WRITTEN BY: BRUCE LOVELACE
PUBLISHED ON: December 9, 2023
The Heislerville Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is a great place for photographers to shoot for several reasons. There is a diverse landscape, abundant wildlife and the area is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year.
The WMA is easy to travel to and once you're in the local area you won't have any traffic issues, so it's easy to get from one photo spot within the area to another spot in a short time. Admission is free. You don't need a special permit, no beach tags, and there are no parking fees. Just bring your camera.
Heislerville is located in Maurice Township, Cumberland County, NJ and the Heislerville WMA covers over 7,6000 acres of tidal marshes, shoreline, fields, woodlands and coastal impoundments.
What are the best subjects to photograph in the Heislerville area? The East Point lighthouse is without a doubt #1, but the entire wildlife management and surrounding areas have plenty of opportunities for photo enthusiasts like you and me.
People travel form far distances to photograph this quaint landmark which is New Jersey's second oldest. You can photograph from several different vantage points, both near and far. My second visit to the lighthouse was for nighttime photography and I was amazed at how many photographers were there at the time.
I have very little experience shooting astrophotography, but with a little help from Photoshop, I was happy to come away with the photo above on my first attempt.
Bird geeks flock to this area (pun intended) during peak observation seasons, but there are year round species of birds to photograph. The WMA is home to a wide variety of other animals too. These included deer, turkey, fox, coyotes, owls, and hawks. Photographers can take pictures of these animals in their natural habitat, providing stunning images.
This 7,670-acre wildlife management area is home to a variety of animals, including deer, fox, and wild turkeys. The area also boasts a number of hiking trails, which offer excellent opportunities for landscape photography.
I was fascinated by a huge area of marshland on Thompson Beach Road where woodlands have been replaced by grass. The photo below was one of my favorite images from that location.
This Heislerville marshland landscape is like no other that I've personally seen. The tree trunks were completely void of bark and were totally bleached out from the sun, wind, and rain.
Heislerville was named after the Heisler family, prominent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church which was established in 1828 and there are few historical buildings worth photographing in the town at this point. Heislerville was predominately a fishing and agriculture industry town up until the 1960s.
This scenic river squiggles all the way from the middle of Millville down through the Heislerville Wildlife Management Area and out to the Delaware Bay. The Maurice River Bluffs and hiking trails are less than a 20 minute drive from the village of Heislerville.
The river itself a great place to photograph wildlife, including birds, fish, and turtles. I photographed deer. osprey, and scenes like the one below at the river bluffs. The photo of this sunrise over the river was taken early one morning when I was hiking one of the trails near the Maurice River.
Matt's Landing Road is a great spot to explore if you're interested in birding in the wildlife management area. Anchor Marina is a highly rated destination for fisherman. The marina and the abundant bird activity make for good subjects for photographers as well.
I took this of the Milky Way below from a spot near the parking lot of the East Point Lighthouse discussed earlier. There is less light pollution here than in most other areas in New Jersey, so it's a good spot for shooting astrophotography. It's very dark in the Heislerville area at night because it's so sparsely populated, especially shooting out over the ocean.
The glow of "light pollution" coming from Cape May can be seen in the lower right corner. The American flag can be seen in the lower left corner.
Sunrise and sunset photos are likely the most stunning photographs that the general population takes when visiting a shoreline along the ocean, the bay, or a river. Usually it's the cloud formations that make the most difference when photographing sunrises and sunsets.
In the photo below, the fisherman timed their boat location just right for me and about a dozen other photographers.
Sometimes it's just pure lucky timing when a photo op presents itself. Whether it's your cellphone or a regular camera, it's smart to keep it along when you travel to areas like Heislerville.
For the photo above, I positioned myself in the parking lot and included just the tops of the dune grass in the bottom of the photo. I needed to use a fast shutter speed to "freeze" the rapidly moving grass in very windy conditions.
Heislerville is a truly special place with something to offer photographers of all levels. You can enjoy the outdoors all year round, learn about nature, and practice your photographic skills. The wildlife, various plant species, and the unique landscape give you countless chances to come home with winning photographs that you'll be proud of.
We live on a remarkable planet. Let's work together to keep it that way.