Wrestling, big time

“The 1st period is won by the best technician. The 2nd period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart.” -  Dan Gable

As a kid, I remember watching the exploits of “Big Time” wrestlers Ray Stevens, Pepper Martin and Man Mountain Mike on TV. The flying leaps, the pounding blows and the miraculous comebacks were thrilling to a 10-year-old boy. It was like watching comic books come to life.

But as I grew up, I saw through the flash and show of professional wrestling. They may have been athletic, but the wrestling shows weren’t athletic competitions. The outcomes of the matches were orchestrated and wrestlers, play acting. It was a bit disappointing to find out your heroes were just putting on a show all along, but eventually I got over it.

Watching the Summer Olympics as a teenager, I saw amateur wrestling for the first time (my high school was so small that it didn’t have a wrestling team). These wrestlers were true athletes with not only ability, but with heart and determination. The matches were contests of skill, speed, strength and endurance. I loved to watch the “real” wrestling ever since.

The CIF State wrestling championships were held in Stockton from 1998 through 2003, when, in need of a larger venue, they were moved to Bakersfield’s Rabobank Arena in 2004. That created a void in local wrestling until the Big Valley Classic was created in 2008 and held at the Stockton Arena in hopes of bringing the state meet back to Stockton. 850 wrestlers on 56 teams from around the Central Valley participated that first year. This year’s meet drew nearly 900 grapplers on 61 squads for the two-day tournament. Here’s hoping that the powers-that-be will take notice and bring the state tourney back to Stockton.

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Sunshine on my shoulder

“If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while” – Sunshine on my shoulders by John Denver

It’s the middle of winter but you’d never know it from the run of unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. The sun has been shining and the temperatures have been in the mid to high 60s. Normally, it would be in the 40s with either foggy, overcast skies or rainy days. After early morning chills, the sun comes out and it warms up to near-Spring levels. I’ve doffed my jacket and even used the car’s air conditioner, albeit briefly. Colors are more vibrant, and there’s plenty of light so exposures aren’t a problem. And I don’t have to worry about numb fingers and trying to hold the camera still while shivering.

But I do feel a little guilty. Much of the nation has been in an icy deep freeze these past few weeks, causing accidents, power outages, even some deaths. People in about half the country, particularly the North and Northeast, have had to deal with below-freezing temperatures, not to mention all the snow and ice that goes with them.

I recently got a shot of University of the Pacific student Adam Heusinkveld, a native of Chicago. He was taking in the sun while studying outside on the UOP campus in Stockton. He was shirtless, wearing only shorts, while he read. I asked him if was glad to be here in the sunshine. He answered: “It’s negative 30 (in Chicago) today.” Then he smiled and gave a little chuckle. Yes, I feel a little guilty, but only a little.

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A historic change

Photo by Pete Souza (Camera: Canon 5D Mark II. Focal length: 105mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/10. ISO:100)

A new official portrait of Barack Obama was released on Wednesday, Jan. 14, by the Office of the President-Elect. It’s significant not just because it’s a picture of the first African-American president. It is also the first time that an official presidential portrait has been taken with a digital camera. It was shot by Pete Souza, who was just announced as the official White House photographer, with a Canon 5D Mark II (Souza, a veteran photojournalist, was also an official photographer during the Reagan administration).

Photo courtesy of Canon, USA.

The camera was in released in November of 2008 to rave reviews. Sporting 21.1 megapixels, its resolution is the equal to film and it also can shoot high-definition video. Yes, in more ways than one, change has come.

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Blast from the past: The trials of Sisyphus

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to an eternity of hard labor in Tartarus. His task was to push a boulder up a steep mountain every day, only to have it roll back down to the bottom once he reached the top.

In 1985, I saw sign painter David Hampton of Stockton struggling with his own labor. He had his hands full as he attempted to negoitate his way down March Lane near El Dorado Street in Stockton against a stiff wind carrying a 7-foot-long masonite board he purchased for his business. What’s more, he had gone to the hardware store on a bike. Unable to carry the board and ride back to his shop at the same time, he carried the board for about 100 yards or so, placed it on the ground and then walked back for the bike. He rode the bike up to where he laid down the board, and the cycle started all over again. I don’t know how far he had to go, but it was a example of persistence and perseverance that rivaled even Sisyphus.

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Reality check

A Canon T-90, left, Canon F-1N, Canon EOS 3, and Canon EOS 20D.(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/11 w/ flash. ISO: 200)

I got an old-age kick to the head the other day. Canon sent out a press release marking 50 years since the introduction of its first single lens reflex (SLR) camera. That camera, the Canonflex, was released in May of 1959. I was born in March of that year. That makes me two months older than the company’s SLR heritage. I’m expecting my AARP application any day now.

The staff at the Atria Senior Living facility in Stockton congratulates Gertrude Borznik on her 104th birthday on Tuesday. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

Later that day I had an assignment to photograph Gertrude Broznik celebrating her 104th birthday. She is a resident at the Atria Bayside Landing assisted living facility in Stockton. She looked 20-30 years younger than her actual age. Although arthritis limits her mobility, Broznik is still healthy with a sound mind, quick wit and good humor. Her daughter Mary Hiuras of Stockton, who celebrated her birthday with her mother said: “She has a better memory than my sister and I at times.” Along with her two daughters, Broznik has been blessed six grand children, nine great-grand children and one great-great grandchild.

