The name game

The late Sacramento area stock photographer Tom Meyers was not only a great shooter but he was a whiz at organizing his photos as well. In the pre-digital age, he had file cabinets with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of slides, and each were carefully and meticulously filed and cross referenced for easy finding.

Most other photographers, including me, were not so conscientious. In the old days of film it was hard for some, perhaps even most photographers to keep track of their photos and negatives. May of theirs negatives, slides and prints are relegated to boxes stuffed into dusty closets or garages.

I had (and still have) my favorite photos, slides and negatives either in carefully filed in binders in a cabinet at home. The second tier slides are stuffed into boxes stacked in a closet. To find out what’s on them I’d have to go through them with a magnifier one at a time.

You may think that with digital cameras all your troubles in storing and the retrieving photos would be solved. True, but only if you’re nearly meticulous as Meyers was.

At the Record we occasionally use what we call “file photos” which are pictures that we’ve shot in the past. Finding them is a matter of how “searchable” they are.

The more ways you can make a photo searchable, the easier it will be to find.

First is to renamed the photo.” Images will usually come straight out of the camera with sequential alphanumeric designations something like IMG_1234, IMG_1235, etc. Not something that’s easily remembered to be sure. You can rename them on your computer one at a time if you want but that takes a lot of time.

I use a photo browsing program called Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits (but there are many others you can use) that will allow me to rename my photos in large batches with whatever name I choose. each photo will also have a sequential number (AsparagusFesitval_001, 002, etc). This is a godsend when having to deal with an assignment that generals a lot of pictures such as a sporting event in which there may be hundreds of photos to rename. You can name your photos something generic (eg : Football) but the more specific you are, the more searchable the photo will be (eg: DeltaFootball).

In addition to renaming the photo you can attach caption information to the image. In Photo Mechanic I can add the names of who is in the picture, what they’re doing and where they are. This will help to make your photos searchable for, person, place or activity.

In there days of film there was what was known as “databacks.” They replaced the backs of cameras with ones that could imprint information such as time, date, aperture and shutter speeds onto or in between the negative frames.

Today, there is what’s known as metadata that’s embedded into the information of each photo. It encodes the photos with the date, which makes them searchable for the day it was taken, but also time, shutter speed, aperture, camera, lens, and ISO information, as well. GPS enabled cameras will even give the longitude and latitude of where the picture was taken.

After renaming them, I put all the photos into a folder of the same name. I shoot several assignments in a day so I’ll put all of the assignment folders into another folder with the day’s date. Then I put the daily folder into one of 12 monthly folders (January, February, etc.). Finally I put those folders into yet another folder marked for the year.

This may seem a bit much to the amateur photographer or casual picture taker, but it makes it much easier to find your pictures by making them searchable.

Posted in Column, Equipment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Take me to the river

You can’t be unhappy in the middle of a big, beautiful river.” – Jim Harrison

This month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “Rivers.” Rivers can be the life blood of any area but especially in ours.  About 1,000 miles of waterways wind through the Delta. They are the sources of the water that not only quenches our thirst but irrigates our crops as well. They also provide opportunities for many water-based recreational activities. 

Rivers can also be great settings for photographs of people. They can be places for people to relax and recreate. Look for anyone enjoying themselves on or near the water. Fishing is a popular activity along our waterways. Anglers casting their lines in the water can be easily found nearly anywhere there’s water. People swimming, skiing or boating can also make great subjects. A sunset on the river can also be a great backdrop for a portrait.

Rivers can be the perfect spots to photograph sunrises and sunsets. The reflective quality of the water can capture the warm colors of early mornings or late afternoons.   

Riparian environments are great locations for landscape photos. Trees, bushes and wild grasses cover river banks can make for lush scenes that can be reflected in a river’s waters. 

Don’t forget that rivers are habitats for all kinds of wildlife. All types of waterfowl and birds such as geese, egrets and ducks can be found. With a little patience you can spot a beaver, otter or even the occasional wayward sea lion.  

A word of caution: This year’s winter/spring storms left an ample snow pack which is now melting. The runoff from that melt are filling rivers and streams with fast moving and cold water especially at higher elevations. You need to exercise extra care when near a body of water. Wear a life jacket when on a boat and watch your step along the water’s edge.

For this assignment any river-like body of water will do. Canals, channels, sloughs, creeks and streams are all acceptable.  Whatever size you choose look for the the beauty that only a river can bring.

