Time out

I’m taking a few days off for a little R & R. Here’s a Spring picture for you to enjoy until I get back on April 2.


Poppies grow under a canopy of cloudy skies at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/20 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200).

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Spring in the Delta

The first day of Spring in the small Delta town of Walnut Grove (my hometown) was heralded in with the twittering of birds, the blossoming of pear orchards, and snow. Snow in the Delta? Despite the fact that temperatures hovered around 70 degrees with partly cloudy skies, there was snow.

Sisters Brenda, 14, and Jennifer Aguilar, 12, of Courtland ride a sled down a snowy slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store in Walnut Grove (Camera: Nikon D300.Lens Nikkor 17-55mm @ 22mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/18. ISO: 200).

The last time any significant snow fell there was in the winter of 1976. I was a junior in high school when a freak snow storm hit overnight. Several inches fell on the valley floor, and there was enough of it to throw snowballs at the teachers, make snow angels and even good-sized snowmen. That was the last and only time in my 51 years that any significant snow fell in the Delta.

11-year-old Isaac Rainwater of Walnut Grove rides a snow saucer down a snowy slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store in Walnut Grove (Camera: Nikon D300.Lens Nikkor 70-200mm @ 155mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

Thanks to contractor and Walnut Grove resident Larry Hamilton, there was snow in the Delta again. On a levee slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store, Larry Hamilton created a sledding run from 30 yards of snow he had trucked in from the Kirkwood ski resort, about 146 miles away in the Sierra.

15-year-old Forest Kan of Walnut Grove rides a snowboard down a snowy slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store in Walnut Grove (Camera: Nikon D300.Lens Nikkor 70-200mm @ 90mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

Hamilton is known for crafting huge Christmas displays, most notably a 42-foot-tall Statue of Liberty replica, a 50-foot-tall soldier, a 52-foot-tall statue of Jesus and a 30-ft-tall eagle out of rebar and christmas lights. He wanted to give the children of Walnut Grove and surrounding towns, many of who have had very little experience with the white stuff, a little taste of snow.

This was the second year for the event. Hamilton’s adult son Tony helped out by keeping the slope in shape by raking the snow into place. The Sacramento County Sheriff South Delta Station donated sleds for the kids to ride on, and about 100 kids lined up to get their chance at the snow.

8-year-old Aidan Pinkston of Elk Grove rides a snow sled down a snowy slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store in Walnut Grove (Camera: Nikon D300.Lens Nikkor 70-200mm @ 170mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).


15-year-old Forest Kan of Walnut Grove rides a snowboard down a snowy slope behind the Boon Dox convenience store in Walnut Grove (Camera: Nikon D300.Lens Nikkor 70-200mm @ 90mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

Children giggled and smiled as they skidded down the snow-covered hill. Some picked up the little bits that fell off the incline to have snowball fights. For the kids of Walnut Grove, the first day of Spring also meant having a snow day.

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No ifs, ands or…

Bear Creek baserunner Ashley Gonzalez waits at first for the pitch during a game against West in the Rivals Unite Against Breast Cancer softball tournament at Arnaiz Filed in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec @ f/ 8. ISO: 200).

You’ve probably seen those sweats worn by young women and teenage girls with the words “pink” or “juicy” plastered across the backside of the pants. My wife and I have always thought they’re bit of an odd fashion statement, and thankfully my 14-year-old daughter thinks they’re weird, too (let’s hope it stays that way).

At the Rivals Unite to Fight Breast Cancer softball tournament between teams from the San Joaquin Athletic Association and the Tri-City Athletic League (which was designed to raise awareness about breast cancer and raise proceeds for organizations affiliated with the research, treatment or prevention of the disease), every team wore some sort of pink to show their support of the cause. There were pink bows and pink jerseys and pink T-shirts aplenty.

But the Bear Creek Bruins were clad in their normal uniforms of blue and silver jerseys. Except for one addition. Their white pants were sprayed with pink fabric paint. On the front were stenciled their names and numbers. Across their behinds were the words “Cure it.”

At least it was for a good cause.

