Customer Spotlight – Greg Koch

 

Welcome to our eleventh Bergen County Camera Customer Spotlight. This monthly posting features a customer who’s made an impression on us. They might have grown in their understanding of photography, gained a mastery of the craft and / or have become a strong advocate of our way of doing business in the world of photography. During the next month you will see this customer’s images displayed on our digital signs in store, in our emails, blog posts and social media.  

Greg Koch is our customer spotlight for the month of February. We hope you both enjoy and are inspired by this new addition to In Focus and look forward to your comments and suggestions. Below you will find a word from Greg, followed by some of his images in the gallery below.

Here is a word from Greg Koch: 

 

Growing up in New Jersey, I have always been passionate about the outdoors.  I spent countless hours as a kid exploring the woods in my family’s backyard, and even more time hiking and fishing in the Adirondack Mountains.  My love of the outdoors can often be seen in the images I create.

 

I received my first camera when I was a freshman in high school.  It was my Mom’s 35mm Cannon AE-1 Program, and an exceptional camera with which to learn the basics of photography.  Using film and being limited to 36 shots really taught me the importance of slowing down to make sure everything was in frame exactly how I wanted it to be before taking the shot.

 

In college I made the switch to digital photography and spent some time living in Florence, Italy where I continued to study photography.  After graduating college, I worked in various financial roles in New York City while pursuing photography as a hobby.  I now work full-time as a photographer in the Northeast, and I am always available to travel! 

 

The work I am currently doing includes capturing the fly-fishing scene in the Northeast, landscapes from my travels, engagement and wedding proposals, and portraits of people I meet along the way.  When not working, I can be found fishing, hiking, hunting, camping and snowboarding.

  

Bergen County Camera has been extremely beneficial over the years, whether it be answering the many questions I have about a lens before purchasing it, or having a 24×36 photograph printed and framed on short notice, BCC has always been there to help me out.  Every person I’ve worked with at BCC has been extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about photography.  Over the years I’ve built a great relationship with both Bob and Jeremy, who offer some of the best customer support imaginable.  When making a large purchase like a new lens, it’s great to be able to sit and chat with them about the product and leave the store knowing I made a great choice.  I cannot imagine going anywhere else for my photography needs.

For more of Greg’s work, check out his instagram at @gregkkoch

The Pretty Side of Cycling (Story by Tamron)

Hernan Rodriguez uses the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC G2 & SP 70-200mm f/2.8 VC G2 lenses to capture the finest sides of a professional female cycling champion, making it more than just about the bike.

Story Contributed by Tamron

 
Here is a brief glimpse into Scotti’s life, which will help set the stage to her personal timeline, shared in these captured images.

Meet Scotti Lechuga: Professional cyclist, wife, mother of two beautiful 6 year old twin boys, fitness coach and coffee addict. She is one of the few mothers in the sport of professional women’s cycling.

Working as a Los Angeles based commercial portrait photographer my work spans from personal commissions to celebrity and editorial assignments. When I was selected to photograph Scotti, it was not merely for my style and artistic vision but also because I shared a deep passion for cycling, stemming from the many years racing in the elite category. “I believe you will understand where I am coming from”, shared Scotti, and that is what essentially sealed the deal. 

Setting the Stage

Since Scotti lives in Arkansas, all the preliminary planning and concepts were discussed over the phone and through emails. Scotti was very direct on some specific shots she wanted to capture from the session. “The rest I leave to your artistic and creative interpretation”, she added. As usual, I created “mood-boards” which displayed the wardrobe, lighting style, studio backgrounds and environmental locations for each shot. This is collaboration between photographer and subject, so I had Scotti email me 15 inspirational pictures she admired. This step also helps ensure the photographer is on the same page as the client. Once Scotti reviewed and approved the boards, we both had a solid idea of what direction we wanted to go with the photo shoot. I also explained to Scotti that these were for reference and inspiration. Many times during a shoot, you might find something that works better, or head in a totally new direction. 

