Ye olde internet

A resident walks by the Webb Stone Store (1854), left and the Adams and Co./I.O.O.F. Hall (1854) in Mokelumne Hill. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 200)

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a small rural town. On one hand, the quaint communities are quiet, relatively safe and stress-free places to live, rich in history. On the other hand, services that people in larger towns and cities take for granted can be very basic or even non-existent. Things like entertainment and shopping can be limited and even cell phone reception or internet access can be spotty.

The Hotel Leger (1875) is located on Main Street in Mokelumne Hill. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

An dilapidated Dodge truck sits next to the L. Mayer building in historic Mokelumne Hill. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 160mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

The spire of the St.Thomas Aquinos Catholic Church (c1900) rises above the trees in Mokelumne Hill. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Mokelumne Hill is an old mining town steeped in antiquity and history. Nearly every structure has some historical significance. Walking the streets, one almost gets a sense of going back in time, before modern conveniences such as television or computers.

A banner is strung across Main Street in historic Mokelumne Hill. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 170mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

That’s why I was surprised to see a banner stretched across Main Street touting the town’s Website. It gives a little news about Moke Hill, provides a calendar of events and promotes the town’s history.  I guess there’s a Website for everything.

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Small town

“Well, I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities”- Small town by John Mellecamp

I grew up in Walnut Grove, a small Delta town on the Sacramento River, population of about 500 (when I was a kid). We never locked our front doors. My parents would leave the car parked in our driveway with the doors unlocked and keys in the ignition. Everyone knew everyone, so who are you going to steal from?

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

I recently had an assignment in the historic Mother Lode town of Mokelumne Hill. It is the definition of a small town. Tucked away in a small nook of Calaveras County, It’s population is around 700 (according to archeologist and resident Julia Costello). I arrived a little early for my evening assignment so I wandered the streets.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 44mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The town library was closed for the night, but three tables full of books were set out on the building’s creaky wooden porch. They were on display for the Friends of the Library book sale. Anyone could go to the library, at any time, pick a book and drop their money into the after hours book return. Now, that’s what I call a small town.

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Not a hair out of place

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500the sec. @ f/2.8. ISO:1600)

Stagg’s Bruce Vaba sported an interesting haircut. The swirls made for an interesting pattern in his closely cropped dark hair. It was pretty cool looking. It was too bad that he had to wear a helmet and cover it up.

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Rainy days and Fridays

Stagg cheerleaders Ashley Eckerty, left, Jacqueline Lee and Meghan Chiaplae-Jackson keep dry under umbrellas during a varsity football game against Bear Creek at Chavez High in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500the sec. @ f/2.8. ISO:1600)

Last year, I gloated over not getting rained during football season and I thumbed my nose at the elemental-powers-that-be. This year, my past actions caught up with me. Last Friday’s game between Stagg and Bear Creek at the Chavez High stadium in Stockton saw the first rainy night of the 2008-2009 season. While it wasn’t a deluge, there was enough rain for people to break out their umbrellas. I wore a light jacket and my handy-dandy rain hat and stayed dry enough.

Bear Creek’s Marcus Beaird catches a pass over Stagg’s Jamen Jones during a varsity football game at Chavez High in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO:1600)

Today’s forecast calls for wind, but no rain. Hopefully the rest of the season will remain dry. If not, I wonder if there is some sort of offering I can make to appease the weather gods?

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A little night music

I always love a good painting-with-light picture. They have a certain almost undefinable yet magical quality about them. String a bunch of them together for a stop-action video, all the better. Here’s one by Ryan Cashman that features a simple creature of light playing an electric keyboard with the San Diego skyline as a backdrop. Enjoy!

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Getting with the times

(Camera:Nikon D300. Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/11 w/ flash. ISO: 200)

A few months ago I got this promotional mailer from Kodak for a free film give-away. I thought it was some kind of weird time-warp thing. Did it pass through a worm hole in space? Or maybe it was finally found behind some mail bin at the post office and finally sent on it’s way. Years ago I’d get these things whenever a company like Kodak, Fuji or Ilford would introduce their latest and greatest film. The flyer included a short questionnaire: “How many rolls of film do you use in a month?” Uh, none. “What percent of you images are captured on film?” That’d be zero. I let the mailer sit around past the questionnaire’s due date of May, 9th, but I sent it in anyway. It’s not like the film is flying off the shelves.

