Circus Salvage – Sarasota, Florida

As some of you know, I like to hang around really high end places. Dirty floors, paint peeling off the walls, that kind of stuff. It’s neat to see some older stuff and how it actually worked. We did a class in Sarasota, Florida on lighting and we were trying to come up with a place that would allow us to practice some flash photography. After racking our brains for awhile, we decided to go salvaging. I did a post awhile back on SAS Salvage. We actually went there first, and then we walked down the street to Circus Salvage. I had never been there before so this was going to be an experience.

Over the years I have been faced with trying to get sharp photographs in low light and actually have them look like something when you’re done. Today’s cameras a quite amazing as they are, especially if you consider the technology that sent the first men to the moon! Anyway, low light means long shutter speeds, high ISO, wide open apertures or a combo of all three. This is where you can use equipment to help you out. I’m a big fan of trying to get it as close in the camera as possible so I’m not spending hours in Photoshop trying to make chicken soup out of chicken…well you know the rest! Since I was in this type of environment before, I knew how dark it was going to be. I fitted my camera with my external flash. These are great tools as they allow you determine how much light comes out and what kind of pattern. I can fan it out to cover a larger area or make it narrow and get a spot light effect. As for the lens, I fitted the camera with my trusty 50mm f/1.4 lens. I love this lens as it’s one of the sharpest in my bag and weighs nothing.

I try not to get too geared up as not to raise eyebrows that we are “professional” photographers when we are just out for a good time and we might even learn something. As we entered the first warehouse we came upon odds and ends but then I was drawn to a car part.

Spencer Pullen photographed this dashboard at Circus Salvage in Sarasota, FloridaDashboard – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

There were two of these stacked on a shelf waiting for a new owner. Not sure what they came out of. However, the font that was used for the speedometer is what grabbed my attention. No eight track either, I guess this was the standard model and not the luxury trim! I use spot focus and put my focus dot on the center of the speedometer to make sure that was the sharpest thing in the frame.

Spencer Pullen photographed this old car at Circus Salvage in Sarasota, FloridaOne Headlight – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

In the back of the warehouse was an old car. When I mean old, like the paint was falling off and rust was moving in. My kind of subject. Trying to keep the background out of the frame, I went in tight and got a couple of detail shots. In this photo you can see the glass in the headlight is like the day it was made, however the steel and chrome are loosing the battle. I bet this car has quite a story to tell.

Spencer Pullen photographed this sign at Circus Salvage in Sarasota, FloridaNo Toilet – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Those of you who have been reading this blog for quite some time know I’m not right. When I saw this sign, I knew we had to have a photo of it! This was a new sign, but still worth hanging in ones house!

Spencer Pullen photographed this lightbulb at Circus Salvage in Sarasota, FloridaIdeas – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

This old bulb really had some character. I love the old filament that was glowing and making the light. I wanted to preserve what I saw. This was going to require some trickery to pull this off. First, I set my exposure fast enough for the filament so it wouldn’t be blown out. Then I turned on my flash and set it for a low power just to fill in the socket and arm. Without flash, this might have been a challenge to get this in the camera.

Spencer Pullen photographed these fishing reels at Circus Salvage in Sarasota, FloridaReel It In – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

As we were finishing up I saw these old fishing reels. Loved the subject, but there was a lighting problem. They were in half full sun and half in fill shadow. As I did with the lightbulb, I exposed for the highlights, the sun in this case and used the flash as fill to bring out the details in the other areas.

As far as processing goes, I shoot RAW files and spent about 15 seconds in Camera RAW since they were really close to what I wanted in the camera. Also, I knew I was going to be converting these to back and white. I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to do the conversion. Last, I sized them for the blog and sharpened them. I spent about five minutes a piece, not too bad.

There you go, find some old places to shoot and see what you can come up with. Lower light environments will allow you to practice your skills with depth of field and lighting. Anyone can do this, it just takes practice.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Good shots…good story. Like the “One Headlight”. In Hawaii we used to call that “Maui lace” – all the rust. Makes you wonder where that vehicle spent its years rusting away.

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