How to Enter:

1. Email your entries to Type in “River” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between July 13 and July 27.

3. Entries are limited to up to 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: Stockton. Camera: 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, and if they’re related to you. Also please identify the body of water you are photographing (e.g.: Jimmy Doe of Stockton plays fishes from the banks of the deep water channel at Buckley Cove 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, July 27.  A photo gallery of all the pictures submitted will be run on August 3 at

Posted in Nature, Readers Photo Challenge | Tagged | Leave a comment

Outtakes: June swooned

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” – Al Bernstein

June has come and gone and summer is in full swing. Here are 10 of my favorite previously unposted photos from the month.















Posted in Readers Photo Challenge | Tagged | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge: People persons

People. People who need people
Are the luckiest people
In the world!” – “People” by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill

Photographing people is a staple of what photo journalists do. For some it comes naturally. They have an easy way about them which helps them not only feel at ease with other people but makes those people feel at ease with them as well.

For others, and I count myself among them, it’s a harder task to overcome their shyness to talk with strangers let alone ask them to take their photos. But with practice and a little gumption one can train oneself to be able to approach people with confidence.

This month’s challenge assignment of “people” was perhaps a daunting one for many readers, but 15 of them were up to the task.

Some chose to take pictures family or friends. Other brave souls chose to photograph complete strangers. Some traveled far and wide for their shots while others stayed closer to home. A total of 65 images were sent in. Here are some of the top examples.


Mitch Bazzarre of Stockton and his girlfriend Veronica Eang took a trip up to Pinecrest Lake in Tuolumne County to shoot the sunset. The sunset fizzled out but as it dipped below the tree line, the light around them became soft and diffuse, much like from a studio light soft box. Bazzarre took advantage of the great light and used Eang as his model. With a Canon EOS 6D DSLR camera he used the light to captured the smoothness of her skin and highlights in her hair. The inclusion of the kayaks and canoes floating on the lake and hills slightly out of focus in the background gives the picture a sense of place. Bazzarre may not have gotten what he went up there for, he still came back with a prize of a photo.


Sometimes you have a great scene and just need a human presence to complete it. While vacation at the Velas Vellarta resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Rick Wilmot of Lodi came across a souvenir stand filled with colorful wares. With his Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR camera Wilmot could have easily just take pictures of the stand but the inclusion of owner Nicolas Batista and his daughter Juliana, who make all the mementos by hand, adds context and a human element to the photos as well.


There are times you have a great overall scene and just need something to add a point of interest to it. While on a vacation stop in Interlaken, Switzerland, Steve Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon 70D DSLR camera to photograph tandem paragliders in Interlaken, Switzerland. They soared through a clear blue air with the snow covered Bernese Alps jutting into the sky in the background. The mountains are beautiful but the inclusion of the people on their parasail makes the photo more interesting.


Mike Ratekin of French Camp combine a little old school and new school in taking a photo of his 2-year-old granddaughter Deliah Gonzalez. He used a used a Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR which is modern enough but, with an adapter, he equipped the digital camera with a vintage Pentax 135mm f2.5 Takumar lens originally designed for a film camera. He bought the lens for $45 and got the adapter online from Chine for $10. It’s strictly manual in operation; no auto focus or auto aperture. Even without the modern conveniences, Ratekin did a great job. He captured his granddaughter’s innocence and wonder as she smelled the aroma of a wildflower in his yard bathed in the golden hour light just after sunset.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton was asked by the mother of 2 acquaintances, 17-year-old twin sisters Taylor and Gianna Thomas, to take a portrait of them. With her Nikon D500 DSLR camera she spent time with the twins to get them to be more comfortable with her, especially Gianna who was very shy but with a little patience, she warmed up to Spurgeon. The resulting photo is a picture of sisterly love.


Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a technique that all photographers should learn how to do. When faced with a bright background you expose for it, leaving the subject in the dark, or expose for your subject, thus overexposing the background. One way to reconcile the 2 exposures is to use a fill-flash technique, which means using your flash during the daytime to fill-in the shadows.

LaBounty used fill-flash with his Fuji X-Ts mirrorless digital camera to photograph his daughter, Kristen LaBounty, at Bullards Beach, Oregon. The technique allowed him to capture his daughter’s smile as well as the brighter dramatic clouds on the horizon.


Carrie Walker of Stockton used an Apple iPad to photograph her 1-month-old nephew Aiden Bush of Nashville, Tennessee visiting her family in Stockton. Lit with a simple LED lamp in her mother’s living room, Walker captured what every parent knows: let sleeping babies lie.


