Art with fun

One of the things I like to see at the State Fair is the California Fine Art exhibition. It’s interesting to the creativity that artists express through paintings, sculpture and, of course for me, photography. Perhaps to go along with this year’s theme of weird wild and wacky, there seemed to be more entries than usual that exhibited a whimsical sense of artful play.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/ 2.8. ISO: 200)

Terrence Martin of West Sacramento entered a piece titled “Up To My Neck.” It was a representation of a giraffe’s head and neck made from scrap metal and appeared to be nearly 10 feet tall.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

Aaron Buehring of Sacramento had a work that was actually an imitation of a famous work of art. He recreated Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night with bottle caps in a piece called “Recycled Night.”

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

Even Clayton Bailey of Port Costa who was selected co-California Artist of the Year, had works of fantastical fun . On display was a trio of his appliance-like metal robots with cartoonish faces.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

The crowd pleaser was an incredible display by Rohnert Park artist Scott Weaver. “Rolling Through the Bay”, was a montage of San Francisco and surrounding attractions made entirely of toothpicks. Weaver was on hand to show off the piece and estimates that he used about 100,000 toothpicks held together with Elmer’s glue.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

On the sculpture, Weaver constructed tracks, also out of toothpicks, so that he could roll ping pong balls through five different “tours” of the city. All of The City’s highlights are represented, the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, the Palace of Fine Arts, BART, Ghirardelli Square, Chinatown, the TransAmerica building and other features too numerous to mention.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/40th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

He said it took him about 3,000 hours of work over 35 years to build. That’s a big chunk of one’s life to commit to one project. I was left to wonder, what does he do with his time now?

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Weird, wild and wacky

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

We try to make going to the State Fair in Sacramento an annual family affair. This year my wife was feeling a bit under the weather and my 14-year-old daughter decided to stay home with her so, it was just my son and me.

This year’s theme was Weird, Wild and Wacky. I don’t know what that meant, because most of the fair was your standard fair stuff. There was the livestock barn with cattle, sheep, and even llamas. The midway had the usual thrilling rides and carnival games (I dropped about $20 for my son to win a 6-inch consolation stuffed tiger). The food was your standard fair fare (sorry for the pun), corn dogs on every corner and just about anything you want deep fried. There were the county displays and art exhibitions. As we walked through the fair and had our fun, nothing stood out as weird, wild or wacky.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Then we saw part of a show called Frank Olivier Twisted Cabaret. Funny and weird, at one point he inhaled a thin balloon through his right nostril, and passed it through the back of his throat and out his mouth. He then, with one end still sticking out his nose and the other his mouth, partially inflated it and squeezed the air encased in the balloon from one end to the other. 

For his finale, Olivier donned a shocking pink rock and roll wig, and proceeded to juggle two flaming batons, play the guitar and ride a unicycle simultaneously.


Freestyle Moto Cross rider Destin Cantrell of Hunnington Beach sails above the Xtreme Zone at the State Fair (Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100).

At the far end of the midway was the Xtreme Zone, and it was a wild ride. Freestyle motocross riders jumped their bikes across two ramps and performed seemingly death-defying acrobatic stunts as they soared 30 to 40 feet in the air. It was fitting that the show was near the midway, because it was as thrilling to watch as riding any of the carnival rides.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 50mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200).

In the Fur and Feathers exhibit were exotic cockatoos, parrots and chinchillas, but one of the wackiest birds was a domesticated rooster. A Continental Polish: Non-Bearded White Crested Black was one of the show birds on display. With its wild headdress of feathers, it looked like comedienne Phyllis Diller on a bad day or perhaps an inspiration for boxing promoter Don King.

After about a six-hour day at the fair, we finally managed to find our weird, wild and wacky and had fun doing it, too.

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Out with the old?


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ 6.3. ISO: 1600)

Although I shoot Nikon for work, my personal equipment is Canon and I’ve been thinking about replacing my trusty old 20D for a little while now. The Nikon D300 that I use is newer, about 18 months old, and my 20D, about 5 years old, is old and slow in comparison (which it is). It’s been a good camera but, technologically speaking, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, having been superceded by three generations of newer models, the 30D, 40D and currently 50D.


The Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III, left, 1D Mk III, 5D MkII and 50D digital SLR cameras  (Canon USA).

The top of the line Canon 1D & 1Ds, currently priced at about $3,700 and $6,400 are too rich for my budget. The 5D at about $2,700 is more reasonable, but still a bit pricey, especially considering that it only shoots at 4 fps. At a little more than $1,100, the 50D is not bad. The successors to the 20D have been good cameras but the improvements have been incremental, and they haven’t wowed me enough to spend my hard earned dough.

