Here’s mud in your eye

The Tokay’s Patrick McCarthy, left, talks with teammate Javier Pacheco between plays during a varsity football game at Edison High in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/2.8 w/flash. ISO: 2000)

I must be getting spoiled with the artificial surface on football fields, because I was a bit unprepared for the muddy conditions at a game at the Tokay at Edison last week. Magnasco Stadium is one of the oldest fields in Stockton. The lights are among the county’s worst, (we describe it as a pit or dungeon) and the field’s drainage is pitiful. After a couple of moderate rains storms, the turf was a quagmire. Even though the rain had stopped, I slipped and slid on the sidelines in my street shoes which went from black to brown with muck. My lower pant legs were splattered with drops of mud. Most of the players were covered in the stuff.

I remember the practice before the last game of the season my sophomore year. It had rained earlier and the practice field was soaked. Near the end of the practice, the field was pretty chewed up and muddy. We actually were having fun getting dirty. We took our appearance as a sign of how hard we played, a badge of courage, so to speak.

The Tokay defense prepare to line up between plays during a varsity football game at Edison High in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/2.8 w/flash. ISO: 2000)

Most of my teammates and I were covered in the muck except one player, I’ll call Mark. He was on the sidelines, his pristine white practice uniform was spotless. Even his shoes were still clean. The last part of our session was special teams practice. Mark was on the kickoff return team. As he trotted onto the field, a murmur went through the kickoff team: “Let’s get Mark”. The play started and the ball sailed through the air. We who were on the kicking squad abandoned the chase for the ball carrier and ran straight towards Mark.

All eleven of us jumped him and gleefully dragged him through the mire that was the practice field. I think even a few the guys who were on his side joined in. The coach restored order and the rest of practice continued without incident.

At first I thought that the Tokay and Edison players last week must have been miserable slogging around in the mud, but they helped me to remember how fun getting dirty can be.

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Roll over

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

What if you didn’t have to throw a ball to your dog to play fetch? The Stafko family’s 3-year-old dachshund Harriet got a new playmate of sorts in Buttons, a hamster of indeterminate age. The family was letting Buttons run around in a clear plastic exercise ball in the front yard of their Stockton home. Harriet wasn’t really chasing the ball, but kept a wary eye on it as Buttons rolled around the lawn.

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In the heart of darkness

San Joaquin County supervisor district 1 candidate Carlos Villapudua talks with supporters at his election night party at Centrale Bar and grill in Stockton. (Camera: NIkon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ flash. ISO: 800)

The thing I hate most about covering election nights are the parties. Most candidates have them at a restaurant or bar to be with friends and supporters as the election results come in. The problem is many of those places are nearly as dark as a moonless night.

I shot San Joaquin County supervisor district 1 candidate Carlos Villapudua’s gathering at the Centrale Bar and Grill on the Miracle Mile in Stockton. The lighting was barely adequate directly under the meager ceiling lights that were placed far apart. Unfortunately, Villapudua didn’t spend much time under any of them. I was using a flash so exposure wasn’t a problem. Focusing was another story.

Away from those overhead lights, it was so dark that the camera couldn’t autofocus. The lens would hunt back and forth, trying to lock onto something. I couldn’t even see well enough in the dark to focus the camera manually. More than half of my shots were out of focus.

On every lens there’s a scale measured in feet and meters. It can tell the photographer how far away the point of focus is from the camera. I guessed how far Villapudua was from me and then set the lens’ focus until the scale read about 4 feet and then just tried to keep that distance from him when I shot.

There are times that even as a professional photographer I have to shoot on a wing and a prayer, fortunately it’s not that often.

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Blast from the past: Cheap date

(Camera Nikon D1H. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/60 sec. @ f/ 2.8. ISO 400)

11/1/2004: Ana Golden of Stockton brought a life-sized cutout of President George W. Bush to the Republican campaign party held at the Radisson Hotel in Stockton. He was the man of the hour, winning the election with a greater margin than he did in 2000.

Given his current popularity numbers, this may the only kind of appearance that the President will be making this election.

