Wildlife Photography Basics Class

Wildlife Photography Basics Class

Tuesday, May 7th from 6-8pm & Saturday, May 11th from 8-10am

Wildlife Photography Basics Class

 Wildlife Photography Basics Class – Lecture style class in-store and photo walk at Garrett mountain

Join BCC’s Matt Malwitz for a two part class on Wildlife Photography. Learn the basics in-store then join us on a photo walk at Garrett mountain to try out some new techniques!

Tickets are available now – $69.99/person – Click here to purchase your ticket

We hope you can join us! Read more to learn more about our new photo class

Read more
November/December Customer Spotlight – Robert Helder

November/December Customer Spotlight – Robert Helder

Welcome to our thirty-fifth Bergen County Camera Customer Spotlight. This monthly posting features a customer who’s made an impression on us. They might have grown in their understanding of photography, gained a mastery of the craft and / or have become a strong advocate of our way of doing business in the world of photography. During the next month you will see this customer’s images displayed on our digital signs in store, in our emails, blog posts and social media.  

Robert Helder is our customer spotlight for the months of November-December. We hope you both enjoy and are inspired by this new addition to In Focus and look forward to your comments and suggestions. Below you will find a gallery containing some of Robert’s images.

About Robert:

Robert Helder has been a friend of the Bergen County Camera team for many years, however, his passion for photography goes back much further. Robert took up photography at a very young age. He did so after seeing his father’s interest in the art form. It remained a hobby throughout his childhood, but really became a passion when he began travelling in early adulthood. Robert spent much of his early 20’s visiting Europe, using a Nikkormat camera to capture images of his travels. This remained his primary focus until, as one does in life, he started a family. Robert’s photography shifted towards capturing precious memories of his kids. His family was his focus for many years and as time went on, photography took a back seat.

It wasn’t until years later that he was introduced to the hawk watch at State Line Lookout. The hawk watch is held annually at the park, where bird watchers and photographers flock to view migrating birds of prey. From hawks and eagles to a local pair of Peregrine Falcons, there was always something to see. A few trips to the lookout and Robert’s passion for photography was rekindled. Since then, he has broadened his horizons, choosing to photograph most of nature has to offer. Whether it be plant or animal, Robert is captivated by it all.

Robert continues to grow as a photographer and continues to visit Bergen County Camera for all his photographic needs. He consistently shoots local parks and nature centers where he finds elusive and hard to find species.

Check out just some of his gallery below to see some of the incredible images he’s captured!

Bird Photography: Grasshopper Sparrow

Whether on a backyard bird feeder or on the streets of Manhattan, you’ve likely seen a Sparrow. Many associate the term solely with the common nuisance species, the House Sparrow. These birds are known to nest in the eaves of homes. However, upon further inspection, one can start to note differences in the birds they simply call “Sparrow”. Nearly 50 species of Sparrow exist in North America. Of them, 19 can be spotted in New Jersey alone. Some are migratory, while others remain in the Garden State Year-round. Of the migratory species, one had caught my interest in recent years. The Grasshopper Sparrow.

Nikon D850, NIKKOR 500mm f/4G VR – f/4.0 – 1/4000 – ISO 800

About the Bird: 

Introducing, the Grasshopper Sparrow. This is not your typical backyard bird. Instead, this sparrow is highly habitat specific. The Grasshopper Sparrow is a grassland bird, preferring patchy meadows with little to no shrub cover. This allows this species to freely move across the ground. You heard correctly; this bird is primarily a ground dweller. Here, they forage and prey upon insects and such. True to their name, these Sparrows do eat plenty of grasshoppers, though they will also eat beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and such. Surprisingly, their hankering for grasshoppers is not what earned them their name. In fact, it is the grasshopper like song they emit. 

A buzzy trill, their song is much quieter than most common sparrows. It is also only when singing that these birds show themselves. From the top of a stalk, they make their presence known to rival males and potential mates. If all goes well, the singing male will attract a female and thwart intruding males. Then the nest making begins. Nests are located on the ground and usually consist of a mix of grass, hair and other fine materials. The nest is a typical bowl, though it is usually covered in a dome of dense vegetation, allowing access only from the side. Once completed, the nest can house about half a dozen eggs. Each egg is more important than the last as this species is in steep decline.