One thing that was certain though, was that we were going to shoot many changes and looks. A classic vintage look, two sophisticated fashion looks, a hybrid shot of cyclist meets fashion, two looks that revealed Scotti’s inner person, and of course, two looks with Scotti and bike. She also arrived with two beautiful carbon fiber bike frames granted by her professional sponsor. This one I thought we would have fun with and make it more of a conceptual shot. She agreed. 

Tamron 24-70
For the most part, I used the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC, for the versatility of its zoom range, which allowed me to cover the various shots we had planned. All except for the tight sophisticated beauty shot, in which I used the Tamron 90mm. I usually will use the Tamron 70-200 for the majority of my fashion work, but since I was shooting full length and ¾ shots combined with a bike and frames, I thought the 24-70 would be a better fit. This lens alone would also cover that 45mm – 50mm range, which is great for full-length fashion and environmental portraits. I also had just received the new lens two days prior, so I was very excited to see the new added features and upgrades. I was shooting many setups with both strobes and continuous lighting, so the lens would have to perform well through the varying f/stops. The fast f/2.8 would also assure the option of creating beautiful creamy backgrounds, and keeping the focus on Scotti. 

One thing I find concerning or rather important when shooting fashion and portraits with continuous lighting, is finding the best camera setting combination allowing me to create clean sharp images. You are bumping up the ISO, dragging the shutter speed to very slow speeds, or opting to use a tripod, which sometimes can disrupt the flow of the photo shoot. This mid-size powerhouse lens performed way beyond my expectations. It allowed me to keep the ISO to a minimum of 100, while relying rather on the Vibration Compensation feature to compensate for the low light. I found myself easily dragging the shutter speed 4 stops, while going hand-held to 1/15th of a second on Scotti’s Vintage setup, which was shot with one “hot-light”. 

Tamron was the first in the market to have a vibration compensation option for a 24-70mm lens, and this “next generation” G2 has just gotten better. With the quick focus, even under low-lighting conditions, I was able to work freely with Scotti, covering a range of poses as we moved and talked throughout her session. This allowed me to capture honest and less contrived expressions. It is a practice I use which can be helpful to both portrait and fashion photographers. 

It Takes A Team

Leading up to the shoot, I usually start by building up my core team, which is integral to the success of the photo shoot. They consist of makeup artist, hairdresser, wardrobe specialist and a personal assistant. This assistant will sometimes work on specific needs I might have and will also delegate certain instructions to the rest of the assistants when they may be needed. Certain tasks might involve shopping, catering, music, grip, and more.

Prepping For The Shoot

Once we agreed on the storyboards, the next step was preparing the stage for the various setups. This is not any different to when I shoot my celebrity portraits. This preparation is extremely important as it helps keep a constant flow throughout the day, and it also leaves less room for error. During this process, I will usually test my equipment along with my lighting gear and make sure everything is working and up to par. As far as lenses go, from my years of experience, I will usually know which lenses I will be using. In this case, since we were shooting in that mid-range focal length, I was very certain the Tamron 24-70 would be all I’d need for the session. I also buy new batteries for all of my triggers, and I pre-cut any Rosco filters for the shots that will be customized for the use of color. I make sure all of my digital media cards are formatted and ready to shoot. If I am shooting tethered, I pretest to make sure all communication channels are working. One last thing I do the day before the shoot is to create a “Call Time” sheet which specifies everyone’s contact information, location of shoot, everyone’s arrival time and lunch break. This can be a time saver and a lifesaver as well. 

Step 1: The first step I take is to breakdown the storyboards into groups that will have the same type of lighting style. Here I can also determine further if it will be grouped with flash or continuous lighting setup. I usually will pre-test the day before and I also will have an accompanying notepad with settings, including ISO, exposure and color filter selection noted along with custom white balance notes. I might also keep a custom white balance CF card for each setup, which allows me to keep consistent color from set to set. 

