encelia bloom at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon  16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/60sec., @ f/22. ISO: 200)

The park is an island of wildlife just a few miles just outside of the city of 1.2 million. Thousands of bright yellow California encelia blossoms covered the bluffs that separate the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay.


The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.  (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon  16-35mm @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/125sec., @ f/22. ISO: 200)

The view out a window of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, located at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.  (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon  16-35mm @ 35mm. Exposure: 1/250sec., @ f/16. ISO: 200)


The spiral staircase in the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, located at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.  (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon  16-35mm @ 25mm. Exposure: 1/30sec., @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

Also a part of the park is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Built in 1855, the historic lighthouse welcomed ships into San Diego Bay for 36 years. Ironically, it’s placement atop the 422 tall bluffs, was it’s weakness. During periods of heavy fog or low clouds, the light that shone from the beacon could not be seen by sailors enshrouded by the mist at sea level. A new light station was built in 1891, about 100 yards away closer to the bottom of the hill.

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Beauty sleep


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/320 sec., @ f/5.0. ISO: 200)

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” -  W. C. Fields

Before we roamed the San Diego Zoo on foot, we took a 35-minute bus tour though the park. It allowed us to decide which exhibits that interested us the most and what we would go back for a better look. The bus stopped at the spotted hyena enclosure but the animals were sleeping towards the back. Behind us a couple rudely shouted to wake the hyenas up so that they could take a picture of them.

I can understand the couple’s point of view. Like us, they probably traveled a long way to visit the zoo and, again like us, might have had just limited amount of time to experience the place. But some animals are nocturnal or just sleep a lot. For instance, A lot of the big cats hunt at night and at the very popular panda exhibit, the pandas were all asleep, as were the Australian koalas who slumber 22 hours a day.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 195mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The animals in the zoo are there in part for are benefit to be sure. We go to see what they look like and how they behave. But they live by their own biological clocks that may or may not coincide with our own. Maybe it’s my photojournalistic background, but I wouldn’t think of waking the animals up to change the situation.

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Ulterior motive, part 2: Jungle fever


Visitors watch a gorilla through a glass wall at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 135mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec., @ f/4. ISO: 200)

If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee
Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement that would be.


A southern gerenuk sits in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Maybe take an animal degree.
We’d study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle,
Alligator, guinea pig, and flea.


A zebra rests in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/8. ISO: 200)

We would converse in polar bear and python,
And we could curse in fluent kangaroo.
If people asked us, can you speak in rhinoceros,
We’d say, “Of courserous, can’t you?”


An African slender-snouted crocodile rests in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/80 sec., @ f/5.6 ISO: 200) (0325Sleep_001)

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us. – If I could talk to the animals from Dr. Doolittle- Music / Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

A snake-neck turtle comes up for air in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 125mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

Another attraction we planned into our vacation was the San Diego Zoo. It’s a world class facility housing animals of almost every shape and size from all over the globe. Who doesn’t remember Joan Embery (at least any “who” about my age), goodwill ambassador from the zoo, bringing exotic animals to the Tonight Show for host Johnny Carson to be goofy with? It was an amazing place that took us all day to tour, and we still didn’t see everything. Despite trying to plot out the quickest, most time efficient route, we wore out a good amount of shoe leather walking the zoo grounds.


A Maylasian tiger looks up from eating in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Located in the city’s Balboa Park, the zoo sits on about 100 acres and has about 800 species. By comparison, the San Francisco Zoo is also on approximately 100 acres in Golden Gate Park, but has only about 250 species. A little closer to home, the Sacramento Zoo in William Land Park, has about 130 species on 14 acres. Closer still is the 51-year-old Micke Grove Zoo near Lodi. Although a nice and interesting place to visit, boasting nearly 100 species, it’s roughly the size of San Diego’s welcome mat.

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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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