Readers Photo Challenge: Flower power

Flowers are the symbols of renewal and rebirth which made them the perfect subjects for a springtime challenge. Some people sent in wildflowers while other chose domesticated blossoms to photograph. Either way, they showed the visual power of flowers. Twenty-nine readers sent in 164 photos. Here are some of the top examples.


Steven Rapaport of Stockton used a Canon EOS 5D Mk IV to photograph a couple embracing in a field of poppies and goldfields at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve near Lancaster.

Steven Rapaport of Stockton took a trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster in southern California where there is a full-blown super bloom happening. The hills of the valley are blanketed with millions of the orange blossoms as well as other wildflowers. Rapaport not only caught the beautiful and brightly colored scenery but a couple in a springtime embrace for spring is also the season of love.


Mike Ratekin of French Camp used a Canon EOS 5D Mk III to photograph his 11-year-old granddaughter Josephine Ceja with some wild radishes along Manthey road near Leo Grion Drive in French Camp.

Mike Ratekin of French Camp took a beautiful photo of his 11-year-old granddaughter Josephine Ceja with some wildflowers. He found some poppies growing near the San Joaquin County General Hospital on Manthey Road not far from his home. Then they picked a basketful of wild radishes a prop. Photographing the scene with a Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR camera equipped with an off-camera flash Ratekin related a photo that he, Ceja and her parents will cherish forever.


Will Hereford of Lodi used an iPhone 7 to photograph a swallowtail butterfly on a flowering cherry tree in his front yard.

Will Heryford of Lodi is a veteran videographer of KCRA 3 and is used to capturing moving pictures with his camera but sent in a photo for the challenge that shows that he is equally adept at taking stills too. With an Apple iPhone 7, he photograph a swallowtail butterfly that landed a flowering cherry tree in his front yard. He was get in close to capture Bothe the beauty of the butterfly as well as the cherry blossoms.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada used a Nikon D7300 DSLR camera to photograph poppies near the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery near Clements.

Some of our readers didn’t have to find a super bloom for their flower pictures. Teresa Mahnken of Morada saw this small hillside covered with poppies at the day use area of the Mokelumne Fish Hatchery near Clements. She used a Nikon D7300 DSLR camera to photograph them bathed in early morning light which helped to make the orange blossoms pop out against the green of the stems and grasses below.


Janet Baniewich used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph 2 women sitting in a field of wildflowers off of Highway 58 in San Luis Obispo County.

Janet Baniewich of Stockton took a wrong turn on her way to Carrizo Plain Nation Monument in San Luis Obispo County. Instead of turning around she followed GPS directions through some narrow backroads to a small valley full of flowers. She stopped and got out on foot. She saw a pair of women having a picnic among the flowers and captured the scene with her Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. It’s a prime example of the saying “ It’s not the destination but the journey that’s important.”


Matt Baker of Stockton used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph a bee on some Otto quast lavender on Lower Sacramento road near Eight Mile Road in Stockton

Matthew Baker of Stockton photographed a bee looking for nectar on a Otto quast lavender growing as part of the landscaping at the the Delta Water Supply Project on Lower Sacramento Road near Eight Mile Road in north Stockton. He used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to capture the orange bee against the purple blossoms.


Carolyn Silva in Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph tulips in a neighbor’s yard.

Carolyn Silva of Jackson photographed some striped tulips in a neighbors yard with her Nikon D7500 DSLR camera. I liked how she used the stripes in a grouping of overlapping flowers similarly to a herd of zebras use their own camouflage to confuse their predators. But instead of causing confusion, the stripes become a unifying theme for her photo.


Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera to photograph a white fairy lantern wildflower along Electra Road in Jackson.

Most people chose flowers of bright colors but Dave Skinner of Stockton to a different route with his photo. Near Jackson, along Electra Road, which is experiencing a mini super bloom, he found a white globe lily (also called a white fairy lantern), With his Nikon D7000 DLSr camera equipped with a macro lens he photographed a hanging blossom in a golden spiral composition to capture the flower’s subtle beauty.


Juana Solozano of Stockton used an Apple iPhone to photograph Jesus and Nani Magaña of Stockton in a field of wild mustard on Finkbohner Road in Stockton.

