Join Bergen County Camera for a bus excursion from our store in Westwood to the NY Botanical Gardens on May 20th.
At least twice a year, Cecil Holmes says farewell to home base in Huntsville, Alabama, and heads out to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. While he’s there, he also makes the four-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park, where he complements the wildlife and landscapes he photographed in the Tetons with the geysers and geothermal pools (and yes, more wildlife) found in Yellowstone.
While photographers can find different attractions to document in the parks depending on the season, Cecil enjoys the late spring for his national park adventures. “These images were all taken in June, when there’s still snow on the mountains, the temperature is warming up a bit, and the crowds haven’t built up yet,” he explains. “Plus, as the snow melts and it starts getting warmer, the wildflowers come out in full force.”
This time around, Cecil packed his Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and SP 150-600mm VC G2 lenses to ensure he could capture every photographic opportunity the parks threw his way. “In the Tetons, the 24-70 is the perfect landscape lens,” he says. “And the 150-600 is indispensable as a compact wildlife lens. I’ve got everything I need to document the entire trip with just these two tools.”
Here, Cecil walks us through seven images he took on his latest trip, as well as how he used the lenses to capture them.
In this case, we happened to see a group of bison on the side of the road and jumped out. I had my camera on auto ISO (and I usually shoot everything in Aperture Priority), so I set the aperture for F/8. The camera selects the shutter speed based on the auto ISO, so I set the auto ISO to a maximum range and then indicated to the camera I wanted a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th sec. It adjusted the ISO based on the light from that point. That’s really the best way if you’re doing a “run and gun” approach as you’re cruising along, because if you have too slow a shutter speed and the bison moves, it will ruin the shot with motion blur.
I tried to place some of the grass and reeds in front of the pronghorn in the frame as an appealing visual element. When people think of wildlife photography, they often think strictly of the animal in front of the camera. But for a more compelling photo, it’s important to incorporate as much of the animal’s environment as possible. I was able to blur out the foreground a bit, as well as the background, which gives the photo a bit of three-dimensionality and makes my subject pop.
We attended a birds of prey show here, and it was a controlled environment where we could get fairly close to the raptors. They bring each bird out every two or three shows so it doesn’t get too stressed. I’d never been to a show like this, so I brought along my 150-600. I decided to put it to best use by stepping back a bit and capturing some tight headshots.
This photo was of a bald eagle named River, in what one could call its teenage years, before it had lost its brown feathers and morphed into the white eagle we’re used to seeing. It had just dipped into a bathing pool and was trying to dry off, which is why its feathers look so ruffled. The crisp sharpness of the 150-600 allowed me to capture every detail in every feather, and I blurred out the background to get that eye-catching color contrast of brown and green.
Typically when you’re shooting waterfalls, light is your enemy—you don’t want very much of it, because you want a longer shutter speed to get that smooth, creamy effect in the water. The light was really starting to fade at this point, so I used a 25-second exposure at F/8. If I’m photographing a waterfall in the daytime, I’ll shoot at F/16 to get a lower shutter speed, but in this case I didn’t need that low shutter speed— I needed to get my aperture open enough to get a shutter speed that wasn’t going to be minutes long. The 24-70 really came through for me in this low-light situation.
Luckily, I had just enough breeze so that the steam was moving. I was standing right on the boardwalk next to it, and I got down and put my camera as low and close to the pool as I could get it without actually touching anything—you don’t want to scald your equipment! I was trying to capture a sunstar (you can see the sun poking out from behind the cloud in the upper right), but I wasn’t able to get it. Because of that, and because the light wasn’t great, I decided to see what would happen if I turned it into a black-and-white photo. That changed everything. It created a mood I wasn’t seeing in color, and it brought out the textures, patterns, and contrasts of the pool and surrounding area.
It’s essential to use a polarizer for an image like this. If you don’t, you’re going to get reflections off the water and won’t be able to see all of those colors and details beneath the surface.
Right at sunrise, sunlight started to peek out and hit the barn. And then, for about three minutes, this amazing double rainbow appeared that stretched from the John Moulton Homestead to the T.A. Moulton Barn about a quarter-mile down Mormon Row. After that, the sun disappeared and it was gloomy for the rest of the day. Only about 10 photographers were out that morning to witness it, as opposed to the 30 or 40 who might usually be out and about. For someone like me who doesn’t live in the area, this was a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
To see more of Cecil Holmes’ work, go to www.cecilsphotos.com.
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:
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.
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.
200mm, F/2.8, 1/1600th sec., ISO 100
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Foliage Photography: Tips for Great Pictures
The Foliage Network Maps – website with frequent updates and color maps of the northeastern United States.