Step 2: Here I determine the background selections for each setup and the accompanying wardrobe, whether casual or upscale. I usually will use a wide range of solid colored seamless paper from Savage Universal. In my opinion it keeps the focus on the subject and maintains a sense of timelessness. I will also use one setup for a classic portrait appeal, using a custom painted canvas by www.seamless.com. This background will usually be set back far enough from the subject, and shot with a shallow depth of field. I usually will shoot this at f/3.2. I also have a setup for black and white, which will have a higher lighting ratio to create more contrast and pop.

Step 3: In my opinion, this is the most important point to note. Make the client as comfortable as possible. Not only physically comfortable in the studio, but just as important is gaining the trust of your subject. Usually everyone’s a little apprehensive about that initial shot. This was Scotti’s first professional photo shoot, so we dialogued a lot and I made sure she was not feeling rigid throughout her shoot. The dialogue helps the subject get out of their headspace, where they might tend to overthink things. This will translate to very rigid posing. The tendency is for the subject to usually go to the “cliché” hand on the hip pose. I will tend to pose less and let the subject fall into their natural body language expression. I just then slightly refine the pose by repositioning hands and feet, or head tilt. As you will see in the example images of Scotti, her expressions are natural and her poses are fluid.

A Pro On And Off The Bike 

We covered multiple wardrobe changes for Scotti, so I will share some of the standout images of the session, and the specifics of the shot.

Tech Notes: In all of the setups where flash was required, I used a Dynalite Kit, which consisted of 3 power packs. 1 RP1600, 1 MP800, and 1 MP400, in combination with the RoadMax Series Heads and the SR3200 Ring Flash. 2 Portable Baja’s were used on location. 

Setup 1. Was our “Ice-breaker” Shot. I wanted to have Scotti be as natural and comfortable as possible. For wardrobe we selected something a bit understated as to let her expressions dominate the portrait. I had Scotti wear a free flowing white tank top and black fitted athletic pants. This allowed her to show some of her fitness as well as her personality. Her low cut boots gave the outfit a fashionable appeal. 

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 50mm, f/6.3, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

We began in a white studio cove and lit the background with 4 flash heads. Two bare bulb flash heads were placed one on top of the other and bounced off of a V-Flat on each side, for an even spread of light. All four lights metered f/11 on the background. This was 1 EV above the key light. The key light was a large Westcott Zeppelin Parabolic without diffusion. This light metered f/8. For fill, I used two flash heads placed in a reflective umbrella directly behind me on each side. This was a combined exposure of f/7.1.

The Tamron 24-70mm allowed me to capture a series of shots that varied in focal length. Most often I use the Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8, but by using a shorter focal length, I was able to stay closer in proximity to Scotti, which allowed us to interact more intimately. It’s great when you also need to direct the subject through a variety of poses. I was also able to quickly shift between full-length shots, to ¾ horizontals for an asymmetrical look, which gave us the option of using it as a website banner.

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 70-200mm, 11mm, f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

Setup 2. The second shot was a variation of the first setup. By placing a black V-Flat directly behind Scotti, I was able to quickly switch to a more classic sophisticated look. The lighting setup was kept exactly the same. I had Scotti change into a cobalt blue blouse, which really made her eyes stand out. I wanted this series of images to display her confidence and strength while still showing her femininity. Nothing changed in relation to lighting and exposure. This made for a quick transition with a completely new look for Scotti.