(Camera:Nikon D300. Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/100th sec. @ f/11 w/ flash. ISO: 200)

In the past the easiest and cheapest way to improve the quality of your pictures was to change the film you were using. Low-speed film tended to give the best color and finest grain. Higher speed film gave away some quality, but improved low-light shooting. There was a film for every need and occasion, from portraits to sports. Back then new camera models came out every four to five years.Today, to get better pictures you have to buy a whole new camera. Digital cameras have a turn around time of about every 18 months. But while the quality of digital images has caught up with film (in some cases surpasses it), there is still a wide gap in price.

(Camera:Nikon D300. Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/8 w/ flash. ISO: 100)

A digital SLR camera is about 2-4 times more expensive than a comparable film set up. For example the top-of-the-line digital Nikon, the D3, is about $5,000. Its film counterpart, the Nikon F6, is about $1,900. Add to that the cost of computers and software, you can buy a lot of film and processing with the difference. Still, the convenience and ever improving quality of digital cameras cannot be denied. Add to that the new trend of still DSLR cameras that take video (The new Nikon D90 and Canon 5D Mk II, are the first), digital cameras are riding the crest of popularity while film cameras are the flotsam and jetsam of progress. They’re entering the 8-track-tapes/Betamax territory. For most photographers there’s no going back to film. It’s just going to cost a lot more money to produce our pictures.

Here’s a groovy little video for those who wax nostalgic for film:

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Army of one

11-year-old Angelina Vasquez of Manteca hugs a U.S. Army inflatable  soldier mascot at the Lathrop Days Harvest Festival held at the Del’Osso Family farms Pumpkin Maze in Lathrop. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200)

I wonder it this is what’s meant by those Army recruiting slogan of “An army of one”?

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For this story on harmonica soloist Robert Bonfiglio playing for kids at Banta Elementary School, we not only did a story for the paper and our online edition, but did an audio slide show as well. Reporter Jennifer Torres not only did her usual interview and took her notes, she recorded sound as well. I shot far more than just the few shots which would run in the space-limited newspaper. It didn’t stop there. When we got back to the office Jennifer edited the sound and online editor Brea Jones organized audio and photos into a slideshow and posted it on the web.

People often think that the work they do, especially if it’s a creative endeavor, is the result of a singular effort. For people who work in newspapers, like photographers, and reporters., it’s a different story. We take the pictures and write the stories, an important part of the process, but there are others who are just as vital to get the story to the readers. Copy editors proofread the text and check facts. Scanners tone and process the pictures to make them press ready. And then there are people who layout the paper to make sure everything is logically placed and readable. Whether in print or online it takes teamwork to get our stories to the readers.

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Links: Olympic efforts

A chain link fence around the soccer field at Delta College in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300, Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/16. ISO: 200)

World-class athletes

The Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China garnered a lot of media attention.  It produced a lot of record-breaking moments as well as memorable photos. Less well-covered was the Paralympics also held in Beijing about a month after the Olympics in August. The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has some wonderful and moving pictures of disabled athletes giving Olympic-level efforts in their respective events.


Cameras galore

An entry posted on Pulitzer prize winning photographer Vincent LaForet’s blog about remote cameras at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, shows how many photographers covered the games.



The New York Times web site has this cool interactive 360-degree panorama of the 10-meter board at the Water Cube swimming venue at the Beijing Olympics. With a click of a mouse you can move the camera in any direction and get a sense of what divers see when they’re about dive.

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Doc’s got game

Larry Meredith shows some moves to 5-year-old Jared Matz before playing a game at UOP’s Main Gym in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ flash. ISO: 400)

Larry Meredith could’ve spent his 80th birthday a number of different ways. He could have sat on his porch in rocking chair. He could have played canasta with friends. He could have fed the pigeons in the park. No, Meredith played basketball in a pick-up game at the University of the Pacific’s main gym in Stockton.

(Camera: Nikon: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 23mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

Meredith, a former UOP professor of religious studies, plays hoops at the gym a couple of times a week. Before his birthday game started his fellow players gave him a bright orange t-shirt that read “Doc’s got game at 80″ on the front. On the back was ” Beware the hook and the elbow”, referring to his hook shot and his penchant for fouling.

(Camera: Nikon: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

(Camera: Nikon: D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ flash. ISO: 400)

Meredith must have been 25-30 years older than the median age of the rest of the players on the court. He ran up and down the court like a much younger man. He dribbled, passed and shot. I got tired just watching him play.

(Camera: Nikon: D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 102mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ flash. ISO: 400)

Although his shooting percentage wasn’t the greatest (neither was anyone else’s), Meredith did manage to score several baskets during the session. His colleagues were right on the mark with the t-shirt, because at 80, Doc’s still got game.

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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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