Revisited: John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art – Sarasota, Florida – Part 1

» Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Available Light Photography | 6 comments

I took one of my classes to the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. This place offers such a variety of subjects to photograph. When you think of the name Ringling, the circus comes to mind. John knew how to market and put on a show for ladies, gentleman and children of all ages. If you have never been to the museum, it’s worth a visit. Depending if you are a photographer and how much you are into art, one could spend the entire day there. The museum is broken into different sections such as the circus miniatures, art gallery and the Ca d’Zan (their mansion, named “The House of John”). Those of you who have been long time readers, know that this isn’t my first rodeo there. In fact, the last time I was there, I was with their PR person and it was a little tense as I was using a tripod, even though it was for official media business. Not to mention the first post that I did a couple years back where I was greeted with security for using a tripod on the grounds. If you missed that fun, check out the post called, “Rearing In The Reins”. There’s never a dull moment when I’m around.

Since I took quite a few photos, this is going to be a two parter again. This week I will focus on the miniatures and the main circus museum. Next week I will show photos of the house. Since I used to have an annual pass there, I was ready for them this time. I took three lenses with me, a 50mm f/1.4, 24mm f/2.8 and a 18mm-200mm. Most of the indoor attractions are really dark and they frown on the use of flash and tripods. So, what is a photographer to do to get sharp photos? They need to pull out fast glass, hence why I took my f/1.4 and f/2.8 lenses. The 18mm-200mm was for some general outside stuff. As I go through the photos, I’ll explain my process and what settings I used. As always, click on the thumbnails to see the full size version.

I’m going to start off with the new part of the circus museum. They have a great display of original costumes that the folks used to wear. All of the garments are lit with stage lighting, which can mess with your camera’s white balance if your not careful and not to mention the meter.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography emmett kelleyEmmett Kelley – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I really liked how Emmett was lit and the different colors in his clothes. This was photographed with the 24mm lens at ISO 1600, f/2.8 at 1/15 of a second. This should give you a good idea of how dark it was in there. I have age on my side so I was able to hand hold at 1/15 of a second with minimal blur. Also, since this was shot with a prime lens, it’s one of the sharpest lenses that I have in my bag, even over my zooms.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography ring masterHarold Ronk – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I came across this display and he was wearing a ringleader’s jacket. I liked how all of the sequins were sparkling with the stage lighting. As you can see in the photo, there is a colored stage light to camera right. There are classic lights such as rim light, hair light and main light used in photography. I liked how this light was adding to the photo, so I call this kind of light….armpit light. I’m going to trademark the name; I’m going to be a millionaire!

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography tigerHere kitty, kitty, kitty. – Spencer Pullen © 2012

As I moved into the area where the full size train car was located, I was greeted with this fellow. I was actually happy how this came out considering that it was lit with a harsh light source. All the detail is there, even in the whites.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography train car kitchenTrain Car – Kitchen – Spencer Pullen © 2012

As I walked up the platform to see inside the train car, I was preparing for battle. I have this air around me sometimes, I guess since I’m a bigger person, I look menacing. The red coats were on guard to make sure nothing or no one decided to jump in to the train car. This makes perfect sense as some of the human race may decide to get “creative” with these displays. This train car was lit from the inside with regular bulbs and that was it. My eyes loved what they saw, but I knew the camera was going to laugh and give me the finger. Since I wanted to replicate what I saw, I decided to bracket the scene and hope for the best. I put the camera in aperture priority mode at f/2.8, continuous, with a nine frame burst at one stop apart. I was lucky, for once I was glad to see a bunch of screaming kids. They were putting their grubby little hands all over the side of the train car, but not going inside. This didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows from the red coats so here was my chance. Using the screaming kids as a diversion, I carefully set the camera on the corner of where the window would have been. I held the camera very still and rattled off the nine frames. I had no idea if any of these were going to be good until I got home but what I was seeing for light values looked promising.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography train carTrain Car – Main Room – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I moved down to the “quiet” end of the train car and repeated the process. When I got home, I ran the bracketed series through Photomatix and the above photos are what I ended up with. I was elated, I felt as if I won one over the red coats. No tripod, no flash, shooting in cramped dark spaces with screaming banshee kids. Life is almost good.