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 63mm, f/7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

Setup 3. The next shot was also setup to have an easy transition, with a slight lighting variation and background change. A quick setup of a Savage Gray seamless paper on stands was placed behind Scotti. The key light was kept the same with the Westcott Zeppelin Parabolic. We kept the same distance and power to maintain consistent lighting at f/8. I also wanted to create an overall open fill, so instead of using the two umbrellas for fill, I used a 72”x72” Westcott Scrim Jim in its place. I simply just placed two Dynalite flash heads set far enough behind the scrim, to create my fill using the full size of the scrim. This light quality was smooth, similar as to a large bay window. It also gave me just enough detail and separation from a black bike against a gray background. Since this setup was to be shot full-length with Scotti’s bike, we needed to make sure we had plenty of space around the scene, as to create a clean image that could be used for advertising or editorial purposes. Most photographers make the mistake of viewing the shot through the lens, and crop in too tight. This limits the image from being used for multiple purposes. You also have to make certain the transition of light onto the subject and background are smooth and consistent.

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 50mm, f/6.3, 1/125, ISO 125

The Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 was the best lens option for creating this series of shots. I was able to choose my angle of view, and varied my focal length from 45mm-70mm range for these particular shots. Since the bike was positioned behind Scotti, I also wanted to secure an accurate perspective. I also captured tighter shots by simply walking closer to Scotti, while maintaining my focal length at 70mm. This series of images were some of my favorite shots of Scotti. It presented her as she truly is – A female professional cyclist with a great sense of fashion.

Variation – Since the background and lighting style of this setup covered many looks we had storyboarded, I simply had Scotti jump into two more changes to keep the flow of our day fluid. The wardrobe, posing and expressions are what varied for these shots.

I had Scotti change into a fun expressive outfit to show off some of her funk and “cool” side. Most people might think female cyclists don’t have a life outside of their bikes, or just don’t have a good sense of fashion, but Scotti was the complete opposite. She was fun, possessed a great sense of fashion and was very assertive in her choices. I wanted to show some of that in this next series. I directed Anthony, my makeup artist, to create a bolder look by adding more depth to her eyes, and a bold red lip color. Her hair was also pulled back into a stylish knot. For wardrobe, Scotti changed into jeans with a black sports top, and layered on top was a white mesh athletic jacket that completed the look. I took a series of ten quick shots, which completed this wardrobe change.

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 44mm, f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

The Tamron 24-70 rendered amazing accuracy on the representation of skin tones. To any portrait, beauty and fashion photographer, that is the number one objective. Making sure the color balance is accurate, and the dynamic range in the skin carries enough latitude. I was very impressed. I am sure you can find a lot of literature on these specs for the 24-70, but in my testing, I am sharing this through these portraits. 

Setup 4. The next shot was to capture Scotti the “mother.” Not much change here again. Since this shot was Scotti and her twin boys, all I needed to do was to pull back the large parabolic to allow more spread of light onto three subjects. I also increased the power on my Dynalite pack to compensate for the loss of light. I took a final meter reading to f/11 for light consistency. 

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 48mm, f/6.3, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

My Tamron 24-70mm was quick to focus and also gave me the ability to adjust my focal length constantly. I turned off the VC feature for most of my studio shots, since the flash was enough to keep images sharp and my shutter speed also was high enough to keep tack sharp images. 

NOTE: When shooting under mixed lighting conditions, continuous lighting and natural light, I will keep the Vibration Compensation on. Though I will be using flash, I also keep my shutter speed very low to allow ambient exposure. The speeds might vary from 1/15th of a second to 1/60th, depending on the effect and lighting conditions.

I directed Scotti to just have fun with the boys. “Let them hug you, hold onto you, kiss you” I instructed her. I didn’t want anything posed or contrived, so by the constant movement and interaction with her boys, it gave us a great variety of portraits and kept it fluid and organic. By pausing and directing my subjects to pose might have stopped a natural moment from occurring. As a photographer you need to discern when to pose your subjects and when to allow them to just be expressive.

This was really fun for all of us!

Setup 5. Now we step into our fashion segment with Scotti. From our storyboards, we had determined three specific fashion looks. One a vintage change, another a sophisticated look and lastly was a bolder look incorporating color and contrast. 

