How to get close without getting close

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Robert Capa

In this time of the coronavirus the best thing to avoid exposure is to stay inside and away from other people, but my job doesn’t afford me that luxury. I can’t take a picture over the phone or through a closed car door. These days I’m trying to practice this minimum safe distance as well as wearing a mask whenever I’m out shooting.

(3/26/20) Munish “Mike” Ghai gives out free masks at the In-And-Out in Lathrop. Ghai, a Lathrop resident and Stockton Realtor, canceled his 25th wedding anniversary, saving $10,000 he had earmarked for a celebration with family and friends. He has used that money to purchase and ship 1,500 masks from India, with the help of extended family in India and Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal. The subject was about 6-8 feet away photographed with a wide angle zoom lens set at 24mm. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Fame photographer Ernst Haas once said that “ The best zoom lens is your feet” meaning that rather than getting a telephoto lens, you should simply get closer to your subject. In normal times this is true. Usually, there’s no substitute for just getting nearer. When I was in school my photo instructors used to say “When you think you’re close enough, take another step closer.” This is especially true when taking photos of people. But now were all asked to physically distance ourselves from others, getting close may not be practical or advisable to do. So, how to get close to your subject without actually getting too close is the question.

(4/16/20) Stockton Christian Academy boys varsity basketball assistant coach Robin Hong videos himself doing a ball-handling drill at the basketball courts at Grupe Park in Stockton. Hong was recording the drills to be available for any student or athlete at the K-12 school, who wants to work on their skills. The subject was about 6-feet away shot with a wide-angle lens. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping a minimum distance of 6 feet between yourself and the next person. They describe it as 2 arms lengths. I’m about 5’-10” and I estimate the distance as my height plus a couple of inches. Six feet is closer than you think. Most people overestimate the distance, probably in the 8 to 10 feet range. Then there’s a natural tendency for subjects to take another step or two back out of reflex. Soon the distance becomes more like 10 to 12 feet or even sometimes more. A true 6 feet is fairly close. Even with a wide-angle lens you can get a decent shot.

(3/17/20) Chata Espitia of Stockton takes advantage of partly cloudy skies to fly a kite in an open lot next to the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton. The subject was about 15 feet away from the photographer in both photos. In the top a 24mm wide-angle was used. In the bottom photo where the woman appears closer, a medium telephoto of 120mm was used. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Now days cameras come with a zoom lens, most likely in the 18-55mm range (an equivalent of a 26-80mm of those film cameras). That should be able to bring in your subject close enough from the 6 to 10 feet distance without a problem. Of course, you can buy even longer lenses if you need to shoot from a farther distance away but the lens that came with your camera should be good enough.

(4/18/20) Singer/Musician Abraham “Steve” Mackey, 71, performs songs in a series of short concerts that he live streams from the backyard of his Stockton Home that he calls “Music from the Shed.” The subject was about 6-8 feet away photographed with a wide angle zoom lens set at 24mm. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Those who use their smartphones for photos are at a disadvantage. Sure, many current phones have a zoom feature but at the sacrifice of quality. The more you zoom in, the lower the quality of the image because you’re not zooming in optically. What’s happening is that you’re cropping the image and using a smaller and smaller portion of the sensor. But cropping in slightly shouldn’t degrade the image too much.

(4/17/20) Tiffanie Heben decorates the front of her home on East Highland Avenue in Tracy. Heben was participating in an event put out by the Facebook group Class of 2020 THS Parents to decorate their front doors and/or yards in honor of their graduating seniors in lieu of canceled formal graduation ceremonies canceled due to the coronavirus. Heben was decorating for her 17-year-old daughter Alexandra Alcala who has chosen to go to the University of Pittsburgh next fall. The subject was about 6 feet away photographed with a wide angle zoom lens set at 24mm. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

There’s going to be a transitional time just after the stay-at-home orders are lifted but yet many people may feel uneasy about coming into contact with others. You can use these precautions and techniques to help keep you safer in uncertain times and still get a good picture.

(4/25/20) Gretchen Dobler of Lodi hits from the second fairway green at the Swenson Park Golf Course in Stockton. The golf course along with others in the county have been closed for about a month due to the novel coronavirus concerns. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Posted in Photography, Techniques | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Let’s get small!

