Sea change?


Photo by Ross Chen

For the past several years Canon has ruled the professional camera roost with its 1D-series cameras. Nikon has been the also-ran with inferior products. That changed about a year ago when Nikon announced two great cameras: the D3and The D300. Recently Nikon fired another broadside at Canon with the new D700 camera. It’s sort of a hybrid between and the D300 with the best features of both. It used to be that, at large sporting events, one would see nothing but an ocean of Canon’s signature white telephoto lenses.

Well, what a difference a year makes. Pictured above is a shot by photographer Ross Chen that shows a group of photographers shooting the swimming events at the Olympics in Beijing. You can see (if you break out a magnifying glass) a near 50/50 split between Canon and Nikon (Nikon actually has a slight edge). As a long-time Canon user, I’m impressed with the strides that Nikon has made to set the standard in the quality and abilities in their cameras. That’s all well and good, but, again as a Canon shooter, I think it’s time for Canon to step up and give Nikon a run for its money.

PS: Here’s a link to a great interactive panoramic shot of the Beijing Nation Stadium in China by Finnish photographer Kari Kuukka (here’s a link to his blog – it’s in Finnish, so even if you can’t read it, there some great images as well as nice and soothing Chinese background music). It’s a 360-degree, shot of the interior of the stadium about thirty minutes before the start of the men’s 100-meter final. The photo starts at the photographer’s corral and you can move your viewpoint around the venue and back again. You can really see how many photographers there are and the type of equipment they are using. Not as many Nikon shooters as in Chen’s photo, but much more than there used to be.

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Smarter than your average bear?

California State Fair mascot Poppy, dressed in a tuxedo, is escorted
down the red carpet by models Megan McIlhargey, left, and Alisha Grewal
during the opening ceremonies on the first day of the fair at Cal Expo
in Sacramento. This year’s theme is “Going Hollywood”. (Camera: Nikon
D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Expsoure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO:
100)


Poppy the Golden Bear is the official mascot for the California State Fair. I don’t
envy the person who has to walk around Cal Expo in the hot and furry
bear suit during the middle of Summer. Still, there might be some perks
to the job.

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Counties fair

Fairgoers look at the San Joaquin county exhibit on the first day of the California State Fair at Cal Expo in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55 @ 17mm. Expsoure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

Call me a nerd, but I like the county exhibits at the California State Fair. I know they’re not as fun or flashy as the rides on the midway, but at least they’re indoors where its cool. Some show a lot of creativity and hard work, while others, well, not so much. I’d put San Joaquin County’s effort in the upper-mid range. It’s a pretty good effort, very well executed, but it just doesn’t have that “Je ne sais quoi” to stand out from the rest.

Some counties that one would think would have a presence at the fair, such as San Francisco or Marin counties, didn’t bother to send an exhibit. In fact 22 of California’s 58 counties were missing from the exhibition hall.

For what it’s worth, (admittedly, not much) here are some of the county exhibits that I think stood out in one way or another:



(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55 @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The Best Use Of A Chicken Award goes to Solano County. From its execution to whimsical theme and bright colors, this barnyard-motif exhibit is a winner, in my opinion. The chicken also serves as a walk-through kiosk with more displays and information inside. There’s even a staff member to answer any questions. Well done.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55 @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/40th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The Magic Oven Award goes to Placer County. Nicely done too, but the Keebler elves need to be told that someone has stolen their tree.


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

The Lou Ferrigno Award goes to Los Angeles County. Don’t make the Los Angeles County sheriffs angry. You won’t like them when they get angry.



(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55 @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The Elvis Is Dead Award goes to Merced County. A zombiesque animatronic King of Rock and Roll sings pseudo-Elvis lyrics by a bad Presley impersonator, is enough to send people running for the exits.



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

The Showing Up Is Half The Battle (well, maybe not quite half) Award goes to Kings County. This exhibit looks like it was funded by loose change found under the cushions of someone’s couch. It’s a definite snoozer, but, unlike some other counties, at least they put in an effort to enter.

