Double your fun

Creating a double-exposure photo is a lot easier now than in the days of film. In those old days, there were two main avenues to take — in-camera and in the darkroom, each in turn with two techniques of their own.

Stockton Port’s pitcher Pedro Figueroa’s form is displayed in a multiple exposure shot as he throws against the Bakersfield Blaze during a California LEague Game at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 1600.)

The first in-camera method required a lot of manual dexterity. It was the photographic equivalent of rubbing your tummy and patting your head while hopping on one foot.

 Step one was to snug up the film rewind knob to take up any slack in the film, then after taking the first exposure, push up on the rewind release button located at the bottom of camera with the thumb of the left hand, while holding down the knob with a finger or two of the same hand to keep the film from advancing. With the right hand, turn the advance lever and then press the shutter button for the second exposure. When used in conjunction with a motor drive, multiple exposures can be done. Without a motor, well then it’s so involved that two exposures was tough enough.

 The second technique is a bit easier. When loading the film into the camera, draw a line on the film’s leader where it comes out of the edge of the film cassette, then close the back of the camera and shoot like normal. When you’re done shooting, rewind the film without winding all the way back into the cassette. Then reload the film into the camera, careful to make sure the line that you’ve drawn lines up in the original place. Close the back again and shoot the the second exposures.

 In both of those methods, you were basically doubling the exposure, so you’d have recalculate for twice the amount of light and adjust your camera’s settings accordingly.

 The easiest darkroom method was to simply put two negatives together, sandwich-style, in the enlarger before exposing the photographic paper (indeed, the technique is called sandwich negatives). The downside was it also doubled the amount of dust you had to make sure to clean off of the negs.

 The second technique was to use multiple enlargers. You would use two or more with different negatives in each, moving the photo paper from enlarger to enlarger before developing it. The photographer Jerry Uelsmann was a master at this technique creating enigmatic, surrealistic images that rivaled any photo-shopped picture of today. The obvious drawback is that enlargers were expensive pieces of equipment and having more than one could be costly.

 I shot a Stockton Ports’ California League baseball game against the Bakersfield Blaze at the Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton a few weeks ago. The game was moving really slowly with not much action happening and I was coming up on deadline. I decided to spice up a ordinary photo of just the pitcher by doing a multiple exposure shot. I simply went into the camera’s menu, chose the multiple exposure mode, chose how may frames I wanted in one shot and I was ready to shoot. The camera even figured out the exposure compensation for me. If it was this easy back in the old days, I might have done more of them.

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In and out of position

Stockton Ports’ Michael Richard is forced out at second by San Jose Giants’ Brian Bocock during a California League game at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300m. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 400).

On occasion I’ve been asked” “where’s the best spot to shoot sports?” The answer is: “It depends on what kind of shot you’re looking for.” In baseball, for instance, the dugout behind first base is a good place to get a defensive shot of a play at second base or, to a lesser extent, third. However, it’s not so good to get a shot of the runner as you will only get a picture of his backside as he slides into the base. It’s also a good spot to get a right-handed batter or of an offensive shot of a play at home.

Stockton Ports’ Michael Richard reaches for a late throw as Visalia Rawhide’s James Skelton slides safely into second during the last game of the season at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300m. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

To get a shot of a runner at second, a good spot is the bleachers in left field. You can get a shot of him sliding into the base. It’s also a place to get a shot of the catcher defending home plate or a left-handed batter. Some photographers who have a wealth of time and equipment can set up cameras aimed at every base and trigger them remotely via radio transmitters. I usually don’t have those resources at hand so I have to pick my positions on where I think the action may happen.These are just general guidelines, and there are times where there are exceptions to the rule.

San Jose Giants’  catcher Aaron Lowenstein, left,  collides with Stockton Ports’ Jermaine Mitchell at home plate during a California League game at the Banner Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300m. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 400).

Several weeks ago, I shot the Stockton Ports as they played the San Jose Giants. The Ports were at bat and I set up in the left field bleachers in hopes of someone sliding into second. It’s one of those rules of thumb that when something happens, it’s going to happen where you’re not. A play at home happened with a big collision between the San Jose catcher and Ports baserunner. I knew I was out of position, but I shot a few frames anyway. And sure enough, their bodies slammed into each other, helmets sent flying, and it would have been a great shot, had I been on the first base side.

Stockton Ports’ Yusuf Carter slides safely as second beneath the tag of San Jose Giants’ Brian Bocock during a California League game at the Ball Island Ballpark in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300m. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 400).

A few plays later, I thought I had my shot. The Ports’ Yusuf Carter had gotten to first and was stealing second. I prepared to shoot, waiting for him to come sliding head first into the frame. Not only did he come feet first, which is fine, he also turned away from the camera, facing out to right field. Curses, foiled again! I managed to get a usable shot a few innings later, but for one inning — even though I was in position for one shot — I was actually out of position for two.

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Lens envy

Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G AF-S ED-IF VR (Nikon)

Telephoto lenses are a must when shooting sports, usually the bigger the better. We have a couple of Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lenses in our arsenal at work. The 2.8 indicates how fast it is, or how much light it can gather. The lower the number, the dimmer light conditions it will handle. For example, it has a one-stop advantage of an f/4 lens of the same focal length, meaning, at its widest aperture the 2.8 lens can gather twice as much light as the slower lens. The down side is that for every stop gained, the cost and weight of the lens goes up exponentially. The 2.8 may gather two times the light, but it’s about three times the price and weight.