A polarizing filter is really the only “must have” filter to bring along for great digital fall foliage pictures. A polarizer creates dramatic fall foliage pictures by darkening the sky, increasing contrast and deepening colors and removing the sheen from the leaves. Most other filter effects such as enhancing reds and oranges, sepia and graduated effects can be easily created in Photoshop. Your standard protective UV filter should be removed before putting your polarizer on – never stack filters. Also, don’t forget to remove your polarizer when you move back inside, as it reduces light by one to two f-stops. Shop Polarizers in our online store.
Click to see image with and without a polarizer.
A second type of filter is an enhancing filter which does just what the name implies – enhances. This filter is especially effective with the bright primary colors of autumn (reds, oranges and browns). A third filter is a Color / Neutral Graduated filter which utilizes a color (or gray) that gradually diminishes from dark to light across the filter. These filters are often used to deepen the sky or to balance the exposure between foreground and background, which helps you keep the sky blue rather than washed out.
- Nothing takes away from foliage more than a bright white overcast sky. In these situations, try to reduce the amount of sky in your images or use a Neutral Graduated filter.
- Dramatic storm clouds of autumn thunderstorms interspersed with blue sky make a stunning backdrop for the brilliant colors of fall, especially when the vivid colors are brought out with a polarizer filter.
- Use a tripod for the sharpest possible image. This will allow an ISO of 100 or 200. Remember to use a remote release or self timer to prevent motion when pressing the shutter.
- Colors are warmer and can be more dramatic closer to sunrise and sunset. The hour before and after sunrise and sunset are considered by many to be the “magic hours” where you get an amazing quality of light.
- Experiment, take lots of pictures and above all have fun!
- Since you are shooting more with your digital camera, be sure to edit out some images before showing off your work to family and friends
Fall foliage Websites and Hotlines
The Foliage Network – website with frequent updates and color maps of the northeastern United States.
State by State foliage websites – click on your state of interest below.
mid to late October
Late September - mid October
Early September - mid October
Late September - mid October
Late September - late October
Early September - Late October
September - Late November
Late September - Late October
Late September - mid October
Remember to visit Bergen County Camera for filters, tripods, lenses, cameras and prints.
Croton Gorge Park
35 Yorktown Rd.
Cortlandt, NY 10520
Visit the Croton Gorge Park in Cortlandt, NY. A picturesque location along the Croton River, the Croton Dam is a great spot to bring your camera for the day. The 97-acre area is popular for hiking, picnicking, and hiking.
“The Old Croton Dam, built to supply New York City with water, was the first large masonry dam in the United States. Completed in 1842, it was the prototype for many municipal water supply dams in the east during the mid-nineteenth century. The city’s needs, however, soon outgrew the Croton Dam water supply. Consequently, work began on the New Croton Dam, also called the Cornell Dam because of its location on land purchased from A.B. Cornell, in 1893. Completed in 1907, the Cornell Dam stands over 200 feet high. The Croton Reservoir has a capacity of about 34 billion gallons of water with a watershed covering 177 square miles.”
The property is open to the public, and is $5 for parking with a park pass, and $10 without on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until October 1st. The park is open 7 days a week, from 8am to dusk.
More information can be found on their website, here.
Hiking information can be found here.
Tenafly Nature Center
New Butterfly House
Saturday and Sunday 11:00AM
313 Hudson Ave, Tenafly, NJ 07670
“This seasonal exhibit showcases several beautifully colored butterflies sipping nectar and taking flight, offering guests the opportunity to better understand and appreciate their life cycle and importance to the ecosystem. Inside the exhibit you will be welcome to chat with staff or volunteers, ask questions, or simply relax and enjoy the space while butterflies flit and fly about. See if a butterfly will land on your nectar stick or just watch them fly around you as they move between nectar plants. Observe butterfly chrysalis in the chrysalis box. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see a butterfly emerge!”
The house is open to the public, and is free to residents of the nature center. For non-residents, the entrance fee is $5, which includes 1 adult and 2 children.
More information can be found on their website, here.
Pack wide-angle lenses.
This is a no-brainer, since you want to get as much of that jaw-dropping night sky as possible in your photos. The lenses I typically use: the Tamron SP 24-70mm VC G2, the SP 15-30mm VC, and the SP 35mm F/1.8 VC. That prime lens is especially useful because of its fast F/1.8 aperture—it’s desirable to use fast apertures for night sky photos, as you want to reduce the amount of time your shutter is open to reduce star movement. With a 1.8 lens, I can shoot a 10-second exposure instead of 20 or 30 seconds.
There’s a magic number for any focal length you may be using and how long your shutter can stay open before you start getting those streaks in the stars. Although there are some complicated equations, let’s keep it simple. A basic guideline to get you started is the 500 rule: Divide the focal length you’re shooting at into 500; that resulting number will give you the number of seconds your shutter can stay open before you start seeing star movement. So if I’m shooting at 15mm, I can keep my shutter open for roughly 33 seconds. If you see movement in your stars, shorten your exposure.