Vintage. Scotti brought a classic off-white vintage dress, which I thought was perfect for creating a 1940’s style portrait. Hard light, deep shadows with high contrast. To replicate this period, we started with another hair and makeup change. The stylist created a period hairstyle with tight waves of hair pinned closely together. This also framed her face nicely. The makeup contoured her cheeks and a deep rose lip color was used instead of red. 

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 48mm, f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

With the varying lighting scenarios we had set to shoot, I needed a lens that would help control camera shake, especial when shooting under lower-light conditions. The Tamron 24-70mm Vibration Compensation (VC) technology, which allows photographers to shoot as many as five shutter speeds slower than usual when shooting hand-held, allowed me to confidently capture every shot under constantly changing lighting conditions, even with low ambient and continuous lighting. 

I started with the same Savage gray seamless paper, which kept the focus on Scotti and also worked well for black and white conversions. To create that classic Hollywood style portrait, we decided to use just one “hot-light”, just like they did in the Ol’ Days. I really never use these lights as they tend to get extremely hot and are a bit cumbersome, but there was one sitting around the studio, and I thought I’d give it a shot. Because of the extreme heat, we shot this setup in just five minutes. I clipped on a set of barn doors to direct the light. 

While Scotti was in makeup, I turned on the light, did a quick white balance with a SpyderCHECKR gray card, and uploaded it as a custom white balance. The Kelvin for the light was 3200.

Now this is where the Tamron 24-70mm VC is extremely beneficial. With the newly dedicated MPU (micro-processing unit) solely for Vibration Compensation, you have the flexibility of using much slower shutter speeds with the stabilization performance level of 5 stops. 

Due to the heat emitted from the light and to make our subject confortable, we varied the distance of the light to the subject, which also varied our exposure settings. For minimal noise I kept the ISO set at 100, and relied more on the VC feature to compensate for the slow shutter speed. We shot this series in the 1/15th – 1/50th of a second range at f/3.2. The slow shutter speed also allowed me to create a lot of detail in the fabric shadows by picking up some of the weak ambient light for fill. 

Bold Fashion. In our storyboards, I had diagramed a lighting setup with a very specific look we were hoping to create. When I mention, “hoping”, it’s because we had not tested. Most often with my lighting experience, and my familiarity with my equipment and modifiers, I usually am close to the mark. Sometimes it only takes small adjustments, or maybe it’s a starting point for something even more fantastic. Without my sketchpad though, it is very difficult to just arrive at these types of shots.

The inspiration I took from a 1940’s fashion image, which had a high-contrast lighting style. I decided I would light this with a hard and directional light source. For my key light I used a bare Dynalite flash head with a sheet of Rosco Opal diffusion paper to minimize some of the brightness and hard light edge. After a proper white balance, I also added a Rosco Calcolor 15 Cyan filter to create a cool mood. The light was positioned from the side and relatively high up for a more dramatic effect. For the background, I used two more Dynalite flash heads with 36” black and white umbrellas, bounced onto the same Savage gray seamless paper. To create a more graphic image, we added a Rosco Calcolor 60 blue filter on each light. This along with the bolder makeup added on Scotti created our take of a 1940’s vintage fashion look.

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 53mm, f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

Fast and Accurate. Under these low-light studio conditions, the Tamron 24-70mm excelled in capturing focus even after focal length readjustments. This was very apparent in our bold fashion shot, where we were only able to focus with weak modeling light in a dark studio setting. This is in part due to the embedded DSP (digital signal processing) blocks that enable high-speed digital signal processing. We were able to achieve quick responsiveness from the camera’s AF selection point to the lens.

Class and Sophistication. This is how I can describe the last look in this series. Scotti stepped out of wardrobe in a black elegant sheer blouse. Nothing overstated but none-the-less, with a timeless appeal. Her hair was pulled back, which gave notice to the added jewelry Scotti displayed, and a touch of blue eye shadow was added to pronounce her beautiful blue eyes. To add to the timeless appeal, I thought it appropriate to shoot on a white background, and allow the light falloff to add the right amount of depth. I decided to shoot with a Savage Translum white paper roll, which is not 100 percent opaque, but it’s rather more of a velum translucent paper, allowing me to place a flash head behind the paper roll. This created an extra kick of light on the background but not obvious as if I were to use a spotlight directly in front of the background. 

