Photograph the Band – November 30th – Event Sponsored by Sony – Plus Chance to Win an A7RII

Join Bergen County Camera and Sony at the Cornerstone in Hillsdale, NJ for a private concert photography event. Learn how to shoot photos of a live band while you enjoy the music. Arrive at 6:30pm to pick up your backstage pass so you can enter our private room. Sony will have the latest cameras and lenses for you to try out during the night. Sean McNally and Company will perform a 2 hour set with plenty of time to get the perfect shot! Enjoy some light refreshments and a fun evening filled with music and photography!

Each attendee will receive a gift card for $100 off the purchase of a Sony DSLR or lens purchase of $500 or more.

 One lucky attendee will win a Sony A7R II – a $2900 value!

Free to attend – Limited space available – Registration required

Must be 21 or older to attend this event.

To register, please click here.

Using the Omnicharge 20 – First Impressions and Review

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 at Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road with the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8

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 Helbok

24mm, F/2.8, 1/200th sec., ISO 1600

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.”

© Oren Helbok

25mm, F/9, 1/200th sec., ISO 640

© Oren Helbok

19mm, F/8, 1/200th sec., ISO 640

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.”

© Oren Helbok

30mm, F/2.8, 1/320th sec., ISO 2500

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.”

© Oren Helbok

30mm, F/7.1, 1/1000th sec., ISO 250

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.” 

© Oren Helbok

30mm, F/11 1/250th sec, ISO 200

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.”

© Oren Helbok

15mm, F/10, 1/400th sec., ISO 1000

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.” 

© Oren Helbok

15mm, F/13, 1/400th sec., ISO 400
The railway’s bicentennial is coming up in 2032, and Oren is already in prep mode. “It’s going to be quite the party,” he says. “I’m extremely fortunate that I have so many options in steam railroading within a couple of hours of my home. I’ll have my camera ready!” 

To see more of Oren Helbok’s work, go to his website https://www.wheresteamlives.net/ or Facebook www.facebook.com/oren.helbok/photos.

Dominic Cox Documents New York City with his Arsenal of Tamron Lenses

Dominic Cox grew up in the heart of New York City, with two parents who were artists and a penchant for people-watching. “I grew up with some of the best scenes in the world before my eyes,” he says. “I couldn’t draw or paint like my parents, but I soon realized that the camera allowed me to record what I observed. I’m still interested in documenting so many different things: city streets, the people in them, the beach and ocean, cars, boats, planes. I just keep my camera ready and wait for what unfolds.”

When it comes to portraits of people on the street, Dominic strives for authenticity. “There was once a photographer who said that all photographers are voyeurs,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s an absolute truth, but I do know I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that yes, I’m definitely a voyeur—but not in a creepy way. I don’t like to take photos of people who are posed and perfect, but I do try for pictures you wouldn’t be ashamed to see yourself in if I showed you. I’m trying to show something honest.” 

When he’s out roaming the streets, Dominic brings his Tamron SP 70-200mm VC, SP 15-30mm VC, SP 150-600mm VC, SP 35mm F/1.8 prime and SP 85mm F/1.8. “I love the versatility I can achieve with these lenses in my bag,” he says. “The 15-30 is one of my favorites recently, and I’ve barely scratched the surface with it. And I appreciate the fact that Tamron is adding image stabilization across their line, especially since most of what I shoot is handheld using available light. I have to shoot this way. Not only is it difficult to carry a tripod around (many places won’t let you in with one), but I like to be able to have spontaneous movement, cut angles, get low. I don’t want another piece of equipment I have to drag along with me, because it would just slow me down.”

Dominic tries to balance his subjects and their environment, with his subjects taking center stage. “I have my favorite range of apertures and a distance I naturally shoot from,” he explains. “If I’m shooting on a city street, I’m not necessarily trying to blur everything out so you don’t know the person’s in an urban environment. For instance, high-end fashion photographers might take a picture of a model in an amazing gown in a back alley somewhere in the Meatpacking District, and they’ll shoot wide open and get close so they can blur out all the trash and other distracting elements, which I can appreciate in those circumstances. However, when I shoot, I want to show the background, as well as make the subject and the foreground stand out. I never tire of looking at a photo with an urban backdrop. For that reason, F/2.8 is one of my favorite apertures to use. It borders on documentary, because I’m documenting a specific place and a specific time.”

Dominic usually doesn’t know beforehand where he’s going to end up—or what photos he’s going to end up with. “I’m somewhat of a nomadic wanderer, though I will stay in a particular area for a while, just to observe and let things happen,” he says. “I want people to fall into my frame, for someone to show up pure and unaware. I want to capture the essence of the person without having them pose, and that 70-200 lens especially helps me stay unobtrusive so I can do that.”

Whether he concentrates on color or black-and-white photos is something Dominic tries to decide before he heads out. “I like to mix my work up,” he says. “Even on my Instagram, I’ll post three color photos, then alternate those with three black-and-white photos. I like black and white because it focuses your attention on expressions and textures more, on the light and shadows, whereas with color, it’s how we see things every day. I almost feel like you have to up your photography game to show the emotion you see in black-and-white photos in a color image, because you’ve got the color existing as an added distraction if you don’t shoot it right.” 

