Friday, June 29, 2007


If it wasn’t for the fact that this is the result of vandals who caused thousands of dollars worth of damage throughout town this would be a really cool photo. A long telephoto lens and a small aperture blurred the background out enough to make the spider-web like series of fractures stand out in the window of a pickup truck that shot with a pellet gun.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saddest day at the fair

I was making the rounds at the livestock area of the San Joaquin fair this morning when I bumped into a group from Banta 4H. Four girls were spending their last morning with their market hogs before they were auctioned off later in the day. All four were somber and as I took their picture they told me that it was the saddest day of the fair, they had to say goodbye to their animals.

Students in the FFA and 4H programs spend many months tending and caring for their projects. From pigs to rabbits to beef and turkeys they labor for one moment when they parade their prized animals before the crowd at the auction ring. With the auctioneer’s call of sold they say goodbye as the animal is whisked away to its fate, usually a trip to the meat processor.

At the Banta 4H hog stall the girls said they thought their pigs knew their fate. The pigs, “Twinkie”, “Babe”, “Tinkerbell” and Piggy” brooded about their stall napping as the girls said their farewells and waited for their turn in the auction ring.

A FFA student with turkeys had a different view. He said they had no idea their future involved stuffing and gravy. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

Others were trying to make the best of the brief appearance in the auction ring. Whether it was holding their sheep still for the buyers gaze or keeping their pig moving around the ring. In the end it was one last walk down the isle with their animals and then they were gone.

It may seem sad to the youngsters as they loose their animals, some of which might have become pets to them. But next year they will be back at the fair with another batch of livestock to show and auction off. The sadness just lasts a little while.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Damn it they’re closed!

Ok, to all those people who still can’t quite figure it out here’s the equation.
Crime scene tape + cops = Bank closed
Figure it out!

Star studded event

Kids at a summer school program for gifted students had a real treat in one of their classes. As part of their writing and astronomy studies they got to read stories about the constellation inside the school district’s Star Lab.

Imagine a giant, inflatable beach ball, one big enough for you to walk inside. Now add a projector, some star maps and you have a portable planetarium. I was at San Joaquin Delta College in my Astronomy class before I had a chance to peer inside a planetarium. A nice time exposure let me record the projected images of the stars and their mythological representations in the near pitch dark of the Star Lab.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I was looking at the comments section of the story we ran on Friday night’s Portuguese bloodless Bullfights and I was kind of surprised. There were the comments I would expect from people who saw it as cruelty to animals and there were those who thought it was an advertisement of brutality and violence. But what I think slipped through the cracks was that for one night a heritage and cultural traditions from decades past are on display for all to see.

Of all the sights from the bullfight the one I think most people come to see are the Forcado, also known as the “suicide squad”. Performing the pega de cara, (face hug) they end a round of bullfighting with a tackle of the bull.

As in past years when they protected royals from bulls charging up staircases they carry pole with a half moon-shaped prong tip called a forcado. Eight men will try to subdue the bull, the first man wears a long knit hat to try and distract the bull. When the bull charges he tries to leap onto his neck as the other pile on top the bull. The last man to the pile grabs the bull’s tail and is the last to let go.

The whole event takes a few seconds. A flash of color, limbs fly through the air, the crowd roars and it is suddenly over as the bull is released to stomp about the ring after his man-handling. If it wasn’t for the walk back to the office you would swear you were transported to a different country with its unique sights and sounds.

My ethnicity is half Portuguese, and it is a side of my heritage I have never really explored. But one night a year I get a look into my past and the traditions that make us all unique.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fight night

You wouldn’t think on a Friday night two blocks from downtown the air would be filled with the sound of a trumpet calling a matador to action.

In decades old tradition the bullring at the Portuguese Hall on 9th Street was filled with spectators cheering on the bloodless bullfights that concluded the Holy Ghost festa celebration.

It’s an interesting sight to say the least. Colorfully clad matadors with purple and red capes swirling about the ring to entice an angry bull into action. A bullfighter on horseback opens the night’s events while most of the crowd waits for the “suicide squad” a group of diehard bullfighters that tackle the bull with their bare hands to prove their bravery.

It’s a sport I photograph only once a year so it seems like the first time each year I shoot it. In the waning light a fast telephoto lens is the best option to capture the action as it scrambles about the ring.

From the colorful traditional garb worn in the ring to the matadors sweep of the cape as the bull rages by it is a glimpse into a culture and heritage rarely seen and worth a night at the fights.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Despair Pt. II

Not all despair happens midway up the mountain as your lungs ache from lack of oxygen. Some despair takes place in the editor’s office as she realizes the concept “He’ll run out of film soon” doesn’t apply to digital cameras. Just hold down the motor drive and they will wilt and eventually show their face.

Anyway it is fair play since she put me in her blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Flame out

A lack of winter rains put the damper on the annual wildlands fire training at Tracy Airport. In the past I have been witness to spectacular fires from the waist-high grass along the runways as crews trained to battle grassfires in a controlled setting.