Often photographers concern themselves with grand vistas but for the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment we are asking you to think on a smaller scale. Closeup or macro photography explores realms of the overlooked and unseen.

TOP: A fork in the kitchen of Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 50mm macro lens. BOTTOM LEFT: A rose photographed with a 50mm macro lens in Record photographer Clifford Oto’s backyard. BOTTOM RIGHT: Record photographer Clifford Oto’s dog Maisie’s eye photographed with a 50mm macro lens in his back

Flowers are often the subjects of macro photography but almost anything will do. If you look carefully and closely a household item you find surface details and textures. Insects can seem as big as horses water drops can look like jewels. The surface of a cookie can look like an alien landscape.

(4/22/20) Lemon tree flowers photographed by Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 300mm telephoto lens inns backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Technically a closeup is any photo with which you shoot at the lens’s minimum focus. Depending on the lens could be a few inches to a few feet. But there are things you can use and do to get even closer.

(4/22/20) A rose photographed with a 50mm macro lens in Record photographer Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Macro lenses are one designed to get in close. They usually can get a 1:2 to 1:1 reproduction, meaning the image on the sensor is half to the same size as it is in real life. Macro lenses can cost as little $250 (relatively affordable) up to around $900. Still, even the cheapest of macros can be too much for some.

(4/22/20) A dew-covered blade of grass photographed with a 50mm macro lens in Record photographer Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Close up filters are just what they sound like, glass filters that screw into the end of an existing lens and act like magnifying glasses. They are made in varying strengths and can even be stacked upon each other to increase their magnification even more. The downside of the filters is that they aren’t as sharp as a macro lens. Stacking them further degrades that sharpness. A set of closeup filters can cost $50 to $100, depending on the quality. Those auxiliary macro “lenses” for smartphones are essentially just closeup filters.

(4/22/20) Water drops cling to a screen door at the home of Record photographer Clifford Oto photographed with a 50mm macro lens. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

The last technique for closeups is reversing the lens. All you have to do is to take a lens and turn it around so that its front is placed against the camera and it’s back end is pointed towards your subject. This allows you to get sun very close. You’ll have to physically hold the lens in place or you can get what’s called a reversing ring which mounts onto camera and you can screw the turned around lens onto it. The main downside to reversing the lens is that you won’t be able to control the aperture. Exposure will only be manipulated through shutter speed and ISO.

(4/22/20) Iris leaves photographed by Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 300mm telephoto lens inns backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Using a telephoto for a closeups can get you pretty close just not 1:1 or 1:2 reproduction. If you don’t have a macro you might get some satisfying results by using a telephoto and then cropping afterward.

(4/22/20) A rose bush photographed by Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 16-24mm wide-angle zoom lens in his backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Using a wide-angle at it’s minimum focus can bring some interesting results. The best way to use one is use its minimum focus on your main subject and let everything else fall into the background. It’s a great technique for storytelling. The downside is that you have to pay extra careful attention to the background for unwanted details.

(4/22/20) A thin oatmeal cookie photographed in the kitchen of Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 50mm macro lens. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

The biggest obstacle to macro photography isn’t equipment, it’s mindset. We’re all used to seeing the overall picture but with closeup pictures we have to think in detail and textures. In effect, we have to stop seeing the forest for the trees but rather seeing things the other way around.

(4/22/20) A rose leaf photographed with a 50mm macro lens in Record photographer Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. The preferred format is jpeg. Type in “Closeup” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be taken between April 28 and May 12.

3. The number of photos is limited to 10.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, the kind of device you used, how you got your close up, what it is of and where the photo was taken (eg.: John Doe of Stockton, Canon Rebel T6i with 50mm macro lens. A rose at Victory Park).

5. If there is a recognizable person or persons in the photo please identify them (name, age, hometown) and describe what is going on in the photo (eg.: “Jane Done, 9, holds a key in her hands at her home in Stockton.”)

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

7. The deadline for submission is May 12. The top examples will be published on May 19 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at recordnet.com.

