Sleeping Turtles Preserve North – Venice, Florida

“The Real Florida”. This is the slogan the Florida State Parks has marketed on their brochures. I’m guessing this is to steer folks away from the land that is filled with screaming kids, melting ice cream cones, lost balloons going up to the stratosphere and where a person dresses up as a rat to take your money. I know when we were getting ready to move down and I was in elementary school, all the kids were envious, I was told, “That’s awesome, you can go to Disney everyday”. That would be true if one didn’t have to work or go to school. What I’m getting at is the stigma that Florida is all about theme parks. Granted, that is where Florida gets much of its income is from tourism dollars. However, there’s much more out there to see beyond the “Happiest Place On Earth” gates. But I digress…

We vacationed here during the winter first to visit family and it didn’t take long for my parents to put the house up for sale in upstate New York. Warm sunshine, oranges full of juice and the beautiful turquoise water that filled the coastal beaches. This is “The real Florida” that the local Floridans were talking about. For the past ten years or so, I have been exploring many of the different state parks. Some are truly amazing with everything there is to do, from spotting wildlife, fishing, canoeing and more. No crowds or kids pulling on their parents wanting the latest stuffed doll that they saw on television. Since I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, I guess I have been attracted to Earth’s amazing beauty.

I had heard about such a place in Venice, Florida called Sleeping Turtles Preserve North. Granted I have seen a few turtles in my day, but none of them were sleeping. Not sure what to expect, I packed my camera with a 24mm f/2.8 prime lens and my travel lens of 18-200 lens. A friend of mine who specializes in bird photography was crazy enough to come along with me in case I needed bail money.

As we arrived and unloaded our gear, I noticed that this park runs along the Myakka River. She was hoping to get some birds wading and I wanted some nice river bend compositions. I preset my camera up for the black and white fusion that I like to do. This is as close I’ll get to the look of Ansel Adams without investing in a 20” x 12” field camera. I set the camera to auto bracket nine frames, one stop apart. I shoot RAW all the time and this is one of the few times I use aperture priority (I usually shoot manual). I find that f/8 or f/11 is where most of my lenses are the sharpest. Lastly, I also engage the burst mode. Wanting to travel light, I didn’t have my tripod with me so it was just the camera. All was a go, it was now time to head down the trail.

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of this old oak tree at Sleeping Turtles Preserve North in Venice, Florida.Old Oak Tree – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

As soon as we started down the path, we were presented with a massive oak tree. This big guy had to of been here hundreds of years. Also, it was covered in resurrection fern, air plants and bromeliads, what a beautiful sight. I had the 24mm prime on the camera and got back as far as I could. Since I didn’t have a tripod, I cranked up the ISO to 400 to ensure the shutter speed wouldn’t fall below what I could hand hold. I jammed my arms into my body and gently pressed the shutter button. In an instant, the camera cranked off the nine frames and ready for processing.

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of the Myakka River at Sleeping Turtles Preserve North in Venice, Florida.Myakka River – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

When we reached the other end of the park, there was a path that led down to the river. Of course, I left my galoshes in my other pants, so I had a choice, not to get a shot or sacrifice the sneakers. I was lucky, the water was not right up to the bank so I had some semi firm sand to stand on. Looking down the scene, this was the bending river shot that I wanted. Same as before, I became as firm as a Ringling stature and rattled off another series of photos.

Spencer Pullen took this black and white photo of this path at Sleeping Turtles Preserve North in Venice, Florida.Old Florida Path – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

A friend of mine who is an international award winning photographer and has been recognized by National Geographic, Margo Kessler Cook, has a beautiful photo that she took in Ireland called “The Dark Hedges”. I love this photo and had the honor of printing it for her. I wanted to get something similar without being a copycat. This is what I came up with. I really like anytime the canopy hangs over either a path or a road. Seems to make it inviting.

On the processing, I downloaded the RAW files to the computer and ran them through Photomatix. Then did some clean up and used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro (which is now free) and used Nik’s Sharpener Pro. Once you get a workflow down that you like, it doesn’t take long to process the photos.

There you have it, another great day with great subjects. How can one go wrong? Even if I didn’t raise the camera to my eye, just being around nature and taking in this beautiful area, is more than any photo could say.

Until next time,,,

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Hi Spencer – well, judging from the photos, you didn’t find any ‘sleeping turtles’? I love the black and white photos – gives a new perspective to how the ‘real Florida’ can look!

    • Spencer

      You are correct! No sleeping turtles to be found. Maybe they come out at night? Hummm. I really like how black and white strips away everything and all your left with is composition and texture. Thanks…


  2. Want to visit there myself after seeing your photos.

    • Spencer

      It’s a great place. Quiet too. Thanks.

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