Great Places to Photograph Nature and Wildlife (Part 2)

Categories: Feature Tips

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Brigantine Division, in Oceanville, New Jersey is well known by naturalists, birdwatchers, photographers and serious outdoor enthusiasts as one of the best places in the United States to see and photograph great concentrations of waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds.

The federal Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 200,000 people pass through the area annually, making it one of the most heavily visited refuges in the nation. Despite these numbers, Brigantine remains a relatively isolated enclave. During a recent mid-week visit to photograph waterfowl, there were fewer than a dozen cars on the only public road through the refuge, an eight-mile tour road.

For many visitors, the highlight of the year at Brigantine is the arrival of the snow geese in November and December. Each year as many as 60,000 geese converge on the 20,197 acre refuge. Snow geese are not the only spectacle at Brigantine in the Fall. Green-winged teal, black ducks , pintails, widgeons, mallards, shovelers and even bald eagles visit the refuge at this time of year. Another magnificent sight on the refuge is when eagles dive down on the resting snow geese, scattering sometimes as many as 15,000 birds into the air at once.

In addition to the wildlife observation and photography opportunities during the Fall, be sure to catch the big spring migration of waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds in April and May. It is surely a sight to behold.

You can have a field day with photography at Brigantine. You will need a digital SLR or a 35mm film camera equipped with telephoto lenses in the range of 100 to 600mm. For flight shots, an 80-200mm or 70-300mm zoom lens may be the best choice to provide the great depth of field needed to capture flocks of waterfowl in flight. It is a good idea to use ISO speeds in the range of 200 to 400 to keep your shutter speeds as high as possible to stop action and subject movement.

The technique I use to photograph wildlife at Brigantine is to use my vehicle as a blind and drive the tour road. I have been known to drive the one-way 8 mile tour road as many as 1o times in a day. I place my camera and long 500mm telephoto lens on a bean bag ready to shoot. On the passenger seat, I have a second camera with a 100-300 zoom lens ready for flight shots or subjects that appear at closer distances. Persistence pays off in wildlife photography. By employing this strategy, I usually come home from Brigantine with dozens of publishable quality images.

The Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, Brigantine Division is located 11 miles north of Atlantic City. From the Garden State Parkway take exit 48 to Route 9 South and travel 10 miles to Oceanville. For further information or to obtain a calendar of events, visit the refuge's website at: