Burns Court – Sarasota, Florida

Travel and city photography is always fun. I kind of look at it as a grown ups version of an Easter egg hunt. There are so many photographic possibilities out there; all you have to do is find them. I was at a photography seminar and the presenter said, “If you stop to look at something, there’s a photo in there. All you have to do is find it.” I have kept this in the back of my head ever since. Anyone can make a photo of iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Grand Canyon and so on. Where it really counts is when you are walking down an urban street and you want to create a photo. I had the opportunity to work with some folks recently and they wanted to have a photo walk around Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida. This is located in the downtown area and is a haven for photographers. The downtown area has much to offer, everything from majestic seaside views to ultra classy architecture and some of the finest restaurants you can dine at. Sarasota itself is very rich with culture and has something for everyone. Since I live about an hour south in a reclusive town, going to Sarasota is so refreshing.

Part of my training services that I offer is private classes. I meet the client wherever they wish and we go from there. Sometimes they need assistance with the camera or post processing. One of the perks of doing this kind of career is that you get to meet some really great folks and see some of the neatest places that otherwise being stuck in a cubicle for twelve hours a day, I would never have the chance to see. This was the case when I worked in the commercial printing industry. I was working long days in an office with no windows. After almost twenty years of this, it was time to see the outdoor world.

I met my photo friends and we decided to go to Burns Court. The area looked very familiar and I asked if this is where they had the Sarasota Chalk Festival. If you missed that post, you can read it here: Sarasota Chalk Festival 2012 – Sarasota, Florida. When I was here before, it was wall-to-wall people and I really couldn’t get my bearings on where I was. Not to mention that I had never been in this part of downtown before. This time there wasn’t anyone around and we had the whole area to ourselves. We parked and once I grabbed my gear and got organized, I was soon flooded with possible photo ops. I looked up and across the street was this ornate building with old style character.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this Tuscan looking building in Burns Court of Sarasota, Florida.Crackled In Time – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I have always thought that a trip to Europe would be fun, just to photograph the buildings. This photo reminded me of an old Tuscan home in Italy. It was threating to rain most of the time, which meant it was overcast. I’m a big fan of overcast days, because that means there is nice even light. You can’t take a bad photo in conditions like this, unless you leave the lens cap on!

 Gandhi's parking space, photographed by Spencer Pullen. Photo taken at Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida.Gandhi Has To Park Too – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This was a little strange. As we walked around the back of the building, we found some parking spaces that were named to make sure everyone knew their place. This is no big deal usually, unless you start to see something with GANDHI painted on it. But, that wasn’t the strangest thing; this parking space was right next to a space that was painted with J LENNON. OK, I’m starting to think this is the start of some kind of government conspiracy, or someone just messing with me! Like I said, you never know what you are going to run into. Now I can say I ran into Gandhi, hey I stubbed my toe on the concrete bumper!

This beer guy was photographed by Spencer Pullen in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida. Do You Have Another Beer? – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Next to the parking spaces for the famous, we ran into a restaurant. Now, usually this is a run of the mill thing, no big deal. However, this place had one of everything outside their establishment. They had odd and ends that you wouldn’t expect to see that were thrown all over the property. I saw bicycles, railroad lanterns, old pails and in the center of all this chaos was a man sitting there drinking his beer! At first I thought it was a little early to be having a fermented beverage, but as soon as I walked closer I could see that he was going to be sipping this Bud for a while. He was kind of cool so I asked if I could take his portrait. He didn’t mind, however he did have an issue signing the model release!

 This old chair was waiting to be photographed by Spencer Pullen. He found it in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida.Someone Broke Their Seat – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

As we made our way around the area we found this old dilapidated chair. I find this kind of stuff beautiful where some may find this as junk. From a photographer’s point of view, this is screaming for a photo. Anything like this tells a story. Who sat here? How long were they here? The paint was pretty much gone and part of the seat and backrest were gone. This chair has seen many folks over its day. This is very artistic and turning it into black and white really set it off. Anytime something is busted or breaking, I want to know!

 This call box was photographed in Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida. Spencer Pullen had to photograph it.The Last Call – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

After a while the sun came back out and we were in full sun. It’s summer after all and now it went from dealable to really hot, real quick. But, we pressed on and wanted to get a few more shots in before we called it a day. On one of the buildings, I noticed this old call box that looks as if someone received the wrong answer. The speaker was smashed and the buttons were all disheveled. This is another example of something that is in disrepair, but I think has potential. Since I was now in full sun, I had harsh shadows to deal with. What I did to combat this was that I exposed for the highlights to preserve them. This made the center of the call box very dark. I popped up my flash and adjusted the flash power to mix the sunlight with the light coming from the flash so it looked as natural as possible. This kept the highlights in tact and allows the shadow area to have detail as well due to the flash.

 This is a headlamp from a Metropolitan by Honda. Photo by Spencer Pullen at Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida.Metropolitan – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Toward the end of our trip, we came across a very ornate scooter. From a distance I thought it was a Vespa, however this is a Metropolitan that is manufactured by Honda. This had an old school feel and I loved all of the curved lines. As I was shooting this I was thinking that this would look best in black and white.

Spencer Pullen photographed this Metropolitan by Honda at Burns Court in Sarasota, Florida. How To Gauge A Metropolitan – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Once I saw the front, I had to look over the dials and controls (must be a man thing). I took a few photos straight on and they were OK, but I was looking for something more dynamic in my composition. I started tilting the camera and I wanted the gauge to be in the top of the frame and have the handlebar act as a leading line back to the gauge. Once I did this and I got this composition, I was jumping up and down like a little kid at the Wonka factory. Again, I converted this into black and white to give it that old school charm.

Take a walk; you never know what you are going to run into. It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have or what lens you are using. This is a low stress way to get some great photos. There is something to photograph in every city or rural area. The best places to get photos are off the beaten path or better yet a dirt road. I hope this inspires you to get out there and see what is in your neck of the woods.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Wonderful insight – thank you – great photos too!

  2. Great photos Spencer……..you do visit some interesting places. Are you sure that old man sipping his beer isn’t fake? I loved it.

  3. Thanks for taking us on this photo shoot. Sarasota has many interesting neighborhoods that are real photo ops. We’ll have to do it again soon!

  4. Spencer, I enjoyed your walk. Burns Court is a favorite place.

  5. Great photos. Love the chair also.

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