Determine the optimal time to head out.
Our group tries to venture out during the blue hour, an hour or two after sunset, when there’s still some ambient light to create that beautiful indigo color. You can see an example of that in one of my Sedona photos shown here, where the featured rock formation was also lit up by the quarter-moon that had already risen.
If you’re going to try for a money shot like the Milky Way, you’ll want to check apps like Sky Guide or PhotoPills to see where and when it will be rising. You don’t want to head out somewhere with a group of people and discover there’s no Milky Way overhead. Capturing it when the skies are darkest—typically between midnight and 2 a.m., depending on the time of year— is ideal. Between April and September provide your best looks: During other parts of the year, the Milky Way either never makes it above the horizon, or it’s too close to sunrise or sunset and will be completely washed out. You’ll barely see it, if at all.
Research the park you’re going to.
I often start this process months ahead of time, so I’ll know the best times of year to visit, depending on what I’m planning on taking pictures of. Our group will also head out at least a day before a workshop, so we can scout the landscape to make sure it’s everything we were anticipating. You also want to get the lay of the land during the day so when it’s dark you’re not stumbling around with no sense of place.
It also helps to know which parks are rife with light pollution and which aren’t. You can check the International Dark-Sky Association website to see which communities have pledged to preserve the night sky by keeping lighting to a minimum. As far as the national park areas I’ve visited, Sedona is a designated dark-sky community; Zion isn’t too bad, either, and Acadia in Maine is pretty dark, as there aren’t too many towns around throwing off a lot of light. If you do have a park that’s lit up from afar, you can use that light to your advantage (or at least mask it) by using some creative techniques. More on that a little later!
Bring the basics …
A couple of things you’ll definitely need: a tripod, as you’re going to be taking very long exposures (20 or 30 seconds long in some cases). And you’ll want to bring a shutter release cable or some sort of shutter remote. You don’t want to be hand-firing the camera and risk losing images that way.
… and also a flashlight.
One, to see where you’re going, and second for light painting. That’s a terrific way to accentuate your images, like I did in my photo of Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. One tip I have for this type of creative endeavor: Don’t simply throw the light from behind your camera—your subject will tend to look flat. Because I’m usually taking 20- or 30-second-long exposures in these cases, what I’ll do is hit the shutter release, then walk to one side or the other of my camera and throw the light in from an angle, so it adds a little more dimension with shadows and highlights.
Sometimes other photographers’ light-painting adventures can work their way into your own photos. This image I took of one of the arches in Arches National Park was a happy accident. I was about 20 seconds into a 25-second exposure when someone who was sitting underneath the arch decided to blast it with light. I didn’t know it was going to happen, but it turned out to be a cool picture anyway.
Before you start flashing lights everywhere, know the rules of the park you’re visiting.
Workshop leaders need permits no matter what to host groups in most national parks. The group that ran this year’s night sky workshops for us was National Park Trips Media, which took care of all of the logistics.
Some parks outright prohibit the light painting I mentioned earlier, especially from large groups. I can understand that: It can be annoying to individual photographers or nature-gazers in a park, trying to check out the night sky, only to have a bunch of people show up all at once and start blasting light everywhere. Individually, you often can light paint without a hassle, though check with your destination park before you go, as each has its own rules.
Seek out elements in your landscape to enhance your composition.
Here’s where landscape photography during the day and at night doesn’t differ too much, because you always want some kind of landscape elements to create compelling visuals. That could entail some sort of silhouetted area or foreground visual—either a manmade one, like a building, or a natural one, like a rock formation.
More often than not, I’ll try to keep those foreground elements in the lower third of the frame, as I’m using them mainly to enhance the night sky I’m trying to show off. And since I’m typically using a wide-angle lens in my night photography, I get up real close to whatever I’ve decided my subjects will be, as those elements will appear very small in a wide-angle photo otherwise.
Tap into the leading lines of the landscape.
I use natural lines to draw the viewer’s eye to where I want it to go. For instance, in my Milky Way photo taken in Zion, I positioned myself so the Milky Way descends straight down into the rock formation with the tree sticking out of it.
I’ll also use the shape and structure of the landscape to either enhance the photo or mask issues that might be threatening to distract from what I’m trying to show. For instance, in my other photo here from Zion, I used the lights of the town of Springdale in the distance to silhouette the trees in that gap. And in my image of Balanced Rock taken in Arches National Park, the horizon was really lit up from Moab. To work around that, I stood in a spot so that when I took the photo, the Milky Way streamed down toward the horizon—making it appear as if the Milky Way was lighting up the horizon, not the neighboring city.
You can find more of Ken’s work here.
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.
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