With an ever-shrinking habitat, the Grasshopper Sparrow is increasingly more difficult to find. Since the mid 20th century, its population has drastically declined. Populations have declined as much as 97 percent in New York State alone. This is mostly due to habitat loss. This is largely due to land development and vegetation succession. These occurrences lead to grasslands becoming smaller, fragmented and as a result, less favorable to the Grasshopper Sparrow. Luckily, this species responds positively to a number of human agricultural management activities such as scheduled mowing, grazing and controlled burns. The old practice of turning marshes into landfills has also had a surprisingly positive effect on grassland species. While detrimental to marshland species, most of these landfills were eventually isolated and capped. This created prime grassland habitat where species like Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and of course, the Grasshopper Sparrow could thrive once again.

Grasshopper Sparrow on Milkweed – Nikon D850, NIKKOR 500mm f/4G VR – f/4.0 – 1/4000 – ISO 800

How I Got the Shot: 

With any wildlife photography, I recommend a starting lens no less than 300mm. A basic 70-300mm kit lens will suffice. That being said, if there’s one type of bird that pushes us to longer focal lengths, it’s songbirds. An APS-C, or “cropped”, sensor paired with such a zoom will provide some relief, though you’ll learn quickly if a longer lens is needed. I was shooting with a 500mm prime lens for most of my outings with these birds. I found this lens paired with a full frame DSLR just long enough to get the results I was after. I personally like some empty space in my images, but it’s a look that’s not for everyone. Someone equipped with a 600mm lens and an APS-C body would have gotten much closer results.

Next comes lighting. I always recommend shooting in the first hours of daylight or the last few with the sun either to my back or facing me directly. This varies on what effect I’m going for with my images. More often than not, you’ll want the sun on your back as it is in the image above. We call this shooting on “Sun-angle”. Shooting in these hours not only provides the most pleasing light, it also happens to be cooler, which in turn, makes for active wildlife. It’s also worth shooting when the sun isn’t visible at all. Overcast days provide soft, diffuse light that can be pleasing throughout the day. In fact, I prefer to shoot on these days for most other songbirds I photograph.

As this species prefers life on the ground, finding one in the open was quite the challenge. As luck would have it, this patch of grassland habitat harbored a number of singing males. This resulted in territorial skirmishes between neighboring birds. Once a male had successfully chased the intruder off, it would perch atop a grass stalk and sing. The height of the grass allowed me to crouch down and remain almost invisible from the height of the sparrow. As this is not a heavily visited location, the birds were not accustomed to human presence. I had to tread carefully. Once in position, I remained in the area for much of the evening. By sitting as still as possible, I managed to photograph three individual males.

As stated above, if there’s one time and place you want the longest lens possible, it’s here. Songbirds, especially these sparrows, are small and skittish. As stated above, I spent most of the shoot crouching along the fields edge to stay hidden. I also got low as to shoot from my subjects eye-level. Being at the same level as your subject is essential to engaging your audience. It’s scenarios like these where super-telephoto zooms are ideal. If the bird comes closer, you can always zoom out without moving and startling the bird. These lenses also tend to be lighter than their prime counterparts, although new mirrorless lenses as well as Nikon’s Phased Fresnel optics are narrowing the margin.

A major aspect I made sure to check before situating myself, was the backgrounds. I made sure to keep an eye out for bright objects in the distance. Any one distracting element can throw the whole composition off, and I try to avoid removing spots in post as much as possible. A wide aperture and the vast field ultimately made for a nice, smooth background. Remember, the farther away the background, the blurrier it will become. As long as you’re using a long lens, this occurs regardless of aperture.

