Guest Photographer – Gail Arnold

As I have mentioned in past posts, photography isn’t always about achieving the picture perfect photo. This kind of hobby/career will lead you to meet folks that you might have never crossed paths with. These friendships that are created will last longer than any camera but Nikons pretty tough though or piece of equipment.

This post is about such a story. There are some beautiful photographs to look at as well, but it’s the human element that really brings everything together. I was getting ready to teach at a brand new venue about a year ago. With different venues, come different varieties of folks with a range of skills. When I approach classes like this, I don’t want to talk down or up to anyone, I try to fly down the middle. During my first class, everyone came in and sat down and was ready to be taught something of value. During my little intro speech, I like to go around the room and see what the students goals are and what equipment everyone has. In the front row, there was a picturesque red head. When it was her turn, she said her name was Gail and she had a point and shoot and liked to shoot everything. As an instructor I love answers like this because it means that they are open to try different types of photography.

During the course, I could tell she was different. She was the first one there and the last one to leave. She always asked questions and was a sponge for knowledge, this is a good thing as Martha would say. During our field trips, she would ask her now famous question, “How do I get closer?” I loaned her my Nikon with a 18mm-200mm to use for the day and she really enjoyed using what the DSLR had to offer versus a point and shoot. Just to be clear, I’m not knocking point and shoots here. They are great to take on a trip as they are compact and they are becoming just as full featured as a DSLRs with every second that passes.

I could see the “B&H” in her eyes as she continued to take more classes with me. We were at a state park here in Florida and there were some Roseate Spoonbills in the distance. She was playing with the point and shoot and it wasn’t long she had my Nikon, like I said she is a picturesque red head. At this point, she is looking through the viewfinder and she asked, “How do I get closer?” Trying to be the most accommodating teacher in the US of A, I happened to have my 80mm-400mm lens with me. I switched lenses and she started zooming. All I could hear was, “Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh….” She got some great photos that day.

At the next class she showed up with a brand new Nikon D7000. I laughed and asked, “Ugh, where is the point and shoot?” She responded with a B&H grin, “In the closet.” She bought the camera with a 18mm-200mm lens and that was great. A few months later, Santa in the big brown truck showed up at her house with a 80mm-400mm and a really sturdy tripod. As they say the rest is history.

Gail and I have become great friends over the last year. She is always learning and wanting to try new things. As most of you know, I like black and white photography. We had a few minutes one day so we went to the Manatee History Park in Manatee County. Since she had a new tripod, we had to get that new tripod smell off of it. Some folks that are not accustomed to using a tripod really have issues with it. I hear comments like, “It’s too heavy”, “It gets in the way” and “I’m steady enough without it.” We live in America so I say what ever works. Personally, I use a tripod when it makes sense. Most of my work, it makes sense to use one and my photos for the magazines that I work with are very happy to have tack sharp shots.

As we made our way around the different structures, we would set up, compose and take a few shots. Most of the light in these old buildings was provided from just what was coming in from outside. Since we both had tripods, this was a snap as some of our exposures were in the seconds range. One of the first stops that we made was an old church. They still use it for weddings and events. It’s very detailed inside and you could spend all day in there. Here is an outside shot that Gail took.

manatee county church circa 1880 taken by gail arnold Church Circa 1887 – Gail Arnold © 2013 All Rights Reserved

She did a great job capturing all the details on the wall of the church. As you can see it was a difficult lighting situation as we were there in the middle of the day.

One of the other structures that they have here is an old courthouse. It’s pretty amazing to see how law was handled over a hundred years ago. They have it preserved as the day they used it. No fancy mahogany platforms to interrogate people on, just wooden tables and chairs with oil lamps to light the room. Even the judge’s bench was fully equipped.

 gail arnold photographs the judge's benchThe Judges Decision – Gail Arnold © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I think Gail making these photographs in black and white really help illustrate what we were seeing there. I guess the chain that is attached to the gavel is so it doesn’t accidentally fall into someone’s pocket or purse on the way out. Could you imagine stealing in a courtroom anyway? You can’t fix stupid!

feather and inkwell was used in this courthouse photographed by gail arnold Stenographer Tools – Gail Arnold © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Here is another great photo. I’m guessing that the little typewriter that you used to see people using with the miles of paper coming out of wasn’t around back then. Feathers and inkwells were all anyone needed.