The dry months starved the grass and the resulting stubble proved difficult to burn. Crews finally abandoned the training and torched the stubble as best they could. There wasn’t even any need for me to break out the flame proof clothes. Oh well there is always next year.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Something's fishy

You know it is a strange day on assignment when you stumble across four grouchy sea lions in the middle of the fairgrounds in Stockton.

I was on assignment for the setup of the county fair in Stockton. I was looking for the usual pictures, setting up carnival rides, exhibits going up when I heard a strange barking noise.

Lo and behold a sea lion was rollicking in his swimming pool digs as part of the new Sea Lion Splash attraction at this years fair. Two South American and two Californian sea lions will wow the crowds with their antics and fish catching abilities.

Now I am no sea lion expert but I discovered a few things in the short time I had to shoot them. Among them are:
1) Sea lions make a really loud, deep, disgusting barking noise, kind of like someone trying to belch after drinking a gallon of soda.
2) Sea lions don’t play nice with each other. The trainer said they were just trying to assert their dominance in the group. Looked more like a catfight to me.
3) Sea lions will snatch the food right out each other’s mouth at the dinner table. They seem more human all the time.
4) Believe it or not they hate the sight of cameras almost as much as dogs. It must be a wild kingdom rule, hate the camera.

I am guessing the sea lions will be the hit of the fair this year. In the past crowds have clamored over the pig races I’m sure they will flip for the sea lion splash.

Take off

This is just a photo of a Cessna taking off from Tracy Airport I saw during another assignment. Not that it has anything to do with the story I was working on, it was just an airplane taking off. This is another one of those random airplane shots I take, it just looks cool to me.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where eagles dare

There a line in a song from my college days, “This mountain I must climb, feels like the world upon my shoulders”. No, things are not that heavy but I could feel every pound of gear and every pebble beneath my feet as a hiking partner and I tackled our first hiking challenge of the summer as we made the Eagle Peak/Mitchell Canyon Trail loop on Saturday.

On the map it doesn’t look that bad but ahead of us was a 14-mile, 2,200-foot climb and descent over Mount Diablo State park’s Eagle Peak. Topping out at 2.369 feet we had a day’s work ahead of us. Armed with a digital camera, two lenses and my Komperdell hiking poles I fell into line as we headed up the mountain.

My friend and hiking coach Alice DeLaurier-O'Neil is a veteran of Mount Diablo and chose our course. We would climb up Coulter Pine Trail to Eagle Peak Trail then we would head to Deer Flat and make the return to our starting point along Mitchell Canyon Road. It really doesn’t look that bad on that map but as they say looks are deceiving.

The trail up the mountain was steep and loose rock and dirt made for treacherous footing. We paused often to catch our breath and take in the stunning views from the ridge, which was perfect for some sweeping vistas through the wide-angle lens.

Still making our way to the top of the ridge almost three hours into the climb and various parts of body are threatening to mutiny. More stops for air and pictures as my knee and calves cry foul. I take a picture of the uphill section of the trail remaining to remind me later my joints ache so much.

We crest the top of the ridge and are rewarded with the site of another trail in loose rock to start our way down. We finally reach the roadway and meet a hiker getting in shape for a Mount Whitney climb. He has 45 ponds of barbells in his backpack as he trudges along a trail. I thought I was insane packing my camera gear until I met that guy.

Finally eight hours after we struck out on our climbing adventure we finally see the parking lot in the distance around the last bend. The camera has long been packed into the Think Tank belt case as
Photography has become a distant thought. The last three miles along the road my feet are throbbing and the only think I can focus on is walking instead of the views around me.

Fourteen miles, a couple thousand feet and eight hours on the trail, not bad for a chunky, 43-year-old photographer. Alice has told me our next couple of hikes are going to be easier. Sounds good to me, more time for picture taking!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Thursday, June 7, 2007

No chimping allowed

Don’t ask me why or how but the great minds at Sports Shooter have declared Saturday June 9th as national “No Chimping Day”. For those scratching their heads “chimping” is the act of reviewing your digital photos on the camera’s LCD screen. It amazes me that people actually care about stuff like this but we as photographers are encouraged not to “chimp” this Saturday. And to everyone who read this posting that is two minutes of your life you are not getting back.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Artful eats

I had been talking to a fellow photographer about shooting in black and white a lot lately. Black and white photography can lend an artful touch to studies of shape, form, shadow and light.

However there are still times that color is the only way to go. It is the color that makes the image even if it is a nearly monochrome image.

I was out shooting the Wednesday farmers market and the abundance of color led me to some close-ups of the colorful foods. They might have looked good in black and white but they look great in color.

Under pressure

So there I am trying to heckle the editor while she is leading a training session for some of our new interns. What better way to annoy the editor and test job security than taking her picture. She managed to weave my appearance into her lesson with words like “ridiculous”, “blog” and “camera”. Ok, no pressure I just kept shooting until she changed the subject. Just remember to never let them see you sweat when you are behind the camera.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Hello Clarice"

You know things are going bad when the pet of the week starts licking his chops at first sight of the camera. He just sat there with that hungry look on his face. I bet he was thinking photographers should be served with fava beans and a nice Chianti.