Raders Photo Challenge: Pumpkins

Pumpkins are the subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge. They are not only the symbol of Halloween, but of fall in general as well. Their bright orange color and rounded, ribbed shape are a part of their visual appeal.

Nine readers sent in a total of 40 photos. Here are the top examples.


Anthony Mignone of Stockton came across a herd of cows having a snack of leftover pumpkins in a pasture along Airport Road in Manteca a few days after Halloween. He used a Samsung J7 Prime Phone to photograph them through a nearby fence which he used to frame the bovines and pumpkins.


While most people concerned themselves with the outer appearance of their pumpkins, Susan Scott of Stockton decide to capture the inner essence of one. She used her Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera to photograph the insides of a pumpkin that she was carving at her home. Her close-up photo makes the interior of the gourd look like a yellow-orange cavern with it’s inners and seeds looking like other-worldly stalactites.


Carrie Walker of Stockton used an Apple iPad to photograph her brother Bill Walker’s hands as he carved some Halloween pumpkins. Her photo shows that a detail shot can be as telling as an overall one.


French Camp resident Mike Ratekin’s grandson Andrew Gonzalez was born on Halloween. Ratekin and his wife Josephine bought and gathered some items with a fall motif and headed to hospital to commemorate the birth. Josephine dressed Andrew up in Halloween-themed clothes and placed him on a autumn-colored blanket with a small pumpkin and a few fall leaves. Mike Ratekin used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR camera to photograph their newest grandson who was all of 3 hours old.


Sometimes there are pictures that just make you chuckle. Ken Class of Lodi used an Apple iPhone 7 to photograph an old metal buoy painted like a jack-o-lantern greeting Halloween revelers near Thornton.


All of the photos entered can be seen in an online gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on November 20.

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October outtakes

“In the entire circle of the year there are no days so delightful as those of a fine October.” – Alexander Smith

October is over and with it the harvest moon and Halloween. Here are 10 of my favorite photos from 2018’s 10th month.








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Spiraling under control

People may think that artistic compositions are grown out of an organic sense of aesthetics but there is one technique that is rooted in mathematics. It’s called the Fibonacci Sequence. Or the Golden Mean. Or the Phi ratio. Or the…it actually has a half dozen or so names. I learned it as the Golden Spiral.

It’s based on the infinite phi (1.618…) and takes in the sum of the 2 previous numbers in the sequence. There is a mathematical formula to the sequence, but since math was my weakest subject in school, I won’t try to explain it here.

Visually it is expressed in a line that spreads out exponentially from a central point in an ever expanding spiral.

The golden spiral is also found in nature. Think the spiral of of the nautilus and its spirally-shaped shell. It is also the corkscrew-shape of out Milky Way galaxy or scroll of the cochlea of the inner ear. Throughout the ages artists have used the Golden Spiral as a compositional aid in art.

Whereas the rule of thirds, where you place the subject in either the right or left third of the frame, can sometimes look a bit forced, the Golden Spiral can be a little more natural looking.

When you place your main subject or point of interest at the starting point and then place other things that have a relationship to the subject along the line of the spiral, it can help to lead the viewer’s eye to your central point. You can assemble elements of your photo yourself like in a still life or portrait using the Golden Spiral or you can use it in a found photo. The latter is a little more difficult because you probably won’t be able to move any of the elements of a found scene. You’ll have to move yourself, sometimes a lot, other times just as little an inch one way or another.

Like anything else, using the Golden Spiral effectively takes practice. Don’t worry about the math, it doesn’t really matter. Just imagine the spiral in your head. Slow down, look at the scene you want to photograph carefully. Sometimes can see it easily, other times it may be a bit more difficult. But over time you can go beyond the math and it can become second nature to you.

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The last run

The Record’s TKS web press ran for its last time on the night of October 20.

The press was first run in late April of 2005. The Record’s then-corporate owners Ottaway replaced an old Goss press which dated back to the 1950s.

For the photographers it was a welcome change. The Goss machine was what was known as a letterpress system. It used raised type for words and tiny raised dots to reproduce the photos. It was adequate for black and white photos but for color pictures, which we started to do regularly in the 1990s, the story was different.

To print color pictures, an additive 4-color process (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) where each color ink is laid down atop of the next, is used. The old Goss wasn’t really designed for this. Lining up each color (known as registration in newspaper parlance), was difficult to do accurately.

The newer TKS press was an offset press. It used plates that were smooth to the touch. It employed the concept of water and oil not mixing. Oil-based inks would adhere to the image areas of the plate and water to stick to the non-image areas. The system could handle more detail with greater accuracy than the old Goss press ever could.

Newspaper presses are huge machines. The TKS stands nearly 3-stories tall and half a city block long. Ottaway not only installed the press but also a new state-of-the-art mailroom system (the mailroom is where the paper is packaged form delivery) and built a new building around all of it. It was our pride and joy.

There were some birthing pains with the first couple of runs of the TKS press but once the pressmen got the hang of it, it’s been relatively smooth sailing ever since.

I never really got to know the press guys. Their day would start late at night, hours after even my latest shift would end. But I came to quickly appreciate their efforts. Through their hard work the photos in the paper looked very close to how I shot them. In short, day in and day out, they made me look good. Though I never got to tell them, I appreciated their hard work.

Our new corporate owners, Gatehouse, decided to shut down the TKS press, citing cost-cutting reasons. The newspaper is now printed in Sacramento and trucked to Stockton. 40 pressmen and mailroom employees lost their jobs.

I was there on the press’s last run as were other current and former employees. The Record’s former publisher Roger Coover and current publisher Deitra Kenoly were also on hand. It was like gathering to say goodbye to an old friend.

The pressmen were upbeat when they got to work at about 11:00 p.m. They installed the plates and prepared the giant rolls of paper to be run through the press.

Kenoly got to press the button to start the last run. It was then I realized that the newspaper as such only existed as photons on a screen or ones and zeros in a computer until the moment that the press started. Then it became a physical thing than you can hold in your hands. A newspaper, created by journalists and crafted by people running the press.

The press wound up slowly at first, like a slow jog, then worked its way up to a steady trot. Soon it was like a galloping horse set free to run. It was quite something to see and hear. The print on continuous sheet of paper was a blur and sound of the machinery was not unlike a diesel locomotive running in open country.

The pressmen occasionally grabbed a finished paper from a conveyor that came off of the press. The inspected the pages look to see it there was too much ink here or too little there. From the control room they pressed buttons on a panel to fine tune the press’s run.

At about 1:00 a.m. the run was over and the press slowly wound down. In the last edition of The Record to come off of the TKS, I had photos on page 1, local and sports. The pressmen did their work for the last time, efficiently, professionally and without any maudlin bitterness, as they always have, and once again made me look good.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: The great pumpkin hunt

The subject for the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is inspired by the harvest season: Pumpkins.

Halloween will be smack dab in the middle of the challenge so obviously jack-o-lanterns will be a natural subject. Try shooting them at night while lit up from the inside. It could make for a spooky shot. Don’t forget about photos of the jack-o-lanterns being made. Pictures of kids carving their own pumpkin can make cute images.

Speaking of kids, photographing them at a pumpkin patch picking out the perfect one can make for adorable pictures.

Try to avoid front lighting. It can make the pumpkin, essentials an orb, flat looking. Instead use side-lighting where the light comes from the left or right. This will help to give the pumpkin some shape, emphasizing its roundness. It will also bring out the vertical longitudinal lines of the pumpkin and add texture to the image.

The traditional smooth pumpkin isn’t the only kind. There are plenty of varieties that can provide you with many different textures and colors.

Halloween isn’t the only reason for pictures of pumpkins. As I said, this is the harvest season and pumpkins are a symbols of it. Many are used a outdoor decorations as well as parts of table centerpieces.

Whether you shoot them as a still life, a part of a landscape or as props in a portrait, make sure that pumpkins are the reasons for the season and for your photos.

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed as a jpeg attachment to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Pumpkins” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot between October 23 and November 6.

3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of phone you used and where it was taken (ie: “John Doe of Stockton. Shot at Lodi Lake Park, Lodi. With an iPhone 6s”)

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos. (“Jimmy Doe of Stockton, 8, carves a pumpkin at his home”)

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

7. The deadline for submission is Tuesday, November 6 . The top examples will be published on Tuesday, November 13 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Oh, what a day!

The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment is called “A Day in the Life Of.” For this challenge participants could pick any subject then wanted but with one caveat: The photos had to be shot on a specific day: Saturday, October 6. Some people got up early, a few others stayed up late and a couple shot through the day.

I expected most of the photos to be of Stockton and San Joaquin County, which the bulk of them were, but there a few were from out of state and there were even some from Mexico, which gave a bit of an international flavor to the assignment.

Twenty-one readers sent in 159 photos. Here a some of the top examples.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada got up early for her “day in the life of” photo. She used a Nikon D7200 DSLR camera to photograph the start of the Second Annual Morada Fire K Fun Run at Davis Elementary School at about 8:45 a.m. in Morada. One gets a sense of enthusiasm of the participants. The low angle of the sun creates nice light and long shadows.


Anthony Mignone of Stockton took his photo at about midday. He used a Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR camera to photograph his 6-year-old son Landon as he played on the playground equipment at Victory Park in Stockton. Mignone captures the playful energy of children at play.


In the afternoon Lillian McDonell of Stockton took a trip with her husband Dave and son Scott for a car show. At about 2:30 p.m. she used an Apple iPhone 6s to photograph them reflected in the reflection of a shiny hubcap while they were checking out the other cars the show.


Anne McCaughey of Stockton spent the late afternoon at a porch party at the home of Mikal Hoover in Stockton. Light streaming in through some blinds on the porch lights up a puff of smoke as Hoover smokes a pipe during the event.

McCaughey also got another shot from the party she was at. The late afternoon light hit an empty glass cup on a table and the cup’s cut design refracted the light and created a design of light onto the table.


Joseph Hey of Stockton took his photo during sunset at Lake Tahoe. At about 6:30 p.m., he used his Samsung G7 smartphone to captured giant clouds being painted with warm light as they hovered over the lake.

Hey got another shot later in the night of a tree next to a 2-story building. A security light from the building shone on the tree, lighting up its bare branches. Set against the dark of the night with some of the branches disappearing into the void, the scene is creepy ready for Halloween.


Carrie Walker has organized a photo walk in different locations over the past few years. This time the walk, set in downtown Stockton, coincided with the “day in the life of” challenge. Walker used a Nikon Coolpix P100 EFV point-and-shoot camera to photograph walk participant Ed Lindquist of Galt near St. Mary’s Church in downtown Stockton.

Carrie Walker also photographed the historic California Building in downtown Stockton. Shooting with an Apple iPad, she got close to the base of the building and shot upwards. The extreme angle added to the 134-ft height off the building creates an interesting distortion and a 3-point perspective.


Steven Rapaport of Stockton was on a trip to Washington D.C. on Oct. 6. And took an early photo walk around the city and sent in several photos. With his Canon EOS 5D mk IV DSLR camera he caught the Capital Rowing Club navigating the muddy waters of Anacostia River as they passed under the John Phillips Sousa Bridge.

Later in the day Rapaport shot artist Robert Jackson creating a painting on wood at the Eastern Market street fair in Washington, D.C. I was a classic example of an environmental portrait of an artisan at his craft.


Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph Carla Halford of Jackson, CA. working on her butterfly stroke during her Saturday morning swimming class at New York Fitness in Jackson.

Later Silva photographed Jeremy Monson of Elk Grove, left, Chris Garbarini of Ione, Donna Jackson of Lathrop, Yolanda Bennett of Ione and Lizzie Garbarini of Ione dressed in a Halloween costumes looking like a cross between the casts of Sweeney Todd and the Walking Dead at the Ione Business & Community Association Harvest Faire in Ione.


Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton, a frequent contributor to the challenge, is now attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. She used a Nikon D500 DSLR camera to photograph a single leaf sitting on a stump at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife refuge near Stevensville, Montana. The leaf’s bright yellow color stands out against the neutral grey of the wood.


Tameka Hopkins of Stockton used a Nikon D4300 DSLR camera to capture the joy on her 23-year-old daughter Imani’s face as she went for a “swim” in the marshmallow pit at Candytopia in San Francisco.


Joan Erreca of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 7 Plus to catch a quiet moment of her 2-year-old granddaughter Marian Erreca at the Letson Farms Community Playground in Bessemer, Alabama.


Erv Rifenburg of Lodi used a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera to photograph his 4-year-old grandson Luke Rifenburg and his yellow lab Penny at his ranchette near Lockeford.


It’s easy to concentrate on the big things like sunsets and tall buildings for your photo subjects but Dave Skinner of Stockton didn’t forget about the little things. Skinner used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera to photograph a variegated meadowhawk dragonfly perched on a dried tule reed at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton.


Holly Stone of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 7 to photograph her 3-year-old grandson Jeff Stone having fun on a ride at the Manteca Pumpkin Fair.


Linda Wells-Hott of Stockton used a Canon PowerShot S5 IS EVF digital point-and-shoot camera to photograph Belinda Doleman of Oxnard, who went with Wells-Hott on vacation, enjoying one of the many pools at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun. The photos shows Doleman smiling and obviously having a great time while relaxing in the pool.


Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph some curbside weeds near her home. The weeds, long since dead, are dried and withered. Their light tone stands out against the darkness of the curb’s shadow.


All of the photos are in an online gallery at recordnet.com. Stay tuned for a new assignment on Oct. 23.

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Weather or not

Photojournalists are used to working in all kinds weather conditions and, from heat waves to rainstorms and we’re usually prepared for them. But there are sometimes that we can be caught off guard.

Last Wednesday, I was assigned to cover the Stockton Pro Open tennis tournament at the University of the Pacific’s Eve Zimmerman Tennis Complex. I shot top-seeded Madison Brengle who played Norway’s Ulrikke Eikeri in a women’s singles match. The match after that featured Mari Osaka, sister of U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, against Maria Sanchez.

It was a beautiful day with the noontime sun shining through just a few high clouds overhead. I don’t know what the temperature was but it felt like it was about the mid-80s. There was a forecast of a possibility of showers but for much later in the day. I was dressed in my usual attire a button-down shirt and slacks, plus I had a wide-brimmed hat with a mesh top to me keep cool from the sun.

Brengle won the first set relatively easily, 6-4. I hadn’t noticed too much, but more clouds had moved in, though it was still warm and mostly sunny. Occasionally a cloud would block the sun for a few minutes and give some relief from the heat, but it would move on and things would heat up again.

In the second set Eikeri fought back and made things interesting. Even more clouds filled the sky and Brengle, who started the match wearing dark glasses, took them off near the end. While Brengle still won, Eikeri made it a very close 7-5, playing hard up until the very last point.

The officials took a very short break between matches then Osaka and Sanchez began to warm. It was then I looked up and saw that the clouds had become darker. Although it’s now he start of fall, we were still having summer-like weather and I thought any rain that might happen will hold off until the end, and at most it would be a light summer sprinkling.

Osaka started the match facing my position in the bleacher area at the end of the court. She won the close first game then she and Sanchez switched sides. It was then I felt a raindrop land on my wrist. A single drop does not a storm make, I thought. Sanchez hit two serves and I felt several more drops fall on me. She was about to hit a third serve when the umpire, who was seated in his high chair with his back to the approaching clouds, stopped play. I looked at the other courts and the officials did the same to their matches.

Now I’ve covered baseball games where they’ve played in rain much heavier than this so I thought these umpires were exercising an undue overabundance of caution. Boy, was I wrong. As the players and officials exited from courts the rain quickly increased, though it still could be called a light sprinkle. I thought about staying in my spot but then I changed my mind and moved to one of several pop-up tents set up for shade for the spectators.

With every step the rain became slightly heavier. I got to a tent along the concourse near the clubhouse. There were about a half dozen other people with me. Then the weather went from a sprinkle to a steady rain. The other tents, along the concourse and the area between courts sheltered spectators, coaches and players alike.

Then the wind began to pick up and the rain increased exponentially. It was as if turned up the volume on the radio from about a 7 or 8 to an 11. The wind began to force the rain sideways. One of the tents blew over onto the courts, sending the people under it scurrying for cover. I looked at the next tent over and most of those people were holding onto it’s metal frame to try and keep it from taking off too. I then that looked around the tent that I was under and only one young man was holding onto it. I reached up to help him out.

As the wind increased and the rains became more horizontal, the tents gave less protection. One by one people made the decision to make a break for it and run to the clubhouse. After a few minutes I looked around again and saw that there only three of us left: the young man, a line judge and myself.

The three of us endured the buffeting until I saw a flash of light in the sky. It was then I decided to abandon ship. I turned to my tent mates and said “sorry fellas, but I’m going to bail.” By the time I stepped out from under the tent the low rumble of thunder reverberated over the courts.

Fortunately, as I ran the wind was to my back so I didn’t have a face full of rain. The clubhouse was about 10 to 15 yards away. By the time I got there my back, from my ankles to my head, were soaked.

In the snack bar area of the clubhouse it was standing room only. People peered out of the garage door-sized opening to see if the storm was abating. Thunder roared several more times and then we could see the dark clouds move off to the northeast of us leaving the light summer shower that I was expecting from the start. About 1/2-inch to 1-inch of standing water covered the courts. Many of the sun umbrellas on the umpires chairs were turned inside-out. Some score keeper placards were in disarray. The remaining matches were postponed until the next day.

There’s unwritten rule about weather photos that states that to get a good weather shot you have to get out into it. Well, I hope mine were good because I was certainly in it, though I wouldn’t want to repeat it anytime soon.

Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or coto@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/otoblog

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Outtakes: Remembering September

“September: It was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows and regret.” – Alexander Theroux

September is over and with it the last of summer. Here are 10 of my favorite photos from the month.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: A day in the life

In the 1980s, photojournalist Rick Smolan created a unique and ambitious project: photograph an entire country in a single day. Thus the Day In The Life Of Australia was born. Smolan got cadre of elite photographers to scour the “Land Down Under” for a 24-hour period. Smolan subsequently went on to produce several other Day In The Life Of (DITLO) projects including, Japan, Canada, the U.S. and more.

The latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is inspired by those DITLO projects. The subjects and places to shoot are up to you to pick, but instead of the usual 2-week period, you’ll get only 1 day to do it in. That day will be this Saturday, October 6. I picked it because it’s a weekend day, so most people will likely be off of work.

While I said that the subjects are for you to decide, there are a few things that I’m looking for. First: People. I know that photographing people can be hard for some of you, but having a person in your photo, whether candid or posed, can give some context to your shot.

For the best light try to concentrate your time around sunrise or sunset to get that golden glow to your pictures. This isn’t to say that if there’s something going on midday that you should avoid it, but beginning and the end of daylight hours will give you the best light.

Finally, with the time period being from midnight to midnight on October 6, I’m looking for at least a few of you to take some night shots.


If you’re looking for event oriented photos, there will be several on October 6.

For the 6th year Carrie Walker, a frequent contributor to the challenge, will be holding a photo walk in downtown Stockton. You can meet her at the RTD Transit Center at 421 E. Weber Avenue at 9:00 a.m. The Dell’ Osso Farms’ Pumpkin Farm will be up and running in Lathrop. The Port City Roller Girls roller derby team will hold it’s last bout and the Stockton Heat’s Opening Day will both be on that day.

Once again, the place and subject are your choice. And whether you used a DSLR, point-and-shoot cameras or a smart-phone, it doesn’t matter what device you use to shoot it with. What I’m looking is a photo from a day in your life and, hopefully, we can get enough of them to represent a day in all our lives (Note: The deadline is Tuesday, October 9, only three days after the event. I know the time is shorter than normal, but I know you’ll be up to the challenge).

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed as a jpeg attachment to coto@recordnet.com. Type in “Day” in the subject line.

2. Photos have to be shot on Saturday, October 6, from midnight to midnight.

3. The number of photos is limited to no more than 12 per person

4. Include your name (first and last), hometown, and the kind of phone you used and where it was taken (ie: “John Doe, Stockton. Pool Station Road and Highway 49, San Andreas. iPhone6s”)

5. If there is a recognizable person in the photo, please identify them (name, age, hometown) and what they are doing in the photos.

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

7. The deadline for submission is Tuesday, October 9 . The top examples will be published on Tuesday, October 16 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: As smooth as glass

This months assignment was “glass.” Even in this is the age of plastics, glass is still used widely. Items made of glass can be functional or decorative. They can range from windows to ornamental snow globes and beyond.

Here are some of the best examples of the 45 photos that 15 readers sent in.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used simple lighting to illuminate glass chess pieces at her home. Shooting with a Nikon Nikon D7200 DSLR camera, she set up the pieces on a table and lit them with a single lamp set behind and off to the side. The dark background helps to make the clear and frosted pieces stand out.


Paul Yang of Stockton took a different approach to lighting his glass items. He sent up a tableau of a vase, a glass aquarium and some bottles at his home. Yang then used a computer desk lamp, a portable mechanic’s lamp, and a few old cell phone flashlights along with an LED light strip. The lights were placed above and below as well as to each side. All this helped everything to pop out against the black background. Yang photograph the scene with a Canon EOS 5D Mk II DSLR camera.


Susan Scott of Stockton put a star-shaped candy dish outside in her backyard. She filled it about halfway with water and let sunshine light it. She photographed it with a Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera and captured the light refracting through the water and glass, creating interesting patterns in the dish’s shadow.


Stephen Hey of Stockton went to work at his business Pro-Tech Smog on El Dorado Street in Stockton when he noticed a hole in the window of a neighboring vacant business which he photographed with his Samsung G7 smartphone. The incongruity of the broken glass not only makes it stand out against the uniformity of the remaining glass and other windows, but also makes one wonder about its context. Was it made by a rock, pellet or bullet? Was it done intentionally or was it an accident? Hey converted the image to black and white which also lends an air of mystery to the photo as well.


Carrie Walker of Stockton also found beauty in the damaged and discarded. While out for a walk in her neighborhood she caught a glimpse of a small glass shard on the ground. With and Apple iPad she photograph the piece of clear broken glass which looked diamond-like as it stood out against the darker asphalt of the street.


Donn Sperry of Stockton used a Sony Alpha NEX-7 mirrorless digital camera to photograph the sunset reflecting off the windows of his home. Each pane of the 3 windows captured a slightly different aspect of the sunset.


Steven Rapaport of Stockton used an Apple iPhone 8 Plus to photograph artist Tony Ramirez working on making a stained glass window at his Ram Studios in Stockton. Rapaport’s photo is what’s known as an environmental portrait and not only captures Ramirez, but some of his works and his surrounding workspace as well.


All of the photos can be seen in an online gallery at recordnet.com. A new challenge assignment will be issued on October 2.

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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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