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Focus sessions are Free and take place in our store from 9:30 am – 10:15 am. Focus Sessions are mini classes and discussions and classes about photography. All sessions will allow for questions and answers. Please bring your camera and any images along that you have questions about. Please share your thoughts for future focus sessions in the comment box below.
No RSVP necessary – Free for everyone – Please bring a friend!
December 2nd – Photo Expo Saturday – Early Bird Specials
December 9th – Christmas Light Photography
December 16th – Panasonic’s Rick Gerrity presents ‘Home Sweet Home’
December 23rd – Breakfast with Santa
December 30th – Bring in Your Best Photo from 2017
These are free events – bring a friend along if you’d like.
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At least twice a year, Cecil Holmes says farewell to home base in Huntsville, Alabama, and heads out to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. While he’s there, he also makes the four-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park, where he complements the wildlife and landscapes he photographed in the Tetons with the geysers and geothermal pools (and yes, more wildlife) found in Yellowstone.
While photographers can find different attractions to document in the parks depending on the season, Cecil enjoys the late spring for his national park adventures. “These images were all taken in June, when there’s still snow on the mountains, the temperature is warming up a bit, and the crowds haven’t built up yet,” he explains. “Plus, as the snow melts and it starts getting warmer, the wildflowers come out in full force.”
This time around, Cecil packed his Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and SP 150-600mm VC G2 lenses to ensure he could capture every photographic opportunity the parks threw his way. “In the Tetons, the 24-70 is the perfect landscape lens,” he says. “And the 150-600 is indispensable as a compact wildlife lens. I’ve got everything I need to document the entire trip with just these two tools.”
Here, Cecil walks us through seven images he took on his latest trip, as well as how he used the lenses to capture them.
In this case, we happened to see a group of bison on the side of the road and jumped out. I had my camera on auto ISO (and I usually shoot everything in Aperture Priority), so I set the aperture for F/8. The camera selects the shutter speed based on the auto ISO, so I set the auto ISO to a maximum range and then indicated to the camera I wanted a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th sec. It adjusted the ISO based on the light from that point. That’s really the best way if you’re doing a “run and gun” approach as you’re cruising along, because if you have too slow a shutter speed and the bison moves, it will ruin the shot with motion blur.
I tried to place some of the grass and reeds in front of the pronghorn in the frame as an appealing visual element. When people think of wildlife photography, they often think strictly of the animal in front of the camera. But for a more compelling photo, it’s important to incorporate as much of the animal’s environment as possible. I was able to blur out the foreground a bit, as well as the background, which gives the photo a bit of three-dimensionality and makes my subject pop.
We attended a birds of prey show here, and it was a controlled environment where we could get fairly close to the raptors. They bring each bird out every two or three shows so it doesn’t get too stressed. I’d never been to a show like this, so I brought along my 150-600. I decided to put it to best use by stepping back a bit and capturing some tight headshots.
This photo was of a bald eagle named River, in what one could call its teenage years, before it had lost its brown feathers and morphed into the white eagle we’re used to seeing. It had just dipped into a bathing pool and was trying to dry off, which is why its feathers look so ruffled. The crisp sharpness of the 150-600 allowed me to capture every detail in every feather, and I blurred out the background to get that eye-catching color contrast of brown and green.
Typically when you’re shooting waterfalls, light is your enemy—you don’t want very much of it, because you want a longer shutter speed to get that smooth, creamy effect in the water. The light was really starting to fade at this point, so I used a 25-second exposure at F/8. If I’m photographing a waterfall in the daytime, I’ll shoot at F/16 to get a lower shutter speed, but in this case I didn’t need that low shutter speed— I needed to get my aperture open enough to get a shutter speed that wasn’t going to be minutes long. The 24-70 really came through for me in this low-light situation.
