Jelks Preserve – Venice, Florida

Over the past few years I have been experimenting on ways that expand the dynamic range of my black and white photos. Many of you are long time readers of this blog and you know that I like the fusion technique that I stumbled upon a few years ago for my real estate shoots. This mixed with the new technology that we have available to us for black and white conversion, one can’t go wrong experimenting on what is possible. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

A few months ago, I was doing a photo class field trip at Jelks Preserve in Venice, Florida. I had never been there before so who knows what we were going to find. I had heard of this place many times. It’s only 20 minutes from where I live so I should know about it! The students that I was with wanted to practice manual mode. That is what we did, they practiced and by the time the left, they were experts at reading the light meter in their cameras and moving dials to make a proper exposure. I on the other hand was breaking all of the rules. I was bracketing each scene as I was on the look out for scenes that would lend themselves to great black and whites.

It was an over cast day for the most part which is usually a great thing. However, I find black and white photos do well when there is some hard light in the scene. No worries, I just cranked up the contrast higher than normal in post to help make up for this soft light. The threat of rain was in the forecast so I packed a three gallon zip lock back that I purchased at Lowe’s. These have saved my camera and key fobs many times!

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of this picnic table at Jelks Preserve in North Port, FloridaLost Picnic – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

After we traveled down a long path and trying to figure out where we were on the paper map, we came to this picnic table that had been there quite awhile. It was nestled in the trees and looked abandoned with the over grown grass and the lichen was starting to take over. This is old Florida. Not having a tripod, I had to act as a tripod, pushing my arms into my chest to stabilize the camera as much as possible. I fired off nine shots as that is what my camera does automatically.

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of the Myakka River at Jelks Preserve in North Port, Florida Myakka River – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Just beyond the brush of the picnic table was a small, snake bite path that lead to the river. Of course we had to check it out! The sandy area was solid enough to hold us. We only had a few feet to stand before we would have ended up in the river. We checked out the local footprints. We identified bird, raccoon and alligator tracks. We took a few photos and moved on. This photo is a little busy, but without waterproof boots, this was all I could get. These were shot with my 24mm f/2.8 lens so I didn’t have a zoom to reach out further.

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of this path at Jelks Preserve in North Port, FloridaPath Through The Oaks – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

I love paths, especially when they go under some kind of trees such as this. Even though this is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s kept up pretty well as the paths are mowed and it’s easy walking. Using the bracketing technique allows the viewer to see the details in the shadows and highlights.

After all of the photos were captured, I ran them through Photomatix and then finished them off in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro. I also sharpened them using Nik’s Sharpener Pro. I find the workflow easy, quick and gives me the result that I’m looking for.

Get out there and shoot something before the weather gets sweltering. Oh, by the way, on the way back it did start raining and since I had my bag with me, no worries. I looked like the most expensive homeless person walking through a park!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Nice photography. You reminded me I need to get out there and do more with black & white. Enjoyed the post.

  2. Love your black and white photos. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great photos……kinda looks like Mysterious Island (movie). Too pretty to be real.

  4. Good job, Spencer! Amazing you can get 9 such clean shots without a tripod. Makes me want to check out Jelks

  5. Love this pics! I need to take more classes!

  6. Every Watercolorist I know should take your Black&white photography course.
    Love the composition, value contrasts and subject matter. Keep up the good work.
    My best, Don

    • Spencer

      Thanks, Don! Been quite awhile since I have seen you. Hope all is well and we need to get together soon! Thanks…


  7. Unable to join you. It is been a long time!! My Nikon 700 D is still new. Life simply takes unexpected turns. All is well I must say. Thank you again for keeping me among your very special group. I enjoy reading all information and pictures you share.

Submit a Comment

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.