Towards the end of our trip there was a school. The classroom was set up just like the courthouse was. There was a teacher’s desk with rows of desks for students. I really liked the cast iron stove that was in the corner to heat the place.  In the opposite corner, there was a desk all by itself. I’m guessing if you were bad, this was for you. However, I didn’t see those hats that were long and pointy to go with it. Gail moved around the classroom and positioned herself to frame the photo. As she soon found out, the tripod that she bought will do just about anything you want to do with it. She adjusted the legs and rotated the center column so that it was horizontal to help fit around one of the student’s desks so she could get the sharp photograph that you see below.

 students desk at manatee history park photographed by gail arnoldStudent Desk – Gail Arnold © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There was a big window next to the desk. This light source provided nice soft side lighting and really gives you the feeling of being a student sitting at this desk, doing homework in the late afternoon.

Here is what you have to remember about Gail, in just a few short months, she went from using a point and shoot, getting what the camera gave her, to a DSLR that is now commanding. She is cranking out some amazing photographs all the time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her work in the future.

As the end of the day, it’s fun to have the latest camera or gadget to show off or convince your spouse that you really “need” this stuff to make your photography better (how do you think I get my stuff?), but it’s really about meeting people who have similar interests and creating some amazing photographs together and good times. Here is the bad part about helping your so-called “friends”. I took a minute to sit down and check my camera settings. Little did I know where I was, leave it to Gail to be right on the spot to capture this portrait of yours truly. At least while I was looking at my camera in there, I realized that I had a incorrect setting and all I could say was, “Oh Crap!”

 gail arnold captures spencer pullen in the outhouseSpencer Visits The Privy – Gail Arnold © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Spencer ~ My Dear Friend, you are too kind! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being both Friend & Mentor, for always being there to encourage me & even hold me up when my tripod can’t.
    You inspire me to keep on keeping on. Little do you know how you & the joy of photography that we share has brought me back to life.
    I Thank You Dear Friend… Always, gail

  2. Those were great shots. Loved the lighting, the wood grain and , of course, the smiley fellow in the privey.
    Great shots, Gail. Keep up the good work.

    • Curry, Thank you for your words of encouragement. No doubt ~ that privy shot does make me smile.

  3. Gail, those are really great photos. I love the B&W treatment. Great job!

    • Hi Deb, and thanks ever so much for the kind words.

  4. Great photos Gail! Keep up the great work! Fun post to read and enjoy!

    • Carolyn, I truly thank you!

  5. Gail,
    These photos are all beautiful . Your eye has captured the beauty of everything you see. Thanks for inspiring us with your work. Love the tonal range.
    Appreciate the post, Spencer, so we can see just what a great artist Gail is and an awesome teacher you are.
    Looking forward to more photos from Gail and others you have taught along the way.

    • Margo, I thank you ever so much for your very kind words. I hope to see you and your camera out there again soon.

  6. Gail you are doing wonderful work with your camera. Enjoyed reading the post. The photos are excellent, keep doing what your doing. Awesome girl.

    • Linda, I truly do thank you for all of your support & encouagement. Thanks for being there.

  7. yahoo

    • Carol, Thanks, that is just how I feel; yahoo!!

  8. striking photos. thanks for sharing!

    • Tina, Thank you!!

  9. Thank you for sharing your Beautiful shots Gail! The Feather is priceless. Love the Privy, you look 10 years old Spencer…As always the your words are priceless Spence..

    • Susan, Thanks ever so much.

  10. Gail, those were real nice pictures, I’m sure you’re enjoying your new camera, & with Gatorland so close to my house, you should get some great pictures there, I’m not a photographer so would not be of any help to you, I finally found your pictures by clicking on your name, I’m sure you’re having fun going around and capturing all the old time stuff also, Aline

    • Aunt Aline, Thanks you so much! And yes, I am having fun!

  11. Gail,

    These photos are great. Black and white rocks! I am in Spencer’s class also and I pester him too I just want to get to your level with my Nikon V1

    • Jane, Thank you. And you know that you can count on Spencer to get you there and beyond, what a great teacher.

  12. Love the shadows. You can almost imagine the young student sitting in that old desk. Oh yes, he was out in the one seater!

  13. Is this the same Gail Arnold that taught at Indialantic Elementary?
    Would love to know – she was a great teacher!

    • Spencer


      I don’t think this is the same person. She owned an airport in Illinois. Thanks…



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