Brutality and grace


West’s Michael Thornton is tackled by Oakdale’s Vince Helms, left, and
Donnell Young during a varsity football game at West High in Tracy.
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor D300. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8.
ISO: 1000)

Football is a brutal sport. Players run head-on (“with
controlled-abandoned” as one of my old coaches used to say) into each
other to deliver bone-crunching blows . The pads and helmets can absorb
some of the punishment, but the game still can be a savage sport. As
violent as football can be, every once in a while there can be glimmers
of gracefulness.


West High’s Dexter Alcala is tackled by Oakdale’ s Vince Helms during a
game at West in Tracy. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor D300.
Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1250)

Some running backs perform like freight trains, running like
juggernauts against the defense.  Others can display a gazelle-like
finesse as they try to evade their pursuers. They can leap and spin
with the grace of a gymnast.

West’s Chris Durante, right, breaks up a pass intended for Oakdale’s
Nicky Batteate during a varsity football game at West High in Tracy.
(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor D300. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4.
ISO: 2000)

Defensive backs and wide receivers can perform ballet-like leaps as
they strain for a high pass. They can catch a bobbling ball like a
street-performing juggler.

While the violence of football cannot be denied, the grace of the sport can be appreciated as well.

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2010 arrives early

“Your children will be born in a world of two suns. They will never know a sky without them. You can tell them that you remember when there was a pitch black sky with no bright star, and people feared the night. You can tell them when we were alone, when we couldn’t point to the light and say to ourselves there is life out there. Someday the children of the new sun will meet the children of the old. I think they will be our friends”2010: The Year We Make Contact


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200)

At the end of the science fiction movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984), Jupiter is consumed by a growing swarm of black monoliths like one first seen in the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Under the weight of the ever multiplying mysterious objects, the large gas giant collapses in on itself and explodes, becoming our solar system’s second sun.

Last week, reporter Zachary Johnson and I followed a group of University of the Pacific engineering students on a tour of the San Joaquin County Administration Building still under construction in downtown Stockton. As director of capital projects Gabe Karam pointed out the features of the building’s glass enshrouded atrium, it looked as if there were two suns shining though the blue-green windows.

Had science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s story come true? Did our sun gain a sibling, turning our system into a binary one? Need we keep our space-faring mitts off of the Jovian moon Europa (as the movie suggests)? No, the truth is a bit more mundane. The sun was reflecting off of the many faceted surfaces of the windows that surround the atrium. If you’re one who hopes the movie comes true, there’s still about two years for that to happen.

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Curse of the zebras


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

Like many football fans, I sometimes hate the referees. Not for the reasons that they’re usually despised for, but because they can get in my way. One of the challenges of shooting football (as in many other sports) is that as play develops, players scatter across the field in what can be confusing patterns.


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

I shot this pass attempt between the Chavez High Titans wide receiver Andy Estrada and Elk Grove High Thundering Herd defensive back Brandon Soohoo during a varsity game at Chavez’s field in Stockton. I had an open shot, with one one in the way as I panned the camera while tracking the Estrada and Soohoo who raced towards the ball.


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

I could see the Estrada start to the reach for the ball, though it wasn’t within my view yet. Then, panning as I followed the action, I saw the ref enter the frame. The Chavez receiver strained for the ball which was just beyond his finger tips. However, the referee stood right between the ball and my camera, so all it showed Estrada reaching for a bunch of vertical black and white stripes instead of a dramatic stretch for the ball. It all happened in about a second and I knew it as I pressed the shutter button. I cursed the ref under my breath, but didn’t dwell on it, there was plenty of game left to shoot.


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

I know that players and officials getting in the way is part of shooting football. With 22 athletes, plus the refs, on the field, it can be a visual cacohpony. One has to practice patience and  have a quick trigger finger to get an open shot of the ball carrier.

Some over-zealous fans may be tempted to bribe the officials to sway the game in their team’s favor. Me, I’d pay them just to stay out of my way.

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You light up my life


Cesar Chavez band members Bryan Estay, left, and Charles Watkins practice their saxophones while waiting to play at the United Way Campaign Kick Off Luncheon backstage at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium in downtown Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 150mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec @ f/2.8. ISO: 800)

I recently shot the United Way Campaign Kick-Off Luncheon at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium in downtown Stockton. It’s an important annual event for the charities that United Way raises money for, but visually it’s pretty dry. It’s tough to find something interesting to shoot, let alone something different. Looking for a different angle, I went back stage during the festivities. The Cesar Chavez High School band was playing on stage and three of the students were waiting in the wings to play their respective solos. It was dark behind the thick curtain. A couple of dim incandescent light bulbs provided hardly any illumination at all. However, a few small windows mounted about 20 feet up near the tall auditorium ceiling allowed a couple spots of light. Almost laser beam-like, one of the shafts of light dramatically lit up two of the students as they quietly practiced their saxophones before going on stage. The light gleamed off the golden metallic surfaces of their horns and cut though the darkness.

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If this car’s a-rockin’…

“If size did matter, the dinosaurs would still be alive.” - Wendelin Wiedeking


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 70-200mm @ 175mm. Exposure: 1/550 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

The Magnum is Dodge’s full-size station wagon. The SRT8 model features a big 6.1 liter Hemi V-8 engine (425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque), huge 20-inch alloy wheels and large 14.2-inch (front) and 13.8-inch (rear) brake rotors with Brembo calipers. At over 197 inches in length, and 72 inches wide and about 3,800 lbs in curb weight, the Magnum is a big car.