Once I was set up, I could begin thinking about positioning the bird in the frame. If you’ve attended one of my focus sessions at BCC, you’ve heard me talk about the rule of thirds time and time again. This is for good reason. All too often I see images with the bird or animal smack dab in the middle of the frame. There is a time and place for this, but more often than not, it’s not ideal. By positioning the bird in the lower right third of this image, it gives a sense of space. The bird is singing into the emptiness of the frame, allowing the viewer to imagine what lies ahead. This empty space is often referred to as “dead” space. Learn to use it well, and you’ll be on the path to strong compositions. If you can’t do this in the heat of the moment, remember, you can always crop in post. The beauty of modern cameras is their resolution. You can crop with little to no image degradation. I would be lying if I said I nailed the composition in-camera every time. I crop most if not all of my images to some degree.

Nikon D850, NIKKOR 500mm f/4G VR – f/4.0 – 1/1600 – ISO 400

Lastly, always prioritize the well-being of your subject. Allow space for the birds to feed, sing, and go about their business uninterrupted. Don’t panic if you accidentally flush a bird. We’ve all done it. Learn from it and avoid doing so in the future. Where applicable, stay on designated trails and respect boundaries. Wildlife refuges and parks are riddled with trails and roads for authority and park staff use. Authorized personnel signs mean authorized personnel only. Do not enter. Where trails are narrow or simply do not exist, watch your step. Many animals, not just the Grasshopper Sparrow, nest on the ground and don’t shy away from leaving young on or near trails. Be careful, wear your sunscreen and insect repellent, but also have fun with it.

If you’re interested in learning more about my bird photography techniques and outings, click here for more. We will be adding in-the-field workshops to our website in the near future, so stay tuned. Sign up for our weekly newsletter for updates.

All the best,


Dr Kim Sloan – Wildlife and Nature Photography Webinar

Dr Kim Sloan’s previous session brought rave reviews will be back again to show his amazing Nature and Wildlife images. This talk will appeal to any nature lover or photographer alike.

Join us for this free webinar on Saturday March 19th at 9:30 am

Free Registration

During this talk he will weave his experience moving completely from DSLR equipment and workflow to mirrorless. We hope you can join us.

Dr Kim Sloan - Elk
Dr Kim Sloan – Big Kahuna
Dr Kim Sloan - Sunset
Dr Kim Sloan – Sunset

More about Dr. Kim Sloan

Kim Sloan has been involved with photography since 1963. He started in photography using an Olympus Pen E camera. This was a range finder camera, with a 35mm attached lens. Since then he has used 35mm SLR, medium format cameras, all of which were film cameras. The manufacturers included Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Minolta, and Leica.

He has gone strictly digital over the past 12 years. He has extensive experience with Nikon, Sony, and Canon systems.

His photography usually involves nature, either animal, landscape or astrophotography. He has traveled extensively, and will present pictures from Africa as well as many national parks in the United States or Canada.

Winter Wildlife Photography Tips

Here’s the Winter Wildlife Photography tips presentation from out Saturday Focus Session – Winter Photography Tips + Winter Bird Photography update. To view the entire webinar not just the birding tips please visit the Bergen County Camera Summit replays section. To be alerted to future webinars be sure to sign up for our emails or text messages. First time subscribers to email or text updates receive $10 off their next $20 purchase. Not valid on gift cards – one offer per purchase.

Jim Wright’s New Book & Birding Spots

Feel free to stop by Bergen County Camera to check out Jim’s newest book, and to purchase a signed copy!

Missed Jim’s Focus Session? Check out the replay here.

You can contact Matt Wozniak of Conserve Wildlife Foundation about contributing your N.J. wildlife photos to CWF’s social media campaign at matt.wozniak@conservewildlifenj.org

You can read the interactive e-book I did about Bald Eagles for Duke Farms and Conserve Wildlife Foundation here.

You can see my Cuba photo e-book here.

You can see the e-book I did last year featuring my “Bird Watcher” columns for The Record here.

Bird Police: Identify and Correct Badge
You can contact Katie Andersen about ordering a “Bird Police” sticker or badge at birderkmandersen@hotmail.com.

Some locations


  • Merlin Birding App (mentioned by Jim)

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