From champ to chimp

(Camera: Canon 20D.Lens Canon 300mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

Hi, I’m Clifford and I chimp.

“Chimping” refers to the reviewing of the monitor on the back of digital cameras soon after the picture is taken. The term has been attributed to USA Today photographer Bob Deutsch who used it to describe not only looking at the pictures, but the sounds those photographers make (Ooh, ooh, etc.) when looking at their camera monitors.

In professional photography circles, chimping tends to be looked down upon, especially by photographers who started working during the film era. Those of us who started out with film never had the luxury of reviewing our pictures so soon after shooting them. We had to know whether we got the picture or not. My old photo instructor told me that the trick is not knowing what you’ve shot, but knowing if you’ve missed it. With chimping, all that comes easy now. All you have to do is press a button and look.

Instant gratification being what it is, the urge to chimp is tremendous. Everyone does it to one degree or another, though they might say they don’t. I try to keep my chimping to a minimum, but I know it can be important tool. I’ll review the monitor a the beginning of a shoot to check on the exposure and then, unless the light changes, I’ll just continue shooting. During a sporting event I’ll chimp to make sure the numbers show on the players’ jerseys for later identifications or to check my timing.

The problem comes in the form of a Murphy’s Law of photography: the best play of the game or an important moment will happen when you’re chimping. I’ve seen it happen to others and its happened to me.

USA Today photographer Bert Hanashiro has a great video (above) on his SportsShooter website. On it, Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar says: “Wanna know a secret? They all do it… They don’t admit they do it, but they do it.”

Like I said, I chimp, but I try not to make the sounds.

Posted in Links, Sports, Techniques, video | Tagged | Comments closed

Knocking at the backdoor

The other day I heard some chatter on the police scanner about an evacuation of some kind. The location that was given was California and Washington Streets, right behind The Record’s building in downtown Stockton. Curious, I walked out back, camera in hand. In the city’s “R” parking lot several hundred people were gathered.

It turns out they were county employees from the Human Services Building about two blocks away. They were participating in an annual fire drill and that parking lot is one of the designated assembly areas. Employees assigned to be in charge of their respective areas of the building made sure everyone was accounted for. Traffic was blocked briefly, though perhaps not brief enough for drivers waiting, when the throng crossed the street as they filtered back to the building.

Sometimes I have to travel far and wide to get an enterprise feature photo. There have been days where I’ve spent hours driving around the city and beyond only to find a meager picture or even nothing. So it makes a nice treat when they literally show up at my backdoor.

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A big fan

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

I covered the grand opening of the new Sears Direct Distribution (SDD) warehouse recently and it’s a really big place. It’s touted as a “green” building” with a recycling program, motion control lighting, special reflecting roofing among other innovations.

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

To help keep the cavernous 780,000 square foot building’s temperature on an even keel they use really big fans. Less costly to run than air conditioning, twenty-two 10-bladed fans about 20-feet in diameter from a company named Big Ass Fans (really, that’s the name of the company), help circulate the air to help cool the huge facility in the summer and warm in the winter.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 105mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The SDD warehouse is a big a…, ahem, really big building, so it make sense that they need some Big Ass Fans.

Posted in Business, Observation | Tagged | Comments closed


I’m not a jinx. Really.

Last April I had an assignment to shoot University of the Pacific softball coach Brian Kolze on the verge of his 500th career victory. He was at No. 498 with a chance to get 499 and 500 during a doubleheader against Cal State Fullerton. Not only did the team lose both games, but during the second game Kolze uncharacteristically got into an heated argument with the umpire and was ejected (Kolze did get No. 500 a few weeks later at UC Santa Barbara, with the Tigers beating the Gauchos 8-6).

The Escalon head varsity football coach Mark Loureiro watches during a game against Modesto Christian at Escalon. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/400th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Last Friday I shot the Modesto Christian Crusaders at the Escalon Cougars varsity football game. Escalon head coach Mark Loureiro was one game away from getting his 200th victory. I had gotten a portrait of him earlier in the week and was sent to cover the Friday night game. The Crusaders racked up a quick 21 points in dominating fashion within the first few minutes of the game. The Cougars struggled to get a single touchdown by the end of quarter.

I could only stay for the first quarter before I had to head back to the office for deadline. All the way back I was thinking: “Oh, man, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m some sort of a jinx.” “If another sports milestone comes up, will they even let me through the gate?”

Escalon head varsity football coach Mark Loureiro shares a light moment with the officials before a game against Modesto Christian at Escalon. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

I got back to The Record,
downloaded the photos, edited them, wrote captions for them and then
toned my photos. I then checked the scores online. The Cougars had
stopped the Crusaders in their tracks and then went on to score 40 points to win the game.

