Into each life some rain must fall

It’s been several years since I’ve shot a football game in any kind of significant rain. The drought has made sure that many fall and winter Friday nights would be dry as a bone. Even with last year’s El Niño weather pattern I was able to get away with nary a drop falling on me. It’s not that I’m complaining but one just gets used to the routine.

We’re at about the midpoint of this year’s prep football season and it’s been high and dry again, up until last Friday that is.

Weather forecasts called for rain for most of the day, but the projections called for it to dwindle by the time the games started in the evening, so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t get too wet.

When I woke on Friday morning the skies were cloudy but still dry, which did not bode well. It start raining about midday or so and continued into the evening.

I was assigned to shoot the Chavez at Franklin game in Stockton. I prepared myself by donning my trusty old rain shell and rain hat (a wide-brimmed, waterproof chapeau).

You can purchase rain protection for your camera and lens which can cost as little as under $10 all the way up to over $100. I choose the cheapest route because it rains so little here. By simply using a large garbage bag and creating a hole to stick the lens through, you can give your gear effective rain protection for just pennies. It’s a technique I’ve used time and time again. It can be thrown away after you’re done or kept and reused again (I used the same bag just 2 days later to cover a Pacific field hockey game in the rain)

I wouldn’t call the rain on Friday night a deluge. The drops were very fine, almost mist-like, but that doesn’t mean it was light. There seemed to be a lot of those small drops per square foot resulting in a thorough soaking.

Most of the area high schools today have artificial turf fields but Franklin doesn’t. I got to the game early and realized that it’s been a while since I shot on a natural turf field. The sidelines were a quagmire of mud and muck between the 40-yard lines where the teams mostly congregate during the game.

I had walked out there in just my regular street shoes but upon seeing the muddy sidelines, I remembered that I had a pair of rain boots in the trunk of my car. I was able to go back, put the boots on and get back to the field before the start of the game.

The rains steadily continued with an ebb and flow in its intensity. At some points the rain was so thick it looked like a light fog. Most of my rain gear held up well. My feet were warm and comfortable in the knee-high rubber boots. The hat kept my noggin dry too. The garbage bag, while perhaps looking a little strange to the causal observer, was working like a charm as well.

It was my jacket that gave up the ghost. Over time I began to feel a wetness at the back of my neck. At first I thought it was just the cold transferring through the thin shell. But then I realized it was actually water seeping through the material, perhaps through a small hole. I didn’t notice it before because I hadn’t had to use it in the rain for so long.

There wasn’t much I could do about it at the time so I just continued to shoot the game. After a while the water seeped down to the small of my back. It was cold, wet and miserable but a least the rest of me was dry. But it’s what thousands of sports and news photographers do all the time. We often cover games and other assignments in less than ideal conditions with little or no recognition.

I’m a part of a Facebook group of photographers that participate in a friendly shootout every Friday night in which we each send in our best prep football photo from the night and then vote on our favorite ones. It’s an informal contest with no prizes. We do it just for the fun of seeing each other’s photos and to see how ours stack up against others.

My shot from last Friday, a photo of Franklin quarterback Julian Lopez throwing a pass though a veil of tiny raindrops, was chosen as the winner of the competition. It made it worth standing out in the rain in a leaky coat.

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Mother Nature Monday: #26: Sunset over Millers Ferry Bridge

7/2/2015: Light from the setting sun breaks through the clouds beyond the Millers Ferry Bridge over the Mokelumne River in Walnut Grove.

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Random photo #68: Judge for yourself

A line judge’s red hat stands out against the green of court 2 at the University of the Pacific’s Eve Zimmerman Tennis Center during a match between USA’s Dennis Nevolo and Canada’s Phillip Bester in the 2016 Stockton Men’s ATP Challenge Tennis tournament in Stockton

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The importance of editing

Some readers may have noticed a slight change in the rules to the monthly Readers Photo Challenge. A limit on the number of entries has been added. Most photo contests have some sort of limit to the submissions they receive.

Some cap the entries at a certain number. Other contests will have an entry fee which helps to keep numbers down because most people can only afford to send in so many pictures. And some do both.

The reasoning to the limit is so that the judges don’t have to go through the time-consuming process of looking through hundreds or even thousands of photos that may or may not hold any promise. If a set of photos are sent into a contest that are of the same or similar scene with on minor variations in small details, a judge may eliminate the whole lot of them from contention

Such limits emphasize the importance of editing your photos. Photo editing can be a skill and art unto itself in photography.

It is said that a portfolio of work is only as good as its worst picture. I have seen portfolios that have been tightly edited and very strong in their presentation. I have also seen others in which everything but the kitchen sink was thrown in and the good photos were lost amongst the clutter of mediocre ones.

When editing a photo story, not only does one have to pick the best pictures but ones that have a flow and harmony that tells a narrative together.

Every photographer has their own preferences to a photo editing workflow. The way I do it is to first cull out the obvious rejects: the out-of focus or badly exposed pictures. In the second round, I weed out the ones that are clearly poorly composed: ones that are too far away/too close, or ones that have cluttered and distracting backgrounds/foregrounds. Then I look for content: Does the subject have good expressions/body language and does it tell the story that I’m trying to convey. It’s from that last group that I pick the best of the best.For contests the editing process is similar. I usually enter contests for photos that have been shot over the previous year. I pick out my favorites, usually for several different catagories, then carefully cull them down to just the cream of the crop.

It’s always hard near the last steps because by definition they should all be pretty good by then. Choosing them can be like picking which child is your favorite.

That’s why you have to look at them with a dispassionate eye. It’s easy to be swayed by one aspect of a photo that you like – lighting, composition, expression, subject matter – and ignore something else that might be substandard. A top pick – one to be submitted to a contest or portfolio – should have all elements come together with little or no compromise.

The number of photos for the readers challenge is now limited to 12. It’s still allows you to send in multiple photos but it will also give you a chance to show of your editing skills as well.

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Outtakes: Remember September

September heralded the start of the fall sports season.
Football, volleyball, soccer and more were in full swing during the month. Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from the year’s 9th month.

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9/2/2016:

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9/2/2016:

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9/11/2016:

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9/14/2016:

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9/15/2016:

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9/27/2016:

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9/28/2016:

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9/30/2016:

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Smile and the whole world smiles with you

Today is World Smile Day, which was thought up by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts, who’s credited with creating the ubiquitous smiley face logo.

We smile when we’re happy, when we achieve goals and sometimes even in the face of adversity. We crack a smile, grin from ear to ear and fortune can smile down upon us. We can grin like a Cheshire cat or have a subtle Mona Lisa smirk. We smile at things that are funny and when we’re having fun.

Here’s a gallery of photos from recent years of people smiling.

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9/15/2013: Destiny Herrera, a 10-year-old with bone cancer and her mother Sabrina Garcia Herrera, right, releases yellow balloons along with dozens of family, friends and supporters at Woodward Park in Manteca to help raise awareness of childhood cancer.

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2/13/2014: 10-year-old Shyhein Townsend does a backlflip while dancing at the Valentines Dance at the Sierra Vista Center in Stockton.

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3/23/2014: James and Virginia Gormant, married 48 years, participated in a ceremony along with 4 other couples to renew their wedding vows as a part of Black Marriage Day at the Ebenezer African American Episcopal Church in downtown Stockton.

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5/12/2014: 1st grader Aaron Johnson lets a chicken sit on his hand at the 12th annual Ag Day at Great Valley School in Weston Ranch.

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5/8/2014: East Union’s Meghan Wallace, left, celebrates with teammate Isela Rivera after Wallace scored a goal during a girls varsity Div. IV playoff soccer game against Bear River at East Union’s Dino Cunial Stadium in Manteca.

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8/30/2014: Kathy Holcomb hugs Tom, a chihuahua/shorthair mix at the Stockton Animal Shelter’s block party.

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8/13/2014: Contortionist Nate Nordine performs with the Stockton Symphony in the Cirque de la Symphonie concert at Atherton Auditorium on the campus of Delta College in Stockton.

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10/23/2014: Aracely Benavides of Stockton looks at the partial solar eclipse through a pair of special mylar glasses at the Stockton Astronomical Society’s eclipse viewing party at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton.

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2/7/2015: McNair High “athletes” Jeremy Seng, left, and Keana Murzi high-five each other after answering a question correctly in the Academic Decathlon super quiz at the Lathrop High School gym in Lathrop.

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2/11/2015: Annie Loewen, 16, of Stockton takes a selfie with the San Francisco Giant’s three World Series trophies on display at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi.

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3/20/2015: Bear Creek varsity softball players Stephanie Ruelos, left, and Natalie Alvarez, left, apply glitter to the eye black athletic face grease of teammate Allison Watkins before the opening ceremonies of the Rivals United To Fight Breast Cancer softball tournament at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton.

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5/18/2015: Bear Creek High senior Amelia Cook, far left, takes a selfie with 11 of her classmates during an assembly at Julia Morgan Elementary School in Stockton. The graduating seniors, who were among the first to go to the elementary school, were honored in ceremony at the school.

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6/20/2015: Larry Meadows with the Zydeco Flames band performs on the rubboard during a performance at the Isleton Cajun and Blues Festival held at he E2 Winery in Lodi.

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6/25/2015: 12-year-old Leyla Ayala of Lodi cools off by sliding down the water slide at the Anthony N. Gora Aquatic Center in Galt.

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10/1/2015: 14-year-old Subhkarman Singh of Stockton pokes his head through a cutout of a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa on display as part of the Frames: Step into art exhibit at the Haggin Museum in Stockton.

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10/30/2015: Stockton Police officer Pilar Battaglini, front, leads a flash mob dance put on by the police in front of Barnes and Noble in the Weberstown Mall in Stockton in conjunction with a book fair to raise money for a new juvenile hall.

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2/16/2016: 104-year-old Mary Carigiet was given a birthday party by Kim Morenzone’s 5th grade class at St. Anthony of Padua School in Manteca

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3/18/2016: Kohl Open School students Daelon Finister, left, and Dat Nguyen, both 10, sprint to the finish of the Art Cordero Memorial 5K run/walk on the Calaveras River bike path in Stockton as a part of the school’s 11th annual Day In The Dirt field day.

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3/20/2016: Emmalee Yang with the Nkauj Hmoob Pacific dance group performs a Hmong dance at Draw It Out’s An Afternoon of Music and Dance event at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton.

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6/2/2016: Graduating seniors Kati Enright, left, and Quin Davies pose for a picture taken by classmate Natalie Coleman before the start of the graduation ceremony at Linden High School.

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6/16/2016: Graduated firefighters congratulate each other after graduation ceremonies of the Stockton Fire Department’s Regional Fire Academy at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium in downtown Stockton.

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7/2/2016: Nat Bolden sings at the Red, White and Blues Festival at the Waterfront Warehouse in downtown Stockton.

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8/3/2016: Volunteer Janet Saga makes some of nearly 3,000 kuri manju Japanese pastries in preparation for the Stockton Buddhist Temple’s annual Cultural and Food Bazaar and Obon Festival

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8/28/2016: 11-year-old Jeremy Hungate pilots his homemade craft in the 7th annual Stockton Bathtub Race held at the Louis Park boat ramp in Stockton.

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10/5/2016: Boxing legends Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez, left, Leon Spinks, and his brother Micahel Spinks meet at Lopez’s Fat City Gym in downtown Stockton.

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A beautiful day for a walk

Last Saturday the local event for the Worldwide Photowalk Day was held at the Stockton Rural Cemetery. It’s a great place to shoot because its steeped in history and picturesque monuments and gravestones.

Organizer Carrie Walker said that they had a modest crowd of about 8 people attend. Everyone had a fun time and there was talk of doing a return walk on a foggy day which should make for some great, eerie photos.

I issued a mini challenge for the photowalk. Three people sent in a total of 26 images. Here are some of my favorites.

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Walker use an iPad to photograph a monument at the cemetery then converted them using Adobe Photoshop Elements to black and white which gives the image an ethereal feel that’s appropriate to a cemetery scene.

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Edward R. Carley III of Sacramento used a Canon EOS 70D DSLR camera to photograph a weather plastic flower on the door of a crypt. I liked how the colors of the flower, though faded, stood out against the dark, rusted metal of the door, and how the blossom’s free form contrasted the straight lines and rigid right angles of the door.

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With a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera Terry Davis of Stockton photographed flowers at a grave while on the photowalk. I liked how she used a spot of sunlight to skim off the gravestone and backlight the artificial flowers making them pop out against the dark background.

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Here are the rest of the photos sent in.

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Don’t forget about the current Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Animals. Here are the rules for entering:

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

2. Photos have to be shot between Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. The must be of an animal (wild or domesticated) but a person can be with them if you want.