(4/22/20)
Lemon tree leaves photographed by Record photographer Clifford Oto with a 300mm telephoto lens inns backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Posted in Equipment | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge: Home is where the art is

This month’s assignment, “backyard” is inspired by the fact that nearly all of us are homebound by restrictions enacted to fight the coronavirus. The task was to look for creative ways to photograph things in, around or from your backyard. The boundaries were expanded a bit to include anything on your property but the idea was the same: look beyond the mundane and to see everyday things with a creative eye. Twenty-nine readers sent in 161 photos. Here are some of the top examples.

_______________________

Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph a pair of cedar waxwings on a plum tree in her backyard.

There are times when everything comes together for the perfect photo. It was a rainy day when a pair of cedar waxwings landed on a plum tree outside of Carolyn Silva’s bedroom window in Jackson. The deep red leaves of the tree glistened from the raindrops clinging to them. Silva used a Nikon D7500 DSLR to photograph the birds as they faced each other making them look more like love birds rather than waxwings.

_______________________

Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph a dogwood blossom in her backyard.

Janet Baniewich of Stockton also took advantage of wet conditions for her photo. Using a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera she photograph a single dogwood blossom, one of many strewn about her backyard patio, as it lay on the rain-covered ground. The flower’s vibrant colors stand out against the dark and neutral color of the ground.

_______________________

Luis Rodriguez of Stockton used a Ricoh GR III digital point-and-shoot camera to photograph a HO scale miniature on a mirror in his backyard.

Rather than finding his photo, Luis Rodriguez of Stockton created it. He set a mirror on his backyard lawn which reflected the gentle, puffy clouds in the sky. He then set a HO scale figure of a fisherman in a boat, creating a scene of whimsy and fantasy.

_______________________

Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera to photograph roses in his kitchen.

Dave Skinner of Stockton brought a little bit of his backyard inside. He used a couple of roses from his yard into his kitchen and set up a still life scene. He put one in a cup and set the other one on the counter. Using window light as his main illumination source, Skinner used a LED flashlight to help fill in some of the shadows. With his Nikon D7100 DSLR camera he created a still life that would make a Renaissance master proud.

_______________________

Steve Gong of Stockton used a Sony A7R III digital mirrorless camera to photograph Brookside Lake from his Backyard.

Steve Gong of Stockton used time to his advantage for his backyard photo. He set his Sony A7R3 digital mirrorless camera on a tripod overlooking the manmade lake that his house backs up to. The very long 6 to 10 minute exposures he used caused the clouds to appear streaked, giving an otherwise static photo a dynamic look.

_______________________

Justin Grant of Stockton used an Apple iPhone to photograph an orange slice at his home.

Justin Grant of Stockton employed some nice backlighting for his photo. He held up an orange slice against the morning light coming in through the kitchen window and with his Apple iPhone 8 captured the rich color and textures of the fruit.

_______________________

Mike Ratekin of French Camp used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III to photograph his granddaughter Cali Lopez praying at a cross that he and his wife Josephine made for Easter in their backyard.

Mike Ratekin and his wife Josephine built a cross in their backyard to celebrate Easter. He photographed his 5-0year-old granddaughter Cali Lopez praying in front of it. Ratekin took advantage of the “blue hour” that occurs at dusk to to get a rich indigo of the evening sky and then used an off-camera flash to illuminate his granddaughter and the cross.

_______________________

Jessica Flores of Stockton used Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph a sunset from her backyard.

Jessica Flores of Stockton used a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera to photograph the sunset from her front yard. She captured the nice, crisp silhouettes of trees across the street against the warm colors of the sunset soaked up in the clouds in the sky.

_______________________

Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a Sony A7R IV digital mirrorless camera to photograph the moon from his backyard.

Stocktonian Tom LaBounty’s photo isn’t of backyard but rather is of something that could be seen from it. In fact, it could be seen far, far away. LaBounty used a Sony A7R IV digital mirrorless camera Sony 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens with 2X extender, effectively making it an 800mm lens, to photograph the full moon, more than 238,000 miles away. Many people think that to take a picture of the moon at night that one has to use a very high ISO or long time exposure, but the light that falls on a full moon is the same as what falls on Earth during the day, so the exposure is a daylight one which is what LaBounty did.

_______________________

All of the photos entered can be seen in a gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on April 28.

Posted in Readers Photo Challenge | Leave a comment

Making most of what you’ve got

(Note: all photos in this post were taken by a 2004 Canon EOS 20D DSLR camera)

When I first listened to Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett’s album The Koln Concert (“borrowed” from my older brother) in about 1975, I was mesmerized from the start. I didn’t know that a solo piano performance could be so engaging and creative. Recently, I found out the story behind the concert which made the album even more intriguing.

(4/20/13) The One Fifth Avenue Building is framed through the Washington Square Arch in Manhattan, New York. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

In 1975, the concert was organized by 17-year-old Jazz enthusiast Vera Brandes at the Opera House in Cologne, Germany. Jarrett had requested Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the performance. Through a mix up a smaller Bosendorfer was placed on the stage. This one was used as a rehearsal piano and was in bad shape. Much 0f the felt had worn off of the hammers in the upper registers and the pedals didn’t work. The mistake was discovered too late to change the pianos out.

(4/13/13) A view of Brooklyn across the East River from Manhattan in New York City. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200) CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Jarrett almost walked away from the concert if not for the pleading by Brandes. He walked on stage alone with no band to hide behind and began to play. He avoided the piano’s weaknesses and played to its strengths. The result is a virtuoso performance of melody, rhythm and emotion that just so happened to be recorded and turned into the best selling solo Jazz piano album of all time.

(9/21/13) Stairs at the San Diego Convention Center downtown San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 70-200 mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/3.8. ISO: 800) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

As it is in music, it can be much the same in photography. Professional and advanced photographers, through education and experience, know how to overcome and even flourish under any kind of circumstances.

TOP: (4/20/13) A view of Manhattan at night from the Top of the Rock observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/2 sec. @ f/2,8. ISO: 800) . BOTTOM LEFT: (1/12/14) Two women talk while sitting on a bench along the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/32. ISO: 100). BOTTOM RIGHT: (9/17/11) Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) grow along the Bodega Head trail at Bodega Bay. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

In 2004 I bought a new Canon EOS 20D DSLR camera as my personal camera. It was position somewhere in between Canon’s flagship and an entry-level model. My work cameras were far more powerful, with more resolution, greater frame rate and durability. The 20D had a then-average resolution of 8.2 megapixels and a mid-pack frame rate of 4.5 frames-per second. But with it I was able to shoot many pictures from sports to landscapes to portraits. It traveled with me from Bodega Bay to San Diego to New York City.

TOP: (4/19/13) People on their way to work walk through the financial district of Manhattan, New York City. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/200th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200). BOTTOM LEFT: (9/18/11) A seagull lands on a rock along the Bodega Head trail at Bodega Bay. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 70-200mm w/1.4 extender @ 280mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200). BOTTOM RIGHT: (3/20/08) A Maylasian tiger looks up from eating in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500h sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Over the years newer models were introduced to replace the camera, seven generations worth so far. The newer cameras had better resolution and had more features that the older ones lacked. Even as my camera grew long in the tooth and I was tempted by the newer models, I stuck with the trusty old 20D. It continued to produced excellent photos. As a professional photographer it was my training and experience that allowed me to create the quality images that I did, not the camera.

TOP: (1/12/14) A surfer rides a wave near the Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 100). BOTTOM LEFT: (3/31/10) Water glasses on a table at the Beach Chalet restaurant in San Francisco. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200). BOTTOM RIGHT: (9/18/11) A few naked lady flowers grow along the Bodega Head trail at Bodega Bay. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/22 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Last year my 20D stopped working and it would have cost more to repair than the camera was worth so I replaced with with a newer, top-of-the-line model. But if your camera is old but still functioning, try not to abandon it for the newest and shiniest new model. Learn the principals of photography to get the most out of what you have.