I sighed in relief because I realized it really wasn’t me. Whew!

Posted in High Schools, Sports | Tagged , | Comments closed

The virtue of patience

“Patience is the art of hoping.” – Marquis de Vauvenargues

The newspaper business seems to be by nature one where we’re always pressed for time. Deadlines and late breaking news always seem to be causes for rushing from one assignment to another. Waiting for the just right shot can be a double-edged sword. You can wait and nothing happens and all you’ve done is to waste time. Then there are other times where it can pay off.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-33mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @f/4. ISO: 400)

I was on my way back to the office to download my pictures from two previous assignments. I was scheduled to shoot a high school basketball practice in about an hour or so. I had a few minutes, so I stopped to look for an enterprise feature at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton. I though maybe a nice sunset shot might work. The sun was just dipping below the horizon and the sky was starting to turn to hues of pink and orange. I just needed a little something, perhaps a fisherman or a boat cruising by, to complete the shot.

As I got out of the car, the Stockton Rowing Club 8-person and 2-person sculls were cutting across the nearby deep water channel along with a powerboat with their coaches barking instructions over a bullhorn. But they were on the other side of the channel, too far away to shoot. I waited around for a while and as the rowers left earshot, a car pulled up and two fishermen got out and cast their lines right in front of me. It made for a decent shot, but by that time the sunset’s colors were on the wane. Only a small portion of the sky was still lit up, though the colors were turning more intense. I could head back to the office with what I got and it would be usable, but I wanted something just a little farther out the water, so even though time was ticking, decided to I wait just a little more.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 110mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @f/3.5. ISO: 400)

Another 10 minutes or so, I heard the rowing coach’s amplified voice again, only this time a bit louder. The rowers had turned around and were coming back towards me. They were even on my side of the channel. I put on a telephoto lens to bring the rowers and the horizon closer together and shot them as they passed by.

Even though you can be under the gun time-wise, sometimes it pays to exercise a little patience.

Posted in Enterprise, Pictorial | Tagged , | Comments closed


“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus

Although Fall officially started in September, warm temperatures continued until recently. That seems to have delayed the coming of the Fall colors. Leaves are now changing from green to deep reds and golds. But temperatures have taken a downturn and the colors are emerging, so break out your rakes and enjoy the season.

Posted in Enterprise, Nature, Pictorial | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Sandhill cranes

Fall heralds the coming of the sandhill cranes back to the Central Valley. Thousands of cranes migrate to escape the cold winter of Alaska and Canada. Their distinctive creaky-croaking calls can be heard from many hundreds of yards away. The grey-plumed birds, some of which can stand up to 5 feet tall with a wingspan of about 7 feet, have a striking feature of a bright red patch on their foreheads. Perhaps not as famous as the swallows returning to Capistrano, it is nonetheless a graceful and majestic sight to see the sandhill cranes in flight.

Two good places to see the cranes are the Cosumnes River Preserve on Franklin Boulevard near Thornton or, a little closer to home, the Isenberg Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road west of I-5 near Lodi. Best times to view are early morning before they take off to feed or just before sundown when they return.

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Debating the point

“Shirley, Shirley bo Birley Bonana fanna fo Firley Fee fy mo Mirley, Shirley!”-  The Name Game by Shirley Ellis

Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 125mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

When I think of debating (admittedly, not very often), I think of couple of people standing at podiums talking in a Ben Stein-like drone, not very exciting.

I shot the University of the Pacific debate and speech team preparing for the upcoming Paul Winters Invitational Tournament, Kennedy Debate Tournament and Mustang Invitational competitions.

Team member Sarah Hamid used a method known as “the spread” during a recent practice. The technique is where debaters spew their thoughts out at several hundred words per minute. Think of the 1965 Name Game song by Shirley Ellis and then speed it up ten fold without the music.

Hamid spoke in a machine-gun fire chant of words and ideas that was hard to follow. She spoke so fast I could understand only half of what she was saying.

It was bit jarring hearing the rapid fire and unrelenting onslaught of words. I don’t understand how the judges can keep up and give a score. I know as a layman I couldn’t. Hmm…maybe if they put it to music.

Posted in Event, University of the Pacific | Tagged , | Comments closed

Playing with pain

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500)

At last week’s Oakdale at Manteca game, Manteca cheerleader Jordan Garcia fell and twisted her right ankle while performing one of those human-pyramid type stunts that cheerleaders do. Fortunately, one of the Manteca team trainers Lisa Jorgensen was on hand to help. She taped Garcia’s ankle and sent the cheerleader to rejoin her teammates.

In football they say that you’ve got to play with pain and injuries are part of the game, they just don’t all happen on the field.

Posted in High Schools, Sports | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

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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    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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