The Big Read

“You gotta convince me that you know what this is all about, that you aren’t just fiddling around hoping it’ll all… come out right in the end!” – Sam Spade from the 1941 movie The Maltese Falcon


Mary Reynolds- Fisher and her husband Ronny Fisher of Linden dressed up for the Big Read kickoff party at the Hotel Stockton in downtown Stockton. (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

A few weeks ago, the Stockton-San Joaquin Public Libraries held a kick-off celebration at the Hotel Stockton for its Big Read event in which residents are encouraged to read and discuss a selected book over a month or so. Dozens of activities, themed on that particular book, will be held across the county to foster literacy. This year’s book is Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, also famous for a movie of the same name starring tough guy Humphrey Bogart.


Jim Tarantino of Stockton dressed up for the Maltese Falcon-themed Big Read kickoff party at the Hotel Stockton in downtown Stockton. (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1000)

At the inaugural event, some people wore 1940s attire to get into the swing of things. Fedoras and feathered boas could be seen. It was just like a scene from the book, except in place of bottles of whiskey, people had bottled water. And instead of a sub nose 38 revolver in their pockets, they had cell phones. And the building was smoke-free, so if anyone wanted a cigarette, they had to step outside. Well, I guess it wasn’t actually like the book, for that experience you’ll have to read it yourself.

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You make the call


(Camera:Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 160)

At the top of the third inning in a varsity softball game between Tokay and St. Mary’s High schools at Arnaiz Field in Stockton, there were two outs and the bases were loaded. At bat was Tokay’s Becka Schnieder who made contact off a pitch by St. Mary’s Taylor Davis. The ground ball stayed in the infield and Schnieder ran hard, attempting to beat the throw to first. St. Mary’s first baseman Brittany Ward, glove at the ready, waited for the ball to reach her. It was going to be close. To me, it seemed that the ball and Schnieder reached first base simultaneously. Ward, convinced that it was the last out of the inning, started trotting off the field. But the base umpire, positioned near third base, called Schnieder safe. There was a brief protest from the St. Mary’s coach and then play continued.


(Camera:Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 160)

I did a quick review to make sure I got the shot, which I did, and went on to shoot more of the game.

A little while later I
re-examined the picture more  closely and saw that the umpire had gotten
it wrong. I could see the ball in Ward’s glove, but Schnieder’s foot was about and inch or so from the bag.
Ward’s foot didn’t lose contact with first base nor did she bobble the
ball. Schnieder was out.

After nearly 24-years of covering softball games, this is the first time I got a shot that clearly contradicts the umpires. All of the other close calls I’ve shot have either confirmed the umps decisions or have been too tight to figure out. In the end I decided not to tell anyone. It’s my role to record the events, not to be an instant replay for the game. I have great respect for the officials at all sporting events. They literally have to make split-second decisions under stressful conditions. This situation is evidence that they’re not perfect, but I it’s been my experience that they get it right most of the time.

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When do I qualify for the senior discount?


SUSD music teacher Joe Updegraff, right, helps 14-year-old Hoover School student Eric Avalos march and play during a rehearsal of a combined Stagg High and area middle schools band in the parking lot of Stagg in Stockton. (Camera:Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 86mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Recently, I stopped to shoot a marching band rehearsing at Stagg High School in Stockton. It turns out the 80-member band was comprised of not only students from Stagg, but from several area elementary schools as well. They were practicing for a combined performance in the Cinco De Mayo parade in downtown Stockton this coming Sunday. The younger performers gain experience from the older ones as well as familiarity with the high school band system. I got a shot of one of the instructors giving pointers to one of the students as they marched. I asked the teacher for his named and he told me Joe Updegraff. He said he’s a music teacher serving three elementary schools, Tyler, Madison and Hoover, for the Stockton Unified School District. I went to high school with a guy named Dan Updegraff, a couple of years younger than me. It’s not a common name I thought, so I mentioned it to Joe. He said that Dan is his dad. It was a middle-age reality check, much like when I shot Greg/Ry Kihn a few days earlier. Ah, I can sense the AARP membership looming just around the corner now.

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April’s top ten

I’ve picked out ten of my favorite pictures from the previous month. Most of them have no relation to one another. The only criteria is that they haven’t appeared in this blog before and, for one reason or another, they tickle my fancy. Hopefully, it will be come a regular feature here. So here goes:

4/11/08

6-year-old Aliyah Maynard is pushed on a rope swing by her grandmother Kim Maynard of Stockton as they take advantage of the warm, sunny day on a sandy beach along the deep water channel near Louis Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/16 w/ fill-flash. ISO: 200)

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4/17/08

Vansy Mabon, 16, of Stockton, plays the Asian foot volleyball game of takraw with friends at Victory Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 200)

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4/18/08

Tracy High’s Justin Evans warms up while on deck during a varsity baseball game against Franlkin at Tracy. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

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4/18/08

Stockton Thunder’s David Rohlfs is slammed into the boards by Las Vegas Wranglers’ Gerry Burke during an ECHL playoff game held at the Stockton arena in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 250)

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4/20/08

Model Deonna Pinkerton walks down the runway in the 50th annual Ebony Fashion Fair in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)


Models Ronnel Blackmon, left, and Justin Brown walk down the runway in the 50th annual Ebony Fashion Fair in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 28mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)


Model Deonna Pinkerton walks down the runway in the 50th annual Ebony Fashion Fair in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 80mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

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4/26/08

Tommy Skipper clears the bar at 18′-4.5″ in the Tri Valley Athletics Club’s pole vault competition at the annual Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

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4/27/08

The Stockton Bukkyo Taiko group performed at the DeCarli Stage at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 80-200mm @ 80mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 400)

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4/30/08


Lodi High’s Sean Snell, left, and Michael Johnson miss a fly ball into center field during a varsity baseball game at Tracy High. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor: 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

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Call me Lefty


(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

In this shot from the Stockton Ports’ game against the San Jose Giants at the Stockton Ballpark, pitcher Fautino De Los Santos pitcher appears to be throwing his right arm off into the crowd. I was experimenting with using a slow shutter speed and the resulting blur made it look like De Los Santos’ arm disintegrated due to the force of his throw. Like I said, it’s just a visual effect. The only thing that the fans have to worry about landing is their laps is a foul ball or the occasional broken bat.

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Up, up and away!

(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman!” – Intro from The Adventures of Superman (TV show 1951-1957)

(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Pole vaulter Paul Litchfield wore the Superman “S” shield on his chest during the Tri-Valley Athletic Club’s pole vault competition at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. While he warmed up, people in the audience, young and old, would say, “Hey, there’s Superman.” By wearing the emblem, he had a lot to live up to.

(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Litchfield rocketed down the runway and launched himself into the air. He easily cleared 18′-1″.  The crowd let out a roar as if they saw the actual Man of Steel himself. Superman’s legendary invincibility didn’t accompany Litchfield, though. He didn’t win the competition, or even place, but he showed that a man can fly.

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The art of War


War frontman Lonnie Jordan sings during a concert on the Main Stage at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton.  (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 145mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200)

“Music is what we like to play
all day, all day, all day, all day, all day
to soothe your soul, yeah
let’s have a picnic go to the park
rolling in the grass ’til long after dark
to soothe you soul, yeah” – All Day Music by War


Music fans groove to the music of War during a concert on the Main Stage at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton.  (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200)

War was Sunday’s main act and they completed the festival’s walk down a musical memory lane. The band’s heyday was in the 70s, but from the reaction of the crowd, they still had their fans. They were one of my favorites when I was a teenager. Lonnie Jordan is the only member left from the original band and as such he was the leader and front man for the group.

War’s Lonnie Jordan performs during a concert on the Main Stage at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 145mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200)

War’s music is R&B tinged with jazz and Latin influences. The band also had a street level appeal of the masses, crossing cultural and class boundries. Some performers eschew their earlier work, focusing only on what they’ve done lately. Jordan, a consummate showman, not only embraced the band’s past music, but the history and culture from which it was born.


Music fans cheer on War during a concert on the Main Stage at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200)

The full crowd thoroughly enjoy the show. Jordan and the band got them moving and grooving with the music. While most of the fans were my age and older, there were a few younger ones as well. Like the band’s cross-cultural allure, their music cut across age lines as well.

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Because Yan can cook!


Celebrity chef Martin Yan poses for a picture with Cathy Tran of Stockton at the Asparagus Festival in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

It’s good to be Martin Yan.

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You look mahvelous!

(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

If Greg Kihn showed his middle-agedness, Joan Jett, who headlined at the Asparagus Festival on Saturday, appeared as young as ever. Jett, who will turn 50 later this year, played to a standing-room-only crowd and looked like she hasn’t aged a day. I was never a big fan of Jett’s, but I’m familiar with  some of her bigger hits (I Love Rock n’ Roll reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1982). It seemed to me that her live performance in Stockton had even more of an edge than what I remember hearing on the radio in the past. They say people mellow with age, for Joan Jett’s music, it’s just the opposite.

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Can I get a set of Ginsu knives with that, too?


(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/40 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

“The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, HE was a genius.” – Sid Caesar

(Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/30 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

At the Asparagus Festival I saw vendor John Worsley giving a demonstration of his product, the Grill It indoor smokeless stove-top grill. He was cooking some chicken and veggies on the circular device. It kind of looked like it’d be right at home on the wheels of a Buick. The grill seemed to be working well enough, creating an inviting aroma. I just had an urge to check the cars in the parking lot for missing hubcaps.

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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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