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Themes


Holly Koscinski of Yerington, Nevada, has her picture taken by Jerilee Kent also of Yerington, at the Big Fun Studios Backlot at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3.ISO: 200)

I found the themes of the State fair over the last few years a bit of a letdown. 2005 heralded the fair’s Star Wars motif. My family and I looked forward to it (especially the kids), but the exhibit seemed mostly to be an opportunity for vendors to sell Star Wars collectables and toys. The highlight was an autograph signing session by Peter Mayhew, the guy who played the hirsute Chewbacca. He charged $20 per signature. My family and I passed on him. 2006′s Superstars and Superheroes was marginally better, with a life size Batman made of Lego blocks being featured, but still a disappointment. I can’t say that I was dissatisfied with 2007′s theme because, due to my work schedule, I wasn’t able to go to the fair that year.


Lori Borchers of Vacaville and her son Ryan Fento, 15, look at masks of famous celebrities faces at the Going Hollywood exhibit at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ fill-flash.ISO: 400)


6-year-old Haylie Garskie of Sacramento, sticks her head through the window of Spongebob Squarepants’ pineapple house in the Big Fun Studios Backlot at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

This year’s theme is “Going Hollywood” and for the most part matches the disappointing previous years. I walked through the exhibit hoping for more, but only found a few tidbits here and there.


Tony Palermo demonstrates how sound effects for radio and movies are created during his Sparx Audio Adventures at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 200)


Sound effects expert Tony Palermo creates sounds of a sword fight with kitchen implements during his Sparx Audio Adventures at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

One interesting thing, though, was part of the Big Fun Studio Backlot, located near the county buildings. The back lot, a replica of a studio set, is a bit boring, except for what’s called the Sparx Audio Adventures. Sound effects expert Tony Palermo demonstrated how “foley” artists make sounds for the movies and radio. He used kitchen implements to create a pirate sword battle in the audience’s minds. A large tin can filled with metal objects served as a “crash box” that replicates sounds of a collision. One versatile device was a simple bongo drum with a long thin spring attached to its head. It made sounds ranging from a saw cutting down a tree to an unearthly spaceship hum.


Tony Palermo makes sound effects with a modified bongo drum during his Sparx Audio Adventures at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/6.3. ISO: 200)

What I liked about Palermo’s show is it not only described some the “behind-the-scenes” parts of movie making, but inspired the imagination as well.

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Art of the state


Reid Stultz of San Angelo, Texas, looks at a painting by Kyle Larson of Sacramento titled “Limbo Street” on display at the California Fine Arts exhibit at Cal Expo on the first day of the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 135mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec.@ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The California Fine Arts exhibition is tucked away in a corner of the Pavilions building at Cal Expo in Sacramento. It’s something I always look forward to during the State Fair. I love perusing the paintings, sculptures and especially the photographs (of course). It gives me the chance to cool down from the heat and slow down from the manic hustle and noise of the midway. Even though I don’t understand or agree with every piece in the show, I can appreciate the creative effort and craftsmanship that goes into the artists’ works.


Emerson Mah of Berkeley looks at metal sculpture of a dragon by artist William Mang titled “Zanthony Chinese Dragon” on display at the California Fine Arts exhibit at Cal Expo on the first day of the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec.@ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

This year’s art seems to be a decent crop. I liked the metallic sculpture of an elegant, yet fierce dragon. I think my kids will get a kick out of that.


A group called the Knotty Knitters created this group of knitted brassieres on display in the California Fine Arts exhibition at the California State Fair at Cal Expo in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 17-55mm @ 32mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec.@ f/4. ISO: 400)

Several years ago, my wife was outraged by one particular painting. It was a white canvas, roughly 2 x 3 feet in size, with only the words “This is not art!” scrawled upon it in black paint. I don’t remember if it won any awards, but we wondered how anything like that could get into the show. After all if it isn’t art, why submitted it to an art exhibition?

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Come to state fair


The UC Davis Aggies marching band plays at the opening ceremonies at Cal Expo on the first day of the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec, @ f/8. ISO: 100)


Elizabeth Sanchez of Hamilton City, grooms her sheep in the livestock barns at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec, @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

Last Friday, I coverded the opening day of the California State Fair.
I’ve been going the fair since I was a kid and I like it because there’s something for everyone. From the livestock barns, to the entertainment, to the midway, if you’re not into one thing or find another thing disappointing, then something else may strike your fancy.