Luckily, I had just enough breeze so that the steam was moving. I was standing right on the boardwalk next to it, and I got down and put my camera as low and close to the pool as I could get it without actually touching anything—you don’t want to scald your equipment! I was trying to capture a sunstar (you can see the sun poking out from behind the cloud in the upper right), but I wasn’t able to get it. Because of that, and because the light wasn’t great, I decided to see what would happen if I turned it into a black-and-white photo. That changed everything. It created a mood I wasn’t seeing in color, and it brought out the textures, patterns, and contrasts of the pool and surrounding area.
It’s essential to use a polarizer for an image like this. If you don’t, you’re going to get reflections off the water and won’t be able to see all of those colors and details beneath the surface.
Right at sunrise, sunlight started to peek out and hit the barn. And then, for about three minutes, this amazing double rainbow appeared that stretched from the John Moulton Homestead to the T.A. Moulton Barn about a quarter-mile down Mormon Row. After that, the sun disappeared and it was gloomy for the rest of the day. Only about 10 photographers were out that morning to witness it, as opposed to the 30 or 40 who might usually be out and about. For someone like me who doesn’t live in the area, this was a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
To see more of Cecil Holmes’ work, go to www.cecilsphotos.com.
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The Omnicharge 20 is a new portable charger, offering many features that makes it stand out compared to your average smartphone charger. But how well does it do the job? To answer this question, Harold took the Omnicharge home with him and tried it out for himself. Here’s what he thought:
“Having tried many battery and portable inverter options over the years, I decided to give the Omnicharge a try. In terms of options to charge a variety of items, the Omnicharge does not disappoint…
When I first saw the Omnicharge 20, I thought I was simply looking at a larger version of a standard smartphone or tablet battery pack / charger. But looks can be deceiving, and the more I checked it out, the more features I discovered.
First, the capacity is significant… 20,400 mAh. Without delving into the numbers, that’s more than 5x the capacity of a standard portable charger, and is listed as being enough battery capacity to pretty much charge a laptop once, up to 9 full smartphone charges, or up to 8 full tablet charges.
Output ports include a 3-prong AC/HVDC (high-voltage DC) 3-prong socket, 2 x USB ports, a co-ax (i.e. “barrel”) DC port, and even a Qi wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones. A status screen (OLED) shows basically everything you need to know about it… battery capacity, charge time remaining, battery temperature, which ports are active, DC port setting, AC port setting, wireless device charging, etc. A menu can also be displayed to allow configuring the Omnicharge; that can be controlled with the power button, the USB power button, and the AC power button. As I went through the options I could see that every aspect of the device (except the USB ports) has multiple functions. I found the Quick Start Guide to be rather sparse, but found useful information on the manufacturer’s website: http://omnicharge.co.
To charge the Omnicharge 20, you can use the included AC adapter, or you can use the supplied USB-to-DC cable to charge it using USB-compatible AC/DC adapters you may already have for your smartphone / tablet / camera, or you can even charge it with a solar charger; the Omnicharge can accept DC from 4.5volts to 36volts. This means it can be charged at home, in a car, or even outside where no pluggable power source is available.
Unlike other portable electronics, the charging port can even be used to charge the Omnicharge or it can be used to charge devices from the Omnicharge. There is a menu option to tell the charger how to use the DC port, and even what output voltage to use. NOTE: Before setting up the DC output port, it’s important to know the voltage rating for whatever devices will be plugged in. This info is usually either on the device or on the power adapters that come with the devices. If not sure, best to contact the device manufacturers.
After making sure the Omnicharge 20 was fully charged (approximately 2-3 hours to charge from zero), I started “plugging” away…
I opted to test the Omnicharge 20 Pro kit, as it comes with a set of cables / connectors to charge a variety of laptops from Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft and Apple through the DC output port. After turning on the unit, I set the DC port to provide 20volts output, plugged the supplied MagSafe2 (Apple) adapter into the Omnicharge and the laptop, and watched it go. IMPORTANT: Before configuring DC output power, make sure you identify the voltage needed for your device… either from your device’s AC adapter (look for DC output voltage), or from the manufacturer; if unsure, always check with the manufacturer. The MagSafe2 plug displayed its orange light to show it was charging the laptop. While using the computer, the battery percentage indicator showed the charging progress. After about 40 minutes, the laptop battery went from about 25% charged to 98%. Nice.
