Idle time

“The hardest work is to go idle.”  – Yiddish proverb

I hate being idle during an assignment. Sometimes I get a little antsy, feeling like I should be doing something. The other day I had a few minutes of down time when shooting the City Four-Ball golf tournament held at the Reserve at Spanos Park golf course in Stockton. It took a little time for my guide Tim to grab a golf cart and track down the leaders of the tourney on the course. As I waited at the front of the clubhouse, I noticed a couple of potted camellias. I remembered an assignment way back from one of my beginning photo classes. It entailed taking a subject then lighting it from the front, side and back.

(Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500 @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Front lighting can evenly illuminate your subject, but it tends to flat and, in most cases, pretty boring.


(Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500 @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Side lighting can give your subject more of a 3-D look and can enhance it’s texture.


(Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500 @ f/6.3. ISO: 200)

While you have to watch out for lens flare (light that refracts in the lens which can cause tiny circular highlights or wash out the whole scene), backlighting can be bold and dramatic.

The lessons we learn when we were younger can stay with us. We can use them on big important jobs, or just to pass the time.

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Come out fighting

“Don’t give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
Get a little action in” - Saturday’s Alright (For Fighting) by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Stockton Thunder’s Spencer Carbery, left, fights with Utah Grizzlies’ Travis Rycroft during an ECHL hockey game at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Fights break out in every sport where there’s head to head competition and physical contact. In sports like basketball, football and soccer they occasionally occur. And the referees step in as quickly as possible to break them up and then assess penalties.

In hockey it’s a different story. The refs will step in if they see trouble brewing, but once a fight gets started their attitude is: “just jet ‘em.” Once the gloves and sticks are thrown down, a brawl is inevitable. The combatants dance around, grab each other’s jerseys and start punching away. The referees only step in when the skaters fall to the ice. Then they smother the players to stop any further blows from being thrown. From there the offenders are sent off their respective penalty boxes to serve out their two minutes.

During one game a fight went on so long that the players involved got tired. With each blow that was thrown, they grew more and more fatigued. Soon they were holding each other up by clutching onto each others shirts. At the end, I could see them give pleading glances to the refs to stop the fight. The officials mercifully stepped in and sent the players to the penalty box.

Thunder forward Adam Huxley is the team’s brawler. The fans almost expect to see him fight. There are no fewer than 14 videos of him fighting on YouTube. Here’s one of them:

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Horse sense

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Posse rides down Main Street in the annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade  in downtown Ripon. (Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

I was a band geek when I was in high school. While marching in parades, we were supposed to play and step off in a straight line, regardless of whatever might be in our path (though I was never that disciplined-I always swerved). I quickly learned that the last place you want to be is behind the equestrian entries. Nothing against the horses, but when they have to do their business, there’s no stopping them.

(Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 185mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

At some parades, there’s some guy with a shovel and a wheelbarrow following the horses. The Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade was definitely a small town affair, but to the city’s credit they had a street sweeper to take care of the equine entries’ business ends.

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9-year-old Alaina Cornilsen spins a hula hoop while marching with Girl Scout Troop 2128 of Ripon in the annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade. (Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

One of the skills a photojournalist needs to learn is walking backwards and shooting at the same time. As Girl Scout troop 2128 marched down Main Street twirling their hula hoops in the Almond Blossom parade, I shot them and then got their IDs all while walking backwards. It may not be something I use everyday, but from parades to perp walks, it’s a skill that comes in handy.

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Don’t rain on my parade

Christa Revelle of Ripon uses a Pikachu umbrella to keep dry while watching the annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade  in downtown Ripon. (Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 135mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

I wasn’t looking forward to shooting the annual Almond Blossom Festival parade in Ripon on Saturday.  It’s not because I don’t like parades, because I do. Both the participants and spectators tend to have a great time and they’re usually pretty fun to shoot. It’s just that the weekend forecast called for stormy weather.

Trish Gray of Tracy bundles up with her chihuahua Bella while watching the annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade in downtown Ripon. (Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

When I left Stockton, Saturday morning, the rain was coming down at a pretty good clip. But by the time I drove the 20 miles to Ripon, it had stopped raining. Although the skies were still threatening to break wide open and the wind was quite chilly, it only sprinkled a bit here and there during the entire time I was there.

Miss Ripon Mary Bell, 17, bundles up with a cup of hot tea as she watches the annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival parade from bleachers near the reviewing stand on Main Street in downtown Ripon. (Camera: NIkon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/250 @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

I got some fun shots and headed back to Stockton. The rain came later in the day when I was safely back in the office. This was one day where it didn’t rain on my parade, at least not much.

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Shoot the moon

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 300mm w/1.4 extender. Exposure: 1/8 sec., @ f/5.6. ISO: 800)

Here’s one last look at Wednesday’s total lunar eclipse. Shooting the moon under normal circumstances is simpler than you might think. A long lens is all that’s required, and not a necessarily a very fast one at that. That’s because the normal exposure for the moon is the same as the one for daylight right here on Earth. No need for any lengthy time exposures The light that we see striking the moon is relatively the same as the light that illuminates the dayside of our big blue ball. With some minor atmospheric differences (clouds, smog, etc.), it’s basically the same exposure.

A total lunar eclipse is a different animal. When the moon descends completely into the Earth’s shadow, direct sunlight is no longer hitting it. What we then see is the light that is bent through the Earth’s atmosphere to give our natural satellite an eerie orange glow. The exposure then drops to next to nothing. A tripod is a requirement as is a high ISO, a fast lens and a slower shutter speed. A long time exposure isn’t really an option because the moon is actually a moving object. Anything more than say 1/8-1/2 of a second will result in motion blur.

