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.

Fly Fishing in Wyoming with the Tamron 70-200mm

Fly Fishing in Wyoming with the Tamron 70-200mm

Growing up in Colorado, and now a grad student at the University of Wyoming, Ben Kraushaar has spent his entire life immersed in the great outdoors. He’d always been interested in taking pictures while enjoying Mother Nature, but it wasn’t until 2012 when this casual hobby captured more of his attention.

“I’d decided to hike the Colorado Trail, a nearly 500-mile backpacking trip that starts in Denver and ends in Durango,” he says. “I wanted to document the journey, so I finally invested in a relatively decent camera. My goal was to fly-fish the whole trail and take photos the entire time. After that trip, I published an article about my experience in a fly-fishing magazine, and that was the catalyst for all of my future adventures.”

This summer Ben indulged both passions in Wyoming, where his girlfriend, Anna, was conducting fieldwork. To capture photos on this fly-fishing trip, he used the new Tamron SP 70-200mm VC G2 lens, which he says was invaluable for its focal-length range and Vibration Compensation (VC) technology. “With the 5-stop image stabilization on this lens, it made shooting handheld much easier—and I primarily shoot handheld when I’m fly-fishing,” he says. “It’s too much to haul a tripod into the backcountry. The VC proved especially helpful, as I generally have to use a really fast shutter speed to slow the bend of the rod down to freeze it. The best fly-fishing photos are also generally in lower light, so having that VC allows me to use that faster shutter speed in those lighting conditions to freeze the scene.”

Telling the story of a full day of fly-fishing means paying attention to every aspect of the sport. “It’s more of a lifestyle than an individual event, so there are plenty of things associated with it that can serve as subjects,” Ben notes. “Whether it’s photos of people camping, getting ready to fish, or the actual act of fishing, there’s plenty of versatility in terms of the tale you can tell. You also can’t neglect those amazing landscapes in front of your camera, or the close-up shots of the fish if you’re lucky enough to catch one.”

Ben typically heads out in the late afternoon or early evening for his fly-fishing adventures. “The best fishing is during those times, and that coincides with the best light,” he says. “I don’t mind shooting in midday if it’s overcast, but when it’s sunny, it’s hard to reduce all of the shadows. I shoot all natural light, mainly because carrying extra lighting equipment would be difficult. Since I’m also fly-fishing, I usually have my rod and other fishing gear, so I try to keep my photography equipment to a bare minimum.”

The 70-200 G2’s maximum F/2.8 aperture helps Ben set the scene as he wades, often knee-deep, into the water. “When I’m shooting a photo of someone casting a line, I try to use a low aperture like that F/2.8, especially when there’s a busy background,” he says. “Whether it’s trees or bushes, that low aperture helps blur out the background and isolate my subject. It also eliminates noise when I’m trying to get a silhouette of my subject against a blue sky or the water.” 

Ben’s biggest challenges when fly-fishing? Besides that less-than-ideal lighting during midday fishing expeditions, it would be the natural perils that come with the sport. “Sometimes the rivers are really slippery,” he says. “I have to do my best to try not to fall in and ruin my equipment.”

Which leads to the important matter of Ben keeping his gear protected. “I’ve yet to drop my camera in the water, but I have dropped five phones,” he laughs. “Sometimes I can tuck my camera in my waders a bit, so when I’m walking and splashing in the water, it’s not getting very wet, but the moisture-resistant build on this lens helps immensely on dreary, drizzly days. Sometimes my favorite photos come from when I’m out in the rain or snow, so having that water resistance is clutch and gives me the confidence that I’m not damaging my gear.”

Here, six of Ben’s images from his trip to the Cowboy State:

© Ben Kraushaar
200mm, F/2.8, 1/400th sec., ISO 400

This is a photo of my girlfriend, Anna. She’s a wildlife biologist. She always likes wearing colorful bandannas to keep the sun off her face and neck, and she’s shooting me a little glare here because I’m taking her picture. What’s nice about the 70-200 G2 is its capabilities as a portrait lens. With that F/2.8 aperture, you can achieve appealing bokeh and create some beautiful portraits.