4-year-old Kate Rozell of Fair Oaks eats a corn dog at Cal Expo at the California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec, @ f/8. ISO: 200)


Cousins Jasmin Zepeda, 13, left, Gabriel Zepeda, 9,  Ysenia Zepeda, 11,
and Lilly Zepeda, 10, ride the Tango on the midway at Cal Expo at the
California State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-200mm @ 116mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec, @ f/8. ISO: 200)

My earliest memories of the fair are from when the fairgrounds were in the Tahoe Park neighborhood of Sacramento on Stockton Boulevard. I don’t remember much other than holding my parents’ hands and marveling at a large rocket on display at the entrance to the fair.

Another recollection is from when I was about 10 or so, wandering the midway with a friend and being scammed out of all my money by a carny who kept urging me to try and win a stuffed animal at a carnival game. I didn’t win anything, and spent my last penny I had trying.


A large stuffed gorilla sits on a hanging bench of the Sky Ride tram
that transverses Cal Expo during the California State Fair in
Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-200mm @ 200mm.
Exposure: 1/500th sec, @ f/8. ISO: 200)


3-year-old Ella Vandermeulen of Escalon, milks a goat at the UC Davis
School of Veterinary Medicine’s booth at Cal Expo during the California
State Fair in Sacramento. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec, @ f/4. ISO: 200)

My wife and I have taken our kids to the fair ever since they were old enough to enjoy it. I wonder what memories, fond or otherwise, they’ll have when they’re all grown up?

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The games people play


Sumitaka Kurose, of Shizuoka, Japan, dances with Stockton Ports’ mascot Splash during the “dance for your dinner” promo between innings at the Ports’ game against the Modesto Nuts at the Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 800)

Like most minor league teams, Stockton Ports single A baseball team runs a number of different promotional games between innings to help keep the fans engaged and, hopefully, keep them coming back.

10-year-old Gabe Velasco of Antioch gets splashed as he catches a water balloon thrown by his 12-year-old sister Samantha Luis in a sieve attached to a helmet on his head during the water balloon catch game between innings at the Stockton Ballpark during a California League baseball game between the Stockton Ports and the Modesto Nuts in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 500mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 800)

One of the games this year is the water balloon toss. One person has to wear a colander mounted on a helmet to catch water balloons thrown by a teammate. The bigger the splash, the more the crowd likes it.

Ian Helmstadter, left, and Dave Crosby, both from Los Angeles, compete in the Bungee Battle between innings at the Stockton Ports game against the Modesto Nuts at the Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

Another fan favorite is the bungee battle. Two opponents are connected together by a long bungee cord. Between them is a large bucket and placed at opposing distances from each other are two piles of styrofoam tubes (normally used as pool toys, “noodles” are what my family calls them). The contestants have to run to their respective piles of tubes, grab one and then hustle back to deposit it into the bucket.  As they run, the bungee cord stretches taut and usually one or the other contestant is jerked to the ground.

My all-time favorite was the bat race. I say “was” because they don’t do it any more. In the old days of Billy Hebert Field, the bat race used to be a staple of the game. I haven’t seen it done at the new downtown ballpark.

Two contestants would each hold a bat vertically, with the larger, hitting end placed on the ground. Then they would lean over and place their foreheads on the top end. The race would start and the competitors would spin around ten times with the bats as the axis point. After that, they needed to run about 10 yards or so to the finish line. Dizzy from the spinning, the challengers would weave and wobble like drunken sailors.

I think it’s time to bring back it. Perhaps they can get a sponsor for it. How about Heineken or Coors Lite bat race?

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Hot Links: Going for the gold


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)


Once every four years the greatest athletes gather for an incredible festival of sports that is the Olympics. Being a relatively small paper, The Record doesn’t send anyone to cover the games. We rely on news services such as Associated Press. Here are some links from around the photo world of the XXIX Summer Olympic games in Beijing, China.