I turned the unit off and made sure the DC port was ready for input. After re-charging the Omnicharge, I decided to give it more of a challenge. I took an older Apple computer (one without the MagSafe2), and went to charge it using its AC adapter. While the Omnicharge uses a sine-wave inverter (tech talk for saying you can plug an AC-powered item into a DC power source) to provide the 120volts AC to charge your device, it can also be configured to output 150volts DC via the same port… not something that would ever occur to many of us. ****IMPORTANT**** This should only be set if you know for sure that your AC adapter uses a switching power supply that can take the higher input voltage!! For camera chargers and other basic electronics, or if simply not sure, stay with the standard 120volt AC setting!! Using the wrong setting can damage your devices. For the older Apple laptop, both options worked, so I used the higher voltage DC setting. The display indicates whether it is set for AC or HVDC (high-voltage DC), so you can see at a glance if you have it set right.
The Omnicharge can charge multiple devices at the same time, and it keeps tabs on the charger / battery temperature. If it gets too stressed or too hot, it shuts down. The output and temperature are constantly shown on the display, and it enables a fan to help dissipate any heat. While I was charging the older laptop, I plugged in my smartphone to charge it at the same time. The Omnicharge balanced the output accordingly. The specs say it can be plugged in / charged while charging other devices… so I plugged it in, and it continued to perform. The temperature gauge showed it getting up to about 113 degrees, but it never got too warm to touch.
Independent of the other testing, I have also repeatedly plugged camera chargers into the AC port (configured for 120volt AC), and found it so much more convenient to have the Omnicharge nearby than to find an available wall socket to accommodate the camera charger.
The Omnicharge 20 packs a lot of features into a small package, and yet is a much simpler / flexible portable power solution than I have used before.”
Oren Helbok has been fascinated with trains since he was a kid growing up in the Bronx, when he’d head down to the local tracks with his dad, a skilled amateur photographer, and have picnic suppers. “My first photo was of a steam train, taken when I was 6 years old,” he says. “I was completely swept away by the engines.”
Today, Oren’s fascination continues, and he now regularly heads out between 60 to 70 days a year to photograph the steam trains near his home in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. “The Strasburg Rail Road, which is the oldest continuously running short-line railroad in the country, is only about two hours south of me, and there are a number of other railroads that also operate steam,” he says.
When he was a boy, the trains were all about the hardware. “Now that I’m older, I’ve realized the thing that’s most important about the trains is the people who are doing the work,” he says. “So while I still enjoy capturing pictures of the trains themselves, I also want there to be some connection to either the landscape, the places they’re traveling through, or the people working on the trains.”
Oren recently spent a full day at the Strasburg site with the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 VC wide-angle lens. “This lens was recommended to me by a fellow photographer who said if I was looking for a stellar wide-angle lens, this was the one to try,” he says. “And it’s the best there is. What I was looking for was a super-wide-angle lens that I could use in a locomotive cab. I wanted to capture these guys at work, and I needed something that could get as much of that small space from inside as possible. The F/2.8 maximum aperture helps me out when the lighting isn’t great, and the Vibration Compensation (VC) feature is indispensable to counteract the movement on the train. Steam locomotives don’t ride like Cadillacs—they tend to bounce around, so the VC is infinitely helpful.”
Although he’s not trying to fool anyone into thinking his images are from another era, he does try to lend them a historical feel by eliminating modern distractions. “If I’m out in the middle of the landscape, for example, I’ll go out of my way to avoid a billboard or taking a shot right from the side of the highway, unless there’s some kind of story I can tell about how that train comes through that particular landscape,” he says.