Medications assistant Melissa Orello congratulates Gertrude Borznik on her 104th birthday on Tuesday at the Atria Senior Living facility in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond one’s own petty concerns, then something comes along that puts everything into perspective. At the end of the day I didn’t feel so old. Not because I was less than half Gertrude Broznik’s age, but rather because she was doing so well at more than twice mine.

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A sweet ride

I owned a 1991 Mazda Miata. It was my first (and only, so far) sports car. For the money, it was the most fun you could have on four wheels. Although not particularly fast, it handled twisty roads like a dream. The exhaust had a wonderful sound and the slick-shifting gear box was a joy to use. And then there was the convertible top. If I wanted to do some wind-in-the-hair driving, I just undid two latches at the windshield header, threw back the top and let the sunshine in.

The car had just two seats, so
when my wife and I had children, it was time for a more practical
vehicle. We sold the Miata and bought a Honda Odyssey minivan (Ok, you
can stop laughing now). It had all the virtues that Honda is know for.
It was (and still is) reliable, durable and safe. It’s easy to use and
relatively efficient. From the driver’s seat there’s a commanding view
of the road without feeling like you’re driving a behemoth. Practical
in every way. One thing it’s not, is fun. Oh, sure handles better than
many other vehicles its size and it’s probably as fast off the line as
the Miata was, but it’s…well, it’s no Miata.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

I saw this Dodge minivan parked on Benjamin Holt Drive near Pershing Avenue in Stockton. It was painted like the Mystery Machine from the Scooby Doo cartoons. I almost expected Scooby himself to pop his head out of the window and say: “Ruts rup, Raggy?” It may not be any more fun to drive than my Odyssey, but I bet it’s more fun to be seen in.

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Knock, knock

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 400)

Every year, from mid-December to a few days after the first of the year, the Audobon Society holds its Christmas Bird Count. Thousands of people across the nation arm themselves with binoculars to count the different birds in their area in the country’s longest-running wildlife survey.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 400)

I was walking through Louis Park in Stockton when I heard a knock, knock knocking. Curious I walked towards where the sound was coming from. I homed in on an oak tree where the sound seemed to be emanating from, but still couldn’t see the source. Then I glanced up and saw a black and white bird with a red crown. It stared at me for a while, then continued to peck away at the giant oak, making the rapping noise. I tried to get a closer shot, but it flew up to the top of the tree to join another bird of its species.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 400)

I got back to the office and looked the bird up online and it is the acorn woodpecker. It’s found in the western and southwestern U.S., Mexico and Central America. The bird drills holes into the trees to store acorns in to eat later. According to Whatbird.com, they wedge them in so tightly that even tree-climbing squirrels can’t get them out.If anyone from the Audobon Society is reading this, and it it’s not too late, I counted two acorn woodpeckers at Louis Park on Stockton.

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Long shadows

(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 50mm macro. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

The Earth is actually closer to the sun in the Winter than it is during
the Summer. The season’s cold temperatures come from the tilt of the planet on
its axis.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Canon 16-35mm @ 35mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 100)

The Earth’s angle causes less sunlight to fall on our world than
during warmer times of the year. Shadows become longer. The best
shooting times of early morning and late afternoon seem to extended to
more of the day. The slightest things are imbued with beauty and
warmth. A graceful counterpoint to the frosty cold of winter.

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Straight shooting

Ralphie -- “I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!”
Santa -- “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” -- from A Christmas Story

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 24mm. Exposure: 1/250thsec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

My 10-year-old son got a Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 Blaster for Christmas. Like the other weapons in his arsenal, the Vulcan shoots soft darts made of the spongy material that Nerf is famous for. Unlike other Nerf guns which are bolt-action, one-shot affairs, the Vulcan shoots in belt-fed full automatic mode.

The only way to withstand the 3-dart-per-second fusillade, is to hunker down behind a chair or couch, but the EBF-25 Blaster can be taken off its tripod and carried and fired ala Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies. Your only hope is to wait until the 25-round belt runs out and then return fire as quickly as you can before your opponent can reload.

I found this video of an epic Nerf gun office war. If there’s ever a Nerf siege like this at The Record, I know where I can get my hands on some serious firepower.

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Ice, ice, baby

“I like to skate on the other side of the ice” -  Stephen Wright

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 50mm macro. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 100)

On some of those freezing mornings, it got so cold that rain puddles iced over (not a great feat for, say, Roseau, Minnesota, but hey, this is California). I stopped at one to get a shot. I picked up a sheet of ice so that I could shoot it against the light. The cold numbed my fingers, but I was able to hold it steady and long enough to get a shot.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 100)

Fingers stinging from the cold and unable to keep my grasp any longer, it slipped from my hand and shattered on the ground like a window pane. The jagged pieces glistened on the ground and provided an opportunity for another shot.

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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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