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Fish kiss


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 90mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

On the last day of the four-day Bassmasters Duel in the Delta bass fishing tournament in Stockton, Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., must have known he hooked a big one. At the end-of-the-day weigh-in, he pulled a large dripping bass from the live well in his boat and gave it a great big kiss even before it was placed on the scales.

Browning led the tournament the first two days but fell out of contention with a poor showing on Day 3, catching only one fish that weighed a paltry 13 oz.. On the fourth and last day, he caught the tournament daily limit of five weighing 16 pounds, 14 ounces. It included the biggest fish of the day, the 7-pound, 2-ounce whopper that he kissed, which brought his four-day total up to 62 pounds, 15 ounces, placing him in 6th place in the final standings. While Browning may not have won the first prize of $100,000, he did get $13,500 for his efforts, which I guess is worth kissing a fish for.

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Second place


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 95mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Not only a skilled fisherman, champion pro fisherman Skeet Reese is also a master showman. At the Duel in the Delta fishing tournament, instead of pulling his fish out of his boat’s live well all together in a mesh bag like most of the other competitors, he took his fish out one by one, holding them up for the crowd to see, before placing them into the bag. Each fish was bigger than the one before. His last and fifth fish was the biggest, and he held it up high to the roar of the crowd.

He climbed onto the stage and met host Keith Alan with smiles and confidence. He knew that he had a good day, catching the five-fish limit and at more than 19 pounds was hopeful it was enough to win. It wasn’t. He lost out to the eventual winner John Crews by a single ounce, or roughly the weight of a slice of bread.

When interviewed by emcee Keith Alan, Reese continued to smile, but his voice quavered in frustration and it took a little time before he regained his composure. Though gracious and still able to smile in his defeat, he was noticeably flabbergasted.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 175mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Alan used humor in an attempt to console Reese by presenting him with a copy of that day’s Parade magazine, which featured Reese on the cover. Alan said that although Reese may not have won this event, at least he still was on the cover of the Sunday supplement. I think Reese would have rather had the win and the $100,000 that went along with it.

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Delta duel

Never having developed the patience or the inclination for fishing, I rank it somewhere between watching grass grow and waiting for paint to dry. But at last Sunday’s final of the Bassmaster’s Duel in the Delta bass tournament, there was raucous fanfare and drama as the top 12 finalists brought their last day’s catch to the final weigh-in.


Fishing fans watch the weigh-in of the Bass Masters Duel in the Delta bass tournament held at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200).

Loud rock-and-roll music blared as each of the fishermen, sitting in their fancy bass boats, were towed one at a time by a fleet of Toyota Tundra pickup trucks to a stage plastered with sponsors logos under the large shade structure at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. Three ESPN cameramen captured every angle as the anglers pulled their day’s catch from the live wells in their boats and then hopped on the stage to be have their fish weighed and to be interviewed by emcee Keith Alan.


Fishing fans cheer on their favorite fishermen at the weigh-in of the Bass Masters Duel in the Delta bass tournament (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Several hundred people showed up to watch and as each contestant had his daily catch weighed, the crowd ooh-ed, ahh-ed, cheered or groaned as each total was announced. Alan sat whoever was in the lead in the “hot seat” on stage (in actuality just a folding chair), but the lead changed so many times that he got rid of it and had the leaders just stand next to him.


Angler John Crews holds up two of the fish he caught on Sunday at the weigh-in of the Bass Masters Duel in the Delta bass tournament held at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5. ISO: 200).

John Crews of Salem, Virginia, caught the daily limit of 5 fish for 20 pounds, 8 ounces, bringing his four day total to an impressive 72-pounds, 6 ounces which put him into the lead with only a few fishermen left. But Skeet Reese of Auburn, CA, a fan favorite and the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion, was yet to come.

Angler Skeet Reese holds up one his catches at the weigh-in of the Bass Masters Duel in the Delta bass tournament (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 82mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Alan announced the weight of Reese’s fish: 19 pounds, 11 ounces, which brought his four-day catch to 72 pounds, 5 ounces. He was beat out of first by Crews by one ounce!

John Crews celebrates his victory at the Bass Masters Duel in the Delta bass tournament (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 120mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Crews was crowned as the victor of the contest. He pumped his fist and held the tournament trophy high above his head. The audience cheered wildly. He beckoned his wife Sonja out of the audience, tears of joy welling up in her eyes, to share the stage with him.


