Koreshan Historic Site – Estero, Florida

Even though you live in an area for quite some time, you may not know what is around to visit. I have lived in Florida longer that I admit (sorry, I’m still a Yankee at heart) and I’m still finding new places to go. Recently, I made a trip to the Koreshan Historic Site in Estero, Florida. I had driven by the entrance many times, but that little thing called work kept me from visiting while I was passing through. I wanted to make an effort to go down when I wasn’t under any kind of time crunch. I called a few photographer nut jobs like myself and we headed down.

When we arrived at the site, Mike, one of the park rangers, greeted us. It was $5 or $6 dollars to get in for the carload. This is the kind of budget that I can afford. He asked if we would like to take the 10:00 a.m. tour. We weren’t sure so we said that we would be back to buy tickets if we decided to go. We found the parking lot, got out and gathered our gear to start shooting. We walked about 100 feet in and we saw the art hall. It was locked and we wanted to get inside so we could see all of the history. The vote was to go get the tickets of the tour. As I made my way back to the office I asked how much the tickets were, he replied $2 a person. I thought I was hearing things. I paid the money for the tickets and we assembled at the spot per his instructions. If I forget to say this, PAY THE MONEY AND TAKE THE TOUR! Mike is very knowledgeable and can answer any question you may have. Our tour went for almost two hours and we saw quite a bit. He was also photographer friendly and let us use tripods inside the structures.

Let me back up for a minute here, so what is this place? In short, if I have it straight, it was a religious sect that believed that the universe was inside the earth. I’ll let roll around your noodle for a minute….. There is a ton more info on how, when and why all this came about. Again take the tour, Mike can explain it much better that I can.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida art hallArt Hall – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

The first stop on the tour was the art hall, he unlocked it and let us in. As you can see from the photo above, there were plenty of places to sit. Also, on the left hand side of the frame you can see the model that shows the universe inside Earth. This sounds kind of crazy, but there is also a measuring device located in the back of the art hall that is on display that shows how they measured this to make it fact. This is how they came to believe this.

A note about how the photos were taken for this outing, these were all bracketed and then fused in the computer. I had to take around 12 shots per photo to capture all of the light. Since I was able to use a tripod, this made alignment a snap later for the software.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida bakeryBakery – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

One of the stops on the tour was the bakery. Anyone who has seen me lately knows I don’t pass up a pastry. Many of the buildings allow you to go in a couple of feet, and then you are greeted by panes of glass to keep you from going any further. If you have ever tried to shoot through glass, you are probably laughing right now. To combat the glare and reflection issue, I walked around the building and looked through all the windows. I found one that was at ground level and I put my lens right up against the glass. I held the camera as still as possible and rattled off my bracketed set.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida riverA River Runs Through It – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There were steps leading down to the river. There were photos showing this was actually an outdoor stage when they were here. Boats would pull up and the Koreshan folks would put on shows and plays. Looking down the river I liked how still it was and the lone bench waiting for someone to rest their feet. This is bracketed as well and I did the black and white conversion in Nik’s Sliver Efex Pro.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida sears and roebuck living roomSears and Roebuck Home – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This was a new one to me. As I found out, Sears and Roebuck would sell homes out of their catalog. I could see that in today’s market, gee honey, do you want the house on page 19 or 35? Anyway, this was the home of the last living member of the society. She died in the 1980’s. They asked her if after all these years, did she still believe that the universe was inside the Earth. She replied, “I did until man went to the moon.” She is now buried on the property. This was photographed through the glass barrier. I cupped my hands around the lens to ensure that there wasn’t any glare. I really like the old (low def) TV.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida cracker homeFlorida Cracker Home – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I saw this old home in the shade and I thought it would make a great black and white. This was bracketed and converted like the previous photo.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida music roomLet The Music Play – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

This is what the inside of the Florida cracker home looks like. It looks like someone was getting ready to play the violin. If you want to see an amazing shot, check out the one Linda O’Neill took that even won a photo competition: Guest Photographer: Linda O’Neill – Winning Photos. She took this later in the day; it just goes to show you that photography is all about light. Great shot, Linda!

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida steam engineSteam Engine – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

When these folks came down this area in the early 1900’s there was nothing here. They had to create everything, including power. This is the steam engine that powered the generator to create power. When the State of Florida took this land over, the steam engine was missing some of the original parts. As tours went through the building, people mentioned that they had the parts that they needed to make this whole again in their garage. Through generous donations of parts and labor, it’s back together and running again. Yes, they still fire it up during the winter season. It was really dark in the building so this required many shots to capture all of the light that was in the scene.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida generatorGenerator – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Here is the generator that’s connected to the steam engine. In the back of the room, you can see the electrical panel that was used to distribute the power to the community.

 spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida machine shopMachine Shop – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

In an adjacent building is the machine shop. As I mention before, they had to build and create everything from scratch. A steam engine powered all of the tools seen here. They also do demonstrations during season to show how they used this equipment.

spencer pullen photography koreshan historic site estero florida white bridge Peace & Serenity – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There are also nature trails on the property and places to camp. This bridge leads to one of the nature trails that goes along the water.

It was a successful trip and I look forward to going again soon. Be sure to take lots of memory cards, batteries, tripod, comfortable shoes and your lunch. There are many different types of subject to photograph so there is something for everyone. Last but not least, did I mention TAKE THE TOUR?

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. I have been to Koreshan. But I want to thank you for allowing me to now see Koreshan. Beautifully done Spencer.

  2. I’ve never been to Koreshan, but now I want to check it out. Great pictures, Spencer. The texture in your B&W shots were super. The lighting on your inside shots was amazing. Great job! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you Spencer. It was a wonderful learning experience and would love to do this again. Would like to shoot more HDR.

    • My favorite photo was A River Runs Through It. Thank you for sharing your work with us.
      I am looking forward to seeing the photos my classmates took at Red Bug Slough last Thursday.

  4. You never stop amazing me Spencer. I love all of them but I’m especially drawn to the Cracker House, what a beautiful black and white. Well done..
    Thank you so much..

  5. Nice photos. Love “A River Runs Through It”. Also , really like the engine and generator photos.

  6. I especially love your photo titled “A River Runs Through it” WOW! Great shot!

  7. Spencer

    I appreciate everyone’s kind response. It was a great day photographing with great friends. I feel that black and white is making a come back. In my humble opinion, I think it can be stronger than a color photograph if done correctly.

    I look forward to my next visit. There is always something to see and they are very photographer friendly. Thanks….



  1. Revisited: Koreshan State Historical Site – Estero, Florida | Spencer Pullen Photography and Training - […] is quite challenging to photograph. If you missed my last post on this venue, you can read it here:…

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