As for how he photographs the people in his train photos, Oren tries to stay unobtrusive and captures many of his images from the back or the side, where his subjects’ faces aren’t in full view. “That’s not to dehumanize the work that’s being done, but to depersonalize it,” he says. “What I mean is, a photo isn’t necessarily about one particular person—that person stands for all of the people throughout the history of steam railroading who’ve done this job. I try to make my photos somewhat timeless that way.”
He did that with one crew member standing with his back to Oren. “That guy had been at work just 30 minutes, but it was August and one of the hottest, muggiest days I’d ever experienced down by the trains,” he says. “It was brutal. He’d already sweated right through his shirt. I wanted to show that aspect of the job without the distraction of his face or expression. I let the sweat speak for itself.”
Oren enjoys showing the workers in their element, including when they’re hosing down and detailing the cars (a.k.a. the “spit-and-polish” job) and shoveling the coal. “The tight spaces I show here is exactly why I needed this 15-30 lens,” he says. “I wanted to capture as much of what’s going on as possible in a very small piece of real estate. I needed the big, wide view that the 15-30 offers.”
Every month, a locomotive undergoes what’s called a boiler wash, which is when the crew cleans out any accumulated gunk. “When you put water into a boiler and heat it up, if there’s any crud in that water, it can separate out and end up coating the surfaces,” Oren explains. “That gunk blocks various orifices you don’t want blocked and makes everything less efficient, so once a month they have to open up all of those plugs and wash the boiler out.”
The man seen here had just finished up that job. “I shot this in the engine house, so there was a significant amount of light coming from behind him from the building’s large windows on the left-hand side,” Oren says. “There were also some fluorescent fixtures running across the ceiling, but by this time of day, with the other track empty and no engine sitting there, the light was able to come in unimpeded. That helped give me just the right illumination I needed for this image.”
Sometimes Oren is even lucky enough to get some steam in the shot. “The photo of one of the crew working on top of the train was taken in perfect conditions for that kind of thing,” he explains. “With steam in particular, cold weather is best, as well as humidity. It was a seriously hot day, so I didn’t have that cold, but the air was so humid it couldn’t absorb anything else. That meant the steam, instead of vanishing, simply hung in the air.”
Of course, he also had to grab a shot of the person at the top of the train crew hierarchy. “The engineer is the one who’s in charge,” he says. “He’s got his hand on the throttle and is the one who gets to drive the engine.” This was another chance for Oren to hold his camera outside the car as the engineer peered out of his own window, offering a more intimate environmental portrait. “At this railroad, they’re trying to provide a very particular experience for their customers, without modern items getting in the way,” Oren notes. “That’s why this engineer looks like he could’ve stepped out of another time period. All of the guys who work here dress the part and look authentic. Maybe once in a while you’ll see a crew member with keys attached to a caribiner, but that’s about as anachronistic as it’ll get.”
Another experiment Oren’s been dabbling in: capturing pictures of the landscape while he’s riding in the train. “I won’t look through the viewfinder in those cases, but rather hang the camera out over the gate and either use Live View or just shoot away and hope for the best, based on what I’d already seen with my own eyes,” he says. “In this one in particular, you not only have the lines of the railroad car itself, but the lines in that field next to the train car. In Lancaster County, there are a lot of Amish farms, and they regularly plow their fields and create those lines. The VC on the 15-30 was critical here to keep everything sharp.”
Capturing the whole train itself against the context of the landscape is another way Oren put the 15-30 to the test. “I had set myself the challenge of going out the entire day with that one lens, and using it not only in tight spaces, but also in wide-open areas,” he says. “I wanted to make the most of it in completely different situations. So yes, I show a train here, but it’s a train against that landscape, with that huge sky filled with cumulus clouds. That gives a whole new angle to the story I’m trying to tell.”