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 70-200mm, 111mm, f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

The lighting was very tight and precise without much movement allowance for my subject. We spent four hours on setup to construct specific lighting characteristics from this look. I wanted to create a lighting style between a classic portrait and the specular quality you might see in fashion photography. I specifically wanted the light focused on the front plane of her face and graduating darker above her forehead. I also did not want an obvious spotlight effect either. 

One thing I found impressive about the Tamron 24-70mm was the flare and ghosting control it offered. The multiple-layer coating techniques of the lens provided superior anti-reflection performance, especially in backlighting portraits as in this particular portrait. I can also see how this lens would be a perfect fit for any product photographer, as it also captured Scotti’s ruby and diamond accessories with sharpness and clarity. Something most commercial photographers strive to accomplish in their work. This is attributed to the new specialized, high quality glass elements. 

For the main light I used a Dynalite flash head with an18” beauty dish, fitted with a grid and fired it through a Westcott Omega reflector. The shape of the reflector served as a gobo to create the shadow around the face, while keeping the brightness in the center of the face. I also used multiple black boards to control the light falloff and block direct light from striking the lower part of Scotti’s dress. The main light was metered at F/11, four feet from my subject. As a fill light, I used two 36” white and black umbrellas metering F/5 each. I varied the contrast throughout this setup by using either one or two fill lights. The fill was set to the left and right of my subject to create non-directional open fill. 

Money Shot. From all of our shot storyboarded, this is the one shot Scottie was counting on as her money shot. She wanted to create an avante-garde fashion shot using her sponsor’s bike frames, which would be able to be used for commercial advertising purposes. The lighting we used was the same, but we added a Dynalite Ring Flash set at a low angle for specular fill. This light was metered 3 stops less than the main light. We also switched our background to black velvet, which really made the frames standout. Scotti also had a makeup change to a bolder and graphic look, adding bright orange eye-shadow and blush to match the bicycle frame. 

© Hernan Rodriguez
SP 24-70mm, 70mm, f/7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 125

The Tamron 24-70mm is such a sophisticated lens and in a class on its own.

Tips for How to Photograph The Super Moon

Tips for Photographing a Super Moon by David Akoubian.
Story Contributed by Tamron
 
The term “Blue” moon is based on the simple idea that 2 full moons occur in a single calendar month. 2018 has 2 months in which we will have 2 “Blue” moons. The one on January 31, 2018 is also a Super Moon, and the second of the month as well. A Super Moon means the position of the moon is closer to the Earth than normally, so it can appear a slight percentage larger in the frame.
 
I’m an old school guy who falls back on manual settings when it comes to photographing a full moon. I remember my mentor telling me that a full moon is the same as shooting in conditions to the old “Sunny 16” Rule. This means set your camera to manual, select an ISO, I like 200 then a shutter speed and aperture that is a reciprocal value of 1/200th of a second at f16. I prefer 1/800th of a second at f8. This will allow me to capture great detail in the moon and have a fast enough shutter speed to steady movement. I will use a tripod usually, but with a high enough shutter speed and Vibration Compensation, handholding the lens is possible. Depending on where you live, atmospheric conditions may dictate opening up a stop because of haze. If that happens I will either adjust the shutter speed to 1/200th or change the ISO to 400. If you are using either Aperture or Shutter Priority, you will need to adjust your exposure compensation to get detail in the moon usually.
My lens of choice is the Tamron SP 150-600mm Di VC USD G2 lens. I will use either a full frame camera or a cropped sensor camera and crop a little to my personal liking during the processing. I like to find objects to place in the foreground to give it a different look as well. The best day to capture the full moon in the early dusk light is the day before the actual full moon occurs or the day after at sunrise.
 
