Traffic jammed

“Damn this traffic jam
How I hate to be late
It hurts my motor to go so slow
Damn this traffic jam
Time I get home my supper’ll be cold
Damn this traffic jam…”- Traffic Jam by James Taylor


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

I was sent out to a spot news a assignment last week. Firefighters found a body when responding to a fire in North Stockton. Reports indicated they found signs of a struggle and it was being treated as a homicide.

As I drove from the office north on I-5 to Hammer lane I was thinking about the photo possibilities. The fire was early in the morning so most likely the scene would have been cold for several hours. I hoped that perhaps there would be some fire and/or police investigators still there sifting though the debris.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 18mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

As I drove I looked over to the cars in the southbound lanes, which were slowed to a crawl because of road work. I thought to myself I better not take the freeway on the return trip.

When I arrived at the house, any action that had been there had been over and done for quite a long time as I guessed. There were only a couple of uniformed officers guarding the place from across the street. The only thing to do was shoot the crime scene tape cordoning off the house and head back to the office.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 45mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200)

In just a short amount of time I had forgotten about the traffic. As soon as I turned onto the onramp to I-5, I cursed myself, but it was took late. I couldn’t turn around or back up, the only thing I could do was to go with the very slow flow.  It took about 15-20 minutes to travel the one mile to Benjamin Holt Drive, the next exit. I then made it back to the office on the surface streets.

Anyway, every time I’m stuck behind the wheel the song “Traffic Jam” by James Taylor plays in my head. It helps me pass the time when I’m moving slow. Unfortunately it’s a short song, so I have to repeat it over and over. At least it’s a catchy tune.

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The long and unwinding road


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

If you take Main Street eastward out of Stockton, it becomes Copperopolis Road at about Gillis Road, a little less than 2 miles outside the city limits. It’s your typical gently meandering country road for about the next three miles until it gets to Milton Road. From there, with some minor variations, it’s as straight as an arrow for about 10 miles until it comes to an end at Waverly Road near Farmington.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/11. ISO: 200)

For as long and straight as it is, Copperopolis Road isn’t the longest or straightest in the county. That title goes to Jack Tone Road, which runs from Lockeford in the north to Ripon in the south for a little less than 27 miles. However, because Jack Tone is on the flatlands of the Valley it’s difficult to discern its length. You can only make out a mile or two with the naked eye.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/16. ISO: 200)

One can see much of Copperopolis Road rise and fall over the gently rolling terrain as it makes its way east toward the foothills.  This view emphasizes its unyielding straightness and length. So Jack Tone may hold the county record for the longest and straightest road, but you can see how long and straight Copperopolis Road actually is.

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Little girl, big voice


Gerrado Serrano of Stockton sings a song during the tryouts for the annual Apollo Nights talent competition held at the Hilton Stockton hotel in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 400).

Last weekend I shot the second tryout for Stockton’s annual Apollo Nights talent competition at the the Hilton in Stockton. Although any type of act is encouraged to enter, from dancers to rappers, from models to comedians, most were singers. Of the dozen or so acts I was able to see, 10 were crooners of some sort, all with varying degrees of ability and success.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

Toward the end of my stay, a 12-year-old girl, Micah Gregorio of Tracy, got up to sing. In a typical small 12-year-old voice she introduced her song, Anita Baker’s “No One in This World.” Baker, an accomplished Jazz singer, has a deep and sultry voice, and I wondered how a young preteen girl could handle the song.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

After a short musical intro, Gregorio began to sing, and a Whitney Houston-esque voice rang forth from her lips. It took a while to get over the disconnect between this little girl, barely 5 feet tall, and the mature and elegant singing voice emanating from her. Even when reaching for the higher notes, where other singers’ voices, children and adults alike, strain to get the right note, Gregorio hit them with clarity and ease. She sang perfectly. In fact, better than perfect. Not only was she flawless, she sang with a depth and feeling that belied her young age.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

When she was done, Gregorio gave a quick, cute little bow, and then a 12-year-old’s smile gleamed across her face. The judges as well as the other competitors gave her a rousing standing ovation. She was the hit of the day.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 640)

There are several tryout dates yet to come for the talent show, and there are plenty of gifted performers out there yet to audition. And who knows what the judges will decide at this point, but Micah Gregorio, a little girl with a grown-up voice, is bound to make a definite impression.

Here’s a YouTube video of Gregorio performing the song at what looks to be her home. The sound quality isn’t the best, but her beautiful voice shines through. Oh, it’s also from a year ago when she was eleven. Yes, eleven.