I think what has really kept my pocketbook closed it that I was looking for a Canon version of Nikon’s D300. I guess I could switch over to Nikon, but the cost of not only changing the camera, but of the lenses, flashes and other Canon accessories is prohibitive.


The Nikon D300 DSLR camera.  (Nikon)

The amount of megapixels (MP) a camera produces doesn’t really matter that much to me, with most modern cameras having more than enough resolution.  Even the 20D’s 8-MP is plenty for me. The difference between that and the D300′s 12-MP may sound impressive but really it isn’t that big of a gap.

What I look for is how well it does in suppressing noise. Noise is the little flecks of color and grain that appear in pictures when the light sensitivity is boosted to high ISOs. The Nikon D300 can easily handle up to ISO 1600 and will go even higher, though with less satisfying results. The 20D acquits itself decently, but it’s out of date and is using old technology and can’t keep up with newer models. ISO 800 is the most I like to push it.

Another thing I look for is a fast frame rate. To some people it’s not that important, but I shoot a lot of sports and it helps to have a fast camera. At five-frames-per-second (fps), the 20D is faster than a lot of cameras, but the D300, with the optional MB-D10 battery grip (an extra $260), will shoot 8 fps.

One of the things that’s really impressed me with the Nikon is it’s ability to control Nikon flashes wirelessly. It’s a feature that I adore and use often. You can get a separate unit for the Canon to do the same job, but the D300 (and its big brother the D700) has it built into the camera. It’s something that no Canon camera has. Until now.


The new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR camera (Canon USA).

Last week Canon announced a new model and it may be the one for me. The Canon 7D seems to have all the things I want in a camera. At 8-fps, it’s fast (as fast as the D300 and D700 with the extra battery pack). It’s ISO range is from 100 to 12,500 with the Canon claims of “enhanced, low-noise high-sensitivity optimization.”
It even has the ability to link with Canon flashes with a built-in wireless controller. The early reviews have been encouraging, but we’ll have to wait and see for more in depth tests.

(Canon USA)

Added to all that, the 7D sports 18-megapixels, has the ability to shoot HD video and is said to have improved autofocusing, weather sealing. To top it off it’s priced at about $1700, about $100 less than a new Nikon D300.

Years ago Nikon was the dominant force in the camera world. In the late 1980s through the early 2000s Canon overtook Nikon and reigned supreme, seemingly untouchable. But then Nikon has been on a roll these last few years hitting home run after home run. It may be a bit too early to say, but it looks like Canon has finally answered back and hit one out of the park with the new 7D.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


I’ve posted a quick survey to the right just tio see what kind of cameras people use. Give it a go and see how you stack up against others. It’ll be up for about a month.

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The Bad Dad Award goes to…


(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 300mm w/1.4 extender. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

My 14-year-old daughter’s soccer team played its first scrimmage this a couple weekends ago. It was played in a game format with two 40-minute halves. Her team won in convincing fashion, 5-3.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 300mm w/1.4 extender. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

During the first half, a man stood behind the opposition’s goal, telling the goalkeeper what to do. I assumed he was her father, but I wasn’t paying too much attention to him because I was shooting the game. Finally she turned to him and screamed: “Shut up and leave me alone! Go and sit with the other parents!” As he walked away he muttered (loud enough for her to hear): “Maybe you should learn to play soccer.”

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 300mm w/1.4 extender. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

My daughter has been playing recreational league soccer for about 7 years now, and I’ve tried to take the approach of, “if you can’t say anything encouraging, then keep your mouth shut.” We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly as far as parental behavior goes. One game a couple of years ago, an opposing player slammed into one of my daughter’s teammates so hard that a red card was issued and the offending player was ejected from the game. Her father went ballistic and had to be restrained to keep him from attacking the referee.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 300mm w/1.4 extender. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

When my wife and I signed up our kids for sports, we hoped they would learn about sportsmanship and teamwork as well as getting a little exercise. Most of all, we want them to have fun. Some parents try to find glory through their kids’ activities and can take all the fun out of them.

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Looks can be deceiving

For good or bad, we all make assumptions on what people are like based on their appearance. A man in a suit is perceived by most people differently than a guy wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Our perceptions may change after we get to know him, but our first impressions come from what he looks like.

3/10/08 (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

In March of 2008 I covered the arraignment of Roger Reece Kibbe, who is accused of murdering of six prostitutes or stranded women in the 1970s and 80s. Already serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1987 rape and murder of a 17-year-old runaway from Seattle, Kibbe was charged with the other homicides just last year in the so-call I-5 strangler case. The bodies were dumped along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Even though I’ve been at the record for 25 years, I didn’t remember the case and I had no expectations of what Kibbe would look like.

Last year, the 68-year-old with closely cropped hair and stubble on his face stood in front of the judge looking like someone’s grandfather, perhaps a bit lost and confused. Kibbe easily could have been just some old guy walking down the street if it weren’t for the bright orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. If you saw him in a casual setting you might even think him harmless.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

As they say, the wheels of
justice turn slowly, and I shot Kibbe again just a few days ago. This
time it was for a hearing:  If he tells the details of all his crimes, he’ll be spared the death penalty. He’ll get six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. When Kibbe entered the courtroom at the county courthouse in downtown Stockton last week, his appearance had changed drastically, but he still didn’t look like a killer.

He sported shoulder-length gray hair and a long gray beard. He looked more like Lord of the Rings’ wise wizard Gandalf or perhaps the kindly Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter stories. I almost expected him to utter some sage advice or speak in Elvish. The heinousness of his crimes are more like what the villains in those stories, Sauron and Voldemort, would do.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Shackled at the waist and ankles, Kibbe shuffled into the courtroom and sat down. Looking like J.R.R. Tolkein and J.K. Rowling’s beloved characters, I almost expected him to give me a playful wink. But for the most part he kept his head bowed, occasionally leaning over to whisper something to his attorney. I know he was a much younger man about 30 years ago, but for a moment it was hard to believe that this old guy could have done anything so horrendous.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Then he shot me a look that gave me a chill. It was just a fleeting instant that was gone as quickly as he gave it, but with his head still bowed, he looked up at me with his eyes from under his brow and gave me a piercing glance. I thought about how initial impressions can be deceiving and the phrase “if looks could kill” ran through my head. I for one was thankful he appears headed for the real world version of Azkaban (the wizard’s prison of Harry Potter) or the pits of Mount Doom (Lord of the Rings).

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Almost like being there

Traditionally, photographs offer a single point in time from a single vantage point. There have been attempts at 3-D photos with varying degrees of success, but mostly, still pictures offer just one view. If you want to see more, you’ll have to look at more pictures. Even with video, though it can offer more in one shot, it’s limited to the length of video and the point of view of the photographer.

The Board of Supervisors chambers in the new San Joaquin County Adiminstration Building in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Sigma 14mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 400).

Record Web content producer Kirk Barron was in charge of creating an interactive tour of the new San Joaquin County Administration Building for our online edition. Part of the plan was to create interactive 360-degree views of the lobby and supervisors boardroom.

The lobby of  the new San Joaquin County Adiminstration Building in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Sigma 14mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).

Shooting the panoramics wasn’t very difficult, just time consuming and a bit tedious. On a borrowed a tripod from Record photo editor Craig Sanders, I placed the camera at about the center of each room. Starting with a shot straight down, I shot a picture then tilted the camera up for the next shot. (Craig’s tripod head had a scale divided into 10-dgree segments for both the vertical and horizontal plane, which made things much easier). I repeated the procedure until I reached the tripod’s vertical limit (unfortunately it didn’t allow me ot shoot straight up). Then I turned the camera about 10-degrees to the left and began the process in reverse. That methodical up and down shooting continued until I turned the camera in a compete circle, but I wasn’t done yet. Because the tripod didn’t tilt all the way up, I tried to get photos of the ceiling hand-holding the camera. I shot straight up, turning a few degrees with every picture, though without the precision of the tripod.

A panoramic photo of the county supervisors’ chambers in the new San Joaquin Administration Building made from 285 separate photographs before software is applied to turn it into an interactive experience (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Sigma 14mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/9. ISO: 400).

A panoramic photo of the lobby of the new San Joaquin Administration Building made from 271 separate photographs before software is applied to turn it into an interactive experience (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Sigma 14mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).

After shooting both the board of supervisors chambers and lobby I ended up with hundreds of pictures (285 and 271, respectively), however that wasn’t the end of the process. Record Web content producer Ian Hill used a program called Autostitch to meld together all the photos into a single form, a process that, with the number of photos given, took about 4 hours for each room. Once that was done the resulting pictures are rather trippy, looking like some sort of LSD hallucination. Then Hill used a program called PanoCUBE to turn it into an interactive experience.

More than a still photo or even video, the panoramic is almost like the magical moving photographs from the Harry Potter stories. The viewer can move the picture up, down and around 360-degrees, just click and drag to see whatever view you want. It’s almost like being there. Not only do the interactive panoramas allow viewers to see more than one angle, but it allows them to be more involved with the picture as well (click here to view the interactive panorama of the lobby or here for the panorama of the board chambers).

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Overheard

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

Overheard at a Sierra High varsity football practice in Manteca: Head coach Jeff Harbison to a defensive player who let a pass get by him — “You did everything right. Grow three inches!  Grow three inches before the first game and you’ll make that play!”

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Green Light

A group leader gathers her students before a presentation at the DeRosa University Center’s ballroom before a clean up of the Calaveras River in Stockton. The clean up was organized by the university’s MOVE program (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm.  Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 500).

The University of the Pacific’s DeRosa University Center is an impressive building. Sitting along the Calaveras River in Stockton, the 55,000 square-foot building is meant to be the center of campus life for Pacific students. It houses all the dining services, an information center, a gaming room and a grand ballroom. It was built employing green design elements and it uses natural airflow and lighting to cool and light the building.
It is so well lit, that it could almost be used as a portrait studio, with soft illumination filling the large room.

University of the Pacific student Leanna Ceglia of Hollister listens to a presentation at the DeRosa University Center’s ballroom before a clean up of the Calaveras River in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm.  Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200).

I don’t know how many dances have been held in the ballroom, but it’s also used as an events center. I’ve covered other events such as job fairs and seminars there.

University of the Pacific students listen to a presentation at the DeRosa University Center’s ballroom before a clean up of the Calaveras River in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm.  Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200).

Before the start of the university’s MOVE program’s cleanup of the Calaveras River, participating students gathered in the ballroom for a briefing/introduction on what they were going to do that day. Several people got up to speak to the students while using Power Point presentations projected onto a large automatic drop-down screen.

University of the Pacific crewteam coach Eric Weir gives part of a presentation at the DeRosa University Center’s ballroom before a clean up of the Calaveras River in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 20mm.  Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200).

The problem was, because the room was so well lit from many large windows, it was difficult to see the images on the screen. Even with the shades drawn and overhead lights turned off, light bounced around the high vaulted ceiling, then filtered down and washed out the screen. The upside, for me at least, was the light was nice and soft making for pleasing pictures of the students.

I’m sure the university is saving money and contributing to the environment’s health with the center’s green design, but for viewing projected images in the ballroom, it just needs to be a darker shade of green.

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August faves

“Fairest of the months!
Ripe summer’s queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear.”
- R. Combe Miller

August has ended marking the waning of Summer. From here the days will continue to grow shorter, the temperatures cooler and high school football is not far away. Here’s a review of some of the month’s favorite pictures.

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8/4/09:

Two-year-old Loreal Brice blows soap bubbles at the National Night Out event at the Villa Montecito apartments in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).


Nine-year-old Eladio Lucero plays a hula-hoop game at the National Night Out event at the Villa Montecito apartments in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

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8/5/09:

Artist Guillermo Kelly paints a mural on the walls and ceiling of St.Mary’s Church in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 800).
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8/7/09:

Stockton Ports’ Frank Martinez leaps for a high throw as the Inland Empire 66ers’ Preston Mattingly safely steals second during a California League game at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).

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8/17/09:

Delta volleyball player Keisha Leggs, left, tries to spike the ball past teammate Lorena Ibarra during a practice at Marcopulos Gym on the Delta Campus in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600).
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8/21/09:

A welder works on the roof of a new gymnasium under construction at Williams Brotherhood Park in Stockton. The gym, scheduled for completion in December, will be jointly used by Edward. C. Merlo Institute for Environmental Technology and the Dorothy Jones Community and Health Center. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200).
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8/24/09:

Eight-year-old Malina Cahcu of Stockton reacts to the coldness of the water as she plays in the spray of a sprinkler in her front yard on Walnut Street and Buena Vista Avenue in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200).

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8/25/09:

Victor Navarro of Stockton carries his 4-year-old son Christopher Navarro on his shoulders as they cool off in the fountain at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton  (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm 17mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200).

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8/28/09:

Felipe Martinez, right, works with young boxer Jesus Jaimes, 13, in a boxing ring in a training facility that Martinez built in his backyard in Lathrop (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5 w/ fill-flash. ISO: 100).

Pacific’s Kayla Villapando, left, and Laura Hernandez fight for a header with Portland State’s Megan Martin during a women’s soccer game at A.A. Stagg Memorial Stadium on the UOP campus in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640).

Hundreds of people gather on the lawn outside of DeRosa University Center to watch the launch of the space shuttle Discovery carrying Stockton Native and UOP alum Jose Hernandez, on the UOP campus in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 19mm. Exposure: 1/15th sec. @ f/2.8 w/flash. ISO: 1600).

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Careful with your creativity

A few months ago, Chase Jarvis, a photographer and director based out of Seattle, posted a video on how he uses an iPhone to keep his creativity fresh. My experience with my wife’s iPhone has shown me that it can be a fun device that can be used  with inventiveness and imagination. I’m looking forward to playing with it more. I’ll just be a little more careful with it than Jarvis.

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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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