Crowley Museum and Nature Center – Sarasota, Florida

I was passing through Sarasota, Florida a while ago and I had heard of a nature place called, Crowley Museum and Nature Center. Crowley Nature Center is located at the north end of Myakka River State Park, so I figured while I was up there it was worth checking out.

If you’re not looking for it, you may drive right by it. There is a metal gate with a wooden sign that that the name of the attraction on it. Once you go into the gate, you are on a single lane dirt/shell road. (I keep forgetting there isn’t any dirt in Florida). There is a fork in the road, where the road splits, there is a rickety wooden sign that directs you where you want to go. In this case, I needed to hang a left to get to the office. On the way to the office there was a sign that pointed to an eagle’s nest that was out in the middle of the field. There was plenty of parking, but when I hear the word museum, I’m thinking carpeted floors and artifacts in glass cases. Here we were out in God’s county, nothing but you and Mother Nature herself. No carpet, no glass here. I went in and paid the $7 admission fee.

The property is basically set up into sections. First, there is the house. I was told that it was built in the late 1800’s and housed the parents and 13 children! Ugh, thanks goodness for the invention of the television! You are able to tour the first floor of the home. There is a sewing room, classroom and kitchen/dining room. It’s interesting to see how these folks had to live, plus no AIR CONDITIONING!

 main house at the crowley museum and nature center in sarasota floridaHome Sweet Home – Spencer Pullen © 2012

It was later in the afternoon when I visited as you can see by the warm light. This is not an HDR photo. It’s a single RAW exposure that tweaked in Adobe Camera RAW. This is why I love RAW files. I was able to wrestle in the highlights and use a little fill light for the shadows.

Affixed to the office is a blacksmith shop. It’s retired now, but all of the tools and stove is still there. It’s pretty dark so you may want to use a flash for this particular shot. As I walked around the blacksmith shop I heard purring. Here was a cat that was taking a nap on a trunk that looked as if it was over 100 years old. The cat open one eye and took a look at me and went back to sleeping. I took a few photos and left him alone.

 cat napping at the crowley museum and nature center in sarasota floridaCat On A Sunday Snooze – Spencer Pullen © 2012

There is an old barn on the property that has some really cool artifacts to look at. There is a mini general store set up as well as a kitchen, loom and a place to watch a video to get a history of the property and family. Here is one photo that I took that I thought was interesting.

 Tools at the crowley museum and nature center in sarasota floridaThe Original Home Depot – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I wanted to try something “artistic” with one of my photos. I’m usually in the camp that I like to keep the photos as I saw them, but I have been getting flak from my friends about trying something out of the box. I stared with Nik’s Pro Contrast to help give the photo some punch. I finished it off using Bleach Bypass as this gave it an old and worn look. I hope this satisfies my “artistic” requirement for my fellow friends.

Outside the barn what looked to be like some old gears off a sugar cane press. I like these kinds of subjects to photograph as they have lots of old texture and show how things used to be “Built better in America”. I converted this photo with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

 gears at the crowley museum and nature center in sarasota floridaThe Gears Of Progress – Spencer Pullen © 2012

To finish off my visit, there is a boardwalk that leads out to an observatory platform, which overlooks a flat grassland area. This is a great place to bird watch or get some landscape shots. If you are going to photograph birds, bring a really long lens with you.

It was a great trip and was worth the $7 admission price. This is a family and photographer friendly place. They don’t care if you use a tripod or anything else. It’s also a great place to try some HDR photography as well as brush up on your flash photography with interiors. If you do visit this location in the summer, be advised to take some serious mosquito repellent with you, water and a gallon zip lock bag. I have been caught out on these boardwalks when it decides to rain out of nowhere and you and your camera have no protection. A fifty-cent bag can save your expensive camera gear.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Thank you Spencer for the great write-up. Folks like you helping spread the word make places like Crowley thrive. Come see us again.

  2. Crowley is a nice “out of the way” photo op. Enjoyed your pictures and comments.

  3. Beautiful photos of one of my favorite places…including “Cracker” the cat!

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