Juana Solorzano of Stockton took pictures of Nani and Jesus Magaña ahead of an upcoming wedding. She placed them in a field of wild mustard on Finkbohner Road in rural Stockton. Nani’s yellow dress matches the color of the mustard and a coy kiss behind Jesus’ hat completes the playfulness of the picture.


All of the photos can bee seen in an online gallery at A new challenge assignment will be issued on April 20.

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Pressed for time

(11/11/17) Pacific’s Ashlyn Fleming prepares to spike the ball against St. Mary’s Alex O’Sullivan during a women’s volleyball match at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D5. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 12,800)

I remember many years ago after covering UOP volleyball for several years,

I had a night off so I took my wife to see the Tigers play. It was my first time watching a match without having to cover it. We were having a fine time following the action up until somewhere near the end of the second game. I began feeling a bit antsy. I could tell my pulse rate was up a bit and maybe even my blood pressure too. By the end of game 2, I had the urge to get up and leave. I wasn’t sure what was going on until it hit me: I had never stayed beyond 2 games before. I always had to leave to make deadline for the next day’s paper. It had become so ingrained in me that I developed sort of an internal clock that let me know when it was time to leave.

(10/09/14) University of the Pacific’s Katrin Gotterba makes a diving save during a women’s volleyball match against BYU at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D3s. Lens: Nikkor 200-400mm @ 400mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 4000)

Working photographers know that deadlines are very important, especially so in newspapers. If I’m late with my photos, that pushes back editors’ decisions on what runs in the paper, which makes it late for the people doing the layout, which pushes back the people delivering the paper on your doorstep.

(9/16/17) Pacific’s Kaitlyn Lines cheers winning a point during a volleyball match against Cal at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton. Camera: Nikon D%. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 12,800)

Most people will see me take a picture that think that’s the extent of my job but there’s more. I have to download the images to my computer and pick out my best ones which go to an editor to cull down further. I have to crop, then tone the photos for contrast, color, lightness and darkness. Lastly, I have to provide caption information for each one. If it’s a sporting event, I have to match the number on the player’s jersey with their name.

(5/24/06) Graduate Alexandra Shaull has a formal portrait taken before the start of graduation ceremonies for Lindbergh Adult School at Calvary Community Church in Manteca. (Camera: Nikon D2H. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 80mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

Photographers doing other kind of work also have deadlines. A photographer shooting senior portraits has to provide proofs to their client for them to pick the shots they want then make prints in time for them to send out in graduation announcements.

(9/8/12) Newlyweds Kelly and Anders Ornberg have their picture take by wedding photographer Jerrad Miller at Crescent Lake, Oregon. (Camera: Canon EOS 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 190mm. Exposure: 1/500 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

Wedding photographers shoot hundreds if not thousands of photos in a single night. All those have to be edited down so that their best work is presented to the client who then picks from those, all in a timely manner.

(1/12/07) Delta College nursing student Kris Johnson sits for a portrait by Stockton photographer Wayne Denning on the college’s quad for a picture for her graduation for the college’s nursing program. (Camera: Nikon D1H, Lens: Nikon 80-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

If you’re looking to make photography your profession then you’ll have to learn to work within the time that your clients have form you to shoot and deliver their photos within a deadline.

(11/21/06) 3-year-old Garbiel Valeros, wearing an angel costume, has his portrait taken by photographer Cameo Rose of the Stockton-based Fritz Chin Photography at American Legion Park in Stockton. Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400)

You might think that deadlines can put the kibosh on creativity, not so. Knowing that you only have, say, and hour to shoot and event can get you concentrate on what’s important and ignore the superfluous minutiae (though you also have to keep you mind open to those details that might actually be important). Once you get used to working within time constraints you’ll get used to it and meeting deadlines will become second nature to you.

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Curse me for a novice

“Curse me for a novice” was, as any comic book geek like me would know, something that Dr. Strange would say in the comics. He would utter it when he made an easy mistake or forgot something simple in casting his magic spells, which was surprisingly quite often for someone billed as the Sorcerer Supreme. But it proves a point that even the best of us, no matter how skilled, can mess up at times. Even after 35 years as a working photographer, I had my own curse-me-for-a-novice moment recently.