Dominic finds himself on his photo walks at almost any time of the day. “Of course I appreciate the so-called golden hour in the mornings and late afternoon/early evenings,” he says. “But in the morning I’m usually out for a ride on my bike or doing some other form of physical activity (it’s when I’m the most motivated), and in the early evening, I’m a homebody who likes to have dinner and watch a movie with my wife. So I do find myself out and about in the midafternoon in the harsh sunlight, and I actually enjoy it. I like the challenge of working with different apertures and shutter speeds to get the desired results, of trying to create an appealing photo in demanding conditions. Anyone can take a photo when the ideal lighting is present. But try doing it when the clouds are going back and forth in between the buildings, when the light is constantly changing. That’s when you feel like you’re creating magic.”

Dominic talks about eight images he recently took in his hometown with his arsenal of Tamron lenses:

© Dominic Cox
30mm – f/3.2 – 1/320 – ISO 800

I saw this scene first at the ground level. This is a bar on the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, right on the Hudson. I walked up from the riverside and saw the people milling about and thought it exemplified just hanging out in the city. I didn’t want to take the picture straight on, though, so I went up to the top of the building and shot down instead with my 15-30. I thought it was a more interesting vantage point, and it also offered a bit of anonymity as well. I liked the contrast of the lines of the metal gate leading down into the pattern of the hexagons below. 

© Dominic Cox
200mm – f/2.8 – 1/500 – ISO 100

This was a vendor in an outdoor flea market, and as soon as I saw him I thought, “Wow, I’ve got to photograph this guy.” He looked like a model you’d see in a Gap or Old Navy ad, with that tattoo under his clavicle reading, “Sometimes I imagine being free.” I also loved all of the different elements that complemented the photo, including the retro items he was selling. By placing the words “Brooklyn” into the top of the frame, I was also able to establish a place for the photo. I used the 70-200 for this, zooming all the way in to 200mm to capture this candid moment.

© Dominic Cox
200mm – f/3.2 – 1/1600 – ISO 100

I grew up in Washington Square Park, where this photo was taken, and it holds many fond memories for me. I would spend nights in this park, and I recently took a trip back to New York for the purpose of retracing a lot of my footsteps. This guy was a typical New Yorker, sporting a look I’ve seen many times in my own life—he’s wearing those signature boots, for example, which an old friend of mine who was a punk rocker used to wear back in the day. I identify with the look. Plus, the dog reminded me of Toto from the Wizard of Oz. In terms of the fountain, I wanted to add that in to make the image a little more dynamic, but without taking away from my subject. I blurred it out just enough so that the dog owner was still clearly the focus of the photo.

© Dominic Cox
30mm – f/2.8 – 1/800 – ISO 3200

I love black-and-white photography, but sometimes a photo just calls out for color. This night scene of a food stand in New York City was taken on 42nd Street with the Tamron 15-30 as I was heading west from the East Side. Now, I don’t usually eat the type of food you find at food stands like this, because I tend to eat healthier fare, but I wanted to take this photo because it’s the type of fast food that many New Yorkers live off of, even well into the night. I even called this photo “Farm Fresh,” as a tongue-in-cheek reference to what clearly isn’t farm-fresh food. I loved the color of the signs on the stands and the lighting. It wasn’t hard to expose for, since there was enough ambient light. I didn’t want it to be completely exposed anyway—I like the fact that there’s some shadow in the photo. I really wanted the focus to be on the light that was over him, where the steam was rising up over his cooking. Shooting it at 1/800th of a second at F/2.8 did the trick.

© Dominic Cox
200mm – f/2.8 – 1/500 – ISO 640

This photo was taken in Times Square, where I was visiting after more than a year’s absence. I was there for hours with my camera, just waiting for photo opportunities to pop up. I was across the street, under a scaffold trying to stay dry, when I noticed this couple with their baby. You can’t see the dad, who’s behind one of the planters. But the real focus was on the mother and child. The beauty and intimacy of the moment just struck me, especially since the child was the one holding the umbrella while the mother knelt down next to the stroller in the rain. It was a warm, comforting scene. 

© Dominic Cox
200mm – f/5.0 – 1/200 – ISO 100

This photo was taken out of photographer’s envy. It was taken on Fifth Avenue, right near Tiffany and Co., an extremely ritzy area of Manhattan. The woman was a model on location, being fussed over by a team of people. I was across the street with the 70-200mm lens and I was able to steal that shot as the photographers commissioned to take her picture were at work doing the same. It would be a dream for me to have that kind of opportunity in the near future, with a model all styled with hair and makeup, and a team taking care of all the other logistics so I could just concentrate on composition.

© Dominic Cox
180mm – f/2.8 – 1/400 – ISO 100

This woman is a vendor at an outdoor flea market, selling straw bowls, and she was sitting down during a break and taking a call. She happened to look up as I was taking the picture with the 70-200, but it’s not like I asked her to pose, so it still looks natural and authentic. Everything about this scene made for a great color photo, from her flawless, incredible skin to the colorful headwrap she had on to the tapestry of the bag she was carrying. The fact that you can see part of “New York” on the bag also gives a sense of place, like I discussed earlier. Although she was my subject, I wanted the bowls in the image also, so I placed them subtly in the foreground.

© Dominic Cox
35mm – f/1.8 – 1/500 – ISO 100

Louis Mendes is probably one of the most photographed photographers in the world, and a centerpiece of the New York City landscape. I was returning a lens on Ninth Avenue last year, and he was out there taking pictures; he frequently stands in that location and takes people’s portraits for a fee. I spotted him, and he looked so interesting and distinguished, from the way he was dressed to his classic 1940s camera. I walked up to him and started a conversation with him and it led to this portrait with the 35mm. 

To see more of Dominic Cox’s photos, check out his Instagram @PhotographyIsTheMuse.