Revisited – Naples Botanical Garden – Naples, Florida

A couple of weeks ago it was a fellow photographers birthday and we thought what a great gift it would be to take him out shooting. I mean my personality should be enough of a gift, right? (Don’t worry; we got him a bottle of Tanqueray for his nightly nightcap.) Anyway, we wanted to see something different so we decided to make the trip back down to the Naples Botanical Garden in….ugh, Naples….Florida!

We had visited there about three years ago and it was just starting to get underway. There were limited plants and things to see. Nonetheless, we photographed what we could. The other bonus of this location as of this writing is that it’s tripod friendly. Just use common sense and keep them out of the walkway. After our initial visit we sent a mole down to check things out to see how they were coming along. They reported back that they had been very busy planting and building new things to see. Armed with that intel, we decided it was worth spending the $4 a gallon of gas getting down there as we live about two hours away.

Admission is $12.95 for adults which is pretty fair for what they have going on there. We lucked out as they were also had sculptures on display from some folks that came across the pond from Zimbabwe. They were sculpting onsite and it was interesting to see how these folks take a piece of stone and create something worth looking at out of it. They have also added a café. Well, café is a strong word. They have a place to get some light sandwiches and drinks. We paid our money and off we went. Like our last visit, it was in the middle of the day and hot. Well, to keep in tradition, we were there in the middle of the day and it was hot. At least it was a “boys day out” and we managed not to get arrested!

Our first stop was the butterfly garden. It’s enclosed and there are quite a few butterflies to look at. Since it was in the middle of the day, these little guys were all over the place. I looked the enclosed space over and I noticed some areas where they were concentrated. To help ensure that we all came home with good photos, we spread out and started shooting away. What I was using was a Nikon D300 fitted with a 18mm-200mm lens. No fancy macro set up. I found a piece of foliage that was about my height to save my back and knees and I waited. As I stopped moving around, I was visited a couple of times. Here are a couple of photos.

 The Striped Bandit – Spencer Pullen © 2012

I apologize ahead of time, as I’m not educated in butterflies and bugs. To make things interesting I’ll make up my own names. Here is another visitor.

 The Pumpkin Racer – Spencer Pullen © 2012

As we made our way out of the butterfly exhibit, I heard a small European voice asking me to book with Travelocity. As I bent down to see where the “voices” in my head were coming from, I was relieved that it was these little fellows talking to me.

 The Bridge Door To Nowhere – Spencer Pullen © 2012

They had these little guys spread all over in a form of a village. This was something that you don’t see everyday so I was intrigued with them. As I mentioned, it was mid day out so that means really bad lighting conditions out. Realizing this in the parking lot that it was going to be a challenging shoot, I did bring along one of my SB800 flash units along just in case. I exposed for the highlights and filled in the shadows with the flash. Where this gets tricky is that you can’t go over your sync speed. (If I had my PocketWizards, I could have used high speed sync, but this is where you use what you have on you.) So, I ended cranking up the flash to full power and shooing around f/11 to wrangle in the highlights. To help diminish the issue of long depth of field, I racked out the lens to 200mm and got in as close as I could. It took a couple of tries, but I kept working the scene and got it. Check out this little guy.

 Rapper Gnome – Spencer Pullen © 2012

After I blinded these poor little people, we made our way around the main water feature. All over the property, they were displaying the different sculptures from Zimbabwe. This sculpture before me was a woman sitting at my eye level. I love this, as it means no bending down! The display was about 30 feet way from the pathway and backlit. Trying to photograph this was full of issues like a basket full of snakes. However, since I had my SB800 with me, I was hoping this was going to help even out the dark contrast of the stone itself. Being that the subject was 30 feet away and dark, I got the bright idea (DUH, it’s a pun!) to zoom the flash head out to 105mm and see what happened at full power. As you can see from the resulting photo, it actually worked.

 Lady Of The Lake – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Following the pathway, it took us to the Caribbean Garden. The trellis was buzzing with excitement…literally. There were these purple flowers blooming and the bees seem to really like them. Being allergic to bees, I made my way through the trellis like I had seen the “Hot Doughnuts” neon sign come on at Krispy Kreme. This is a single capture, no HDR here.

 Caribbean Buzzing Walkway (Wishing It Was Krispy Kreme!) – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Toward the end of our tour we came across where they Mayans conducted their human sacrifices. We decided to draw straws to see who was going to be the lucky winner. Well, who ever cut the straws, cut them all the same length so I guess that was out. While we were fiddling with the straws, some clouds came over and that is actually was saved the day. Now we had nice even light to photograph the temple with. The sky was a nice dull gray, but I would rather be able to keep detail in all of the areas than have a nice blue sky and harsh shadows.

 The Temple Of Resolving Spouse Issues – Spencer Pullen © 2012

It was a great day and we all walked away with some fantastic photos. One of our group members asked if I would hold his camera while he used one of  the porta pottys so this gave me a chance to see how his camera “worked”. We found all kinds of organic shapes to photograph. My favorite photo was him going into the porta potty. Boys will be boys. My mother still tells me that “I’m Special” for some reason.

In all seriousness, it’s worth the visit for the money and there are all kinds of subjects to photograph (other than porta potties!) I will probably visit again in a few years to see how they have continued to add to the garden. If you go during the hot season, take lots of water and sunscreen with you, as there isn’t any cover of shade there.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. I like your titles, as well as the photos. Sounds like an interesting place!

  2. Nice photos and good control of the shadows with your flash!
    Got to love the humor as well.

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