Next week marks the arrival of “The Nature of the Meadowlands,” the lavishly illustrated book about the region’s remarkable environmental comeback.
For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of creating the book for the Meadowlands Commission was working with two extremely talented nature photographers, Marco van Brabant and Ron Shields.
Marco specializes in landscapes, and Ron in wildlife shots. Both see the Meadowlands with an artist’s eye, and both have helped me see the region in new ways.
I’d like to write about each of them because of their fresh perspectives, beginning this week with Marco.
Marco finds beauty in “urban” landscapes. He took the photos on both the front and back of the dust jacket, and both show the sweeping vistas of the Meadowlands.
The front cover shows the distant skylines of lower Manhattan and Jersey City in the east. The back cover shows the sunset silhouette of North Arlington. If you look closely, you can see the steeple of the Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Church.
In between those two horizons are the quintessential Meadowlands — wetlands and water, with the seemingly ever-present electrical transmission lines looming in the background.
What attracted Marco to the area? “I work in Kearny, and I pass through the Meadowlands everyday on the way to work on the NJ Turnpike,” he says. “I am from Holland, and wide open, flat vistas comprise a large portion of the landscape. I felt very at home in the similar landscape of open marshes in the Meadowlands, and wanted to explore it.”
Five years ago, Marco began taking long walks along the Kearny Marsh, and was amazed at the wildlife and pretty scenery he found in this urban area, once considered something of a swampy wasteland.
Of all of the thousands of photos he has taken in the Meadowlands, he currently has a set of two favorites taken from atop Laurel Hill. The first one faces east and takes in a view of Manhattan; the busy houses of Hoboken and Jersey City, some sort of industrial complex, and the marsh grasses of the Meadowlands. The second shot shows what you see when you turn 180 degrees. All you see is a peaceful scene of the marshes, the Hackensack River, and the sunset beyond.
If you’ve been thinking about seeing the nature of the Meadowlands for yourself, consider this advice from Marco.
“Go!” says Marco. “My favorite motto is ‘when in doubt, go out.’ You will never regret the time you take to spend in nature.
“If you go, the best lighting for photography will be there for you an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. And don't forget to bring your binoculars to view the many species of birds that reside in or pass through the Meadowlands all seasons of the year.” Amen.