My Favorite Places To Shoot In NJ

Most people who live outside New Jersey seem to think the whole state is like how it looked on The Sopranos.

Of the places I’ve been to and photographed at, these are my top 9 places, in no particular order, to photograph in New Jersey:

  1. Great Falls of Paterson
    • Paterson
    • Paterson was selected by Alexander Hamilton as the first planned industrial town.  The falls were formed during the last ice age approximately 13,000 years ago.  The Falls are viewable from Overlook Park on the south (this is the view where most of the images of the falls are taken) and Mary Ellen Kramer Park on the north. A footbridge over the Falls gorge also serves as an outlook point from which many have captured the Falls rainbow.
  2. Waterloo Village
    • Byram
    • A restored 19th century canal town featuring an inn, blacksmith, general store, and church.  During Canal Heritage Days, which occurs the second and fourth Saturdays in July through October, the blacksmith, general store, and gristmill are open.
  3. Hacklebarney State Park
    • Chester
    • There are several different trails to traverse, including one which focuses on the waterfalls and another which follows the river.
  4. Duke Farms
    • Hillsborough
    • Located on over 2,700 acres, Duke Farms is the former home of the family of J. B. Duke, including his daughter Doris.  There’s plenty to photograph, from waterfalls and flowers to historic buildings and sculptures.
  5. Liberty State Park
    • Jersey City
    • Liberty State Park has spectacular views of the New York City skyline and Statue of Liberty.  There’s also the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal.  The track area is still fenced off but you can access the main building and photograph into the tracks.
  6. Donaldson Farms
    • Hackettstown
    • This family owned farm has one of the largest fields full of sunflowers I’ve ever seen.  They have over 40 acres of sunflowers.  The best time to go is the end of August to early September when they offer tours.  The absolute best time of day to go is at sunset.  There are several ways to get there at sunset – find a Meetup group going there, find someone (like Unique Photo) offering a workshop there, or find somewhere to park and walk along Airport Rd until you find the sunflowers.
  7. Red Mill
    • Clinton
    • The mill has been around for over 200 years and is located on the Raritan River.  It was originally used to process wool.  Later it was used to grind flour, graphite and talc.  The red color of the mill stands out, especially when the ground is snow covered.
  8. Solberg Airport
    • Readington
    • The main photographic opportunity here is the annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. From twice daily mass ascensions of up to 100 special shape and sport hot air balloons, to headlining concerts, fireworks, a balloon glow, and more, the festival is jam-packed with plenty of stuff to photograph.
  9. Branch Brook Park
    • Newark
    • Branch Brook Park, the nation’s first county park, is located in the Newark, though a portion of the park is located in Belleville. The park has over 4,000 cherry blossom trees, whereas Washington D.C. only has 3,000 trees.

There are a few places in Jersey that other photographers recommend going to but I just haven’t had the chance to visit.

  • Leonard J. Buck Gardens
  • Grounds for Sculpture
  • The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Geotagging My Images

One of the benefits of digital photography over film is the ability to tag the location of where the image was taken into the file.  I’ve been geotagging my images now for several years, especially since my iPhone tags the images automatically.

Up until recently, I’ve had to add the geolocation information into my images after the fact.  My 7D Mark II has GPS built-in, as well as my iPhone.  For any images captured with any other camera, as well as scanned images, I’ve had to add the location later on.

There are three different ways I’ve used to gather the location information and then embed the info to the image file.

  • Use iPhone app to save to GPX file
    • I’ve used an app called GPX Master, which has not been updated in several years, to create a log of where I’ve been at a particular moment.  As long as the time on my camera matches the time on my iPhone, when I load the tracklog into Lightroom, the proper images will get tagged with the correct location.
  • Use iPhone to take an image from the same location and then copy the coordinates to images
    • If I don’t want to turn on the GPS in my 7D Mark II nor use my iPhone to log my location (perhaps due to low battery), I can take photos using my iPhone and then copy the coordinates to the images from the 7DII inside Lightroom.
  • Manually add the coordinates
    • For all of my old images, including old film prints which I scanned into my computer to preserve, I’ve had to manually add the coordinates.  Before I used Lightroom, I would add the GPS information using Google Earth.  It’s similar to the map module inside of Lightroom.  One downside is trying to remember where I was years before.  Another downside is that I may not remember where I was standing but know what I was taking a picture of, so I would geotag the location of the subject, not where I was located.  This makes it hard for me to return to the same spot in the future.

Another option, which I’ve never used, is an external GPS receiver.  These are separate devices which attach to the camera, either with a wire or wirelessly, and embed the GPS information into the image as you’re shooting.  They typically run about $250 so I chose to go with the cheap/free method instead.