On Sunday, March 31, my 21-year-old son Christopher and I took a trip up to Daffodil Hill near the Mother Lode town of Volcano for the attraction’s opening weekend. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and pleasant temperatures. Thousands upon thousands of the white or yellow blossoms dotted the 36-acre ranch. I took my camera out of my bag and realized that I had broken the 9th unofficial rule of photography: always have batteries. 

Technically, my camera had a battery, it was just dead. for I had forgotten to make sure that it was charged up before leaving the house. I had a second battery but it was sitting on a charger at home, about an hour and half away. 

There’s a trick that you can do if your battery goes dead while shooting and you don’t have a spare. Turn the camera off, take the battery out, then re-insert it. Sometimes there’s enough of a reserve charge to fire of a frame or two. I tried it, but the battery was so depleted that it didn’t work. So my camera became an expensive, 3-lb paperweight having on my shoulder.

Fortunately my son had is camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T6, and graciously let me use it. I worked as quickly as I could because I knew that he wanted to take pictures too, The Rebel is an excellent beginners camera but I’m used to a pro level machine, so I had to adjust to it. 

The Rebel is small, again, great for novices, but since I was the one who made the novice mistake, I had to get used to how it handled. It felt too small for my hands. My pinky finger hung off of it’s grip with nothing to hold onto. It’s smallness also translates to it’s weight. It weighs about 1-lb, lighter than the lenses I was using, which made it front-heavy. 

Canon must believe that most users of the Rebel will be using an automatic setting because changing exposure settings manually on it took more steps than on my camera. I had going the camera’s menu then press a button then turn a dial to change the aperture and then again for the shutter speeds, taking the camera from my eye each time. With my professional camera I had to do is to turn a dial for each never having look away from the viewfinder if I didn’t want to.

I got my photos and returned the camera to my son who was off taking pictures with his phone while I was shooting. That gave me the idea of taking some with my own phone. 

The curse of being a novice can also be a blessing, because if you want to improve your photos you should slow your process down and think more. Shooting with my son’s camera and then with my phone, made me slow down and consider my pictures carefully. I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would have but the ones I did take were all the better for it.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Coming into bloom

The coming of spring brings with it the blossoming of flowers which is the latest subject of the Readers Photo Challenge. Remember, this is a photography challenge, not just a one about flowers. Just because a flower is pretty, it doesn’t mean that it will automatically make a good picture. How you approach your subject will make the difference between a mediocre picture and a great one.

Wild radishes and wild mustard, which are often seen growing in wide swathes in open fields, tend to grow year-round. The mustard are bright yellow while the radishes are multi-colored in yellow, white and lilac. It’s a little early for many wildflowers but are likely to bloom within a few weeks.

The Mother Lode is a great place to find flowers. Poppies are just starting to spring up around near Jackson and Daffodil Hill near Volcano opened up this past weekend.

Wildflowers can be found in the Valley as well. The aforementioned wild radishes and mustard can be see just about anywhere there’s an open field. Other flowers such as fiddleneck, winter vetch and goldfields maybe a little harder to find at this time of year but should soon be blooming in noticeable numbers. There are a few places that are relatively close such as the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton that flowers can be found. You can also use take drive one of the county’s many rural roads to find them as well.

You needn’t confine yourself to wildflowers. Garden-grown or even store bought flowers are acceptable as well. Whichever you pick, always look for good light in which to photograph them in. With outdoors flowers, early morning or late afternoon light, with it’s warm tone and low angle, is the best. Try to avoid the mid-afternoon sun which tends to wash out the colors. With indoor blossoms look for some nice, soft window light.

For close-ups a macro lens is the best choice. Close-up filters which fit over the front of your camera’s lens is a cheaper alternative but usually at the cost of sharpness. The best way to use either one is to turn the autofocus off and move the camera (an/or yourself) in and out to focus. Other lenses can be effective as well. A telephoto can bring in things at a distance, a wide-angle can take in an overall scene. With a wide lens try focusing at it’s closest at, say, a field of flowers. Then you can get both close and wide in a single shot.

Flowers needn’t be the main focus of your photo. You can use them as a backdrop or prop in a portrait or wildlife photo. Speaking of wildlife. Look for insects or animals that can be an accent to your photo as they crawl on or amongst the flowers.

Whatever way you approach the subject, with whatever equipment you choose and wherever you find your flowers, make sure to take your time and think your photo out to let your talent blossom.

How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “Wildflowers” in the subject line

2. Photos have to be shot between April 2 and April 16.
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 device you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. 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 (eg.: Jane Doe, 15, walks near a patch of flowers at Daffodil Hill near the Mother Lode town of Volcano).

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

7. The deadline for submission is April 16. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, April 23 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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Readers Photo Challenge: On cloud nine

The subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment “clouds” was a a popular one. Not only were there a large number of entrants but half were from people who hadn’t entered before.

Fortunately, there were many days that were cloudy within the shooting timeframe. Some sent in white clouds, others setting grey clouds and still others sent in orange clouds. One person shot a scene with fog, which is essentially Fog on the ground.

Anyway they saw they clouds, the readers kept their heads in the clouds, which for this challenge, was a good thing.
Forty readers sent in a whopping 185 photos. Here are some of the top picks.


Matthew Baker of Stockton photographed his clouds from the Weight Mile Road railroad overpass in Stockton. He used a wide angle lens mounted on a Nikon D7500 DSLR to great effect in capturing several compositional elements in his photo. First, the overpass’s railing and walls recede off to a vanishing point in the distance. Secondly the sun creates a starburst as it peeks through an opening in the railing. The sun also casts an interesting pattern of shadows on the ground as it shines through the decorative railing. Lastly, the clouds that fill a blue sky to complete the photo.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada photographed clouds over at the Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple in Stockton. The grounds of the temple are filled with giant statues depicting various stages of the Buddha’s life. Mahnken used a Samsung Galaxy 8 Samsung smartphone to photograph a smiling golden Buddha as white clouds billow against a blue sky behind it.


One often things that to photograph a cloudy sky one has to get an overall, wide angle shot. But sometimes just getting a portion of the sky can be more effective. Janet Baniewich of Stockton used a Nikon D3300 DSLR camera to photograph a pair of palm trees in her yard against a backdrop of clouds. By using a telephoto lens she captured the trees with just a small part of the sky but came up with a more dramatic photo.


Dave Skinner of Stockton found a sky full of less defined clouds but nonetheless impressive. Catching a sunrise at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton with his Nikon D7100 DSLR camera, he photographed the clouds which were colored with the warm tones of the morning sun as a flock of geese flew by.


Most people look skyward to find their clouds but Joseph Hey of Stockton found his picture in different direction. Using a Samsung Galaxy 7 smartphone Hey looked to the ground to find clouds reflected a puddle at Oak Grove Regional Park in Stockton.


Marcia Thompson of Murphys captured the clouds during sunset over Pennsylvania Gulch bear where she works in Murphys. Thompson not only got the warm light of the sunset turning the clouds a nice golden color, but she also got a wolf-shaped weather vane of a nearby building baying at the sky.


Desiree Forsberg-Bogaard of Stockton, who is a teacher at Kohl Open School, managed to photographer her cloud photo on campus in Stockton. Between rain storms and classes, she used an Apple iPhone 6 plus to photograph the sun breaking through the clouds, it’s slight skimming off of the rain-soaked concrete of the school’s quad.


Mike Ratekin of French Camp used an Apple Phone 7 Plus to photograph a tractor in a field near his home against sunset colored clouds. The pink clouds overhead compliment the red color of at the tractor in the foreground, visually connecting sky and ground in the photo.


Michael Twitty of Lodi sedan Apple iPhone 6 to photograph clouds over the Japanese tea garden at Micke Grove Park in Lodi. He effectively used the trees in the foreground to frame the clouds.


Carolyn Silva of Jackson used a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera to photograph the clouds at sunset near her home. She silhouetted a bare oak tree in the foreground against a band of clouds illuminated by the setting sun.


All of the entries can be seen in a gallery at A new challenge assignment will be issued on April 2.

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From chump to chimp

The term “chimping” is one that not all photographers may know but everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. First written about by USA Today photographer Bob Deutsch, it refers to the act of reviewing pictures on the camera’s monitor immediately after taking it.

Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck says that it isn’t chimping unless they make ape-like sounds while doing it, something like “ooh, ooh, ooh.” But most photographers considerate chimping with or without the sounds

In the beginning of digital photography chimping was pejorative term. For those who get up in the film era there was a certain artful skill that was somewhere in between talent and experience when a photographer would know that they had a great image the moment when they shot it. Chimping kind of felt a little like cheating. Some believed that it was a crutch for those lesser photographers. Well, let me tell you, everybody chimps. You chimp, I chimp, big name photographers chimp like any amateur with a point-and-shoot.

Chimping can be a great tool for photographers and not the crutch that some used to believe. What you don’t want to do is to chimp after every shot. You could be so busy looking at your display that you may miss something happening right in front of you.

The first thing I do when I get to an assignment is to get a quick shot and quickly review the image to determine the exposure for the scene. I won’t usually look at it again unless the lighting changes.

Sports is one those events that knowing when to chimp is crucial. I’ve seen too many photographers, too many times, miss a shot while chimping, myself included. But there are times when stopping to look at your monitor is OK. There are always breaks in the action, penalties, timeouts and breaks between periods, when there is time to chimp.

For me, when shooting a sporting event, the ability to identify an athlete is almost as important as the shot itself. After all, that caption in the newspaper doesn’t say “some guy carries the football, hits a homer or sinks a jump shot.” I have to get the names the players. So I’ll often chimp a shot to make sure I have a readable jersey number in the frame. If not then I’ll get a shot of the player and a clearly visible number. But I make sure the action is over and there is enough time for me to do it.

If you’re a portrait photographer you may want to show the image your model to help show them what they’re doing right or wrong in their posing and involve them in the picture taking process.

In landscape photography one usually has a lot of time and the scene doesn’t change very quickly so frequent chimping is acceptable. But if you’re a wedding photographer or shooting an event where you have to be on your toes, keep it to a minimum. You don’t want to miss the first kiss after the vows of the bouquet toss because you were looking at your monitor.

Instant gratification being what it is, the urge to chimp is sometimes undeniable, but the more experience you get as a photographer the less you’ll do it. When you do chimp, just make sure it’s the right time to do it.

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Readers Photo Challenge assignment: Head in the clouds

The newest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is “clouds.” Recent weather is such that makes this assignment timely and more clouds are in the forecast.

A cloudy sky is usually much more interesting to look at and photograph than a bland cloudless one. Puffy, white clouds lazily floating in the sky can may for pretty pictures and dark, threatening storm clouds can make very dramatic images.

At the beginning or the end of a day, clouds be imbued with the colors of a sunrise or sunset. Like tofu, which in and of itself doesn’t have much of its own flavor but picks up the tastiness of whatever it’s cooked with, clouds can help spread the color of a fiery sunrise/sunset.

Shooting clouds by themselves can be a bit boring no matter what they look like. Try adding something in the foreground, like a tree, mountain or person, to help give the clouds scale and context. Quite often there is an exposure differential between the clouds in the sky and something on the ground with the clouds being much brighter. The can be ameliorated by exposing for the clouds and just allowing what’s in the foreground to go dark and turn a silhouette. If you want some detail in the foreground you can use what’s called a fill-flash technique. By using a flash during a daylight exposure you can fill-in the shadows with light.

Don’t let inclement weather scare you away. Sometimes shooting in the rain can be the best times to shoot. Clouds swirling around in a storm can make for great photos. Make sure you can see individual or groupings of clouds and not just a featureless slate grey sky. I believe that to get the best weather photos you have to be out in it, not just shooting from inside a car or from a window. If you’re out in the elements you might want to think about protecting your camera. I’ve used re-sealable plastic bags (1-gallon sized) and garbage bags to cover my camera. Just pierce a hole in one end to poke the lens though and another in the other end to look through the viewfinder. Also carrying a towel to dry off the parts the do get wet is very helpful.

Weather-related assignments can be a hit or miss proposition. They can be hard to plan for because you never can be 100% sure on what you’re going to get. Fortunately, storms and clouds are forecasted for the next few weeks. Always have your camera near at hand and be ready to shoot when an opportunity arrises. Don’t put off shooting the clouds until another time because they might to be as good or they may even be gone the next day.


How to enter:

1. Entries can be emailed to Type in “StormClouds” in the subject line.
2. Photos have to be shot between March 5 and March 19.
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 device you used and where it was taken (eg.: “John Doe of Stockton. Micke Grove Park, Lodi. 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 (eg.: Jane Doe, 15, walks his dog Fido under rainy skies at Grupe 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  March 19. The top examples will be published on Tuesday, March 26 with an online gallery of all the photos on the same day.

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January 2019 Outtakes

Sorry for the late post but here are some of my favorite photos from January.


(01/02/19) A Stockton firefighter battles fires in 2 large dumpsters full of cardboard to be recycled at the Goodwill facility on Market and Grant streets in downtown Stockton.


(01/09/19) American Marital Arts Academy students Nikki Jones, left, and Mark Feaver take advantage of a break in the rainy weather to practice the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga on the basketball court at Nelson Park in Stockton.


(01/11/19) Delta College’s Dondre Gray, right, fights for a loose ball with America River College’s Parker Haven during a men’s basketball game at Delta’s Blanchard Gym in Stockton.


(01/17/19) Former Pacific basketball great Dell Demps, right, is hugged by former head coach Bob Thomason during a ceremony retiring Demps’ jersey at half time of Thursday’s game between UOP and the USF Dons at UOP’s Spanos Center in Stockton.


(01/19/19) Seth Peoples of Elk Grove, holds his 3-year-old daughter Brooke up to a telescope to get a view of waterfowl at the Ducks in Scopes event at the Cosumnes River Preserve near Thornton. The birding event, put on by the preserve and the Nature Conservancy, featured telescopes for viewing the wildlife and volunteers to answer questions.


(01/21/19) Stockton Heat’s Mike McMurtry, left, fights for the puck with Colorado Eagles’ Josh Dickinson during an AHL hockey game at the Stockton Arena in downtown Stockton.


(01/29/19) Taking advantage of the temperatures in the mid 60s Julze Mannon, top, and Aaron Guyton, both of Stockton, alternated jumping over one another as the other did a plank while doing a cardio work out at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.


(01/30/19) Lodi Garden Club member Janet Hauser of Lodi uncovers a large concrete “L” in a flower bed while volunteering her time to clean up 2 wildflower gardens at Lodi Lake in Lodi. Members of the club already clean up the area at the entrance to the park, as well as The Rose Garden at Micke Grove and around Hutchins Street Square. Hauser volunteered to clean up and reseed the flower beds.


(01/30/19) Lodi goalkeeper Julian Lopez, bottom makes a a save while Tokay attacker Jordan Baumback, left, and Lodi defender Brendon Duran leap over him during a Tri-City Athletic League soccer game at Tokay in Lodi.



(01/30/19) Lodi’s Edgar Lopez, left, and Tokay’s Eduardo Guillen fight for a header during a Tri-City Athletic League soccer game at Tokay in Lodi.

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Readers Photo Challenge: Seeing red

The subject of the latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment as the color red. Red is a bold and bright color. Most people sent in photos of things that were fire-engine or stop-sign red. A few others found shades that were more subtle and nuanced. Whatever way they approached the subject, this assignment got them seeing red.

Twenty readers sent in 84 photos. Here are the top picks.


Jonathan Wong of Elk Grove followed one of the first rules of portraiture: give your model something to do. On a wet and grey day, he photographed 17-year-old Justine Mar with a Canon 80D DSLR camera at the Laguna Town Hall in Elk Grove. Wong had Mar leap into the air while holding a red umbrella. The resulting photo, with her bright smile and scarlet umbrella as she kicks up her heels, gives color and life to an otherwise drab day.


Red is the color of heat and that was Stocktonian Matt Baker’s take on the assignment. Using a Nikon D7500 DSLR camera, he photographed docent Elton Carnes in the blacksmith shop at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park in Lodi. Carnes worked making items for the museum’s gift shop. The red hot fire stands out against the surrounding blue-black coals and metal that have yet to heat up.


A bright color like red can be used as a compositional element. Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton, who’s attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana, used to great effect in her wintry picture. With a Nikon D500 DSLR camera she photographed a skier making his way up to the ski lift for another run.The photo, which is basically a landscape and is, for all intents and purposes, a colorless one, with dark – almost black – trees covered with white snow. The the skier is only a very tiny a part of it but stands out because of his bright red coat. You can even make out his even tinier red ski boots.


