Revisited: Burns Court – Sarasota, Florida

Photography is one of those hobbies that can be challenging and fun at the same time. I got a call from a friend who asked if I would be interested in teaching a series of classes at her home. She had a few other friends that would be interested in taking lessons in Photoshop and photography. Sure, no problem. We sat down and started to work through the logistics of where we would go, and what info to cover in a two to three hour period. One of the places that we came up with was Burns Court in Sarasota, FL. My faithful readers may be scratching their heads right now and thinking that this place sounds familiar. You’re right. Here is the link to the other post: Burns Court – Sarasota, Florida. So why go back to a place that some of us had been? This is where the challenge and fun comes in. Here’s the good news, you know where all the great photography hot spots are since you have been there already. Here’s the bad news, you know where all the great photography hot spots are since you have been there already. (Was that déjà vu? No, I just wanted to use that word in a post some time!) The home that we were going to be working out of was about five minutes away from this location and we weren’t going to have to spend a lot of time in the car traveling to locations. Now it was going to be my job to try and pick out some new items.

We arrived on location and it was clouded over, my favorite lighting condition, however there was rain in the clouds. It was on and off but we didn’t let that slow us down. I fitted my Nikon D300 with the ole’ trusty 50mm f/1.4. I love this lens as it’s light, sharp and I can cream (blur) any background I want. As we are all standing around the vehicle going through bag after bag of gear (we looked like we were Nat Geo and just landed to shoot a documentary) I was asked which lens to use. My answer was simple, “Which lens have you used the least?” After each person pondered this question, I said, “That is the lens that you want to use.” This was going to allow people that get comfortable using one lens to try something new, I mean if it’s paid for and in your bag, why not try it? One person had another Nikon 50mm like I did and another person used a 70mm-200mm f/2.8. I also stuffed a white garbage bag in my pocket that I carry in my camera bag in case of rain or…garbage.

 This is a black and white mural in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida. Photo Taken by Spencer PullenVintage Sarasota – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

As we made our way down the street, we had to veer around the cars seen in the photo above. It was great going into Sears and buying a set of old Craftsman tools…RIGHT. So what’s the deal here? Across the street from where we parked, there was a mural painted on the side of a tall building. This was so photo like; we just stood there in awe looking at it. This was painted in black and white, no conversion here. The challenge was going to be shooting this and not have the photo go all wonky (that’s the technical term). However, the minute we tilted our cameras up to take the photo, the building in the back of the mural and the car hood in the front got all bent out of shape (like that pun?) The answer was this, we couldn’t get an unwarped shot unless we had a cherry picker to get up on and shoot straight on. Well, I drove the car today and not the cherry picker to Sarasota, so warped it was going be. But, from the above photo it looks straight, right? This is where your friend Photoshop or Elements comes into play. Under the Filter menu, there is an option called “Lens Correction” I demo this is my Elements classes and folks get to see first hand how powerful this tool really is. Here’s the thing, I used the vertical distortion correction to bring the top of the frame closer to me until the sides of the building were straight and this also pushed the bottom of the frame in. This pushed the car hood where it was supposed to be. Total time fixing, less than 30 seconds. Here’s a tip, if you know your going to be in this type of situation, give yourself more room around your frame than you nominally would. That’s because when you start pushing and pulling on these files, something has to give. You’re going to lose pixels somewhere to make the correction. By backing off on the crop in camera, this is your insurance that you’ll still have enough meat to work with. Make sense?

 Spencer Pullen took this bicycle fender in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida.Fender Bender – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

If you looked at the last post that I linked to at the beginning, you saw a guy with glasses, drinking a beer in a lawn chair….hum, sounds like me on a Sunday afternoon. Anyway, this old bike was in that same area. The bike was painted a pale blue. I wanted the fender to be off center and include some of the wheel so folks would know what it was. I shot this at f/2.8 for a couple of reasons, first it was low light outside and this kept my shutter speed up with a lower ISO, everyone’s a winner when this happens. The second reason is that I wanted the bent metal to be the main focus and let the spokes be the supporting detail. When I did the conversion in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, I ended up using the digital glass blue filter. This make the fender stick out the way I wanted it to.

 This photo of the chained lady was taken in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida by Spencer Pullen.Chained Maiden – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

One way to keep yourself sharp on composition is to go to a downtown area and look around. Don’t use your direct line of sight, use reflections. Think about this, have you ever sat on a bench in front of a mirrored building and watched what was going on behind you?… Maybe today was placebo day. OK, all kidding aside, reflections can make a great composition tool. In this case, I turned around and there was a shop that was selling old crap antiques. I saw part of a woman in a mirror and wanted to investigate. Soon I was asked why was I photographing the trees? I soon got in position and showed them what I had seen, a chained up woman in a reflection of an old mirror. This is kind of the first picture in picture technology…they only get worse from here folks! I felt this was kind of symbolic of how women were treated at that time period. We all got a frame and moved on.

Spencer Pullen photographed this Sarasota Trading Company sign in Burns Court, Sarasota, Florida.Sarasota Trading Company – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Right next to the Chained Maiden, was the building where she was being sold. I liked the old look of the sign and used the fence at the bottom of the frame to fill that space and to reinforce the lines in the sign. I did the conversion in Silver Efex Pro and I always add vignettes to my black and whites. It’s a classic technique that still works today.

 In Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida, Spencer Pullen photographed this Matto SignMatto – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Again, if you looked at the previous post, one of the photos was the side of a building with an old window. This is the same building, however a restaurant just opened up at ground level. I’m always looking for old Europe types of images and I thought the different textures worked for this. There were two Chinese red doors on both sides of the menu. I tried shooting this a variety of ways, but I liked how the door jams framed the sign the best.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this 412 in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida.412 – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Those of you who have been reading these posts over the years know by now, I’m not wrapped too tight. As we were walking back to the car, I stopped dead in my tracks at a telephone pole. I was staring at this pole and I was intrigued by the texture. It wasn’t long and the other folks I was with joined me. Again, I was asked, “What’s with the telephone pole?” I pointed to the old rusted numbers that had been tacked on there some time ago. Now there are three of us in downtown Sarasota, staring at a telephone pole with people walking by. You can draw your own conclusions on how this must have looked. We shot the numbers, but in needed something. The sun was out and the left side was nicely lit and the right side was darker that I wanted. Then it hit me; I needed something white to reflect the light back on to the subject. Looking like a really “interesting” person, I pulled out the white trash bag that I had stuffed in my pocket and another person in our group held it so it was throwing light back on the right side. I’m sure I’m not the first person to be walking around downtown with a trash bag in their pocket, I’m just sayin’!

We had a great day of shooting and the weather held. Had some great company and we had lots of fun walking around and trying to come up with some new images. Find a lens that you haven’t used that much and go work with it for a day. Leave the kitchen sink home. This is really important if your shooting with zooms all the time. Throw a prime lens on there and let your feet do the zooming. Your photos will thank you for it.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Sounds like you had fun. Thanks for the photos and comments.

  2. That was a great post. Love the black and white photos.
    Always enjoyable reading. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I enjoy reading your posts. They tickle my funny bone and there is always a tip or two to take to heart. Yes, dust off that lens and discover new subjects in photography.

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