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October nights

“October, that’s when they pay off for playing ball.”-  Reggie Jackson

I was on the late shift for most of the October and that means lots of sports. Though I did manage to get in a few other things, it’s been primarily prep football and volleyball with a dash of Sacramento Kings basketball thrown in. Here are some of my favorites from the month.



Bear Creek quarterback Eric Contereas fumbles the ball while being tackled by Stagg’s Shaquille Senegal 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)



Edison’s Julissa Jones, left, and Jeralyn Durias dig for the ball during a volleyball match at Tokay High in Lodi. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 110mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500



Jorge Rosano with the Stockton-based All Bay Windows washes the glass overhang on the Waterfront Towers office buildings in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)



Sacramento Kings’ Shelden Williams and LA Clippers Paul Davis fight for a rebound during an exhibition game at the University of the Pacific’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 70-200mm 70mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)



Sandy and James Herron watch the sun set behind the Port of Stockton turning basin in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/16. ISO: 200)

St. Mary’s’ Alex Michaels is tackled by West’s Jeff Carter, left, and Madiagne Sarr during a varsity football game at St. Mary’s in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1250)



Chavez High’s Tessa Lea’ea tips the ball over two Lincoln defenders during a varsity volleyball match at Chavez in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2000)



Students look at honey bees at the Select San Joaquin Agventure 2008 event at the Manteca Unified School District’s school farm in Manteca. 4,000 third graders learned about agriculture and farm life at the event. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 17-55mm @ 18mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/10. ISO: 200)

Central School 3rd grader Madison Hoskinson smells a leaf at the Select San Joaquin Agventure 2008 event at the Manteca Unified School District’s school farm in Manteca. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)



Franklin’s Robert Corley is tackled by Lincoln’s Alfred Gross, left, and Sterling Thomas during a varsity football game at Lincoln’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor: 300mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8 w/flash. ISO: 1600)

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Dual use studio

(Camera: Canon 20D Lens: Canon 16-55mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

When most people think of a photography studio, they envision a large space with fancy flash units and a big seamless background. But a small product studio can be set up almost anywhere using almost any kind of artificial light. A lot of small product photography only needs a small space in which to shoot.

For my jack-o-lantern shot, I used my downstairs bathroom. I wanted a place where I could darken the room so that I could capture the candlelight of the pumpkin glow. The pumpkin was medium-sized and the hallway bathroom, at the center of the house, doesn’t have any windows which made it the perfect spot.

I used push pins to hold up an orange bath towel against the wall as a backdrop atop a set of cabinets in the small room (I’ll spackle and paint those little holes later, Honey). The lighting was even simpler affair. I turned out the overhead lights and used candles.

There was a candle inside the pumpkin, of course, but I set up two behind it to light up the background. Two more, one on each side, helped fill in the front. During the exposure, I held another above to give a little illumination to the top (the only mishap was when I spilled some wax from the candle I was holding onto the floor). With the camera on a tripod to keep it steady, I played around with the exposure a little, chimping as I went along, and voila! Instant table-top studio shot.

If anybody knows how to remove dried candle wax (orange, in color) from linoleum, just let me know before my wife gets home.

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Jumpin’ jack-o-lantern flash

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 30mm. Exposure: 1/4th sec. @ f.5.6. ISO: 400)

I’m in charge of carving the pumpkins in my family. We usually have two or three medium to large jack-o-lanterns, but this year I only carved one (well, one and a half) This Halloween falls on a Friday so I’ll be shooting prep football instead of handing out candy this year. I decided on a larger pumpkin eating a smaller one for my design.

I used a paring knife and a carrot peeler as well as a serrated knife and a couple of scoopers from a pumpkin carving kit (a higher quality one that we bought several years ago from Target, about $14-$15, if memory serves).

Using a sawing motion with the serrated knife, I did a rough cut of the top and the larger openings. The paring knife was used for the finer details. I used it on the eyeballs and the teeth to peel the skin off to give the pumpkin a little more 3-D look.

The carrot peeler was used for the eyes’ irises and the nostrils. Just poke it through, turn 360 degrees and pull out the core. I used two of those cores for the horns on the top of the head.

The smaller pumpkin was easier. I cut off the back rather than the top to access the seeds and guts of it. That way I would only have to use one candle to light both of them. The rest was one with the carrot peeler and the paring knife.