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Powerhouse

I grew up watching the old Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and the like. One of the things that I liked about them was the music. Whenever there was a factory/assembly line scene, a methodical driving beat seemed always to be in the background. It was Powerhouse, a 1937 instrumental song by Raymond Scott.

I often have assignments in some sort of a factory setting, be it a bottle-printing plant, a tortilla-making factory, or a recycling facility. I’m always amazed at the complicated machinery in such places. Some engineer somewhere had to figure out how to make the devices do what they do for the different businesses.

Every time I go to one of these places, Scott’s Powerhouse runs through my head as I watch the machines go through their paces. Play the video below, then go back and review the photos again as the music plays and you’ll see what I mean.

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As clear as plastic


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200)

I’ve been to many factories or businesses with lots of moving machinery. Almost invariably I’m asked to don some items for safety. Usually it’s a brightly colored vest, a hard hat, and then sometimes some ear and eye protection. I understand all that and it’s fine. After all, I don’t want to be crushed underfoot by some big mechanical device (although sometimes I think it’s to make the visitors look geeky).


Consuelo Hernandez, left, sorts through recycling at the Waste Managment Material Recovery Facility in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 70mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/3.2. ISO: 200).

Many times the items have been used by other visitors before me, which is also OK. I don’t expect them to break out new stuff for every Tom, Dick or photographer who wants to visit. A lot of the time though, the plastic safety glasses get smudged and, being plastic, they get scratched when you try to clean them off. It’s fine for the average person to see out of, just not the best for a photographer who relies on his/her vision.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/50th sec. @ f/4.5. ISO: 200)

I had an assignment to shoot the Waste Managment Material Recovery Facility in Lodi. Josephine Vera, plant supervisor, handed  me and reporter Joe Goldeen the standard helmet, florescent yellow vest and a brand-new, straight-out-the-package plastic safety glasses. They were so clear and clean that it seemed like there wasn’t anything in front of my eyes at all.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 50mm. Exposure: 1250th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200)

In the plant, conveyor belts carried tons of stuff to be sorted through by the workers and big whirring machines crushing the sorted material into smaller bits. Some of those little bits occasionally went flying, which made me thankful for the protection of the glasses as well as their clarity.

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Separated at birth II: Marathon men

A few years ago I wrote about monsignor John Armistead’s uncanny resemblance to the late comedian George Carlin. In my line of work I meet and photograph a lot of people and from time to time I come across some who could be someone else’s doppelganger.


Lynn King (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 1600)

Lynn King has been the athletic director at the University of the Pacific since 2000. A handsome middle-aged man with a shock of prematurely white hair, he stands out in a crowd. He’s often a presence at Pacific sporting events such as basketball games. We’ve done stories on him as Pacific’s A.D. and for running the Boston Marathon.

Tim Fardum (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 200mm. Exposure: 1/320th sec. @ f/4. ISO: 400)

For several years I’ve covered the annual Polar plunge at the Stonewood Lakes homeowners’ association’s pool on New Year’s Day. One of the association’s members, Tim Fardum, bears a striking resemblance to King, with similar hair and shape of face. Like King, he’s also an avid runner. He’s even run some marathons, though the last one was at least ten years ago, and never the Boston event.

The first time I saw him, I thought he was King until I got closer to him. While it may not be a perfect match, Fardum could pass as King’s brother.

At this year’s plunge, I mentioned the resemblance to Fardum, and he says he gets it all the time. He says he’s even been congratulated for being in the Boston Marathon by people thinking he’s King. Getting credit for finishing a prestigious marathon without having to run 26 miles of agony? Sounds like a good deal to me.

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Eggs-periments

LIke many people, my family and I color eggs for Easter every year but this year we did things a little differently.

(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 48mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/6.3 w/Nikon SB800 flashes. ISO: 200)

First, we started with brown eggs instead of the traditional white ones. We heard that the darker eggs made the colors more intense. The blues and greens and even the reds, were indeed richer. The lighter colors like yellow might have done better with the plain old white eggs, however.


Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/7.1 w/Nikon SB800 flashes. ISO: 200)

Second, on some of the eggs we used “magic glitter” that came in the egg dyeing kit. After dyeing the eggs, we dipped them in the “magic glitter stickem” solution and then rolled them around in the glitter. We haven’t decided if we completely like the results. Even with the sticky liquid, some of the glitter flaked off, but it did leave some interesting, though unpredictable patterns.


Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 38mm. Exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/7.1 w/Nikon SB800 flashes. ISO: 200)

Lastly, I decided to do a little experiment on one of the eggs. I dripped several different colors of dye onto a paper towel, then wrapped the egg in it. Leaving it alone for several minutes, I then unwrapped it. As I hoped, the egg picked up the color and pattern from the paper. The colors were a bit mottled and I’m not 100% sure if I like it or not, but at least the paper towel looked cool in the end.