Hernando Haddaway of Stockton took a night shot for his entry. He photographed a Mexican restaurant on Wilson Way in Stockton. With a a Fuji X-Pro2 digital mirrorless camera he captured the red light of a neon Dos Equis sign in one of the windows. I liked how he also managed to include the spill over of red light onto the sidewalk and roof overhang in the image.


Carolyn Silva of Jackson took a picture of a red fence in her neighborhood. A climbing grape vine, which has long lost its leaves to fall, weaves itself onto the fence like a spider’s web. The fence’s rigid uniformity and bright red color stand out against the drab vine. Using a fill-flash technique on her Nikon D7500 DSLR camera, she illuminated the fence to help her match the brightness clouds in the background to even out the exposure between the two.


Teresa Mahnken of Morada found a more understated shade of red in her photo. A mated pair of red-red-shouldered hawks have been flying around her neighborhood for about a week. With her Nikon D3300 DSLR camera equipped with a 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens, she photographed one of them soaring overhead. The raptor’s feathers are more of a rust color than a bright red, but still, it was enough to make it stand out against the blue sky.


How do you make an all-black dog fit into the “red” challenge? Why put a red hat on him, of course. Steven Rapaport of Stockton put a red baseball cap on his 7-month-old Labrador puppy Teddy as he took a nap on his couched then photographed him with his Canon G7x Mk II digital point-and-shoot camera.


Carrie Walker used an Apple iPad to photograph the bright neon marquee at the Bob Hope Theater which stood out against the black night in downtown Stockton.


All of the entries can bee seen in an online gallery at A new assignment will be issued on March 5.

You can contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or

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Take chances, make mistakes, get messy

On occasion I’ll run across an article that’s titled something like “mistakes that every beginning photographer should avoid.” I’m a firm believer of learning through doing and it seems to me that if you avoid a mistake, then you’re missing an opportunity to learn something.

It’s not that you shouldn’t be aware of the pitfalls you may encounter but learning through “aversion therapy” can be very effective. For example, I shoot several assignments a day, each can have very different lighting conditions. There have been times in the past where I’ve forgotten to change my ISO settings (light sensitivity) from one assignment to another resulting in grossly over-or underexposed photos. Now, I make sure to set the ISO on my camera to what I might expect on the next assignment.

When I was a photo student while on a field trip to Yosemite. I climbed up the trail from Lower Yosemite falls to the upper falls, a distance of about 3.5 miles and a rise in elevation of about 2,5600 feet. I would stop every so often to take a picture and then move on. About 3/4ths of the way up, dusty and tired, I looked down at the film counter on the camera (yes, this was back in the stone age of film). It read 34 exposures but I thought I put in a 24-exposure roll. I fired off another frame and turned the advance lever. The rewind knob didn’t move as it should have if there was film in the camera. I spun the know and it turned freely. I opened up the camera and, sure enough, I had forgotten to load the camera with film. After that I developed nervous tic of tugging on the knob to make sure that there was always tension on it signifying that there was film in the camera.

A 300mm f/2.8 lens is a big, heavy piece of equipment. So much so, that it has it’s own tripod mount and carrying strap. Years ago, I was carrying one by the strap over my shoulder and the strap came undone. The expensive lens plummeted straight to the floor. It was only by the luck of the photo gods that is was able to catch it by the end of the 1/2-inch wide strap just inches before it hit the floor. After that I made sure that all the big lenses I used and their straps tightly secured.

There have been many times where I didn’t have the right equipment for the job like not having a long/short enough lens for a certain situation. I’ve left my flash in the car or back in the office for the sake of lightening my load only to find that I needed it after I got to my assignment.

These are just a few of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. You’re going to make mistakes, a lot of them. Sometimes you make the same ones more than once. But it’s all a part of the learning process. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them. If your pictures from an event are too dark or too light. Try to think about what you did and correct your mistake the next time similar situation happens.

If you find that your subject is too small in the picture, next time get in closer. If your access is blocked by someone stating in front of you, try to figure out how to get around them without being obtrusive. If the background in your photos are cluttered and distracting, next time look for a different, cleaner background or new angle to take the picture from.

As Miss Frizzle from the children’s educational tv show The Magic School Bus would say: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”

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