Random photo #50: Big wheel keep on turning

People wait to ride the ferris wheel at the Johnston Amusements carnival at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton.

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Waste not, want not II

A few weeks ago I covered the announcement of an at-risk youth school run by the National Guard, called the Youth ChalleNGe program. The Guard plans to convert vacant buildings at the Sharp Army Depot in Lathrop. California Army National Guard Brigadier Gen. James Garbielli led a small group of dignitaries and media on a tour of the base. Among the officials were Congressman Jerry McNerney, assemblywoman Susan Eggman and San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent James Mousalimas.

As a group we went from building to building with Gabrielli describing what each would be used for under the program. Most of the buildings have been idled for some time and didn’t have any power. The only illumination came from windows and/or open doors.

In one building Assemblywoman Eggman’s communications director (an former Record crime beat reporter) Christian Burkin stood off to one side near a window as Gabrielli described what the room would be used for. Window illumination can be some of the best one can hope for in a portrait and the light coming from the window next to Burkin was no exception. Even though he wasn’t part of the assignment, he was standing where the light was best. I got my shots of the main group then hoped that Burkin would turn towards the light by looking out the window. He did and I fired off a few quick frames. With his dapper suit and boyish good looks the nice soft light helped to make Burkin look like a model worthy of GQ magazine.

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Bright lights, city nights

The latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “cityscapes.” Most of us live in cities or towns and while we don’t often consciously think about it, we deal with architecture every day. To find the beauty in the urban landscape one has to see the forest for the trees. Too often we’re busy with going about the business of our daily lives and ignore the photographing possibilities around us. We need to open our eyes and widen our view to see the overall beauty in a city scene. That’s what the readers who entered the challenge did. Eight people sent in 21 photos. Here are some of the best examples.


Sam Doan showed that when it comes to photographing cityscapes, nighttime is the right time. With a Canon EOS 5D Mk II DSLR camera Doan used a time exposure (30 seconds) to capture the lights of the City by the Bay from Pier 14 on the waterfront. His use of the pier and its railing in the foreground helps to lead the viewer’s eye to the skyline. There’s just enough blue in the sky to add some color to the photo and the long exposure captures the motion of the clouds giving some visual movement to his picture.


Most cities have some sort of building work going on all the time. New ones are built and old buildings are repaired or renovated.

Steven Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera to photograph the new National Museum of African American History and Culture under construction on Capitol Mall in Washington, DC. He captured a worker, dressed in light colors, amidst the patter of the darker decorative exterior panels.


Inclement weather can be an ally to a photographer. Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph the Harvey’s Hotel and Casino at Stateline, South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. She photographed the building as storm clouds moved in capturing them in its reflective glass windows, making for a dark and moody photo. She says a few minutes later a thunderstorm opened up with a big cloudburst. It shows that even though it was a dark and stormy night, that beautiful photos can still be made.

Go to Recordnet.com to see a gallery of all the photos. Stay tuned for next Thursday for a new challenge assignment.

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May outtakes

May marked the end of spring and harbinger of summer. Here are my 10 favorite previously unposted photos from May.










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Close calls

A few weeks ago I photographed a Sac-Joaquin Section baseball Division I South elimination game between Tracy High and Beyer High at UOP’s Klein Family Field in Stockton. One play in particular stands out for me because I managed to catch an error, not by a short stop or a left fielder, but by the umpire.

In about the third inning there was a close play at home plate. The ball was hit and Beyer base runner Chris Alonzo barreled towards home from third base. I caught the play in a 6-frame burst (at 9-frames a second).

In the first photo the ball is nearly in Tracy catcher Kevin Saenz ‘s glove as Alonzo enters the frame from the right. The second frame shows Alonzo starting his slide towards the outside of the plate as Saenz, positioned on the inside of the plate, begins to turn towards him. The third picture is similar to the second. Alonzo is a little further past Saenz, who still hasn’t tagged his opponent.

The fourth photo is the most telling. Alonzo is clearly past Saenz and into the batter’s box, the plate, obscured by dirt, is somewhere near his feet. There is a small but noticeable gap between the two players with no physical contact between them.

The fifth and sixth shots show Alonzo skidding over the plate with Saenz reaching out in vain desperation for a tag but no contact was made.

It could be that Alonzo’s own body blocked the umpire’s view of the play. He might have thought that Saenz tagged him in his back. Either way the ump called a resounding “out!” As the Beyer fans roared in disapproval, Alonzo sat on the ground for a moment dumfounded with disbelief. The Beyer coach came out to argue his point but the official stood resolute.

The play wasn’t a game changer. Beyer was ahead by a run at that point but ultimately lost the game to Tracy by a score of 10 to 3.