I encourage you to get out and shoot the moon, have fun, get lots of images, find things to place in the foreground, shoot it high in the sky, but go out and have fun!

 

 

 

 ISO 400, F/11, 1/800 sec, 600mm

 

 

 ISO 400, F/8, 1/200th sec, 600mm

 

 

 ISO 100, F/8, 1/15 sec 18mm

 

 ISO 400, F/9, 1/640 sec, 850mm

Free Saturday Focus Sessions – February

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!


Hit the “Like Button” to let your friends know. Have suggestions for future focus sessions? Feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s our upcoming Focus Sessions:

 

January 27th – Flash Photography

February 3rd – North of the Wall – Photo Expedition in Iceland by Daniel Leeb

February 10th – Long Exposure & Night Photography with Johnny O.

February 17th – Photo Assignment Review – Make Something Ugly Beautiful – (Bring in 11×14 prints)

February 24th – Concert Photography with Jeremy

March 3rd –  Indoor Sports with Paul and John

 

These are free events – bring a friend along if you’d like.

Share with your friends on Facebook – Click the Like button below.

Hope you can join us!

Customer Spotlight – Father Anthony Falsarella

 

Welcome to our tenth Bergen County Camera Customer Spotlight. This monthly posting features a customer who’s made an impression on us. They might have grown in their understanding of photography, gained a mastery of the craft and / or have become a strong advocate of our way of doing business in the world of photography. During the next month you will see this customer’s images displayed on our digital signs in store, in our emails, blog posts and social media. We hope you both enjoy and are inspired by this new addition to In Focus and look forward to your comments and suggestions. 

Anthony Falsarella is this month’s customer profile.

Please enjoy a few of Anthony’s images in the gallery below.

Here is a word from Anthony Falsarella: 

Hi, my name is Anthony Falsarella, and I am a fan and customer of BCC. Photography has been a part of my life since I was about 10 when a second-hand Kodak Brownie box camera was given to me to use in order to occupy my summer time. I enjoyed capturing various things and would spend my weekly allowance on film developing and film. I did not get my own camera until I graduated high school, and that was a Canon Canodate rangefinder camera which I still have and use. Jumping forward into the digital photo age came upon me a bit late and I got involved with it in my regular work as a priest and monastic. My specialty is low-light religious art reproduction either for publication and web use or to document a piece for restorative and conservation purposes. I have done work both in the US and abroad in countries like France, Belgium, Poland, and Belarus to name just a few. I do other things for personal enjoyment so I like to think that most niches I can feel comfortable with.

Now you may wonder why I am a fan and customer of BCC, most times having to make a 125-mile round trip to get back and forth to BCC? The answer is quite simple, customer service and the staff’s dedication to making you a better photographer. BCC has among other things has reignited my passion for the printed photo, which to me is very important. Digital photos are nice, but when the file is printed much more comes out. One of the Canon specials that Paul announced after one Focus Session made me decide to upgrade from my old Epson photo printer. Now I have my own fine art printing lab at my disposal and those special prints are made on that using digital fine art papers.

The outings and educational emphasis of BCC to help make all customers better photographers is for me paramount of coming all the way to this store. Networking with other photographers, gaining that one nugget with each encounter that sheds light on improving your craft, and learning from each other. The staff and all the Saturday morning friends help make this easy.

Each year for the past several years, I have had a series of “photography” resolutions for the new year. These resolutions are more like goals. This past year, all my goals or resolutions were met in part of or with the help of BCC and its friends. I have a series of new ones I just started with, one being more involved with film or analog photography in the coming year. I am sure with the knowledge, the used gear, and the processing that is offered at BCC, that will be a goal that will be definitely accomplished.

For more of Anthony’s work, check out his instagram at @anthony.falsarella

Free Saturday Focus Sessions – January

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!


