Mangrove Island – Ponce de Leon Park – Punta Gorda, Florida – Large Format Photography

Most photographers that I have talked to, tell me about the “elusive” photo that they had to really work to get or are still trying to capture. This photo is one of those.

Many years ago, I was doing a photo class at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida. We were working on the usual items such as composition, camera controls and lighting. We took a walk down a make shift fishing trail that is accessible during low tide. As we made our way through the trail, we came upon a clearing and in front of us was a “Mangrove Island”. I really fell in love with this for some reason.

I photographed it with a digital camera in color that day. As time went on, and I realized that I really preferred black and white, I went back and took it again, digitally for black and white conversion. I always kept this in the back of my mind as a great location.

A few months ago I bought a 8×10 film camera like what Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher used. This allows for much larger prints and the film can capture details like I have never seen before. Now that I had this amazing camera, I knew that this was going to be one place on my list to capture.

The first day I went out, I found my spot, and set up the tripod and camera. I pulled out the light meter and calculated the exposure. Finally, when the time came, I was ready for the “decisive moment” and pressed the shutter. When I got home and developed the film, I was feeling confident that I had captured what I was looking for. When I pulled the negative out of the wash, it was then I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. One side of the negative was quite overexposed. I could’t quite figure this out. I put an SOS out to my friends on Facebook and there were some great ideas which in turn led to much testing of the bellows, lens board, film holder and so on. After days of trying to figure out what exactly had gone wrong, it was then I figured that it was not the equipment that failed me, it was nature.

The mangrove was at 12:00 and I was standing at 6:00. The sun was about 10:00. What I was seeing on the negative was glare off the water and lens flair. Granted, I spent two sheets of film, but was relieved that the equipment was not at fault.

I decided to try again the next day. I knew I wanted as much water in the frame as possible so I checked the tide table and went at high tide, in this case, 3:30 p.m. The plan was set and I was off. I made it down the trail and when I arrived at the location, it was then I realized that the tide was so high, I would have been in the water to work. Not having a proper set up to do this, I bagged it and decided to try again another day.

A friend was with me a couple of days later and we decided to stop by and see what was happening. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon. The tide was in the right spot, however the sun was going to be an issue again. Getting frustrated, I was ready to leave, however my friend convinced me to take a photo of something since we were there already. This is when I took the “Mangrove Roots” photo that is in the previous blog post.

Now that I was determined more than ever, I got my head wrapped around a compass and realized that this was going to be a morning photo with moderate tide. I looked up the sunrise  time and cross referenced with the tide table and we were in business. I loaded two more sheets of film and I was off again. Arriving at 8:00 a.m. the light was right and the tide was right, it seemed as if this was going to be the perfect condition. Also, I was concerned with the wind since I usually shoot at f/64 and this creates long exposures. I wanted the water to be blurred, but not the mangrove island itself.

Everything was set, I pressed the shutter and I was hoping this was going to be “the one”. I developed the film and I have to say I wanted to do a cart wheel! I finally got the photo I was looking for.

If you have a photo that you really want and struggling to capture it, keep at it. The perfect time will come and whether you capture it with pixels or silver, it will be rewarding!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean



Spencer Pullen at work with the Zone VI 8x10 camera at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda, Florida.Mangrove Island – Spencer Pullen © 2017 All Rights Reserved

  1. Spencer,
    Just beautiful.

  2. Beautiful shot! Congratulations!

  3. Very beautiful place. Your pictures and video is amazing!

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