Carlton Reserve – Venice, Florida

Sometimes you have to get lost in nature, like really lost. A good friend of mine is a birder so they are always trying to get me to go out and educate me on the different species. How hard can this be? Does it have feathers, a beak and fly? It’s a bird! I guess there is more to it than that. A few months ago, I was told about Carlton Preserve in Venice, Florida. They mentioned this is a great place to get nature photos and birds. My schedule is never the same so when I got a bit of a break, we decided to head up there and see what the deal was.

As I have mentioned in the past, I’ve basically switched to black and white for most of my personal work. I enjoy the feeling that you get looking at a photograph when you strip out all of the color and all your left with is texture, lines and composition. Anytime I have an opportunity to visit a place that I have never been before, I’m all over it.

When we arrived, there was a storm in the area, but we were going to chance it, armed with our three gallon Ziplock bag in tow for protection. Since I was going to be focusing on landscape for the day, I fitted the camera with my 24mm f/2.8 prime that I love so much as its light and sharp. Due to the possibility of being in the center of the massive flood of 2015, I decided to leave the tripod in the car. I’m a big tripod person, but in the drenching rain, I was willing to hand hold. After our gear was assembled, we were off….to the bathroom.

The first path we went down, we went through a very primitive campground. There were spaces with mowed grass and a metal ring to contain a fire. That’s it. Looks like tent only as there was no road or access for vehicles or RVs. However, we came upon some really nice bathrooms! As we kept walking, we came upon a clearing and realized that we were now in the “official” part of the reserve.

Spencer Pullen photographed this cabin at Carlton Reserve in Venice Florida. This is a learning center that was shot in black and white.Cabin/Education Center – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

I immediately saw this cabin, LOVED IT! This is my kind of subject, it looked weathered and rustic. After further inspection, it must be some kind of education center as I peeked into the windows and saw a desk and paperwork. To photograph this, I set my lens to f/8 which is pretty sharp at this f-stop. Seeing that there was some deep shadows, I new this was going to have to be bracketed. I shot nine frames, one stop apart. This allowed me to capture all of the light in the scene.

Spencer Pullen photographed this picnic bench at Carlton Reserve in Venice Florida. Shown here in black and white. Picnic Bench – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

While out on one of the trails, we came upon this picnic bench that must have been there since the park was opened! It has layers of mold, pine needles and dirt all over it. Great subject to photograph, not sure I would want to eat my lunch on it. Again, the camera was set up as before. I kept my arms close to my body to steady the camera as much as possible.

Spencer Pullen photographed this at Carlton Reserve in Venice Florida. Here you can see an approaching storm in black and white.Out In The Prairie – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

This was the last photo of the day. As you can see on the right side of the photo, is the approaching storm. There was another picnic table that allowed me to stand on it and get some height to shoot over the edge of the brush. I really wanted to ensure that the details in the clouds were going to come out. The prairie is, well, a prairie, not too much going on!

To process the photos, I took the RAW files and put them into Photomatix. I used their “standard” alignment setting and turned off all of the other options. I like to use the “fusion” setting as that gives me the most natural setting. I find that tone mapping does some crazy things and personally I don’t like the look of it. Once it was fused, I passed it to camera RAW and made a few tweaks. Then to finish it off, I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to do the black and white conversion. Done.

We packed our gear back in the car and as we closed the doors to leave, it started to rain. I guess the Photographer’s Gods were on our side that day. We got a few photos, no birds though, I’m guessing the wrong time of day. It was still fruitful as I have never taken a mold covered picnic table before! If you get a chance and you are in the Venice, Florida area, stop and check out this place. It’s free and if you are into landscapes this might be worth a look at. If you’re into birding, you might want to go early or late, just don’t get locked in!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Spence as always these are exceptional, my favorite; the picnic table! Thanks for sharing I will have to get up there for a visit.
    Again, Beautiful works of art.

    • Spencer

      Thanks! It’s a great place this time of year, nice and cool!

  2. LOVE the picnic bench picture. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

    • Spencer

      Appreciate it. Could probably tell some stories if it could talk!

  3. Wow. Love those shots Spencer.

    • Spencer

      Thanks! Gee, we should go sometime!

      • LOL yeah we should.

  4. Back to doing the things I love, now that I am somewhat settled in my new Colorado home. Am looking forward to exploring doing more long distance learning with you. Love the picnic table picture!

    • Spencer

      Thanks! I’m here when ever you are ready!

  5. Always good to see your images. You excel in all your B&W. Love the little cabin/education center.

  6. Great pictures, as always! I have been wanting to go there and I live in Venice:-(

  7. It is always a pleasure to go look at what you are up to. Love these B&W. What a lovely cabin and surrounding area. My kind of place! Glad to know it exists and plan on making a day trip.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *