Separated at birth: Wonder women

AP photo

Actress Gina Torres isn’t what you’d call a household name, but I’ve seen her in two television shows. The first was in 2003 as a character in a 5-episode story arc of the vampire series “Angel”, created by Joss Whedon. She played Jasmine, a morally ambiguous ancient deity bent on world domination. The second was also in 2003, also on a Whedon production. Torres played Zoë Washburne, the confident and capable first officer of the spaceship Serenity on the short-lived space western Firefly. One character evil, the other good, but both strong, powerful beautiful women.

Edison High volleyball standout Keilani Kitagawa bears a remarkable resemblance to Torres, not only visually but in strength, as well. Kitagawa was on the Record’s 2009 and 2010 All-Area volleyball first team teams and was the recipient of the Record’s 2010 Charles Washington scholar/athlete award  She was also a 2010 first-team San Joaquin Athletic Association middle blocker, Edison’s Senior Female Athlete of the Year and the Stockton Unified School District’s co-Female Athlete of the Year. Kitagawa now plays for the Delta Collage volleyball team and has proved to be a key player for them as well.

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December in review

‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.”

-   Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

December is gone, and with it 2010. Because of vacations, it was short month for me but nonetheless produced some memorable pictures. Here are 10 of my favorites from the 12th month.





















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December remembered

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old one leaves.” – Bill Vaughn

Another December has passed and with it another year. Before we head into the new year here’s a final look back at the last month of 2011.

















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2010′s top 12

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
-   Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ring Out, Wild Bells

The end of the end and the beginning of the beginning is here. This is the time of reflection upon the past year before we step across the threshold into a new one.
Every year is a little different, photographically speaking, there are some years where I have a lot of memorable sports pictures, others where it’s spot news, and still others are full of portraits.

In the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Best of Photography contest, there is a category called the Natural Environment. According to the NPPA website they’re photos “that capture the aesthetic and graphic qualities of nature and wildlife with an emphasis on dramatic composition.”  In other words, pretty pictures. Not that there’s anything wrong with a pretty picture, that’s what first drew me into photography. But I think many photojournalists over look the category because it’s not newsy or people-oriented enough. I think a beautiful landscape can have enough power and substance to stand on its own merits.

If my year in photos for 2010 had a theme it was the natural environment. In the mix of my favorite 12 photos of the year (one from each month) are a variety of sports, news and feature (slice-of-life) photos. But of those 12, five were are landscapes of one kind or another. Here they all are in chronological order.



I started off the year with a rainbow shot in the rural north part of Stockton, just south of eight Mile Road. One end of a rainbow fell gracefully behind a valley oak as a hawk
flew into the frame. Little did I know it was a harbinger for the rest of the year.



Weather photos are always a big part of the job. These two parking attendants wrapped up in plastic to keep dry made for a lighthearted photo on a wet and windy day.



Mike Stallings said that he cut two holes into his family’s backyard fence so that their dogs Rio and Duke can get a look at the outside world. It’s his wife, Trisha, who decorates the holes for holidays (this was for St. Patrick’s Day) to make for a humorous scene.



Another landscape, this time using a slow shutter speed. I tried to show the wind through the movement of poppies growing on the banks of the deep water channel in Stockton.



The most dramatic sports photos are about competition and conflict. The way baseball is set up, the offense at bat and the defense in the field, the conflict part can be hard to capture at times. No problem with this photo. Lincoln’s Josh Rodriguez threw a wild pitch that got away from the catcher who chased after the ball. Lodi’s Ken Ruffin barreled home and collided with Rodriguez, who had left the pitcher’s mound to cover home plate.



During the day Pixie Woods is a fun place for little kids. On the amusement park’s annual Wine and Music fundraiser, its a fun place for adults at night.



The beauty of the night can be seen in a photo I took on a Boy Scout summer camping trip with my son to Gerle Creek in the Eldorado National Forest.



A sunflower, a waning sun and a houseboat on Little Connection Slough in Stockton make for a great end-of-summer photo.



When I took photography classes in college, my instructors taught me to try to look at the world in a different way from different angles. That sometimes means you get to look at things from an upside down perspective.



There’s nothing more humbling than a lightning storm. The power and majesty of nature in this photo is captured in a lighting strike near the Port of Stockton’s turning basin.



If nature was the theme of my year, then rain was the refrain for the sports that I shot in 2010. The downpour in this Brookside Christian High School football game was the heaviest all season.



Christmas time is the season of goodwill toward all, but for cops it must be tough seeing that they often have to deal with those with very little goodwill. I followed some on a parole violation check one night, and in every house we went to, all the parolees were in compliance. How’s that for a merry Christmas?

Have a happy new year and we’ll see what pictures 2011 will hold.

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52 pick up

Year end lists are nothing if not subjective. Not only in what is picked but even in the number of items on those lists. Most people who do such lists usually pick a nice round number like 10. For my end-of-the-year list I picked 12 favorite pictures, one from each month (see tomorrow’s column and blog).

For the last few years I’ve also produced a slideshow of my year’s work and I’ve settled on 52 to represent an average of one photo a week (due to vacations and such, each photo does not correspond to each week of the year, however). Perhaps a bit of an unwieldy number, it shows the the flow of the year a little better than 10 or 12 could and in slideshow form it tends to be easier to view. So here are my favorite 52 photos from 2010. Enjoy!

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Peel me a grape

Years ago when my wife was taking Spanish lessons her instructor said that it was the custom in Bolivia to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The act is supposed to bring good luck in the new year. According the Ecocentric blog the tradition, with variations, is also celebrated in several other Latin American countries and can be traced back to Spain where it started about 100 years ago. Many New Year’s Eve traditions include drinking and/or eating to excess but here’s one that involves a healthy food. Happy New Year and eat a grape!

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Delta dusk

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The fallen

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I love a rainy night

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The Christmas spirit

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” – Calvin Coolidge
Happy Holidays!

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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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