Photographing at the Barnegat Jetty

by Denise Ippolito | August 6, 2012

© Denise IppolitoBarnegat Lighthouse State Park in New Jersey, located at the northern end of Long Beach Island, is where you will find the famed “Barnegat Jetty”. If you are a birder or bird photographer as I am, this is a must visit destination during the winter. The Barnegat Jetty is considered the best place in the northeast to view and photograph a variety of sea ducks and wintering shorebirds, most noticeably Harlequin Duck and Purple Sandpiper. The Harlequin Ducks often preen themselves and rest on the rocks; if you are patient and slow moving you can be rewarded with some great intimate shots. There is a colony of 25-30 Harlequin Ducks that over winter at Barnegat.

Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling and Herring Gull can all be viewed easily from the jetty. Horned Lark and Snow Bunting can usually be seen on the sand dunes. In some years Snowy Owls have been spotted on the dunes. The water way is a great place to see Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks (formerly called Oldsquaw), Common Loons, Red-throated Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Surf Scoters, Black Scoters, Common Eider and Brant. The Long-Tailed Ducks often fly back and forth through the inlet, flying close to the jetty to take advantage of the very swift currents. This makes photographing the ducks at fairly close range much easier.

Bird in flight above water © Denise Ippolito

In winters past I have also seen several Harbor Seals from the jetty and was able to create some great images of a few that were sun bathing on the rocks.

Jetty photography has some unique issues to deal with. For one thing the rocks are spaced unevenly and that will make using your tripod more difficult. I always use a sturdy tripod and I have learned to be very careful where I place the legs. Sometimes the rocks are slippery and they can also be icy. Be careful where you walk. Knowing what rocks are wet or slippery (from algae) is important. Good shoes with a strong grip are important. A lot of fishermen wear spiked shoes similar to golf shoes. I wear Merrell hiking shoes with a Vibram outsole. During the winter it is important to dress warmly. I wear gloves, a hat, a scarf and a down jacket. I also wear water proof pants over top of my jeans. Sometimes you will need to sit in duck muck, water or even ice to get the shot. I know a lot of photographers that shoot at the jetty and never kneel or sit and they are still able to produce lovely images. When I am photographing birds in flight I stand. I recommend going with a friend. It can be dangerous to be alone on the jetty in case you fall. I remember one elderly gentleman who was alone and fell between the rocks. He used his cell phone to dial 911. He was lucky he brought his phone.

Waterfowl at Barnegat Jetty © Denise Ippolito

Parking is available at the state park right next to the lighthouse. The parking lot closes at 4:30pm sharp and your car WILL get locked in if you are not back in time to get your car out.  I recommend parking outside of the main parking lot. There are several parking spaces that are in front of the main gate.

Bird portrait © Denise Ippolito

The Park Office building next to the parking lot also has public restroom facilities. The restrooms and office are closed on holidays.

For additional information about the park, you can call the park at 609-494-2016 or visit the park’s website.

Preening duck © Denise Ippolito

Barnegat Jetty Site Guide by Denise Ippolito

Barnegat Jetty Site GuidePhotography eBook by Denise Ippolito with Arthur Morris

The Barnegat Jetty Site Guide (6190 words, 68 images) will help to ensure that your very first visit to this great bird photography location is both productive and safe. I’ll explain the effects of the winds and the tides and the light on the photographic opportunities. In the site guide I also share my favorite conditions and some tricks for getting close.

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About the Author

Denise Ippolito is a freelance photographer, artist and writer living in NJ. She is a moderator for Bird Photographers Network which is an online photography site. Her recent eBook A Guide to Creative Filters and Effects is an expression of art and nature. Denise has co-led several photography instructional tours for Arthur Morris who is a Canon Explorer of Light. He is a world renowned bird photographer and teacher. She offers workshops featuring avian, macro and HDR photography. For more information or to see some of her work visit

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