TOP: (7/28/15) People look at the fish in the enclosures at the Birch Aquarium in the La Jolla area of San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 16-35mm @ 16mm. Exposure: 1/200th sec. @f/2.8. ISO: 400). BOTTOM LEFT: (4/10/14) A closeup of a fiddleneck wildflower growing at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 50mm macro. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200). BOTTOM RIGHT: (3/20/08) A squirrel sits on a bush on the bluffs at the Cabrillo Monument at Point Loma San Diego. (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens Canon: 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200) [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Posted in Equipment | Leave a comment

Virtual travelogue #4: The City by the Bay

San Francisco isn’t so far away that most of us haven’t visited it at one point or another, but with the stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders in effect we may not be able to travel there anytime soon no matter how close it is. San Francisco is a very recognizable city and finding new sights can be challenging. Here are some views, some familiar and others uncommon, of the City by the Bay.

(4/18/12) The night skyline of San Francisco seen from Treasure Island. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(7/23/08) A neon sign at Fisherman’s Pizza near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Fort Point in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(2/17/10) Vertical support cables on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(4/26/06) A statue of Willie Mays stands outside of AT&T Park (formerly SBC Park now Oracle Park) in downtown San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(4/25/06) Major League baseball fans watch the Giants take on the Mets from the left field seats at AT&T Park (now Oracle Park) in downtown San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(4/25/06) Giants Barry Bonds hits a homer during a game against the Mets at AT&T Park (now Oracle Park) in downtown San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/31/15) Skylights at San Francisco International Airport. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) People meet in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(7/24/13) Water glasses on a table at the Beach Chalet restaurant in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A tourist takes a selfie in the courtyard of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A bronze cast of Rodin’s The Thinker sits in the courtyard of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(4/10/10) People look at “Stockton’s mummy” on display in an exhibit called “Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine” at the Palace of Legion of Honor in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A swan swims in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A great blue heron hunts for a meal at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A fisherman climbs a rocky outcropping near the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) People walk along the concrete foundations at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(8/9/18) A cave near the Sutro Baths in San Francisco. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Posted in Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Composition 101: Foregrounds and framing

One of the things that many people forget to include into their wide angle shots is a prominent foreground. They often are concentrating to much on the main subject, whether a person or landscape or something else, that they don’t think of adding a something that can help to draw the viewer’s attention to the subject or lead them into overalls scene.

TOP:(9/18/11) Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) grow along the Bodega Head trail at Bodega Bay. BOTTOM LEFT: (3/16/14) Poppies grow along the shore of the deep water channel at the Stockton Sailing Club at Buckley Cove in Stockton. BOTTOM RIGHT: (3/20/08) The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is located at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. These are examples of including a prominent foreground. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

A photograph is essentially a flat 2 dimensional form but by adding a foreground you can create the illusion of depth. Placing something like a fence, flowers or other object in the extreme foreground can help to draw the viewers eye into the frame.

TOP: (1/4/07) A warning sign is covered in snow along Highway 4 near Tamarack Pines. BOTTOM LEFT: (4/19/13) Tulips grow in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, New York City. BOTTOM RIGHT: (6/14/15) Colorful curtains hang in a room of La Jolla Cove Suites in San Diego. Shot with an iPhone 5. These are examples of including a prominent foreground. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Get in as close as you can to the foreground subject as you can with as wide a lens as you can. Then use a small aperture to get as much depth of field as possible to get as much in focus as you can.

(8/10/11) Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center environmental associate Julia Stephens sits on a rock in a field of checker bloom growing near Barn Meadow. This is an example of including a prominent foreground. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The background can be the similar to the foreground or it can contrast with it. Your foreground can be the part of the main subject or it can lead you to the subject in the background.

TOP: (4/20/13) The One Fifth Avenue Building is framed through the Washington Square Arch in Manhattan, New York. BOTTOM LEFT: (3/18/08) The moon rises behind palm fronds in San Diego. BOTTOM RIGHT: (3/20/08) The view out a window of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, located at the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego. This is an example of framing. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

While this technique works primarily with wide angle lenses, you can add foregrounds with either wide or telephoto lenses by using the compositional trick of “framing.”

LEFT: (7/28/15) People romp on the La Jolla Shores beach in San Diego. TOP RIGHT: (7/28/15) People play on the beach at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. BOTTOM RIGHT: (9/19/18) A half moon rises between some palm trees along Weber Avenue near Madison Street in downtown Stockton. These are examples of framing. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Framing is just what it sounds like. By adding something in the foreground like a tree branch or window, you can frame your subject to add emphasis to it. I often use the gaps between people in a crowd or audience as a frame to help to bring focus to a speaker or performer.

(2/27/20) Miss San Joaquin 2020 Emily Grimmius reads the book Finding Winnie to a 3rd grade class at the Aspire APEX Academy in Stockton on Rotary Read-In Day. The people in the foreground help to frame the subject. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The first impulse for most people is to find a scene that is free of obstacles but take the time to look for an interesting foreground that can be used to draw in the eye or as a frame for you subject.

(7/4/13) Water glasses on a table at the Beach Chalet restaurant in San Francisco. This is an example of including a prominent foreground. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Used individually or together, the use of prominent foregrounds and framing are two very useful tools at your disposal in your compositional toolkit.

Posted in Composition | Leave a comment

Virtual travelogue #3: San Diego – Down by the sea

San Diego is a costal town and offers great access to the sea and ocean wildlife.

(6/14/15) People play on the beach at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) People romp on the La Jolla Shores beach in San Diego. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

(6/14/15) Seal lions come ashore at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) A tourist takes a picture of a sea lion at the water’s edge at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) Seal lions rest on a rock off shore at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) A tourist looks at sea lions at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) A tourist takes pictures of sea lions on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/15/15) A pelican lands at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/15/15) Cormorants sit on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/15/15) A cormorants sit in a tree at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) Fishermen cast their lines in from a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/15/15) A tourist pose for a picture in front of incoming waves on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) A tourist pose for a picture in front of incoming waves on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

(6/14/15) Tourists get a little too close to the waves on a rocky outcropping at La Jolla Cove in San Diego. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Posted in Equipment | Leave a comment

Virtual travelogue #2: The San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is world famous and is a must-see attraction if you’re ever in the city. Here are just some of the animals that can be seen there.

(3/20/08) A Maylasian tiger looks up from eating in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) An African slender-snouted crocodile rests in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) Visitors watch a gorilla through a glass wall at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) A zebra rests in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) A southern gerenuk rests in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) A koala sleeps in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) A giant panda sleeps in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

(3/20/08) A snake-neck turtle comes up for air in its enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.

Posted in Animals, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

April 1st News: 2020 edition

Rogue Muppets invade town

A band of rogue Muppets escaped from Jim Henson Productions studios in Hollywood and wreaked havoc on surrounding neighborhoods on Wednesday. Several fluffy plush creatures, some as tall as 7 to 8 feet, overturned parked cars and smashed storefront windows. Many residents had to flee down city streets to escape the mayhem. Muppet handlers were eventually able to corral the felt creatures and transport them back to their studio. The Hollywood police believes that the incident started as a case of Muppet abuse and is investigating it as such.

————————

Delta offers levitation course.

San Joaquin Delta College will be offering a class in levitation starting in the fall. The introductory course will teach students minor levitation skills. “In this first class, students will learn to levitate from a few inches to about a foot off the ground” said Professor Jean Grey. “Eventually, we’ll have courses in telekinetically lifting other objects and advanced flying”

————————

Vape inventor doubles down on new device

Despite health officials cracking down on vaping, N. Hale, the inventor of the vape pen, doubled down and introduced his newest device: the vape cannon. The device can fill an entire room with the scented, smoke-like vapor within seconds. “Dozens of people now can enjoy vaping simultaneously” says Hale. “What could go wrong?”

————————

Parallel dimension as boring as ours

Scientists at Stanford have discovered and entered a parallel mirror dimension that is just as boring as our own. Physicist Cosmo Universe said that he opened up a gateway between universes with a particle accelerator.“ I was hoping to find an evil twin, you know, maybe with a goatee and an eyepatch, but he was just wearing the same boring lab coat and khakis as I was” said Universe.

————————

Nikon introduces “Tiger Roar” feature on newest cameras

Nikon announced that it’s newest flagship DSLR, the D6, will feature a “Tiger Roar” option. When enabled, instead of a normal clicky sound when the shutter button is pushed, the camera will emit the roar of a tiger. “We looked into the roars of other big cats, lions, cougars and jaguars, but the tiger exhibited the royal majesty that we wanted to represent our cameras” said Nikon spokesperson Ben Gal.

————————

That’s all from the 2020 edition of the April 1st News. Have a happy and pleasant April Fool’s Day.

Posted in Equipment | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge assignment: On the Homefront

With state and local edicts of “stay-at-home” (or even for some counties the more strict “shelter-in-place”) in effect during this time of the COVID-19 virus, getting out to take pictures is more difficult than ever. I struggled to come up with a subject for the next challenge, then I remembered an assignment I had back when I was in school.

(3/22/20) Water drops cling to a emerald and gold euonymus bush in Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

It was called “out your backdoor.” The task was to photograph something in your backyard. Now this may sound easy but there’s more to it than just stepping out into your yard, clicking a picture and then you’re done. Quite often people think, whether knowingly or unconsciously, that things that are faraway and/or exotic make better pictures than those that are closer to us and more familiar. Because we see things everyday we tend to dismiss them as too mundane or boring to be worthy of pictures.

(10/21/12) Rain drops cover a rose in Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

However, a good photographer knows that it’s not the subject but rather one’s approach to that subject that makes the difference between a good or boring picture.

(3/22/20) Clifford Oto’s dog Maisie sits for a photo in their backyard. The fence and trunks of the bushes in the background are a bit distracting. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]


(3/22/20) By simply moving in closer the background distractions are eliminated. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Start with the basics. Get in close to your subjects. Fill the frame with them. Watch your backgrounds. If you’re taking a portrait, for instance, make sure that there isn’t a tree branch or
Sticking out of grandma’s ear.

(7/4/10) A mocking bird sits on the roof of a house behind Clifford Oto’s backyard.

Just because you have something interesting or beautiful in your backyard it doesn’t mean that you can’t make it look even better. The light outside changes during the day. Try going out in early the morning, midday and later in the afternoon and see how it affects your subject. You might even try taking a picture at night.

(3/22/20) Water drops cling to the blossoms of a redbud tree in the backyard of Clifford Oto’s home. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Try using different lenses or if you have a zoom lens, take pictures with with zoomed out to it’s widest setting and then zoom in for a more telephoto shot.

(6/17/09) A dove sits in a nest in Clifford Oto’s backyard.

Think beyond just the plants and landscaping in your yard. You can photograph the birds that invariably fly in and through your property. You can photograph your pets or do portraits of family members. Easter falls within the timeframe of the challenge. You can set up a backyard egg hunt and take pictures of your kids searching for the hidden treasures.

(11/22/13) A shaft of light illuminates a saltshaker in the kitchen of Clifford Oto’s home.

You can also shoot a still life. If you have a fruit tree (I have a lemon tree that has a lot of fruit that needs picking) then take some of its bounty and perhaps place in a bowl on a table. Add some flowers and arrange them artistically together, wait for some nice light and, voila! Instant still life.

(12/3/14) A rainbow graces the sky beyond an ornamental pear tree Clifford Oto’s front yard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

For this challenge it can be more than just the backyard. The front yard or even inside your home will also be fair game, but must be your own property, not someone else’s. So, good luck and may you find that home is truly where the heart is.

20121031 Rain drops cover a cape plumbago in Clifford Oto’s backyard. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to coto@recordnet.com. The preferred format is jpeg. Type in “Backyard” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be taken between March 31 and April 14.

3. The number of photos is limited to 10.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, the kind of device you used and there the photo was taken (eg.: John Doe of Stockton, Canon Rebel T6i with 18-55mm lens. In my backyard).

5. If there is a recognizable person or persons in the photo please identify them (name, age, hometown) and describe what is going on in the photo (eg.: “Jane Done, 9 and brother Jimmy Doe, 6 of Stockton, hunt for easter eggs in their backyard.”)

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

7. The deadline for submission is April 14. The top examples will be published on April 21 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day at recordnet.com.

Posted in Readers Photo Challenge | Tagged | Leave a comment
  • Categories

  • Archives