© Ben Kraushaar
190mm, F/2.8, 1/400th sec., ISO 400

This photo of Anna catching a trout was taken on a river near Pinedale. It was evening, so the gold reflection on the water is from that last golden light in the sky. The river was mostly in the shadows, but the sun was really low, so I was able to capture all of those yellow-orange tones. 

I was standing up on a hillside for this shot. At that higher perspective, I was able to get nothing but water next to her in the frame. If I’d been positioned lower, I would’ve gotten the bank on the other side of the river, which would’ve taken away from the photo. I was at 190mm, so I was zoomed almost all the way in.

© Ben Kraushaar
200mm, F/2.8, 1/1600th sec., ISO 100

© Ben Kraushaar
70mm, F/2.8, 1/3200th sec., ISO 100

These next two photos show Anna casting a line, which means I had to try to freeze the action, as I discussed earlier. Usually, the line and the tip of the rod are moving really fast, so to freeze that and not get any blur of the line or rod, you have to shoot really fast. I usually end up shooting 1/1000th or faster for fly-fishing. Having that F/2.8 maximum aperture at 200mm allows me to get really tight and isolate my subject. 

© Ben Kraushaar
116mm, F/2.8, 1/640th sec., ISO 100

When you’re out on the river, there are an endless number of potential objects to shoot through and use as frames for your subjects. It’s really fun to play around with. In this case I blurred the greenery in the foreground a bit, which made an effective frame for Anna as she was wading away from me.

I also like the composition of this image (the whole walking-away narrative), because with fly-fishing, there’s a mysterious aspect to it. People will often post a picture of themselves fishing somewhere, and they won’t want to give their location away because it’s a sweet spot. So having just a hat in the photo, or someone looking away, adds to the whole secretive nature of the sport. 

© Ben Kraushaar
70mm, F/2.8, 1/2000th sec., ISO 100

We were at a lake near Dubois, Wyoming, and we came upon this scene with this one huge, random boulder. If you look around the rest of this area, it’s pretty clear of any sort of rocks, yet here we had this one beast. I wanted to take a landscape shot, but by putting a person into it, I was able to create a sense of scale. With this lens, you can zoom out to get a wider view or get the subject tighter in the scene by pulling the background in closer.

© Ben Kraushaar
200mm, F/2.8, 1/2000th sec., ISO 100

This is a photo of one of my girlfriend’s collaborators on her research project; she’s also really into fly-fishing. Here’s where she’s holding up the ultimate prize—a fish she caught. Sometimes you can spend over an hour trying to figure out what fly to tie on or what the fish are eating, so when you finally do catch a fish, it’s a very rewarding experience that proves you solved some sort of puzzle.

When that happens, the atmosphere changes from super-quiet peacefulness to animated excitement. I wanted to document that energy, and the emotions she was showing through her facial expressions, when she got to finally hold the results of all her hard efforts. By zooming in to 200mm, I was able to capture that moment.

To see more of Ben Kraushaar’s work, go to www.benjaminkraushaar.com

Shooting the Last Frontier with Vinit Mode and Two Tamron Lenses

Two Tamron lenses accompanied Vinit on his trip to the Last Frontier: the Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 VC and the SP 150-600mm VC G2. “I definitely wanted to have the 150-600 with me for taking pictures of wildlife,” he says. “And I found it useful for other logistical reasons. For example, when you’re in Denali National Park, you can’t take your private vehicle into much of it, so we were on a bus. Shooting through bus glass can be tricky, but my handheld pictures of the snowcapped mountains through the windows came out amazing.”

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Lakota Wolf Preserve Trip : October 8th

Out most popular trip is coming around again.

Join Bergen County Camera and Tamron on October 8th, 2017 as we return to the Lakota Wolf Preserve.

At Lakota Wolf Preserve, you will be greeted with numerous opportunities to get unobstructed pictures of the wolves in their natural settings. Since you will be photographing the wolves where they live, in a stress free environment, you will get the best possible photo opportunities. Come as close as 3-4 feet to the wolves during our private photography session.  We will end our morning at the Brook Hollow Winery for a wrap up session and complimentary wine tasting.

There will be a pre-trip evening lecture on Wildlife Photography at Lakota Wolf in our Westwood store, on October 5th 2017 from 7-8pm. The lecture will cover the layout and rules of Lakota, what to expect, what lenses are best suited, and how to get that great shot! The lecture will be presented by Tamron.

 

This trip is limited to 30 people so be sure to reserve early.

Tickets can be purchased below.

 

Eventbrite - Bergen County Camera Trips and Meetups 2017

National Park Lifetime Passes

Do you love to take pictures at National Parks? 

Did you know that if you’re aged 62 or older you’re eligible to receive a senior pass at only $10? Once known as the Golden Age Passport, it is a lifetime pass valid for entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation sites including national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges which normally charge entrance fees. Pass holders that are driving into areas with entrance fees can also bring in traveling guests with them for free. At some areas, the pass even includes 50 percent discounts on camping, boat launching, etc. On August 28th, this pass’s cost is increasing 700 percent to $80.00. The price has been at $10.00 since 1994. The new $80.00 price tag will now be of equal price to that of a years pass for one person aged below 62. These passes can be purchased at locations in person as well as online at https://store.usgs.gov/senior-pass.

Looking for Something to Do? Butterfly Fest Sunday 8/13

Butterfly Fest

Sunday August 13th

Noon – 3pm

Looking for something to do this weekend? Look no further than New Jersey’s own Botanical Garden. Visit the New Jersey Botanical Garden at Skylands, located in Ringwood, NJ on Sunday for their Butterfly Festival held by the Bergen County Audubon Society. Meet up at the Carriage House Visitor Center, to learn all about butterflies and how to attract them. Butterfly walks will also be led throughout the day. Guests will be able to walk through the Botanical Garden, and identify the butterflies that inhabit the area. 

The Botanical Garden at Skylands is also a great location for birding, and the 1117-acre property also includes a Tudor revival mansion built in the 1920s from stone quarried in the estate. Tours are led of the estate, and self-guiding tours are available of the grounds. Enjoy a stroll through history at the Skylands Botanical Gardens.

More information regarding this event and the Botanical Garden can be found on their website,  www.njbg.org/, as well as on https://www.mybergen.com/bergen-county-nj-events-entertainment-northern-new-jersey-plays-concerts-fundraisers-comedy/butterfl

 

Longwood Gardens Trip with Olympus and Frank T Smith May 7

Join Bergen County Camera and Olympus Trailblazer Frank Smith for a photo excursion to Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, PA. Longwood Gardens is considered to be the World’s premier horticultural display garden.

The beautiful 1050 acre site features 20 outdoor gardens, 20 indoor gardens, spectacular fountains, and 11,000 different types of plants. Our trip is planned during the Garden’s Spring Blooms. With dogwoods, magnolias, wisterias, azaleas, foam-flowers, and more than 240,000 tulips, Spring Blooms creates a symphony of color like no other season. BCC staff will be available to assist you with your photography throughout the day. Tickets are $99 each and include pre trip class, transportation, admission and Saturday Focus Session Trip Review. We also have a full Macro Photography class scheduled for April 25th if you want to improve your skills before the trip. $50

 


All about Frank T. Smith 
At an early age (3 years old+/-) I developed a curiosity with photography. My grandfather, Frank Fehn was an avid photographer, always with his Leica camera in his hand and me by his side. He bought me a miniature replica 35mm camera which was the beginning of my life-long passion for photography.

Photography is my passion – both in taking the pictures as well as the post pro-cessing techniques that I use. I am an experienced traveler having had the op-portunity to photograph in places around the world. As a native of the northeast, I also enjoy the local scenery of the Pocono Mountains or urban decay and iconic subjects as well as historical sites such as the former Bethlehem Steel factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. My portfolio is diverse.

