Panama Photo Safari – Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge

Starting this September, Bergen County Camera is embarking on a Panama Photo Safari with award winning nature photographer Franklin Viola.  Here is a great video detailing some of the sights and adventures available around the Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge. For more information feel free to check out our original blog post or browse our other posts about the trip!

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

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 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

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

Welcome Franklin Viola


Franklin Viola
After working at Bergen County Camera in 1988 / 89, Franklin Viola followed his dreams and became an award winning Commercial and Editorial Photographer. Combining his studies in Marine Science (BS Texas A&M Galveston’82), Scuba Diving (NAUI Instructor 1986) and self-taught photographic skills, Franklin traveled the world shooting underwater photo-stories for such magazines as National Geographic WORLD, Ranger Rick, Boy’s Life, Sport Diver and Natural History to name a few. In 1994, the British Museum of Natural History (London) awarded Franklin one of the top 10 Wildlife Photographers of the Year.

BCC welcomed Franklin back for the 2011 Holiday Season to share his photographic knowledge with our customers and his business savvy with our professional team. As a featured contributor on BCC’s photography blog, Franklin will open up his treasure chest of ‘tips’ for capturing great photographs.

You may see more of Franklin’s work at

Look for Franklin’s first post in a few days.