All in a day’s work

“Working for a living, living and working,

I’m taking what they’re giving ’cause I’m working for a living.” – Huey Lewis and the News

Today is Labor Day. It celebrates the contributions that working men and women have given to make our country a strong and prosperous one.

According the U.S. Department of Labor’s web site, the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882. The day became statewide holidays in 5 states, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado and Oregon five years later. In 1894, Congress passed an act declaring the first Monday in September a legal holiday throughout the country.

We work in the cool of the early morning, in the heat under a scorching sun and well into the dark of the night. The work we do can be back-breaking or high stress. We work to provide for our families as well as to buy the nicer things in life.  Our jobs can define us and give ourselves a sense of purpose and self-worth.

Here’s a gallery of photos that I’ve shot through the years of people who, like the rest of us, work for living.


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Day of the beard


With genetics being against me, my attempts at growing a beard or even a mustache have been, at best, pitiful. But there are others who can easily sprout voluminous amounts of facial hair. To them I say: Happy World Beard Day!

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Random photo #53: Blue oak

The blue hour descends over a valley oak tree growing in a vineyard on Live Oak and Angier Roads in Lodi.

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August outtakes

“August, the summer’s last messenger of misery, is a hollow actor.” – Henry Rollins

After a long, hot summer, temperatures are starting to fall slightly with the passing of August. Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from the summer’s last hurrah.

















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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Cars

I’ve owned several cars in my life so far. My first car was a 1965 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. Despite having only two doors, it was big and ponderous. It was a gas guzzler and polluted the air like a soot-filled chimney. My favorite car was a 1991 Mazda Miata. Fun, nimble and economical, it was just the opposite of the Impala. Although the two cars were very different, they both still hold fond memories for me.

America is a car culture, especially so in California. Cars are far more than mere conveyances to get us from point A to point B. Sometimes we drive them fast; other times we drive them slowly.We go to car shows and racing events. There are songs about them and magazines devoted to news about them. We watch movies that not only have cars prominently in them but some even have cars as main characters in their stories.

We wash and polish our cars to a fine sheen. We customize them to look sleeker and go faster. Sometimes we even give them names. Cars are the subjects of the newest Readers Photo Challenge assignment.

There are a few things to consider when photographing a car. First, like any photo, time of day and the quality of light is important. Avoid shooting during midday. Early mornings or late afternoons tend to have the best light.

Be careful of reflections. Most cars have highly polished and shiny reflective surfaces. If you’re trying to capture the sleek lines of a car, an unwanted reflection can ruin your shot. Always look carefully and be prepared to either move the car or yourself to eliminate the reflections.

Watch your backgrounds and settings. Some photos of cars can be like a formal portrait and a proper background can add to or detract from such a picture. Also consider the color of the car. You can find a setting with colors that can either complement or contrast with your vehicle. A light-colored car will pop out against a dark background and vice versa.

Don’t forget about photographing details of a car. From chromed wheels to shiny headlights to fancy hood ornaments, details abound on automobiles both modern and antique.

There are a couple of techniques to photographing in motion. Using a high shutter speed (1/500th of a second or higher) can result in a very sharp picture of a moving car but can make it look like it’s standing still. Using a slower shutter (about 1/125th of a second) and panning along with the action can give a sense of movement to your photo.

We spend a lot of money on our cars and spend a lot of time in them, so it’s only fitting that they’re the subject of the latest challenge assignment.


How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “Cars” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between Sept. 3 and Sept. 17. The subject must include a car (SUVs and pickup trucks are also acceptable). Please include the make, model and year of the car.

3. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (eg: “John Doe, Stockton. Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. Canon EOS Rebel Ti with 18-55mm lens”)

4. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and where they are and what they are doing. (Eg: Jane Smith, 25, Tracy stands with her Toyota Corrolla on Main Street in downtown Stockton).

5. Please feel free to include any interesting anecdotes or stories on how you took the picture.

6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, Sept. 24. The top examples will be published on Thursday, Oct. 1 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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You know you’re getting old when…

On July 31 something happened that only occurs once in a blue moon: a blue moon. The moon doesn’t actually appear blue but the term refers to a full moon that occurs twice in a single month. It’s a fairly rare event happening roughly only once every 2½ years. The first full moon of the month was on July 2 making the one on the 31st a blue moon.

A full moon is really bright. Essentially, it’s illuminated with the same amount of light that falls on Earth during the day. That’s fine all you have to do is adjust your exposure for a daylight photo. The problem occurs when you try to exposure for the night scene on the ground at the same time. It becomes a trade off. Either you have a well-exposed moon with everything else dark or a properly exposed overall scene with the moon just a overexposed blazing ball of light.

Moonrise was at about 8:00 p.m. that evening which was perfect timing. The thicker atmosphere low in the horizon would likely block some of the moon’s brightness and there should have been enough ambient light during the blue hour to balance the exposure for the surrounding scene. With that, I planned to find some landmark, building or tree that I could shoot with the moon rising in the background.

I say “could,” “would” and “should” because that’s not how things turned out. I was on the early shift that day and I went home after work. I had a nice dinner with my family. It was still light out when we finished so I sat down to watch a little television before heading out. As many mid-50 something men do, I fell asleep on the couch. This wasn’t a light snooze but more like a being-put-under-by-an-anesthesiologist-before-surgery kind of sleep. I was out in seconds.

When I woke up is was past midnight. I gabbed my camera and stumbled out into the backyard. The moon was hanging high in the sky like a brilliantly white orb surrounded by an inky blackness. Although it wasn’t according to plans, I shot it anyway. I picked the moon-in-the-darkness side of the either-or equation. Even though it was now Aug. 1, technically it was still a blue moon, and that’s still a rare event

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Readers Photo Challenge: On holiday

The assignment for the current Readers Photo Challenge was to send in your best photos of your summer vacation.

From weekend getaways to extended vacations everyone can use some time off to rest, relax and recharge their batteries. Some of us travel to distant lands while others go no further than a day trip. Whether near or far, the new sights and experiences we take in are perfect opportunities for pictures.

For this challenge 16 people sent in 97 photos. Here are some of the top examples that give the view a sense of place.


In some ways we go on vacations to get away from the drab routine of our daily lives. In the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” the film starts out in black and white. In one scene, the main character of Dorothy literally opens a door from her dreary colorless world and walks into one of vibrant color.

While vacationing in Abington, England, Mary Paulson of Valley Springs heard a strange wooshing sound coming from outside her bathroom window of the bed and breakfast she was staying in. Upon opening it she saw a colorful hot air balloon being inflated getting ready for an evening ride several yards away.

With her iPhone 5s, Paulson nicely framed the scene through the bathroom’s window. The dark near-monotone of the interior opened up to brilliant Oz-like hues not only gives her photo a sense of place but that of wonder as well.


It’s always difficult to find a different way to take a picture of something that’s been photographed a million times before. That’s the problem with famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty or Golden Gate Bridge.

That’s what faced Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton while on a family vacation in Washington DC. The Washington Monument has been photographed from every conceivable angle by millions, if not billions, of tourists. On Spurgeon’s trip, it had rained the day before, but was sunny when she toured the Capitol Mall. She saw the puddle and felt she “hit the jackpot.” With a Nikon D90 DSLR camera Spurgeon captured the monument’s pure white obelisk shape as well as the deep blue sky reflected in the puddle’s shallow waters, which gave her something different from everyone else.


Taking one’s own picture while on a trip is a staple of vacation photos. We take them of ourselves or have a passerby take them of us and show that you and your companions were actually there and were having a good time. We’re usually standing in front of a statue or monument or building or something else really big.

Sam Doan of Stockton on a trip to Lake Tahoe set up his Canon 5D Mk III DSLR camera on a tripod and a long exposure and took a photo of one of the biggest thing there is: the night sky. Through the crystal clear mountain air he captured thousands of stars sparkling like jewels with the Milky Way arcing across the sky.

Doan placed himself within the picture. Silhouetted against the starry night he marks his place in the universe on a mountain ridge and he points a flashlight up to the heavens in a quiet search for God.


Rick Wilmot and his wife Debby spent a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They spent their time having fun in the sun and sand. According to the Lonely Planet web site the ocean side resort town is not only know for it’s sandy beaches but

also its nightlife and the city did not disappoint. On their last night the Wilmots quite a few thunderstorms swirled around their hotel. As the sun sank in the west the storms stopped long enough and clouds parted Wilmot picked up his Canon EOS 5D Mk III to capture the last of the sun’s golden rays painting the sky for a fiery sunset.


While on a trip to the central coast of California near San Luis Obispo Dave Skinner of Stockton stopped at a vista point along Highway, a place that he’s been before. Looking south he had a great view of Morro Bay and Morro Rock, which would have made for great pictures but he cross the road to the north side where he had never been before. With his Nikon D5100 DSLR camera he captured the fog lifting from the gently rolling costal hills for a photo just a picturesque as the ocean view on the other side.


Some vacations are all about packing in as many sights, places and experiences that you can in a short amount of time. Other vacations are just quiet getaways which are as valid as the more hectic ones. Kathy Ackerman of Stockton took a picture that made her cruise to Cabo San Lucas look like the latter. Using an iPhone6 she photographed the morning sunrise from her room’s balcony on the ship. A couple smaller boats float on the calm sea which, combined with the golden early light, emphasizes the sense of peace and serenity that a vacation can bring.


Something that’s often overlooked is taking night shots while on vacation but night photos can show a perspective that even a native resident of a city find new and exciting.

Steven Rapaport of Stockton was making timed exposures with his camera on a tripod on a quiet street scene at night while vacationing in the small village of Montignac, France when a French man came up to him and asked him what he was doing, He thought Rapaport was a bit odd for photographing an near empty street with only an occasional car passing by. Then Rapaport show him the picture on the monitor on the back of his Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera. It shows the scene bathed in the warmth of streetlights contrasting against a small patch of a blue hour sky with the taillights of a car snaking up a lonely street. There’s a sense of mystery to the image. When he saw the photo the man so enamored with the picture that he asked in broken English if he could follow Rapaport as he took more photos.


Sometimes a vacation photo can be about a certain detail of your trip rather than the overall experience. Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a Fuji X-T1 DSLR camera to photograph is meal while dining at the Anton and Michel restaurant in Carmel. The rack of lamb with vegetables artfully arranged in a stylishly rectangular plate was bathed in a nice soft light, which brought out the richness of the meal’s colors.


All of the entries can be seen in a photo gallery at A new Readers Photo Challenge assignment will be issued next Thursday.

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Dog Day afternoon

Today is National Dog Day. Dogs are some of the most loyal of pets. We not only consider them as our pets but as our companions, confidants and even a part of our families. They are our working partners as well. We employ them in law enforcement, search and rescue and as service animals. It’s fitting that there’s a day honoring them. Here’s a gallery of some of the many dogs that I’ve photographed over the years. Happy National Dog Day!

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Designated driver

You must save a lot of money at this low-budget funeral parlor. But it looks like the downside is you have to drive yourself to your own funeral.


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Happy World Photo Day!

Imagine a world without pictures. It would be a pretty dull place without the art, entertainment and information that photography brings us. Photographic images are a mainstay of newspapers, magazines, advertisements and, of course, the Internet. Hardly a minute of the day goes by where we don’t encounter a picture in one form or another.

In 2009, Australian photographer Korske Ara began the World Photo Day project to unite the world in a global celebration of photography. World Photo Day continues today. Go out and take a picture and share it with someone you know.

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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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