Hit the “Like Button” to let your friends know. Have suggestions for future focus sessions? Feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s our upcoming Focus Sessions:

 

December 30th – Bring in Your Best Photo from 2017

January 6th – Single Light Portraits

January 13th – Winter Photography with Alan Schwab

January 20th – Color Correction with Abby Passman

January 27th – Flash Photography

 

These are free events – bring a friend along if you’d like.

Share with your friends on Facebook – Click the Like button below.

Hope you can join us!

Free Saturday Focus Sessions – December

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!


Hit the “Like Button” to let your friends know. Have suggestions for future focus sessions? Feel free to leave a comment.

Here’s our upcoming Focus Sessions:

 

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

 

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Hope you can join us!

Shooting Wildlife and Wilderness in World-Class National Parks

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.

© Cecil Holmes

150-600 at 500mm, F/8, 1/500th sec., ISO 1400
Park regulations in Yellowstone mandate that visitors stay at least 25 yards away from most of the wildlife (it’s four times that for bears and wolves). But what’s fantastic about the 150-600 lens is that when you’re photographing an animal the size of an SUV, you don’t need to get terribly close to get a full-frame image of it.

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. 

© Cecil Holmes

150-600mm at 550mm, F/8, 1/500th sec., ISO 500
In the late spring, the pronghorn, or American antelope, starts to shed its winter coat. That’s another reason I love taking pictures in the Tetons at this time of year, because you can track down a lot of these creatures hanging out with that ragged coat look. Some of them may have already shed most of their coats; others still have their coats hanging off the side of them. It makes for awesome images either way.

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.

© Cecil Holmes

150-600mm at 600mm, F/8, 1/250th sec., ISO 800
At the Teton Raptor Center near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, birds are brought in to be rehabilitated. People call from all over Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana to report injured birds, and the goal of the center is to eventually release them back into the wild, if they get better. 

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.

© Cecil Holmes

24-70mm at 24mm, F/8, 25 sec., ISO 100
This photo of Moose Falls along Crawfish Creek wasn’t a planned shot at all. We were just driving down the road right before sunset when I saw the sign for it; we didn’t have a lot of time to capture the remaining light. I said, “OK, if we get out of the car and hear water, we’ll grab our gear and run down; if we can’t hear the water, that means it’s too far and we won’t make it.” We got out and heard the water, and it turned out the falls were only about a tenth of a mile from where we parked. It was flowing really nicely, as the park had had a huge amount of snowfall this winter—meaning lots of corresponding snow melt creating lots of full rivers and streams. 

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.

© Cecil Holmes

24-70mm at 24mm, F/16, 1/80th sec., ISO 100
The Grand Prismatic hot spring is one of the most photographed geothermal attractions in Yellowstone. Many photos of it that you see from above are taken from either a helicopter or plane, or by people who hike the trail that overlooks it. But when you’re right down there with it, it’s challenging to shoot—it’s not nearly as impressive as when you’re seeing it from up high. Plus, if you’re photographing it on a nonwindy day, the steam emanating from it will just rise and hang in the air. You want a little wind to blow the steam around a bit.

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.

© Cecil Holmes

24-70mm at 24mm, F/8, 1/200th sec., ISO 100
The Morning Glory hot spring is one of my favorite pools to visit in Yellowstone. It’s not very big, maybe about 20 feet wide, and the boardwalk there puts you right along the edge of it. I took about three or four shots at 24mm vertically and then created a panoramic composite. I was finally able to capture that elusive sunstar, and the clouds in that vibrant blue sky added to the overall effect as well.

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.

© Cecil Holmes

24-70mm at 24mm, F/16, 0.3 sec., ISO 100
While the shot of the Morning Glory Pool was my favorite photo from Yellowstone, this photo of the John Moulton Homestead was my favorite from the Grand Tetons. The morning I took this photo was horrible. It was raining when I woke up, but I figured I was already awake, so I went out anyway to see if I could get anything. I thought maybe, at the very least, I’d get some lightning shots over the mountains.

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

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.