Panama Photo Safari – About the Trip and Guide

On Sept. 14, I will be escorting and guiding Bergen County Camera’s Panama Photo Safari on a seven night, eight day adventure through Tranquilo Bay, Panama.  I will be accompanied by my longtime friend and BCC owner Tom Gramegna. He will be along to experience firsthand some of the amazing diversity of flora and fauna that Tranquilo Bay offers us. Here is some background on my history and experiences, and some of what you can expect when you join us for this exciting trip.




In 1994, the British Museum of Natural History recognized me as one of the top ten wildlife photographers of the year for an underwater image I captured of a spawning tube sponge off of Little Cayman Island. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend the ceremony in London as I was already committed to leading a photo safari through the Bay Islands of Honduras.




The “skinny” Americas have always been inviting to me, whether it be piloting a ship throughout her islands as a Merchant Marine officer (my first career), or scuba diving her spectacular reefs as a professional nature and travel photographer. My cameras have always discovering wondrous treasures, both natural and man-made, throughout Latin America.




I will be spending 6 months in Panama, staying at the Tranquilo Bay Eco-Adventure Lodge. It is perhaps the finest ‘built’ resort my 25 years of travel have revealed, and I will be spending my time there documenting some of the islands lush tropical vegetation, along with her encyclopedia of exotic animals from poison dart frogs to three-toed sloths.




Days here range from sun drenched and humid (though not stifling like my native Texas) to cool and wet when cumulus clouds nourish the jungle and its inhabitants. We will go birding, hiking, kayaking, beach combing, snorkeling, and sometimes we will just relax to slow down the pace with hanging porch hammocks, Hemingway novels and adult beverages.




Wait. Hear it? There in the mangroves. A white-faced capuchin monkey. Dust off your passport, pack your bags, get your binoculars and camera. We should get a great view on the boardwalk. Hope you may join Bergen County Camera and myself for one of our three Photo Safari Panama!

For more information on how to book this photo safari please contact Bergen County Camera.

See more of Franklin Viola’s “Photo of the Day” Panama at:

Holiday Lights

Holiday  Lights - Christmas Boat Parade

Whether you are home for the Holidays or on the road with the Griswolds, the splendor of “Light” is everywhere.

Open up the exposure compensation on your camera +0.7 to +1.3 and use selective focusing to compose your favorite Holiday Illumination. Don’t forget your tripod when capturing lights at night!

And ya better not cry.

Ya better not pout.

Don’t be scared.

YES, you can dip your captured pixels into a digital processing program to further enhance ‘your’ vision.

Holiday Lights - Rockewell Winter

Not sure how?

Come by any Bergen County Camera location with any questions you have, or stop by our Westwood Store for a Free Saturday Focus Session on a host of subjects almost every Saturday. Don’t miss December 29th’s Free Focus Session – Winter Shooting starting at 9:30 am.

Want more?

Call or email BCC’s Abby Passman for a private or group session on Digital Photo Processing!

Last, while the Lights will be bright, the mercury may dip.

Keep a spare camera battery in your jacket pocket (warmer next to ‘you’ than in a bag or case) so that the joy of capturing pixels will not freeze up.

Please feel free to share your comments!
Happy Holidays!

Holiday Stuffing – Steady Shots

Where did the time go?!

The holidays are upon us with families and friends gathering to share good food, warm cheer and the passing of another year.

Regardless of the camera you use (hi-tech D-SLR, point&shoot or cell phone), preserving those smiles is a “gift” for generations to share.

This year instead of balancing the camera on a random stack of books or precariously atop the sofa arm, “steady” the capture of your special memories with a small table-top tripod.

Not only will a small table-top tripod allow you to better frame your image, it will also make your photos more sharp when you press the timer button and race around to take your place!

Holiday Stuffing Blog post by Franklin Viola

From the Promaster T3 Mini and T5 Macro Mini Tripods, to Joby’s Gorillapod, the Manfrotto MP3-D01 Pocket Support and Vanguard’s VS-86 Table-Top Tripod, Bergen County Camera has the perfect stocking stuffer for the ‘designated’ photographer in your family!

Indian Summer

Click image for a larger view

As the heat of summer fades with the waning of daylight and wind vanes clock north, dry conditions prior to and just after autumn’s first frost can produce ‘highly saturated’ compositions.

From water lapping up on a deserted beach to cityscapes shimmering at dusk, NOW is the time to capture nature’s majestic changing of the guard.

So, before total darkness engulfs your pm commute, plan an evening ‘outside’ with a basketed meal, spirits of the vine, a lover or friend, and a Camera to archive the memory!


Nikon D2Xs Digital-SLR Camera
Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 DX Lens (set at 17mm)
Gitzo Tripod and Ball Head

Shooting Notes:
ISO 200
Manual Exposure
Center-weight metering
1/50 sec

RAW file processed in Nikon Capture NX2
Saved as hi-res Jpeg with minimal enhancement in Photoshop CS2

Print IT!

