Our South Bergenite Column: Ron Shields

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Besides keeping this blog and his other duties, the NJMC's Jim Wright writes a twice-monthly column for The South Bergenite. This week's column is about photographer Ron Shields.

One of the joys of writing the new coffee-table book A-001 a
“The Nature of the Meadowlands” was working with photographers the likes of Ron Shields of Kearny.

Ron took many of the book’s most memorable images – including an amazing sunrise and a couple of picture-perfect bald eagle shots.

     “The attraction of the Meadowlands for me has always been the sense of urban wilderness and isolation one can find here,” says Ron, who is also the principal of Harrison High School. 

“It’s fascinating to experience the many wonders this area offers while understanding it was once known as the ‘dumps.’  And all of this happens in the shadow of the greatest city in the world. “.

   Ron’s two favorite places to photograph nature in the district are both open to the public — the Kearny Marsh and a back road called Disposal Road, connecting Lyndhurst and North Arlington.

   In the warmer months, Ron paddles his kayak into the Kearny Marsh to photograph wildlife without disturbing it.

The rest of the column follows.


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His photos from the marsh include a green heron, an American Coot, a Least Bittern, several awesome duck and a perched bald eagle.

   In the cooler months, Ron likes to hang out on Disposal Road because a huge assortment of raptors likes to hunt the adjacent former landfills – inkling American kestrels, northern harriers and peregrine falcons.

  Ron’s serious interest in photography coincided with the digital age, which has made photography so much simpler.

He started with several unsuccessful attempts at photographing his daughter’s hockey games in dimly lit rinks, which forced him to hone his skills.  

   Photographing various events and activities at his high school gave him a lot of practice using different lenses in different situations – and then he discovered the natural beauty of the Meadowlands.

    “My favorite photo is always my next photo.  You always try to improve.  From macro to 500mm, the Meadowlands presents photographic opportunities everywhere for everyone.”

   One photo, however, has always haunted Ron.  It’s a shot of an adult black-crowned night heron perched on the shore of one of the many tributaries of Berry’s Creek at low tide.  In the background, you can see a cross-section of the years of abuse suffered by this area.

     “This photo has always begged the question for me as to who is really endangered on this planet,” Ron says.

     As for his advice on visiting the Meadowlands, his advice is simple: Do it! 

    “Whether it’s a walking tour of DeKorte Park, a jog through Mill Creek Marsh, a paddle in the Kearny Marsh or a pontoon ride down the Hackensack, get out and see the wonders of your own backyard,” Ron says.  “Your perspective of this area will be changed forever.  Your sense of wonder will be forever enhanced. “

2 thoughts on “Our South Bergenite Column: Ron Shields

  1. Roy

    Cheers … well written.
    I’ve learned so much from Ron during the past year or two. Though I have much to learn and years of practice ahead of me before I reach his level … his stories and advice have given me more photographic opportunities that I ever could have imagined and have made me a better photographer.
    He has mentioned the photo of the BCNH to me several times. I have a few like that … an endangered species perched on some sort of trash in what is still a horribly polluted area. It never ceases to amaze me … the adaptability of the life on this planet.

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