Angler John Crews celebrates his victory with his wife Sonja (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 160mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

It never dawned on me to view fishing as a spectator sport and I don’t think I’m going to pick up a rod and reel or even start tuning in to fishing on ESPN on a regular basis anytime soon, but the finals of the Duel in the Delta was an event worth watching

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Visual aids


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

I had an assignment to shoot surgical residents at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp. Although I was supposed to shoot them assisting during an operation, when I arrived at the hospital, the young doctors were crammed into a small conference room listening to a lecture on kidney transplants presented by Dr. Christopher Tropman with UC Davis.

Most Power Point presentations can be pretty dry affairs. A few can be elevated to the status of interesting or even entertainment (after all, Al Gore’s Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” is mostly a fancy slide show).

For the residents, I’m sure that Dr. Tropman’s address was informative and interesting, but to a layperson such as me, most of it was uneventful.

Things perked up a little at the end of Dr. Tropman’s presentation. He summed up kidney transplants through the decades starting with the 1950s.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

In that slide a picture of Elvis popped up on the screen. Tropman then spoke for a short time about transplants back then and went on to the next decade. With each new photo, I, like the residents, wondered what the next would be.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

For the 1960s, He presented a picture of the now-iconic Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The 1970s were represented by a picture of actor John Travolta in the white three-piece “Angel Flight” suit from the 1977 movie “Saturday Night Fever.”


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The ’80s showed wind-swept Irish rockers U2 in a black and white photo.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The ’90s had a dreamy photo of new-age singer Enya.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

The 2000s were illustrated by shot of Beyonce with a come-hither look.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400)

Finally an enigmatic picture of Lady Gaga personified 2010.

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Erin go bow wow

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!


Rio, a 4-year-old chocolate lab, left, and Duke, a 12-year-old yellow lab, look out of holes decorated for St. Patrick’s Day cut into the backyard fence of Mike and Tricia Stallings on Loma Drive and Turner Road in Lodi. Mike Stallings says his wife also dresses up the openings for Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day as well. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 180mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/3.5. ISO: 200)

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It’s the pits

“Axilla: The cavity beneath the junction of the arm and the body, better known as the armpit.” (MedicineNet.com)

Axilla, underarm or armpit, call it whatever you like. They’re all the same picture-wise. They’re known in the business as armpit shots. Basketball photos of players shooting or reaching for a rebound which their armpits are exposed. You might say to yourself “hey it’’s basketball, that’s what they do,” and you’d be right, but it’s the stereotypical photo. The challenge is to go beyond that and try to get something different.

Now a shot of players reaching toward the heavens isn’t the kiss of death, photographically speaking. I mean, I’d rather see a good armpit picture shot than a bad non-armpit shot. You shouldn’t pass up a good photo while waiting for a perfect one. That’s a just recipe for coming back empty-handed.

Sometimes there are time constraints, or your timing might be off, and all you come back with are underarm shots, but the armpit photo is a cliche. It’s something that you shoot to know you have at least something usable and then try to move on to find something better.

Shooting and rebound pictures are relatively easy to shoot. You often know when and where they’re going to occur. Just position yourself near a basket and wait for the action to come to you.

Photos that don’t show armpits are much harder to get. Typically they’re away from the basket and are more difficult to anticipate.  You just don’t know exactly when players are going to scramble for a loose ball, or fight for possession of a rebound. Are they going to do an ordinary layup, or will they do an underhand shovel-shot? One just has to be ready and react quickly to the action on the court. All this is added to the obstructions that normally occur during a game — like players and refs getting in the way of the camera.

It takes more work and vigilance, but to get something different from the norm it can be worth the extra effort.

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Shameless self-promotion

TidewaterJust a little FYI, The Record photographers, Craig Sanders, Michael McCollum, Calixtro Romias and myself are participating in a dual exhibit with potter Doreen Heath at the Tidewater Art Center and Gallery at 223 E. Weber Avenue in downtown Stockton. The show, featuring about 20 prints of our work throughout the years, will run from March 2 to April 2. There will be an artists reception today, Friday March 12, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

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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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