I use the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system. My workhorses are the Pro OM-D EM-1 Mark II and the EM-5 Mark II. I use the OM-D EM-10 Mark II for road trav-el and family events. I use a variety of different lenses based on the camera and type of shooting I am doing. My attraction with Olympus is two-fold; first the camera and lens quality and second, the weight and size. My post processing is done with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CC, and various plug-ins.

I am a member of the Olympus Visionary Program. Olympus Visionaries are es-tablished, award-winning professional photographers who travel the world with Olympus products to capture life’s beauty and splendor. The elite members of the program include several Pulitzer Prize–winning photographers, as well as artists whose careers have included assignments around the globe. Frank Smith Olym-pus Trailblazer

I believe photography is a constantly changing art form and as such I try to stay current by teaching workshops & classes every year. I exhibit my work in various galleries. Some of my recent exhibits include “Atacama – A Lunar Landscape”, “Near and Far” an 8 year compilation of India; “Bhutan – The Land of the Thunder Dragon”; “Allentown State Hospital – A Different View” and “The Birth of a Na-tion- South Sudan”. My work can be seen on my website at www.franksmithphotos.com or on my blog where I post my up to date work regu-larly at www.franktsmith.wordpress.com/. You can also follow me on Facebook. I was also published in Outdoor Photography (December 2013) and presented a Ted Talk in 2013 titled Looking thru the Lens -Vocation vs. Avocation. In November 2015, PBS did the following interview with me.

Photo Trip to the Lakota Wolf Preserve October 12th

IMG_4660bOut most popular trip is coming around again. Join Bergen County Camera and Tamron on October 12, 2014 as we return to the Lakota Wolf Preserve.

Featuring numerous opportunities to get unobstructed pictures of the wolves in their natural settings. Since you will be photographing the wolves where they live, in a stress free environment, you will get the best possible photo opportunities. Come as close as 3-4 feet of the wolves during our private photography session.  We will end our morning at the Brook Hollow Winery for a wrap up session and complimentary wine tasting.

There will be a pre-trip lecture on Creating Great Images at Lakota Wolf in our Westwood store, the date is October 9th. The lecture will cover the layout and rules of Lakota, what to expect, what lenses are best suited, and how to get that great shot! The lecture will be presented by Tamron.IMG_4355b

Tamron will be providing free loaner lenses for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and even Pentax cameras. Bonus rebates on all current Tamron lenses will also be offered.

BCC will open a half hour before our 6:00 am bus departure for coffee, bagels and any last minute photography needs. Tickets are $250.00 each and include round trip bus transportation and admission. The bus will depart around 11:00am with a scheduled arrival of 1:00 pm back at the store. This trip is limited to 30 people so be sure to reserve early.

Tickets are available now on Eventbrite. 

Eventbrite - Bergen County Camera Photo Trips 2014 - Boulders Dugout Experience May 29 - Bronx Zoo June 1

Bronx Zoo Trip

Join Bergen County Camera on Sunday, June 1, 2014, for a bus excursion from our store in Westwood to the world famous Bronx Zoo. The Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the nation, with more than 6,000 animals and many award-winning exhibits. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to capture some stunning images of the large array of wild creatures. BCC staff will be available to assist you with your photography throughout the day.

BCC will open for a half hour before the 9:00am bus departure for coffee, bagels and any last minute photography needs. Tickets are $129.99 each and cover a pre-trip class on wildlife photography, round trip bus transportation, admission and lunch. The bus will leave about 4:30pm with a scheduled arrival of 6:00pm back at the store.

There will be a pre-trip lecture on wildlife photography in our Westwood store on Monday, May 19, 2014 from 7-8pm. The lecture will cover the layout and rules of the Bronx Zoo, tips for getting the best photos through glass, the best times to visit each exhibit and lots of other helpful information to get the most out of your time at the zoo.

Special Note: Tripods are not permitted in the Butterfly Zone and the Children’s Zoo. In Congo Gorilla Forest, tripods are not permitted in the Gorilla Tunnel area and in the front area of the Great Gorilla Gallery. Tripods may also be restricted in other Zoo exhibits, at the discretion of Zoo staff.

Eventbrite - Bergen County Camera Photo Trips 2014