It’s too bad I won’t be able to see my carvings in action this year, but I know my family will enjoy them.

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Blast from the past: I love what you’ve done with your hair

Delta College student
Melissa Deverell of Stockton, left, dressed for Halloween as Medusa
from Greek myth, has her serpentine locks checked out by fellow student
Jennifer Khut while talking between classes on the college’s campus in
(Camera Nikon D1H. Lens: Sigma 14mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/ 5.6 w/ fill-flash. ISO 200)

10/28/04: On Halloween some of Delta College students dress up in costumes as they make their way around the Stockton campus for the day. Melissa Deverell’s costume didn’t turn people to stone, but it did make them stop and take notice.

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It’s the most wonderful night of the year

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!” – Dexter Kozen

When Sondra Sharitt grew up in Modesto, her favorite holiday wasn’t Christmas, it was Halloween. Ever since she was a kid she liked scary stuff. Now that she’s an adult, the front yard of her Stockton home is a macabre scene of madness and that’s the way she likes it. The inside of the Alder Street house is dressed up in All Hallows Eve’s darken tones.

Every year for Halloween she dresses up her front yard in frightening themes. This year there’s a ghoulish wedding taking place on her lawn. Ghoulish mannequins exchange vows under a skull capped altar. A speaker plays the warning/welcome to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride. Ghouls, bats and spiders abound. There’s even a casket. Not a fake Halloween-store, or a hand-made-out-of-plywood one, but a real freakin’ casket. Even Sharitt’s black cat (well, mostly black with a bit of white) hangs out in the maze of decorations.

I don’t know if Sharitt watched the Addams Family as a kid, but the show could have taken lessons from her.

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The myth of beauty

“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” -  Sophia Loren

Have you ever seen celebrities or supermodels on the cover of a slick magazine? Have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder how they stay so thin?” Or “how do they keep their skin so flawless?” The answer is: they don’t.

In photojournalism, manipulation of the content of photos is strictly taboo. We can do some cropping, adjust contrast and color and lighten or darken portions of the picture (called “dodging” and “burning”), but that’s the extent of it. Credibility is he mainstay of the news business and readers need to know they can trust that the pictures they see in the paper (and online) are of real events as they really happen and of real people as they really are. Any kind of falsification of a photo is cause for a severe reprimand of the perpetrator up to and including dismissal.

Fashion/glamor photography adheres to a entirely different standard. Manipulation is not only tolerated, it seems to be accepted as the norm. Most fashion/glamor/advertsing photography focuses on presenting beauty as an ideal. It’s an ideal that even the models who pose for those photos, as beautiful as they are, cannot live up to. First they are made-up and coifed to within an inch of their lives. Then, after the photos are taken (by experts in flawless lighting), computer manipulation is used to further enhance the models’ looks beyond recognition. Before the digital age, this was confined to the skill of an artist wielding an airbrush. But today, the sky’s the limit.

My daughter is now a teenager in middle school. Back in elementary school, school uniforms were required. Now, with some restrictions, it’s free dress, as they say. My wife and I have tried to do our best to promote our daughter’s sense of self, for her to be comfortable with who she is and how she looks. But it’s been a constant campaign to reinforce reality over the fantasy of images of impossibly thin and flawless women wearing the latest fashions on television and in magazines and even online.” Our daughter loves to read and we purchased a subscription to Teen Vogue magazine for the articles of her favorite celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. There were other articles that paid lip service to body image and anorexia, along side advertisements with photos of of impossibly thin models with equally impossibly flawless skin. We’re reconsidering renewing the subscription.

A light in the darkness is Dove with its Real Beauty campaign. It promotes the beauty of real people and tries to dispel the myth of the ideal standard. They’ve produced a video (below) that shows just what goes into producing a fashion photo, that the beauty found in magazines is unattainable in reality. It’s something we’ve shown to our daughter. It’s something that every girl and young woman should see.

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To me a perfect picture isn’t one that just capture’s a person’s outer beauty. As a photojournalist I want to reveal some truth about a person’s character. Sometimes the wrinkliest, blemished faces may make some of the most beautiful, emotionally truthful photos.

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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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