I saw this Dodge Magnum parked outside the City Centre Cinemas in downtown Stockton. On the car’s flanks, in big bold letters, was apparently a promotion for Trojan’s Magnum line of condoms, designed for the, ahem, more well endowed. If the point was to emphasize size, then they picked the right car. I wonder if the occupants practice safe driving?

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Twilight’s last gleaming

(Camera:
Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec., @ f/5.6. ISO:
200)

One good thing about showing up at the Chavez game too early was
that I was able to take advantage of the late afternoon/early evening
light. Although the sun went down completely before the start of the
varsity game. I was able to get a shot of Chavez High student Quenshoda
Harris, 15, who was taking pictures for the school’s yearbook, during the team’s warm-ups. The last
remnants of sunlight cast a bronze glow over everything it touched.
Light reflected off of the school’s windows a couple hundred yards
away. The long lens and wide apertures caused them to become large
golden circles in the background. I shot her as she took her own
pictures and I captured the twilight’s last gleaming.

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A team, on and off the field


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec., @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

At the start of the Chavez High varsity football game, Chavez players Feso Silako, left, and Justin Petersen trotted off the field and joined the school’s choir who had gathered to sing the National Anthem.  They lent their voices to the rest of the group which sounded clear and strong. After the song was done, Silako and Petersen ran back to the sidelines, buttoned up their helmets and were ready to play football.

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Am I ready for some football?

I’ve been under the weather the past few days (why is it when I get sick, the weather is nice and not a cold and rainy day?) but now I’m back, just a little worse for wear.


The Chavez High varsity football team warms up before a game against Elk Grove High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

As I get older, times seems to get shorter with each passing day. Annual events seem to come around sooner and sooner. Take high school football for instance. It seems to me that last season just finished a few weeks ago, but the 2008-2009 high school football season began in earnest on Friday, We photographed six games that night using four staff photographers and a couple of freelancers. It’s something we’ll be doing until the playoffs.


The Chavez High band plays during game against Elk Grove High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2000)

After the summer layoff, it usually takes me a little while to get my timing back to shoot football, but I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly. I had to. Last Friday, I shot the Chavez High Titians game against the Elk Grove Thundering Herd in Stockton, which was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. I arrived at the Chavez’ High field at about 6:45 p.m., what I thought would be just before that start of the varsity game. That would afford me time to shoot the team warming up, the band and cheerleaders and such.


The Chavez High varsity football team takes the field at the start of a game against Elk Grove High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600)


The Chavez High football fans cheer their team during a game against Elk Grove High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

As I walked into the stadium, I thought I was right on time, with the teams warming up on the field. However, it was the junior varsity game. They were getting ready after halftime. I had to wait another half before the game I was there to shoot would even start. The JV game finally ended but it took another 25 minutes for the varsity teams to take the field and warm up. With my deadline clock a-ticking, the game started nearly an hour after it was scheduled to begin. I’m usually able to stay about half the game before I need to head back to the office to file the pictures. This game I could only stay a just a little more than a quarter.


Chavez High’s Andrew Quintal passes the ball during a varsity football game against Elk Grove High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Chavez won the coin toss, but their first possession was lackluster. They punted in short order, with very little action to shoot. I prayed that this wasn’t a omen of things to come.


Chavez High’s Terrence McDonald is tackled by Elk Grove’s Ketwanu Frank during a varsity football game High at Chavez High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Fortunately, things picked up after that. Despite a 29-8 loss, Chavez held their own (in the first quarter at least) against Elk Grove, a perennial football powerhouse. I stay just a few minutes into the second quarter and was able to get several decent actions shots before I had to leave.


Chavez High’s DeMarieya Nelson is tackled by Elk Grove’s Russell Robards (left) and Brandon Soohoo during a game at Chavez in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2000)

The intervals of time may seem to getting shorter to me as I age, but the up side is that it means a shorter apparent off-season and less time for my skills to get rusty.

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Blast from the past: A ton of fun


9-year-old Elijah Lozano waves to passing traffic while wearing an inflatable sumo costume in front of his apartment on Center and Magnolia Streets in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D1H. Lens: Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8 w/ fill-flash. ISO: 200)

There are some pictures that I have to work to make interesting. There may be a kernel of something interesting and I have to try and coax a picture out of the situation. Then there are others that just jump out at me.

3/65/2006:
This situation was the latter. I was just driving back to the office when I saw this kid standing on a street corner, waving a traffic while wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler costume.  That’s definitely something you don’t see every day. I asked him why he was doing it and he said that he was just having some fun. I know it made my day.

Posted in Enterprise, Feature | Tagged | Comments closed

One, two, buckle my shoe

“…for want of a nail the shoe was lost…” -  Benjamin Franklin


A child’s Spongebob Squarepants croc shoe found in the parking lot of Franklin High School in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

I posted an entry about a lost shoe on June 10. I’ve come across a few more since then, lone shoes, alone in the cold, cruel world. It begs the question: what becomes of the corresponding other half of the pair, the side that isn’t lost?


A Nike athletic shoe lays on the side of Waterloo Road near Report Avenue in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/22. ISO: 200)


A Hello Kitty slipper and two sneakers found on Sunset Avenue and Waterloo Road in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200)

Are they sitting in shoeboxes, perhaps under a bed or in a closet, waiting with hope, to be reunited with their mirror-image twins? Are they mismatched with another orphaned half? Maybe they’ve been thrown out with the trash, all hope gone, useless without their partners. In that light, maybe it’s better to be the shoe that’s lost. At least there’s a glimmer of hope of being found, of finding purpose again.

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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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