It was time to go to the other side of the museum where the miniatures were. I can get lost in this part of the museum for hours on end. The detail that went into creating this was a lifetime of work. Every figure, building and accessory has been hand painted and put together with great care. In this huge display they throw a curve ball at you, the lights go from a daytime scene to a nighttime scene. It’s dark in this place to begin with, so you can only shoot when it’s “daylight” out.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography petting dog minaturesMan’s Best Friend – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Having a Golden Retriever, I HAD to take this photo. This was photographed with the 24mm lens. I wanted the figures in the back to have some depth of field, so I shot this scene at f/4. This is where a camera that does well in low light pays you back as I had to shoot at ISO 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/15. This is the beginning of the display, as you go around, it starts out as they are arriving to set up the circus and the display ends as the train is leaving to go to the next town. This is the format that I will show you the photos.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography getting off train minaturesThe Ladder of Success – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Here, the figure is getting off the train, getting ready to tend to the animals. Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m also shooting through a plate of glass? To combat any reflections, I had to put the lens right on the glass.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography pylon driving minaturesPylon Drivers – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Here are the workers pounding in the pylons to hold the tent up. You can easily tell who the supervisor is as he has the suit on.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography lady carrying wood minaturesHere’s Your Wood – Spencer Pullen © 2012

They also had some scenes with some outlying areas. Here is a woman that just for finished chopping some wood. You can see the axe stuck in the wood block behind her.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography food prep minaturesPrepping The Honeydews – Spencer Pullen © 2012

This guy reminds me of a chef who is taking karate classes. Cutting in one hand with a knife and a quick hand chop with the other. The detail on the fruit in the basket is what caught my eye. I also like the idea that he was going to use an axe to cut these. That is the first food processor; this guy needs to be on one of those credit cards commercials. You can also see the different kinds of apples in the crates at the bottom of the frame. No details were spared in this project.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography towns peopleEveryone Is Arriving – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Details everywhere. This is one of a couple of parking lots that were put together with different styles of cars.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography big show main entrance minaturesThe Main Entrance – Spencer Pullen © 2012

This one should be obvious; all the folks are going into to buy their tickets. I like the pricing, Adults – $1.00 and Children ¢.50. I’m sure this was a treat back then. The last time I went to the movies, it cost almost $50.00. There is something wrong with this picture. Now, I stay at home and watch movies on DirecTV.

 john and mabel ringling art museum sarasota florida spencer pullen photography locomotive minaturesTime To Go – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Here is the locomotive and the engineer getting ready to leave for the next town. There is a TON that I left out, however this might make a post in itself.

There is plenty to see at the museum, and be sure to take the house tour so you see all three stories of the house, more on this next week. If you decide to check this out, take the fastest glass that you own. If you don’t have any, a 50mm f/1.8 will set you back about $125.00. This is much more affordable than the f/1.4 version. I also use this lens when I need absolute tack sharpness.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean

Spencer

6 Comments

  1. Thanks Spencer for sharing the photos and the information on how each one occurred.

    I took my photos over yesterday afternoon and will pick up today. Can’t wait to see results. I did the poppy one and five black and whites of Italy. Got my frames at Michaels for hundred bucks. Buy one and get second one for a penny. Hopefully, they’ll turn out like I’m envisioning.

    Have more in mind, but need to wait until after holidays. If something materializes at the Slough, do let me know.

    • Spencer

      Will do. Can’t wait to see some of the Italy photos, they were awesome!

      Spencer

  2. Enjoyed the photos from Ringling, one of my favorite places. any advice on photographing photographs? My son is coming for Christmas and wants copies from the family album. Rather than scanning the pics that he wants, I was thinking of photographing them but wonder if there are any tricks?

    • Spencer

      There are a couple of things that I can recommend. To make sure they come out sharp, use a tripod. This will ensure that when they are printed or used online, that there won’t be any blurriness. Also, zoom in and fill the frame with the photo in the viewfinder. This will allow the biggest possible size print. I would take them out of the album and make sure they are laying flat on a table. This will help with glare and they won’t distort. Good luck with your project…

      Spencer

  3. what fun!

  4. Great Pictures…

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