Posted in Close-up/Macro, Color | Tagged | Leave a comment

Toyland

When I was a little kid, among my favorite toys to play with were the now-classic Army men. I loved those little green plastic figures posed in various combat positions. There were standing, kneeling and prone riflemen, grenade throwers, officers with their .45 sidearms and more. My favorite was the guy with the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) because that was the weapon of Kirby, my favorite character for the TV series “Combat!”

I’d set them up to patrol the jungle of an unmowed lawn, or under an artillery barrage of firecrackers, as they storm the sandy dunes of the backyard sandbox.  I’d even have them stand guard at my bedroom door when I went to sleep.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 40mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100)


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 52mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100

I found this set of plastic figurines through Amazon.com. They’re called the Paparazzi Playset by a company called Accoutrements. It features a set of photographers and fans presumably at some Hollywood movie premier.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 52mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100

It features an Entertainment Tonight-like TV crew, a couple of fans taking a cellphone picture and seeking an autograph and my favorites, of course, the photographers.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 52mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100

Now I normally loathe the paparazzi. They hound the celebrities seeking any opportunity to get of picture of them. And the quality of their flash-on-camera photos is boring at best. All they’re looking for is a recognizable photo of the stars that they cover without concern for creativity or quality. I know that if there wasn’t a great demand for the photos and for the tabloids that publish them, there would be a lot fewer of paparazzi, but they just give legitimate hard-working photojournalists a bad name.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/80th sec. @ f/10 w/ Dyna-Lite strobes. ISO: 100

But these little guys gave me a chuckle, and I couldn’t resist. The photographers are really working the scene. Two are kneeling for a different angle and a third (my favorite) is shooting a “hail Mary” shot (holding the camera overhead). Of course for every photographer who’s working hard, there’s one that’s a step behind. One of the figures is missing the shot by “chimping” his camera (looking at the monitor on the back of his camera).

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March in review

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” – Charles Dickens

March was a time of transition. From Winter to Spring, from basketball to baseball. Here are 10 favorites from last month.

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3/2/10:


Chris Freeman, new city librarian for the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library, stands in the Cesar Chavez Central Library in downtown Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8 w/ flash. ISO: 400).

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3/4/10:


Joanna Estrada, 24, wears skeleton-face paint while protesting education budget cuts during a march down Pacific Avenue from Harding Way to Delta College in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).



University of the Pacific’s Jordan Rogers, right, has her shot blocked by Cal State Fullerton’s Mya Olivier during a women’s basketball game at Pacific’s Spanos Center in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 2500).

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3/10/10:


Attending anesthesiologist Samy Louka, right, shows medical student Daniel Fung how to intubate a patient during an operation at the San Joaquin County General Hospital in French Camp (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 55mm. Exposure: 1/125th sec. @ f/2.8. ISO: 200).

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3/14/10:


Kandie, a poodle, is held by Vienna Convalescent Hospital resident Tressie Dubois during a therapy dog training session at the hospital in Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm @ 130mm. Exposure: 1/500th sec. @ f/5.6. ISO: 400).

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3/17/10:


Brookside Elementary School 3rd grader Lucille Moore participates in a sewing activity during the San Joaquin County Historical Museum’s Valley Days at Micke Grove Park near Lodi (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

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3/21/10:


Player Tiffany Tong, left, coach Gil Montes and league treasurer Evelia Marr paint a dugout at the Northern Little League field at Oak Park in Stockton as a part of Coaches Clean-Up Day. The trio and others were getting the field ready for their opening day on March 27 (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/8 w/ fill-flash. ISO: 100).



Pacific catcher Joe Oliveira is too late with the tag at home as USC’s Ricky Oropesa slides safely into home during a game at Klein Family Field on the Pacific campus in Stockton (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: 1/1000th sec. @ f/7.1. ISO: 200).

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3/24/10:


Blossoms bloom on one of 50 new cherry trees surrounding the Louis Park softball complex in Stockton. The trees were gifted to the city by Shizuoka, Japan through the The Sister City Association of Stockton Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 44mm. Exposure: 1/800th sec. @ f/8. ISO: 200).

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3/25/10:


University of the Pacific painter Dennis Nuss is greeted by cloudy skies while painting handicapped parking sign posts near the Long Theatre on Pacific’s campus in Stockton Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 1/250th sec. @ f/16 w/fill-flash. ISO: 200).

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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).

Posted in Enterprise, Nature, Pictorial, Weather | Tagged | Leave a comment
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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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