Above, Nikkor 600mm f/4G AF-S ED-IF VR , top, Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G AF-S ED-IF VR and Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G AF-S ED-IF VR with a Nikon D3X DSLR (Nikon)

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, left, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens, with a Canon 1D  MkIII DSLR (Canon)

Whenever I take one of them out to a sporting event, the non-photographers who see me are impressed. “Wow, look at the size of that lens!” they’ll say. But in truth a 300mm f/2.8 is a garden-variety telephoto for most newspaper photographers who have to shoot in all kinds of lighting conditions. On the sidelines of, say, a 49ers or Raiders game almost everyone has one for their shortest telephoto and I wouldn’t even get a second glance. On hand are often 400mm f/2.8s, 600mm f/4s and even 800mm f/5.6s among the group lined up in almost photographic pecking order. Some of those bigger ones can bring in detail from the entire length of the football field. Some photographers don’t even notice my 300mm, while others may give me a “Oh, how quaint” glance before getting to the business of shooting the game at hand. I’ve learned not to have an inferiority complex and just shoot the game.

The Butterfly Nebula in constellation Scorpius about 4,000 light years away from Earth, photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA)

The Hubble Space Telescope (NASA)

Recently, NASA upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit around the Earth. According to NASA, it has 10 times the resolving power of any terrestrial telescope. it can reach thousands of light years into deep space to help solve the riddles of the origins of our universe. Now that’s a big lens that can impress anybody.

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Blast from the past: The eyes have it

Dave LaBelle, a 35-year photojournalist and educator who has worked for newspapers in cities ranging from Anchorage, Pittsburg and Sacamento, calls the search for enterprise feature photos the Great Picture Hunt. He even has created two books with that same name.  Sometimes it can be likened to fishing, driving around trolling for pictures. Other times it can be like hunting, finding a perfect spot and laying in wait for your prey, uh, subject to appear.

Shawna Kleemeyer of Stockton, passes a mural of an owl’s face on a fence surrounding the constuction site of the Hotel Stockton rennovation in downtown Stockton as she walks home from work. The mural is one of several painted by delta College art students to brighten up parts of the construction fence. (Camera: Nikon D1H. Lens: Nikkor 80-200mm @ 105mm. 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

4/5/2001: A plywood wall was put up around the Hotel Stockton during its renovation. Delta College art students were commissioned to create large murals to be displayed on those walls. One of the paintings was an intensely colored owl. I used the natural compression a telephoto lensto give the photo some visual impact and simply waited until somebody to walk by. It was a low foot-traffic area so I had to wait awhile. The danger in that situation is getting distracted or bored and not being ready when the time comes to take the picture. But someone eventually came into view and I got my shot.

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Counties fair: 2009 edition

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 23mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

I like looking at the county exhibits at the State Fair in Sacramento. Call me a nerd, call me a geek, but for me it’s fun to see how the different counties see themselves and the cleverness and creativity (or lack thereof) that goes into making each of their displays. Almost every year I drag my kids to look at the exhibits on the ground floor of buildings A and B on the Cal Expo grounds. At least it’s indoors and air conditioned, I tell them.

Last year I started making up some fun awards for the county exhibits that caught my eye. For example, I gave last year’s Los Angeles County exhibit the Lou Ferrigno Award. The display featured a cardboard cutout of the actor/bodybuilder dressed in a L.A. County Sheriffs’ uniform and another of him as the Incredible Hulk, suggesting that you don’t make the sheriffs angry: you wouldn’t like them when they get angry.

I went to the fair last weekend and saw some that were equally as notable. So here goes, my second annual unofficial State Fair County Exhibit awards!

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 23mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The Does-Anybody-Really-Know-What-Time-It-Is Award goes to Glenn County. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a large wooden clock that doesn’t work. 8 to 10 feet tall, its hands are stuck at 5:00:44 seconds.  At least it’s right two seconds a day.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

Merced County gets the Creepiest-Use-Of-A-Mannequin Award. To go with the exhibit’s motto, “Bet on Merced County”, a bald dummy representing a card dealer sits behind what looks to be a poker table. He seems to be about a million years old. A first glance he appears to be motionless, but looking closer his lips are moving perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in time to narration playing in the background. He looks like a refugee from a bad slasher movie. (Del Norte County gets the runner up award for this category for having a scary Big Foot hiding in the corner on the porch of a cabin in its display).

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 125mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The We-Used-To-Have-It-But-Not-Anymore Award goes to Sacramento County. Part of its exhibit is a scale model of a U.S. Air Force fighter jet, about 8 to 10 feet long. The problem is both Mather and McClelland Air Force bases closed many years ago and Sac County doesn’t have a military facility of any kind.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The Solano County exhibit won a slew of prizes, including the fair’s Best of Show award. It had some great features, including its walk-through architecture. Well, I gave it one more recognition: The Sesame-Street-Copyright-Infringement Award. The main entrance is supposed to be a giant cartoony orange, but with its round nose, big eyes and a color that’s skewed more toward red than orange, it looked like a giant Elmo that was swallowing or spitting out fairgoers as they entered and exited the display.

(Camera: Canon 20D. Lens: Canon 17-55mm @ 18mm. Exposure: 1/30th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The Most-Politically-Overt Award goes to our very own San Joaquin County. Most of the exhibits show what agricultural products a county produces or the industries and recreation opportunities it has to offer. On this year’s San Joaquin County display, along with the prerequisite fruits and veggies, is a protest of Governor Schwarzeneger’s proposal of building a $58.3 Million peripheral canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It features a Terminator-like robot reaching out from an unnamed county in the north and literally shaking a large map of San Joaquin County.

So those are my personal awards for this year’s fair. Until next year, hasta la vista, baby!

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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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    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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