Revisited: Marie Selby Gardens – Sarasota, Florida

One of the subjects that I photographed when I got started in photography were flowers. They were plentiful, colorful, didn’t move, didn’t complain that the coffee was too cold and best of all…didn’t need a model release. Flowers are pretty amazing due to all of the colors, shapes and sizes that Mother Nature brings them to us by. When I first got started I was just glad that I could put the camera on Auto and let er’ rip and get a decent looking photo. I was guilty of the boring flower photo; I would stand near the flower and shoot down at it from six feet above. This made the flower about the size of a peanut in the frame, not exactly what I would call an award winning photo by any means. As I practiced, read books and watched videos I realized that flower photography was about lying on the ground and hoping that you could get up again!

I started with one lens, as Nikon 18mm-200mm. This is a great all around lens, however as I entered the world of macro photography, I soon realized that this lens was going to limit what I could do as far as macro goes. At the time I was in a position to acquire a Nikon 105mm Macro lens. This changed everything. Now I was able to get within inches of a subject making it appear bigger than life. This is a prime lens, meaning that there isn’t any zoom, but I have never found this to be a limitation. This lens also goes down to f/2.8 so I can even use it in low light for portrait work.

There were a few folks that wanted to get together and see what we could accomplish. They mentioned that they wanted to go to Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Since I have been there before (read the post “Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota, Florida” and see how we damn near flipped a Toyota Rav4 on that trip), I knew that I wanted to take my macro lens to capture some of the beautiful orchids and other delicate flowers. But here’s the kicker, they don’t allow tripods. So, this meant that I was going to have to hand hold for all the photos. With macro this is usually the kiss of death, as any movement will look like an earthquake in the lens. Nevertheless, I was going to give it my best shot.

After we assembled and paid the piper, we went into the greenhouse where all of the orchids and other exotic plants are kept. Right off the bat, we were greeted with an array of colorful specimens.

 This white and purple orchid jumped out at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.Orchid Portrait – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

When using a macro lens and you are really close to your subject, your depth of field is in quarter inches. Most of the time, one would want to say around f/22 or higher, however since I was in a low light situation and had to hand hold, I was going to have to split the difference and try around f/8. As you can see from the photo above, the center is tack sharp and a third in front of the center is blurry and two thirds behind are out of focus. This is the way depth of field works with all lenses.

 Spencer Pullen photographs this white flower at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.White Delicate Flower – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

As I made my way through the greenhouse, I saw this single flower in a mass of green leaves. I really like the contrast of color. Since I was shooing as a lower f-stop, this gave it kind of a dreamy appearance. This was all done in the camera, no post here.

 The texture of this fern was amazing. This was at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Fern – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

I remember when Apple used to include flowers as a rotating desktop. One of these plants was fern leaves, I never forgot that and when I had a chance to recreate that photo, I didn’t waste any time. This plant has an amazing texture and depth. I pointed the lens straight down which may not produce the best looking photo at times, however since this shows the youngest leafs in the center, I think it works.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this lizard at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, FloridaGeico On Vacation – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

As we came out of the greenhouse, we managed to see this little guy. I figured he was going to scamper into the bush. We were in luck, we offered him a fly and he posed for us. This was shot at f/8 and as you can see, the depth of field is about a half an inch or so. I was able to get really close to him. We each took a turn and were able to rattle off a few shots before he was tired of us. I would have liked to have gotten down to f/32 to at least gotten his front feet included in the depth of field, but you get what you get sometimes.

 These huge ferns were something to see at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by Spencer Pullen.Lapping Ferns – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

We looked up and we saw these huge green ferns. I was immediately attracted to the texture. I could see this in black and white in my minds eye. Even though I had a macro lens on, it can also be used for general photography. I converted this in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

 At Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, there was an old bell. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.As The Bell Tolls – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

Next to a koi pond there is a bell that is waiting to be rung. When someone does hit it, you can here it’s distinctive sound across the garden. I took the time to look it over and was really impressed with the patina that had formed. There is some kind of Asian writing on the bell. If any of you can translate, please do so in the comments section, I left my Rosetta Stone in my other computer!

 This is a hugh banyan tree at Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.Wood Wave – Spencer Pullen © 2014 All Rights Reserved

There is a huge banyan tree on the property. This is a popular spot to have your wedding photos taken or hide from someone. The root system is quite massive and getting the whole tree in would be quite a challenge. Not to mention, all I was equipped with was a macro lens, not a super wide angle. In this case, you make lemonade out of lemons. I took a part of the root system and tried to use them as leading lines back to the top of the photograph. Also, since this was a rather dull brownish color, I converted this to black and white to emphasize the texture.

It was a great day had by all and we all learned different tips and tricks along the way. When I go to a place such as this, I try and not feel as if I need to get every last photograph possible. This saves something for next time. Also, it forces one to slow down and ask, “Why am I taking this photo anyway?” I’m guilty as anyone when it comes to this, I have to remind myself to slow down, concentrate and most important…stop and smell the flowers.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Love the macro flowers and the black and white. Thanks for sharing.

  2. “Wood Wave” is my fave in this set. I’ve seen a tree like that at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. That one is a mysore fig. Edison imported lots of different trees from all over the world to conduct rubber-making experiments (his other best friend, besides Ford, was Firestone!). I have a not-great picture of the mysore tree here:

  3. Great flower photography. I love Marie Selby Gardens.

  4. Just got back from Sarasota and the Garden. Worthwhile visit. Missed the Big Cat Park;should have went. Did go to Ringling. Good PhotoOp.


  1. Revisit: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota, Florida | Spencer Pullen Photography and Training - […] and it’s always nice to revisit. If you would like to see some of my other posts, check out:…

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