Lone wolf

Check out Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar’s blog, The Best Seat In The House. He’s the Times’ lone shooter at the Olympics. Mar’s got some great shots and he talks about the games from a photographers perspective.

How to
How much equipment does it take to shoot such and event like the Olympics? Mar, Detroit Free Press photographer Eric Seals, and Newsweek shooter Vincent Laforet all have blogged about the gear they took on the trip.  USA Today photographer Bert Hanashiro has a video on his Sports Shooter site on how he prepares for the biggest event in sports. This is his 10th Olympics that he’s covered, so he ought to know.

Opening statements

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture shows the grandeur and pageantry of the Olympics opening ceremonies. Some of the pictures look like all of China’s 1.3 billion people are packed into the stadium in Beijing.

Lowered expectations?

According to the website J Camp Live, the downturn in the economy has even affected Sports Illustrated. This Olympics SI will only “…send a photo editor, three photo technicians and 10 photographers to Beijing. It’s a significant decrease from previous years when Sports Illustrated sent almost its entire office to the Olympic games.” Yeah, life’s rough all over. Here’s a gallery of Sports Illustrated’s “limited” coverage.

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Where the sidewalk ends


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

I saw this sign on North Church and 4th Streets in Phoenix, Oregon, and it reminded me of the late Shel Silverstein’s poem Where the Sidewalk Ends. It describes our weekend getaway perfectly.


A great blue heron stands along the shores of the Rogue River near Grants Pass, Oregon.(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.


Light skims off a fern growing near Medford, Oregon. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 165mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.


A chair casts a shadow on a concrete patio near Medford, Oregon. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 32mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

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To Hell(gate) and back again


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 170mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

On our Oregon trip, we took a jet boat excursion from Grants Pass, Oregon, down the Rogue River to Hellgate Canyon. We boarded a craft, large enough to hold 60 people. After quick safety instructions by the pilot (“life vests are located under the seat ahead of you…” etc.), the craft’s three powerful jet engines roared to life and we were off.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Soon after we got a full head of steam, the pilot, nicknamed “Higgs”, abruptly cut the engines. The bow of the boat dropped due to the sudden cessation of forward movement and the resulting wake washed over the passengers soaking nearly all of us. Higgs, protected by the tall windshield of the bridge, stayed high and dry. He did this several times on the two-hour trip. I think he was enjoying himself a little too much.



(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200
)


A kayaker paddles through Hellgate Canyon on the rogue River near Grants Pass, Oregon. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

As fast as the boat was, it could only keep the speed up for just a few minutes at a time. The pilot would have to slow the craft down for fishers and other boaters and rafters so we wouldn’t upset them with our wake. They all seem appreciative and waved eagerly and we happily waved back. Some were a bit more mischievous and sprayed us with water guns whenever we slowed down. As if we weren’t wet enough all ready.


An adult and juvenile osprey sit in a nest atop the Robinson Bridge over the Rogue river in Grants Pass, Oregon. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

The scenery was beautiful with the Oregon’s lush trees lining the river. Higgs slowed several times to show us some of the local wildlife. We caught glimpses of great blue herons, eagles and ospreys.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 148mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)


We reached our destination of Hellgate Canyon. Its steep rocky cliffs were imposing and impressive. Higgs said that the canyon has been used as a location for many a movie. The 1994 movie The River Wild with Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon was filmed there (can I count this as my link to the six degrees of Kevin Bacon?) as well as the famous cliff-jumping scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford).

>
(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

The trip way back to our starting point was a bit shorter, having seen the sights already. As bit of excitement for the passengers, Higgs would get the boat up to speed and then spin the boat 360 degrees. Not like doing “doughnuts” in the parking lot, but rather in a “rear-end-of-a-car-that-got-loose-in the-rain-and-is-heading-toward-a-guardrail” sort of way. My 10-year-old son, sitting next to me, loved it. He yelled “awesome!” and “do it again!” each time the boat was spun. Me, I was making sure that the life jackets were within easy reach.


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 16-35mm@ 16mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

The boat was fast enough so that the wind, along with the warm day, took us from sopping wet to merely damp by the time we got back. We got wet, but we had fun and it was a great way to see scenic Oregon.

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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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