Sometimes pictures of people is about photographing the essence of a moment in time. Dave Skinner used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera to shoot the 5K run/walk at the Healings in Motion event in downtown Stockton. Skinner capture the excitement and exuberance of start of the race caught in the facial expressions and body language of the participants.


All of the photos sent in can be viewed in a photo gallery at A new challenge assignment will issued on July 13.

Posted in People, Readers Photo Challenge | Tagged | Leave a comment

Outtakes: May’s days

“The world’s favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May.” – Edwin Way Teale

May has ended which brought the end of the spring sports season for high schools. Here are 10 of my favorite unposted photos from the month.


















Posted in Month in review, Outtakes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Calling for backup

A few years ago Seattle-based photographer Chase Jarvis produced a short video explaining the steps he goes through in backing up his photos when on an extended location shoot.

At the end of the day he and his crew copies all his images onto 2 external hard drives. The drives are then stored in the separate rooms of 2 assistants. In case of a break-in of one room, the second drive would be safe.

When Jarvis gets back to his studio, the data from external drives are downloaded to his own multi-drive server and an additional backup drive.

The backup drive is then moved offsite for added protection in case of a disaster such as fire, flood or computer meltdown at the studio. It may sound pretty extreme to the average person or even some other professional photographers, but I bet Jarvis rarely if ever has to explain why their pictures were lost due to a computer glitch.

While you don’t have to go to the lengths that Jarvis does, backing up your photos (and other data) in some fashion is a wise idea.

Many leave their pictures on their camera’s memory card. This is a mistake. Cards can be susceptible to becoming corrupted and whatever data that’s on them can be lost forever. Download your photos to a computer then delete them from the card before your next shoot.

Computers too can also go down. Indeed, my own personal home computer has recently given up the ghost. But fortunately, I had it backed up on an external hard drive.

Hard drives are one way to make sure your photos and data are safe. Another way is to store them on the “cloud” which is a term for off-site data storage services.

Cloud backup has some advantages over an external hard drive. First, data is stored in a remote location. This prevents losses through disaster (fire, flood, etc.) and theft. Secondly, you can access your photos from anywhere. As long as you have an Internet connected device, you can download or upload your photos to or from your backup site. You can share your photos easily with family, friends or clients. Just send them a link and password and they can access them as easily as you can.

That last advantage is a potential weakness of the cloud. While there haven’t been any reports of widespread hacking, there’s always that possibility that your data and photos can be stolen or misused.

You can buy a 1 terabyte hard drive (1000 gigabytes) for as low as $50- $60. Cloud pricing is much more difficult to determine. Some service offer the first 10-15 gigbytes for free, after that, each company has their own pricing structure. Below, say about 100 gigabytes, the cloud may be cost effective. Above that, a hard drive may be preferable.

Do some research to determine what’s best for you but if you don’t want to lose your photos some sort of backup is necessary.

Posted in Column, Equipment | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge assignment: People

Most people are uncomfortable taking pictures of other people. A landscape won’t talk back to you, a flower isn’t judgmental of your technique and a bird can’t criticize you. For the latest Readers Photo Challenge I’ll be asking most of you to venture outside of your comfort zone with the assignment of “people.”

Posed or candid photos are both acceptable for this challenge.

There are some basic principals you can follow to improve your people photography.

For posed portraits, first of all be ready. No one wants to wait around for you to get your equipment, lighting and/or settings right. Take a few test shots of the scene before your subjects arrive then review the images on your camera’s monitor to confirm the exposure. It’ll be one less thing to worry about when taking your photos.

Next is to watch your backgrounds. The last thing you want a cluttered and distracting backdrop. You want the view of the photo to be drawn toward your subject and not diverted by the background. Keep it as simple as possible.

Get in close. Quite often, when taking an informal picture, the photographer will take a step back and so will his subject. What you need to do is just the opposite. Fill the frame with your subject. You don’t want them to be a dot on the horizon. You want to be able to see his/her face and expression. Getting in close will also help with in eliminating a distracting background.

Focus on the eyes. That’s the first place the view looks in a portrait. It’s a simple thing but if the focus is even slightly off it can ruin a photo.

Get them to relax. When your subject is at ease they’re more likely to smile and their body language more natural. Telling a joke, giving them an unexpected compliment or engaging them in conversation can help.

All these tips can also apply to unposed photos as well but there are few other considerations for candid pictures.
 Give your subject something to do. Capture them at work or play or engaged in something other than the camera, to give your photos of people a more spontaneous feeling.

Lastly, extra consideration will be given to photos of strangers

My son is taking a photo class at U.C. Santa Cruz and his T.A. told him that he needs to get out of his “comfort zone.” For him, that meant taking pictures of people. One recent weekend I went to Santa Cruz to help him out. We walked the streets of the downtown area looking for likely subjects. I told my son to introduce yourself, tell them what you’re doing and ask to take their pictures. I broke the ice with the first few people, then it was all up to him. He was timid at first but soon got the hang of it.

When approaching strangers for a photo be polite and honest. Tell them why you want to take a picture of them (they’re standing in a picturesque spot/great light/ or have a great face or interesting clothes, etc). I find that when treated with respect, most people respond in kind. The very worst the can do is say no.From past challenges, assignments that involve people receive the fewest entries. It’s probably because they’re outside of most people’s comfort zones. But with a little practice and determination you can become a people person.

How to Enter:

1. Email your entries to Type in “People” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between June 1 and June 22.

3. Entries are 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: Stockton. Camera: 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, and if they’re related to you. (e.g.: Jimmy Doe, 8, of Stockton plays in the grass at Victory Park 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, June 22. A photo gallery of all the pictures submitted will be run on June 29 at

Posted in Column, People, Portrait, Readers Photo Challenge | Leave a comment

Readers Photo Challenge: Go climb a tree

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree…” – Trees by Joyce Kilmer

Perhaps words can’t convey the loveliness of trees, but their beauty can be captured photographs. That’s what 16 readers did for this month’s Readers Photo Challenge assignment of “trees.” Trees provide cooling shade, lumber for homes and the air that we breathe. Stockton carries a “Tree City, USA” designation by the Arbor Day Foundation and there are not only thousands of trees within the city limits there are many more – wild, domestic and farmed – in the surrounding area.

A total 82 pictures of trees were sent in. Here are some of the best examples.


Some people traveled far afield to get their photos of trees, Oran Schwinn of Stockton stayed closer to home. Schwinn used a Google Pixel XL phone to photograph a pine tree at Quail Lakes Baptist Church in Stockton. He shot from the base of the tree upwards. Its trunk, with its bark providing some great visual texture, leads the viewers’ eye with a bold diagonal into the photo. The resulting photo is worthy of any giant redwood tree in any national forest.


Trees are also habitats for all types of creatures and the next set of photos capture wildlife in their natural settings.

Rick Wilmot of Lodi went on a photography tour led by Valley Springs-based landscape photographer John Slot at Pardee Lake. Wilmot used a Canon 7D DSLR camera equipped with a 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens to photograph a majestic bald eagle perched in a Ponderosa pine tree at the reservoir near Ione.


Diane Beltz of Stockton captured fauna that’s a little less exotic, though no less photogenic. She used a Canon Powershot SX530 digital point and shoot camera to photograph a squirrel peeking through the branches a tree at the Japanese Tea Garden at Micke Grove Park in Lodi.


Trees also provide refuge to domesticated animals too. Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon 5000 DSLR camera to photograph a sheep resting under a tree on a hillside along Camanche Pkwy South Rd. between Buena Vista and Burson in Calaveras County. The sheep’s white coat sands out against the green of the tree’s leaves and the surrounding grass.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada captured one of the smaller denizens of the natural world. She used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph a snail on a woodpile in her backyard as it crawled across the open face of a cut log. The rich color of the wood and the cracks contained within it adds great texture to Mahnken’s image.


Susan Scott of Stockton used a Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera to photograph a bird in an oak tree at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton and turned her photo into a classic silhouette. The bird perched on a bare branch is framed by more leafy elements of the tree all set against a background of a pale blue sky.


Stocktonian Dave Skinner’s tree photo is all about texture. Skinner used a Nikon D7100 DSLR to photograph a detail of a deodar cedar in his backyard. His extreme close-up makes the bark look like an alien landscape.

A new challenge assignment will be issued next week on May 31.

Posted in Nature, Readers Photo Challenge | Tagged | Leave a comment

What’s your bag?

So you’ve gotten more serious about photography and have not only gotten a DSLR camera but a couple of lenses, a flash and some other accessories as well. How do you carry it all around with you? There are several different options available to you these days.

When I started in photography in the early 1980s Domke was the bag of choice for photojournalists. It was designed by Philadelphia Inquirer photographer Jim Domke in 1975. Seeing only box-like bags which were bulky and heavy, Domke sought to make one that was lightweight, could carry a lot of stuff and was easy to get equipment in and out of.

He made his bag out of duck canvas which was durable, waterproof and lightweight. There were large compartments for lenses and cameras and smaller pockets for film and accessories. He made the bags and marketed them and while they may not have been a household name, they were a hit with photographers.

Domke expanded his line of bags to include different sizes and models and eventually sold the company to Tiffen which still markets the bags today. However, nowadays there are probably of dozens of brands and types of bags to choose from.

Personally, I still like to use a shoulder bag. As the name suggests it hangs off one’s shoulder via a strap. To me the bags are easy to work out of on assignment. Everything is within arm’s reach so changing a lens, or putting on a flash takes a minimal amount of time. Most of these kinds of bags come in many different sizes and have several pockets. Also the interior configurations are often adjustable so you can set them up the way you like them. The downside of a shoulder bag is that, if you have 10-20 pounds of equipment, it can cause you shoulder and back pain if you carry one for any length of time.

Photo backpacks are good if you have a lot equipment. These offer a high level of protection for your equipment. They tend to be better padded than most shoulder bags and they are often have a bigger carrying capacity. They have 2 straps and you carry them on your back spreading the load over both shoulders thus easier on your body. They are good if you’re traveling as carrying on luggage but they’re not as easy to work out of as a shoulder bag. A rolling case is similar, offering a little more protection but less practicality.

If you’re traveling, the shoulder bag, the backpack and the rolling case are good as carry-on luggage. Hard cases, like Pelican cases, are the way to go if you’re going to check your equipment in the hold of an airplane. They provide a hard outer shell with lots of custom foam padding on the inside for the most protection you can get. You never know if you’re going to get the American Tourister gorilla as a baggage handler.

Finally there’s the belt “bag.” Belt systems consist of a wearable belt with pouches or compartments for lenses or accessories attached to it. These are handy for a working photographer. Everything is at waist level and easy to reach quickly and efficiently. The pouches are usually moveable and customizable to one’s specific needs. They can function sort of like Batman’s utility belt. That can be a bit of an aesthetic downside. Wedding photographers often cover events that require them to dress up. Who wants one who looks like the Dark Knight? Also, while a belt system moves the weight from the shoulders to the hips, it can cause stress for those who may have problems with their hips or legs. However, some belts come with a suspender option thus spreading the weight over the hips and shoulders, lessening the stress on both.

Whichever bag option you choose, make sure you can custom fit it to your gear and that it suits your specific needs.

Posted in Column, Equipment | Tagged | Leave a comment

A hands-on experience

Here’s an opportunity for those thinking about purchasing a new camera or lens. Northern California Mike’s Camera stores are holding their Lens and Camera Demo Day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

At the event, held at the Sacramento Zoo, you’ll get to try out cameras, lenses and accessories from several different manufacturers. Mike’s staff members will also be on hand to give you photo tips and answer your questions on how to use the equipment.

The zoo should provide lots of photo opportunities to get some great photos and allow you to see how the equipment handles. When evaluating a new piece of gear see how it feels in your hands. Is it too big or not big enough? Are the controls intuitive in their use? Does the lens focus quickly and accurately? Is the tripod sturdy and easy to use?

The use of the equipment is free, but you’ll need a valid credit card and driver’s license to test drive the gear. The checking out of the equipment is on a first come, first served basis, so try to get there as early as possible.

Gear is loaned out in 1-hour increments, if there isn’t a line for the piece that you checked out, you may renew for another hour, if you like. All gear must be turned back in at 4:30 p.m.

The pictures you take with a checked out camera are yours to keep. Just bring a SD or compact flash card to use in the camera. If you forget to bring a memory card, you can borrow one from Mike’s. A CD containing all your pictures will be downloaded then burned on a CD for you to take home.

The Sacramento Zoo is located at Land Park drive and 16th Street in Sacramento (Just off of Sutterville Road, east of I-5). There is no registration fee but admission to the zoo still applies. Once inside, look for the Mike’s Camera tent.

So if you’re looking to move up from a smartphone or point and shoot camera to a DSLR or switching brands or thinking about a new telephoto lens, this event will give you some practical experience with some new equipment.

Posted in Equipment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
  • Blog Authors

    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
  • Categories

  • Archives