Shooting the moon isn’t an exotic affair, after all a full moon occurs at least once a month. Unfortunately the opportunity to photograph a lunar eclipse is a much rarer event. We won’t see another full one until December of 2010.

Posted in Nature, Photography, Techniques | Tagged , | Comments closed

Cabin fever

University of the Pacific students Joey Frantz, ,left, and Austin DeLong take advantage of the afternoon sun by playing some football at the university’s Knoles Lawn in Stockton with some fellow students. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 200m. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/8/ ISO: 200)

“I believe the stars keep shining all throught the night.
I believe if we just keep trying it will be alright.
I believe that someday we’re gonna find our way.
And I believe in a beautiful day…
…But not for me…”
- I Believe by Chris Isaak

16-year-old Lincoln High student Lulu Skafi, right, takes advantage of the sunny day to take a picture of her sister Shereen Skafi, 21, for a photo class project at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/8/ ISO: 200)

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve a bit under the weather lately. It started out as a cold and morphed into an ear infection. What I hated about being sick these last few days is that the weather has been mostly pretty nice. Temperatures in the mid-60s and bright sunny days. People were out and about in the sunshine, walking their dogs, playing frisbee, out for a jog, but not for me. I lay on my couch hacking and coughing away. The worst part is that I knew there were pictures out there to be taken and I wasn’t taking them.

The setting sun throws shadows of nearby trees onto the back ot the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 80m. Exposure: 1/500 sec., @ f/8/ ISO: 200)

I’m back at work again and the weather is cold, cloudy and wet again with the forecast calling for more of the same. Go figure.

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The no-tripod tripod

(Camera: Nikon D2X: Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 35mm. Exposure: 1 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

I needed to get a simple exterior shot of the Empire Theater on the Miracle Mile along Pacific Avenue in Stockton. I decided on a night shot to jazz things up just bit. I wanted some long light streaks from the passing cars and that meant using a long exposure of at least a second or two.
I had tweaked my back earlier and wasn’t looking forward to lugging a heavy tripod around, so I went without one. There are a number of ways to steady a camera without a tripod. There are some limitations. It usually requires the use of both hands simultaneously. On longer exposures the camera can move due to a loss of concentration or even fatigue, but it can be done. Just find a stable, horizontal (or vertical as the case may be) surface and then press down on the camera so it doesn’t move and then push the button.

(Camera: Nikon D2X: Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure:1/8 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

I needed to find a place to put the camera. Kitty-corner from the theater was a storefront being remodeled. Plywood closed off the store about four feet back from the glassless display windows. I placed my camera on a horizontal bar of one of the window frames. I held it down securely and bracketed my shutter speeds between 1/8 to 2 seconds. I basically turned the building into my tripod. It worked just fine, it’s just wasn’t very portable.

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Cold as ice

Stockton Colts youth hockey players Johneric Villalobos, top, and Spencer Stoley battle for the puck during a practice at the Oak Park Ice Arena in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X: Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 60 sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 100)

Generations of kids have learned to skate and play hockey at the Oak Park Ice Arena in Stockton. It was old when I started at the Record over twenty years ago. The lighting there is horrible. If you want to stop the action without resorting to absurdly high ISOs, shooting with a flash is the only answer. It’s also really, really cold. Record sports columnist/reporter Lori Gilbert told me the temperature there is kept at about 28 degrees fahrenheit. That’s because the chiller’s so old, the only way to keep the ice frozen is to bring down the ambient temperature to below freezing. I recently shot a practice of the Stockton Colts youth hockey team at the Oak Park arena and set up remote strobes to illuminate the players. I was only able to shoot until the exposed flesh of my face and hands began to sting, then I had to get out of there.

Photo by Craig Sanders. (Camera: Nikon D300 Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 92mm. Exposure: 1/640 sec. @ f/3.2. ISO: 1250)

By contrast, The Stockton Arena is a well lit, almost cozy place to be. According to Chuck Kemp, the facility’s associate general manager, it’s kept between 65-68 degrees depending on the outside temperatures. I was out on the ice during the ECHL skill competition in shirt sleeves and felt very comfortable. The only time I felt the cold is when I knelt down to get a low angle and felt the frigidity of the ice through the knee of my pants.

There have been calls for a new facility to replace the aging Oak Park facility. I know that it’s been a Stockton institution and the rink has been a place that is held in warm fondness in the hearts and souls of many Stocktonians. But if a new place is built, let’s hope that it will keep our bodies warm as well.

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One down…

(Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 105mm macro. Exposure: 1/80 sec., @ f/10. ISO: 200)

“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

Joe Woods of Stockton fishes near the water’s edge of Smith Canal at American Legion Park Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/500sec., @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

Gabriella Cruz dances with her fellow members of the Los Danzantes Del Puerto ballet folklorico group during a practice at the Northeast Community Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 145mm. Exposure: 1/60sec., @ f/3.2. ISO: 200)

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”-  William Arthur Ward

Clouds pass by a oak tree on Sierra View Court near Bezley Road in Clements. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/500sec., @ f/20. ISO: 200)

Sharing, that’s what its been all about. When I’m out on assignment, I’m often asked about my job, how I get certain shots, who I’ve taken pictures of, what my favorite thing to shoot is, etc. I thought I could talk about all those things and more in a blog. On February 9, 2007, The Record graciously and eagerly allowed me a forum for my thoughts and pictures.

Steam rises from the 81 degree water as St. Mary’s High water polo player Kyle McDermott practices with his team at night at the school’s Cortopassi Aquatics Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2X. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250sec., @ f/2.8 ISO: 800)

It’s hard to believe that its been a year since I made my first foray into the blogosphere. It’s been a fun and interesting journey. I hope you’ve enjoyed the entries I’ve posted as much as I have. Thank you for letting me share my photos, experiences and thoughts with you, and here’s to another year.

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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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