Revisited: Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm – Punta Gorda, Florida

With all the technology at our fingertips, I think as photographers sometimes we get caught up with how the new gadget is going to “help my photography”. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. We all want the new camera body, and then we want the latest and greatest lenses that will allow us to get to 2,000mm so we can see the eyelashes on a dragonfly. Also, one is going to need a powerful computer to drive all of the pixels from the 300mp camera that we are going to want. As you can see this can get out of control pretty quick. If I’m going on a “busman’s holiday” as my father calls it, meaning that I’m going out to shoot just for fun, I’ll strip the camera back down to basics.

Photography is an art form, although I have met some resistance with this as I get the response, “All you have to do is press a button.” Well, all I have to do to make a beautiful painting is move the brush around on a canvas. You get my point. Granted, I couldn’t run a paintbrush, pencil or clay to save my life. There is a technical side to photography and I think that is what makes it click for me (I’ve always wanted to use that pun somewhere). As I explain to everyone, learning the camera is the easy part, it’s creating a photo that is the challenging part. It’s those kind of photos that will set everyone apart and gives photographers their sense of style. Taking the photo is just the beginning. Through the use of software, people then can enhance their masterpieces to what they want them to be. Some folks like to add filters and make the photo look totally different than what they shot in the camera. Others like the realism and want them to look pretty much like what they took in the camera. Who’s right? Everyone. That’s what makes us all INDIVIDUAL photographers in a world where everyone has a camera.

This post is long over due. I have been hanging on to these photos for some time, waiting for the perfect time to share them. When I do classes in the Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte area, I like to go to the Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm for field trips when I can. They have quite the assortment of…pottery and bamboo, you knew that was coming! I have photographed many times at this location. If you would like to see some of the other photos that I have shot there, check out, Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm – Punta Gorda, Florida. The way this place is laid out makes it easy for photographing subjects and is very accessible for anyone to get around. I have also bought a few things there that I can’t find anywhere else. I bought a 26” pot base so I could soak my 24” Weber kettle grill grate in, no more scrubbing.

Since I’m trying to get back to basics and really focus on creating a photo (sneaked another pun in there) this is the perfect place to do that. When I set out, I’m thinking to myself, WWAAD? (What Would Ansel Adams Do?) I actually prefer black and white over color. Personally, if it’s done properly, I think that it has more impact than a color image. However, this is just my opinion. Since I have stripped the camera and want to go old school, I like to work with my 50mm f/1.4 lens. I have been accused (you know who you are) for using specialized lenses to get some great shots. If I could only own one lens, it would be the 50mm. It’s sharp, fast, light and affordable. This was a very popular lens back in the 60’s and 70’s when you bought a camera. This was the “kit” lens. I wish they would make a camera with just the controls for ISO, shutter speed, aperture, playback and maybe a burst mode. That is really all I use on a daily basis. All of that other fancy stuff I really don’t use or need.

 Here are a few chrome buddhas waiting for sale at the Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.My Little Buddha – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This is a selfie….well I’m working on it. As I was walking around the property I came upon a palette of chrome Buddahs. It was amazing to see all of them sitting there, all lined up ready for sale. Keeping in mind that I’m working on the basics, I knew that I was going to have to work with the rule of thirds. As you can see from the above photo, I took the corner Buddha and put him in the left side of the frame. Also, I wanted to give the viewer the sense of a repeating pattern as they were lined up. I chose an f-stop of f/2.8 as this was going to ensure that the main Buddha would be in focus and the rest of the scene would be blurry. There was a fence in the back that I also didn’t want to interfere with the photo. Taking the photo was the easy part; it was going around rubbing all of the Buddha bellies for good luck that took awhile!

 Spencer Pullen photographed this stone face at Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida.Cast To Stone – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Working with another compositional element, I wanted to fill the frame with his face. He looks as if he’s seen some action in his day. With the razor sharp details that the 50mm can offer me, I was able to capture the texture of his face. My kind of subject didn’t complain at all. It might have been the chisel that I had in my back pocket…just in case.

 This stonehenge was photographed at Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Punta Gorda’s Stonehenge – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This is one of those times where you have to get on the hands and knees. This looks impressive, however it’s not that big in real life. Since the light was harsh, I used this to my advantage. I walked around the pile of rocks until they were side lit. In this case I wanted that harsh shadow against harsh highlight, it’s a composition thing. I had to laugh when I looked at this carefully as they used some white caulk to stick the top rock on. Did they use caulk to stick together some of the formations out in Utah?

 Spencer Pullen photographed this trumpet player at Pottery Express and Bamboo Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida.Music Man – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

This is one of the mariachi people spread around the property; I guess this is there version of the Village People! The wire work alone is very impressive. What drew me to him was his rusted hat that had some texture. Again filling the frame and using a lower f-stop helps put the focus on his face, right were I wanted it.

When I’m going out to shoot these types of subjects, I shoot RAW + JPG. Why? I like to see if a certain photo is going to work in black and white. I change my photo effects in the camera to monochrome. When I press the shutter button, what shows up is a black and white photo. This is the JPG being turned into black and white. But, some of you are probably saying, that I have always told you to shoot in color and create the black in white in the computer. That’s exactly right. Here’s the thing. The JPG IS in black and white, however the RAW file is still in COLOR! Pretty snifty, huh? I’m using the JPG file for reference only and won’t be used for any actual photo production. When I find one that I like, I open the RAW file and convert to black and white to my liking.

Leave your 47 bags of camera gear at home, go out and use one lens. Take your time when shooting something, ask yourself, “Why am I taking this?” “How’s the composition?” This means that you’ll come home with more keepers on the card instead of going through thousands of photos and hoping that there is a good one. Slow down and concentrate and wait for the moment it clicks.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Love your “selfie”! Love this post. Thanks.

  2. Very nice, thank you!

  3. This is my favorite post ever by you. I have a 50mm/f1.8, not as fabulous/expensive as your 1.4, but I love it. I am not an experienced photographer, just a former student who learned a lot from you! I have been shooting in Raw/jpg and changing some to black and white. My goal is the perfect shot, not hours in fixing and looking thru 100’s of photos. Now, I can shoot in monochrome and get the color in raw, rather than have both in color. If I want the color all I have to do is work on the raw and convert to JPG. Thank you so much! PS my 85mm lens is also a favorite!

  4. I liked the pictures. Sometimes they show up better in black and white.

  5. a great reminder of just how powerful B & W can be – but it helps if you have an artistic eye – ever thought of doing this for a living Spence?
    Thanks for the courses this past couple of months and look forward to catching up with you next year…unless you’re planning any leaf peeping in New England in the fall – we’re an hour north of Boston!

  6. Visualizing you getting on hands & knees taking the”Punta Gorda Stonehenge shot”…I was impressed with the lighting used (hence the shadows). How difficult was it to get back up???? Had that be me, I would be still lying down there on the ground today….

  7. I love the “Stonehenge” shot the best. Great job.

  8. Love reading your posts. I really like the idea of using one lens and going out to shoot. I’ll put my 50mm 1.4 and get to business next photo outing. Love your depth of field lessons.

  9. Spencer

    Thanks everyone for commenting on the post. Black and white can be quite stunning if the right subject appears. As for trying to get up from the hands and knees, it was quite a challenge! I guess I need to start working on some push ups…ya right!

    A 50mm f/1.8 is also a wonderful lens. I have many students that use this as it’s more affordable, however it still takes some great photographs.



  10. I really like the black and white pictures. Great work!

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