Some fans may wonder why I didn’t go up to the ump and show him his mistake on my camera’s monitor Others may believe that I was showing favoritism to Tracy by not showing the photo. Neither is the case. I don’t take sides, I take pictures. My job is to capture photos to tell the story of the game for the Record. In that capacity I’m not a part of the game but rather I’m an observer like the rest of the spectators.

If they allowed any fan to come onto the field to dispute a call, there would be long lines of people waiting to complain and chaos would ensue. The officials on the field of play have the final word no matter how close the call.

There was a controversial play was caught on video in a prep football game in 2009 between West High and Edison High at Edison in Stockton. I wasn’t there to cover the play, but in the last few seconds of the game West, trailing by a single point, kicked a 29-yard field goal. The ball, coming in low, bounced off the right side of the crossbar and through the uprights. The official on the right side looked like he ducked to avoid being hit by the low ball and the same time the Edison announcer called the kick “no good” and the ref signaled that the kick failed.

The west team disputed the call but to no avail. Even though there was a hail of complaints, the Sac-Joaquin section office released a statement upholding the officials’ decision on the field.

You may think these might be examples of catching the officials making mistakes or bad calls all the time, but in reality, most of the time the photos that I take confirm the officials’ calls.

In 2013, the Manteca Buffaloes played Enterprise-Redding in the Division II Football Northern California Regional Bowl Championship game at Lincoln High in Stockton. It was close game that was hard-fought on both sides.

In the fourth quarter Manteca was behind by a touchdown. The Buffs fumbled on the Enterprise 1-yard line. The ball scooted through the end zone for a touchback, turning the ball over to Enterprise. Manteca coaches and fans argued that the running back’s knee touched the ground before he dropped the ball, thus the ball should have been ruled dead and they should have retained possession of the ball and another shot at scoring. The referee stood fast with his call and Enterprise went on to win the game 27-21.

When I got back to the office I saw that my photo of the play showed the ball flying out of running back’s hand before he was down. The officials got it right.

Sports officials are often under appreciated and sometimes even hated (hockey referees a often booed even before the game starts). The undergo a lot of training and they are far more often right than wrong. Either way the officials are an important and necessary part of the game.

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Waste not, want not

Sometimes there you can encounter some beautiful light but because of positioning or other reasons, you can’t always use it for your specific job, but that doesn’t mean that it always has to go to waste.

I recently had an assignment to photograph the Reconnect program in Stockton. Operated by the Probation department and the county office of education It’s where teen offenders released from juvenile hall can check in and continue their education. Photographing the participants can be problematic. Either we shoot them from behind or try to find some other creative way to take their picture without identifying them.

I had already gotten some back-of-the-head pictures of a few students when reporter Jennie Rodriguez and I took another student aside to interview him. He walked by a window, which gave the idea of photographing him in silhouette.

As I was photographing the student against the window light I noticed some dramatic rim light falling upon Jennie. Rim light is light just on the edge on the subject. It’s usually an effect of backlighting or near backlighting. While the student was directly between the window and myself, Jennie was off to my right slightly. The rim light gently graced her profile. There was just enough light bouncing around the room to provide a little fill on the dark side of her face.

Although I couldn’t use the rim light for the subject of my assignment, I was still able to find a use for it.

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Random photo #49: Just another bike ride

Raymond Mendoza, 20, rides his extra tall bike near his home on Sonora Street near San Joaquin Street in Stockton. The bike is about as tall as Mendoza who says he’s stands at about 5-feet, 6 inches. He estimates that he’s around 8 feet tall when he rides it. Mendoza says he’s had the bike for about a year from a friend who made it of parts from 2 different bicycles.

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Blast from the past: Retrograde progress

In 2007 I wrote a blog post about remembering a photo that I took in the late 1980s. It was of an adult couple having a pizza lunch by themselves on the playground equipment at Beckman Park in Lodi. It was one of those structures that had a spiral slide, a tube slide, a pole to slide down and a set of swings. The photo, one of my favorites, reminded me that there’s a kid in all of us.

What got me thinking of it back in 2007 was that I had driven by and saw that Lodi Park and Rec (I’m assuming) had taken out most of the structure leaving only the swings.

 I drove by again just recently and saw that now even the swing set is gone. There’s just a large plot of open dirt surrounded by a concrete border with a smattering of tan bark left to remind what was once there and what has been lost.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Out on the town

“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.
- Herb Caen

This month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “cityscapes.” The challenge is similar to the architecture assignment issued in October of 2013 and there can be some overlap in subject matter, however a cityscape concerns itself more with an overall scene rather than concentrating on an individual building or detail. It’s more like seeing the whole forest rather than a single tree.

A cityscape can be just as compelling as a rural landscape. A city’s skyline can be likened to the crags of a mountain range and its streetlights, signs and utility poles can be like a forest of trees at times. Landscapes can often have animals. People and pets can the denizens of an urban landscape.

Like a normal landscape, the cityscapes benefit greatly from the time of day when one shoots. Try to avoid midday. The flat overhead sun creates flat, uninteresting light and unflattering shadows. The so-called “golden hours” of early morning or late afternoon are much more preferable. The light is much warmer and comes in at a pleasing angle.

The “blue hours” of predawn and post sunset are also great for urban landscapes. The deep blue sky can contrast nicely against the warmer glow of city streetlights.

Nighttime is another great time to shoot. Some cities come alive at night. The streetlights are no longer the simple yet beautiful accents of the blue hour and become the main light source of the city.

At this time of year the weather shouldn’t be much of a factor, but inclement weather can actually be an advantage in photographing cities. Rain slickened streets can reflect streetlights, doubling their effectiveness. You can catch the reflection of buildings and street scenes in larger puddles. Fog can add a level of moodiness to one’s photos. Clouds can help to add interest to a featureless sky.

It’s an unfortunate reality of life that there is more crime in the city than more rural areas. Be aware of your surroundings and situation to make sure you’re safe. Try going with a “photo buddy” especially after hours. There’s always safety in numbers.

For some people, shooting a “normal” landscape is their only goal, but those same skills can be transferred to an urban setting. For those who prefer the city life, a cityscape can be a way to experience a landscape on their own terms.


Here are the rules:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Cityscape” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between June 4 and June 18. The can be of any subject but they must be of an everyday object or scene.

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. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. 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 what they are doing in the photos.

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

6. The deadline for submission is Thursday, June 18. The top examples will be published on Thursday, June 25 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Celebrating the ordinary

The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment is to find the extraordinary in ordinary objects or scenes.

It takes more than just taking an everyday object and photographing it. One needs to look with a discerning eye to find the beauty and nobility of it through lighting, composition, and/or detail. That’s what the best photographers did with then pictures they sent in exhibit. They celebrate the dignity and the grace of the mundane. Thirteen readers entered a total of 60 photos. Here are the top of the entries.


Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera with a 60mm macro lens to photograph his glasses sitting on the steel cutting table of a Polar 78mm paper cutter at his job in the bindery department at KP Corporation in Stockton. The light from the machine bathed its metal deck and Skinner’s glasses in a warm light and elevated them both from the ordinary to the exceptional.


There are very few things that are more common than the ubiquitous cellphone. Nearly everyone has one. Sam Doan of Stockton, used his iPhone as a clever part of the composition of his photo. Doan used his phone to photograph underside of the Foresthill Bridge, which spans the North Forth of the American River between the towns of Auburn and Foresthill. Then, with the picture displayed on the phone, inserted it into a larger scene of the bridge and shot it with a Canon 5D Mk II DSLR camera for a picture-within-a-picture composition.


Rick Wilmot of Lodi looked at what most of us might consider as pests in a different way. Using a Canon 40D DSLR camera he photographed aphids on rosebud in his garden. Wilmot silhouetted the bud and bugs against a dark blue sky making them look less like an infestation of pests and more like a parade on a march of wonder.


One of the ways to elevate an ordinary object to the level of art is to look closely at its details. Carolyn Silva of Jackson found an old football in her yard. Using a Nikon D5000 DSLR camera to photograph it, she moved in relatively close to capture its interesting surface details. The ball’s stippled surface was dulled and cracked by the erosive effects weathering and made for a more visually interesting photo.


There are times where you can find ordinary objects in naturally photogenic situations and other times where you can create your own composition. Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton took a set of wooden clothespins and arranged them on a table at her home. She stood them on end and then photographed them with her Nikon D90 DSLR camera but their reflections as well.


Subtlety is often hard to capture in a photo. We’re usually attracted to bight colors and bold contrasts. But when it’s done well, a subtle picture can be as sublime as a bold one.

Susan Scott of Stockton used her Canon Rebel DSLR camera to photograph a box of tissues at her home. Instead of concentrating on the entirety of the box, she focused on the single tissue sticking out of the top of it. She managed to capture the subtle tones and gradations of the thin paper and its gentle folds. The off-white shades complimented nicely with the slightly out of focus beige wall in the background. The whole thing reminded me in some ways of a Georgian O’Keefe desert painting.

All of the pictures are displayed in a photo gallery at Recordnet.com. Stay tune for a new challenge assignment next week.

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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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