Here’s the simple math on “megapixels”

3 will make an outstanding 8 x 10 print

6 to crop deep inside a Jpeg for making an outstanding 8 x 10 print

Jpegs from a 2 megapixel camera average 1 MB

Jpegs from a 12 megapixel camera can be over 10 MB

Pictures posted on Facebook are no more than 150 KB (unless you choose the high resolution slower option)

Eye-popping photography does not jump off the wall until it is printed! 🙂

Printed Anne – Nikon D300, DX 85mm Micro-Nikkor VR f/3.5 lens (great for portraits too!), ISO 800, f/8 at 1/30 sec, 8.62 MB Jpeg ‘Fine’ cropped in Photoshop to 8″ x 10″ at 300dpi (5.02 MB)

Full-Frame Anne – Nikon D700, Nikkor VR 28-300mm G f/3.5-5.6 lens, ISO 800, f/8 at 1/10 sec, 9.06 MB Jpeg ‘Fine’ re-sized in Photoshop 720px x 478px at 72dpi (133 KB) for this electronic conversation

Ladies Night with Bergen County Camera

Bergen County Camera’s own Tom Gramegna and Paul Carretta were ‘featured speakers’ at the Cresskill Woman’s Club and River Edge Woman’s Blub, respectively, on January 17th. Included in their presentations were state-of-the-art digital SLR cameras and digital point-and-shoot cameras for the ladies to ‘test drive’, as well as samples of Bergen County Camera’s outstanding photo restoration and printing.

Carry bags for the attendees where provided by Tamron Lenses and Vanguard Tripods, respectively, as were digital photography ‘how-to’ books passed out by Tom and Paul. Having provided photography sales and services to Bergen County for over 30 years, Paul and Tom were greeted by some attendees who were long time customers of Bergen County Camera. And of course, the ladies provided plenty of cakes, cookies, coffee and punch!

Thanks to the Cresskill Woman’s Club and the River Edge Woman’s for inviting Tom and Paul to share Bergen County Camera’s passion of photography with the community!

Photos: “Ladies Night” with Tom Gramegna at the Cresskill Woman’s Club


Snow – Photographing Winter’s Majesty

The weekend’s precipitous frozen flurry presented a wondrous opportunity to capture the majesty of winter’s cloak. Armored in boots, cap and gloves, I marched into the white of Sunday morning’s golden light with my Nikon D-SLR and a spare battery, of course, warm and snug in the pocket of my Gortex jacket!

Strong diagonal rays and shadows accentuate a classic winter scene.
Winters Majesty
©Franklin Viola

IPTC Data: Nikon D2Xs, Nikon 12-24 at 12mm, ISO 200, f/8 at 1/125sec (Manual mode), Tripod

Emphasizing powder coating with ‘close-focus wide-angle’ imaging

Snowy Bench
©Franklin Viola

IPTC Data: Nikon D2Xs, Nikon 12-24 at 22mm, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 1/250sec (Manual mode)

Selective framing to contrast ‘icons’ of  hot and cold
Chimney - Icicles - Contrail
©Franklin Viola
IPTC Data: Nikon D2Xs, Nikon 24-120 at 105mm, ISO 200, f/8 at 1/320sec (Manual mode), Tripod
Have a question about winter photography? Please leave a comment, email, visit the store or visit our Winter shooting tips on our blog.

Nikon 200-400 VR AF-S lens rental now available

Recently on assignment in Panama, I used my Nikon 200-400 VR AF-S lens and Nikon D300 camera to capture this image of a Female Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) drinking nectar from a Hibiscus flower.
Black-Chinned Hummingbird
©Franklin Viola

IPTC Data: Nikon D300, Nikon 200-400 VR AF-S f/4 at 400mm (effective 600mm on DX body), ISO 640, f/8 at 1/200sec, iTTL fill-flash with Nikon SB800 (EV-2.0), Tripod

Observing the tiny birds ‘routine flight path’ to specific flowers for over an hour, I pre-set focus in AF, then switched to Manual focus to ‘lock’ my composition. Using a Nikon wired shutter-release, Bogen carbon-fiber tripod and Wimberly gimbal-head, the 200-400mm never flinched even in my excitement as the ‘hummer’ flew into position. iTTL fill-flash from a Nikon SB800 (hand-held via SC17 cable) applied just the right  ‘stop-action’ to complement the gyrating wing-blur. This artificial ‘light’ also added color ‘pop’, an often under-used tool in outdoor photography!

Nikon’s 200-400mm VR f/4 AF-S lens works with all Nikon ‘full-frame’, as well as Nikon APS-size sensor (DX) D-SLRs. You too can ‘reach out’ with this lens through BCC’s rental department. Call 201.664.4113 or come by the Westwood store for more details.
Nikon 200-400 Lens