University Town Center Mall – Sarasota, Florida

If I said something like, “Let’s go to the mall, but we aren’t going to buy anything or look in any of the stores.” One might wonder if I took all the pills in the box. What else is there at a mall? Stores, restaurants and all the like, it’s the playground that Visa and MasterCard was invented for. I don’t know about the rest of the folks who are into photography, but I find that some times I get blinders on and have a one track vision. Last time I checked, our head and neck allows us to look in a 360° view. There are times that I like to just stand in one place and move my eyes and neck around to see what I can find. This is one such case.

Recently, I was teaching a photo class in Sarasota, Florida. Some of the folks weren’t the “outdorsey” type. It seems as if most places in Florida have an outdoor component to them. Trying to find a place to shoot that isn’t outdoors can be a real challenge. After thinking about it for a few minutes, we decided to shoot the new University Town Center Mall or UTC for short. To be sure that I wasn’t a guest of the police department, I called to see what their photo policy was. Indeed as I had guessed, they don’t want anyone taking photos. I asked why and they said that they have had issues with copyright and trademark infringement of store logos and products. I understand this being a photographer. You would think that this would have killed the plan, but as always there are ways around things. We decided to go and shoot the architecture with our phones and see what was going to happen.

We arrived at the designated time and I was impressed with the structure. I was told that this mall is a smaller version of the Mall of the Millennium in Orlando, Florida. The plan was that we were going to take photos, but not of the stores or the people. That might invite security and an overnight stay in Sarasota. As we proceeded, I was taken up with the ceiling of all things. One of my personal goals as a photographer is to work on my composition and light direction. This is the core of what photography is all about, and if one works on these principals, the equipment becomes secondary. Then it really doesn’t matter what camera one uses or how expensive it is. It makes the photographer and the subject connect in a way that strips out all of the technical stuff that can over load the brain and then the act of photography takes a back seat which I think is backwards. Just my opinion. So here we go…

Spencer Pullen photographed this rounded ceiling at University Town Center mall in Sarasota, Florida.UTC Ceiling – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

We proceeded up to the second floor and I was taken with the perspective. I wanted to use the top of the building that is holding up the glass roof to help lead the eye down the frame. It was kind of an overcast day, but as I have been doing lately, I was visualizing this in black and white.

Spencer Pullen photographed this ceiling at University Town Center mall in Sarasota, Florida.UTC Ceiling 2 – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Then I got “creative” and decided to get right under one of the ceiling supports and ready for the big reveal? I spun the iPhone so that the beginning and ends of the ceiling were in the opposite corners of the frame. Wow, genius! No fancy lenses or settings. I pushed the little red button and took the photo.

Spencer Pullen photographed this rotunda at University Town Center mall in Sarasota, Florida.UTC Rotunda – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

I’m not sure what the official term is for this, but when I taught at one of the colleges in Sarasota, they would meet in the “rotunda” and it was a circular area such as this. Anyway, I moved off to one side as I saw how one of the beams that are used to hold up the lighting curved around the open glass area at the end. I thought to myself, “Gee, that’s a leading line if I ever saw one”. All I had to do was to back up against one of the stores to get it all in.

As for the processing, I’m a Mac person so Apple gives us an application called “Image Capture” to download the photos with. I could have emailed them, but I took quite a few so this was much faster. I loaded the ones that I wanted into Photoshop Elements and started to use one of my favorite plug-ins, Nik Silver Efex Pro. I’m not saying that you have to run out and buy this plug-in. You can create black and whites right in Elements. I just happened to have it so I used it.

I was told when I started going down this path that I had to find a “style” or face uncertain death. I thought that was a little close minded. One of the best things that I ever did was freelance for a few magazines as they throw everything at you and you have to create an image on your feet. However, now that I’m teaching more and spending more time on MY photography, I see myself abandoning color and working solely in black and white, specifically americana subjects. I really wasn’t looking for a style, I think it found me. I really enjoy it and I would like to preserve our nation’s history as Ansel Adams did with this landscape photographs. If you need a jump start, put the traditional camera away and pull out the phone. Take the technical part out of the picture (pun intended!) and see what you can create with just the light and subject. It will be a profound experience, trust me.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Great pictures and great post. I enjoyed your lecture at Lakewood Ranch photo club on fusion. It was both informative and entertaining. I agree with you, that’s a great photography club. Thanks for pointing me there.

  2. Love the photos you took. B n w for you is exciting! Can’t wait to see more.

  3. Great shots Spencer! And thank you so much for coming to speak with our club. Everyone really enjoyed your lecture on Fusion Technology. We look forward to you visiting us in the future as well.

    • Spencer

      It was a great group and I look forward to seeing everyone again. Thanks for having me….


  4. Sorry for a delayed response on your post. Enjoyed your fruitful journey to the mall. Happy you’re finding your style as you put it in your B&W photography. You are amazing at it. Like the UTC Rotunda best. When the mall first opened I spent time shooting…..architecture was certainly eye-catching….you proved that with your fine photo post. Nice work!!!

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