Photography From The Seaside In Southwest Florida

One of the benefits of teaching classes and going on location is that you never know what you are going to run into. It’s always refreshing to see when a student’s eyes light up because they were able to make a concept work or just the pure thrill of watching them explore a new venue that they had never visited before. In this post I thought that I would put together a collection of photos that have been piling up over some time. As I revisit these places with new classes, I’m always on the look out for an opportunity to create or capture that photo that I might have missed previously. All of these photos were taken by the waterside at various parts of the day.

This is a crab in a mangrove. This was taken by Spencer Pullen at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida. Hangin’ On By A Claw – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I have found in some parts of Southwest Florida there are crabs in the trees. This is one of those facts that I usually leave out when we have company come from out of state. Just like all of the alligators that are in the canals and other waterways! I tell them to use the pool instead; the water is much “cleaner” anyway. These crabs crawl up the mangroves to eat the leaves. There are times that I have seen fisherman going around with a bucket and a stick collecting these for bait. As you can see by the photos, these little guys have big eyes so they are quite skittish. Once they see you, they will move around the tree out of sight. A long lens such as a 70mm-300mm is a great option as you can photograph these from a distance without them catching on to your presents.

 This is the waters edge at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida. This was converted to black and white and photographed by Spencer Pullen.Rocky Shore – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This is a scene from one of the harbor side venues. When I used to live in upstate New York I had no reservations about walking into the water and going for a swim. The bottom of the Finger Lakes has smooth oblong rocks that are comfortable on the feet and are great for skipping along the water. In SWFL, it seems that the bottom is not always sandy. Here are some rocks that have been here quite some time and these are covered in barnacles. This is something that I wouldn’t want to walk on; falling on these might mean some medical attention. When I saw this scene, the colors were earth tones and wasn’t that interesting.  In my minds eye I saw this as a black and white photo. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I shoot everything in color and convert to black and white on the computer.

 Spencer Pullen was at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida when a fish jumped out of the water while a class was going on.Man The Nets – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

First off, this hasn’t been “Photoshopped”; this is the actual way the photo was taken. There was a class of kids that were hunting for “monsters”. They were equipped with nets and were scooping on the waters bottom to see what they could collect. The man in the photo was educating the kids on what they had found. I was in the mangroves looking around and thought this might make an interesting photo. I don’t like to post peoples photos for privacy reasons, but this one was too good not to share. As you can see when I pressed the shutter, a fish jumped. I wish I was really that good, but it was all luck!

 This plant has some great rain drops on it's leaves. This was taken and converted to black and white by Spencer Pullen. This was located at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida.Wet Spines – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There was a heavy rain storm that just passed before we showed up. I was thinking the class was going to be a wash, pun intended, and we were going to have to retreat back to the classroom. We decided to stick it out and see what we could find. This spiny agava like plant was covered in rain drops. Those of you who have read my other posts know I’m a rain drop freak. Since this plant was a muted green and the color wasn’t that interesting, I decided to convert it to black and white. I do like to add vignettes to my black and whites as this is a classic technique and helps draw the eye into the center of the photograph.

 This lone leaf was photographed by Spencer Pullen at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida.The Lone Leaf – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

As I was walking along, I saw this tree stump that looked as if it had been ripped off by a hurricane or really bad weather. The stump was black and there was a fall color looking leaf that was lying there. Just to be clear, I didn’t stage this, in fact I don’t stage anything, I like to shoot things as I see them. Since I was dealing with muted colors with a pop of red, I wanted to use the “selective color technique”. I teach this in my Photoshop and Elements classes. This is also a very popular technique with wedding photographers when the bride is holding a bouquet of flowers. The bride is black and white and the flowers are in color. In a nutshell, this is how it’s done. I use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Move the saturation slider to -100 to make the photo look black and white. Using the brush tool with black as your foreground color, paint over the object that you want in color. In this case that is the leaf. If a mistake is made, reverse your colors and bring white to the front to paint an “undo”.

 Spencer Pullen ran into the Sandhill Crane while he was at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida.The Crane Stare – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Sandhill Cranes are all over the place in Florida. They are like a turkey with long legs. I have been told they even taste like turkey….kidding…I think he was kidding? Since they are used to the human kind they won’t run at the sight of people and this will allow you to get some great shots. I have a few thousand photos of these guys and I’m always looking for something different. Lately, I have been working on portrait bird photos. Not that I go out on a mission to photograph birds, but if one is in front of me, well you get the idea! These can be striking and will add something different to ones portfolio. He was looking strait at me with those orange eyes. I had a feeling that he might try and get me, but he behaved.

 This knife was stuck in a tree in Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida. This was photographed and converted to black and white by Spencer Pullen.The Cutting Edge – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

While I was walking around with some students in a remote area, I happened to notice this knife stuck in a tree. Of course we didn’t touch it, but I did look around to see if there was any sign of blood. You can’t be too careful in remote areas! A fellow photographer that I know added a .38 pistol to her camera bag just in case when she goes to the Everglades. The B&H rep, “How can I help you today?” Photographer, “Ah, yes I would like a Nikon D800 with a 400mm lens, please. Also, could you throw a revolver in the box as well???!!!” At least I know who NOT to piss off!

 These mangroves were taken at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida during bad weather. Photographed and converted to black and white by Spencer Pullen.Mangrove Island – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

The weather was deteriorating on this particular day. I was standing in front of this scene and for a brief second there was a hole in the clouds that allowed the sunlight to put a spot light effect on the mangroves. I took a few shots and as fast as the light came, it left. Bad weather can lead to something different and mysterious, this is a great time to photograph and get some different types of photos. Let me make sure that I’m not suggesting that you go out in a lighting storm with a METAL tripod! Remember, we are all in the DEEP end of the gene pool here!

Spencer Pullen photographes this beer can that was stuffed in a tree at Ponce de Leon park in Punta Gorda, Florida. Wooden Beer Can Holder – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

After we photographed the knife as seen above, we walked a little further and we saw this beer can stuffed into a tree to be used as a holder. At this point, I’m gunless and we have found a knife and a really big can of beer. I generally don’t take students to places that would cause bodily harm, but this might be a first. Not to mention this would look really, really bad on an evaluation form. “Everything was going great with the class until we went on a field trip and we lost Suzy to a serial murderer!” At least we could have gotten great photos for evidence? Ok, that was bad; I apologize…but, still funny! This was processed the same way as the leaf was in the above photo.

There you have it. When you are out and about and if you revisit venues, look for things that are out of place. That is what separates, the popular photographers from the folks who like to just snap a few photos and they are on their way. Skill does play a part, but I think that luck has a lot to do with it. Just be safe out there and if you are going to a remote location take a photo buddy with you. Also, it never hurts if you want to call B&H and ask for a shotgun to be added to your next order!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Great photos and wonderful commentary again. We have a lot of Sandhill cranes her at Maple leaf. They love to interfere with your golf shot . Wish they would grab the ball and put it in the hole. Love what you did in photoshop with the stump and fall leaf. Where was that remote area that you might have needed a gun? I promise to stay away .

  2. Love the crane stare. He does look like he wants a piece of you!

  3. Think I recognize some of these shots from our field trip?! Great pics as always

  4. very interesting… great,as always

  5. Enjoyed the photos and the story. You make my day reading about your adventures.

  6. Spencer ~ Thank You for being you! Thank you for sharing your knowledge, humor, talent, time, your patience and most of all your friendship.
    From Your Forever Student / Friend,

  7. Spencer

    I appreciate everyone’s kinds words. I’m glad that my adventures bring a smile to everyone’s face. Thanks…


  8. Things like that beer can are why I typically carry a trash bag with me when I go out into nature. Once, I was at Lakes Park and saw a diaper stuck in a tree. Yes, I took a photo. No, I did not touch it. Ewww!

  9. All photos are great in their own unique way, If I had to pick one, my favorite might be the “selected color” photo.

    When are you going to teach us how to make a fish jump out of the water during exposure? Is that extra $$?

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