3. Entries will be limited to no more than 12 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (e.g.: “John Doe of Stockton. Location: Oak Park, Stockton. Canon Rebel T3 w/ 55-300mm lens”). Also try to mention the challenge assignment that you’re revisiting.

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (e.g.: Jimmy Doe, 8, of Stockton cools off in the water at the Oak Park Pool 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 Thursday, October 20. A gallery of all the photos submitted will be run on Oct. 27 at Recordnet.com.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Animal kingdom

This past Tuesday was World Animal Day which is the inspiration for the next Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Animals.

As a kid, I liked watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I remember watching Jim Folwer wrestling with a large wild animal, an alligator, water buffalo or other such beast, while the more elderly host of the show Marlin Perkins would be off-camera describing what his assistant was doing. Whether you grew up with Wild Kingdom or Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor animals are fascinating and can make great photo subjects.

For most animal photography, whether wild or domesticated, the key is to be patient. You can’t tell an animal to sit over there and then look towards the camera. Also, animals aren’t the most predictable of subjects. You don’t always know when they may get up and move to (or from) a picturesque spot or start (or end) an interesting activity. You have to be ready to shoot quickly when a moment happens.

For wild animals and ones at the zoo, a long lens is a necessity. It will bring them in closer to you without disturbing them or putting you in danger. With wild/zoo animals you want them to exhibit natural behaviors rather than to do “tricks” for the camera.

Some enclosures in zoos can sometimes present problems in shooting. Bars and chain link fencing can be too close together and get in the way and clutter the scene. Try getting in as close as you can to the bars or fencing and have the animal be as far away from the fence as possible. The fence/cage will be so out of focus that it will appear nearly invisible through the camera, especially with a telephoto lens and wide aperture.

Pets on the other hand can sometimes be hams for the camera. You want to capture their personality in a picture. If your pet is fun, energetic, goofy or aloof, then that is what you want to emphasize in your photos of them. Although a pet can understand what you want of them more than an untamed animal, communication with them isn’t always 100% so, as with animals in the wild, patience is always a wise practice.

So whether you prefer animals with fur or feathers, ones that climb trees or slither on the ground this assignment is your chance to answer the photographic call of the wild.

How to enter:

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

2. Photos have to be shot between Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. The must be of an animal (wild or domesticated) but a person can be with them if you want.

3. (New) Entries will be limited to no more than 12 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (e.g.: “John Doe of Stockton. Location: Oak Park, Stockton. Canon Rebel T3 w/ 55-300mm lens”).

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (e.g.: Jimmy Doe, 8, of Stockton cools off in the water at the Oak Park Pool 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 Thursday, October 20. A gallery of all the photos submitted will be run on Oct. 27 at Recordnet.com.

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Walking the photowalk

Here’s a photo opportunity for you. This Saturday, October 1, there will be a photowalk at the Stockton Rural Cemetery (2350 Cemetery Lane) from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in Stockton.

It coincides with an international event founded by Florida photographer Scott Kelby called the Worldwide Photowalk. For the past 9 years Kelby has set aside a date for people around the world to share their passion for photography in this event.

The local event organizer is Carrie Walker of Stockton, who has led it for the past few years. She picked this year’s venue for a couple of reasons. First, there’s great beauty in the architecture of many of the monuments and a rich history to many of them, great for photography. Secondly, with October being the month of Halloween, she’s hoping one might find some spooky inspiration as well.

This can be a be a mini-challenge assignment for you too. Email me (coto@recordnet.com) the pictures that you take on the photo walk by next Wednesday (Oct. 5) and I’ll post them here.

The normal photo challenge rules apply.

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

2. Photos have to be shot on Oct. 1, on the photowalk at the Stockton Rural Cemetary.

3. Entries will be limited to no more than 10 photos from each photographer.

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of camera/lens you used and where it was taken (e.g.: “John Doe of Stockton. Location: Oak Park, Stockton. Canon Rebel T3 w/ 55-300mm lens”). Also try to mention the challenge assignment that you’re revisiting.

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos (e.g.: Jimmy Doe, 8, of Stockton cools off in the water at the Oak Park Pool 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 Wednesday, October 5.

Good luck and have fun!

 

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Mother Nature Monday #25: Spine light

03/13/2014: Light catches the spines of a cactus plant at the home of Richard Soto in Stockton.

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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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