The current Readers Photo Challenge assignment didn’t have a specific subject but rather it was open to any subject from the previous assignments. In other words, readers were encouraged to send in their best pictures of whatever they wanted. From sunsets and close-ups to flowers and animals, whatever piqued their interests.

Fourteen readers sent in 126 photos. Here are some of the top picks:

• Rick Wilmot of Lodi revisited the night photography assignment when he photographed 2 palm trees illuminated by parking lot lights at the Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento. Wilmot has entered the challenge previously and usually uses a Canon 5D Mk III DSLR camera, but for this shot he used a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. The trees’ fronds boldly radiate out from their trunks and set against the black night sky almost look like fireworks exploding in the air.

• Susan Scott of Stockton was on an Audubon field trip to the nature area at Lodi Lake in Lodi. She used a Canon Rebel DSLR camera to photograph a deer in the underbrush to revisit the landscape challenge. When Smith first spotted it the surrounding vegetation blocked much of her view, but she remained patient and waited for the deer to slowly move into an opening. I liked how the backlighting gives the photo a soft, quiet feel and the way she used the trees and vegetation to frame the deer.

• Carrie Walker did everything that you need to get a great outdoor portrait. With her Sony Cyber Shot DSC f828 point-and-shoot digital camera, she got in close and filled the frame with her 5-year-old niece Billie Walker as they waited to go to school at her home in Stockton. Carrie Walker made sure there was a simple, clean and distraction-free background. She took advantage of the flattering, warm morning light to illuminate her niece. I like how the girl’s hair partially covers her face in almost a veil-like fashion. It gives the image a feeling of introspection and thoughtfulness that’s rare in pictures of children.

• Tom LaBounty of Stockton used a Fujifilm X-Pro2 mirrorless digital camera to redo the indoor light challenge. He photographed Carlos Caro performing with Simon Rowe's Latin Project at the Take 5 Jazz Club at Valley Brew in Stockton. Images of musicians are often best when they capture the emotion and feeling of the music and the people who make it. LaBounty caught Caro as he played the conga drums being swept up by the beauty of the sounds that he was creating.

• Carolyn Silva of Jackson showed that you do not always need a studio full of elaborate lighting gear to create a great photo. Sometimes all you need is a kitchen. Silva bought an arrangement of flowers at the San Andreas Farmers Market. She randomly placed them on her kitchen counter and later during dinner saw the shot. An overhead light shined down on the flowers sitting on the granite countertop. The light falls off quickly yet gracefully leaving the background a deep black, which the flowers’ colors pop out against. The relatively harsh light from above creates a sharp, well-defined shadow on the counter, which adds to the composition. Silva photographed the scene with her Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

• Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton revisited the reflection assignment with imagination and cleverness. With her Nikon D90 DSLR camera she photographed a selfie of sorts by placing a cracked mirror on the ground and taking a picture of herself from above. There’s sort of a “through the looking glass” vibe to it with the inclusion of her feet on the “real” side of the glass.

As always there will be a gallery of all the photos sent in at A new Readers Photo Challenge assignment will be posted in two weeks, on Oct. 6.

— Contact photographer Clifford Oto at (209) 546-8263 or Follow him at