Article by: Carol Bruyere
It’s been said that photography is a lot like shooting pool – if you take the shots that no one else can see, you will be the best.
Obviously, Port Charlotte photographer Spencer Pullen is one of the best. His colorful photograph, titled “Fruit Loops,” has been selected as one of the top fifty greatest photographs in the juried Camera USA 2015 National Photography competition.
Pullen said at first he brushed off the idea of entering contests, but several people urged him to get involved and show off his exceptional talents. He decided this could be the perfect chance to be chosen as one of the top photographers in a national competition.
Along with only one photograph, and a nominal fee, Pullen said, competitors submit an “artists statement” explaining who they are, why they were “shooting what they shoot”, and what they were thinking when they shot it.
“It took me a few months to figure out the execution of my idea,” Pullen added. “When I got the parts and pieces together, it took six hours, and probably approximately three hundred images, to get the perfect one.”
Finalists were selected by a group of award winning and professional photographers, professors, and museum curators from around the country.
All fifty photographs will be on display at The von Liebig Art Center’s Frederick O. Watson Gallery, in Naples, Florida, from June 15 to July 17. The first place winner will be announced at a preview reception and presentation June 12th.
This isn’t Pullen’s only photographic success story. He recently was awarded first place for his black and white image “The Old Model T”, entered in a competition at the Manatee Art Center in Sarasota.
Though Pullen took his first photos when he was only seven years old, he wasn’t always a professional photographer. His college studies focused on graphic design and interactive media—radio, television, websites, commercials, and 3D modeling. His work for the local Sun Coast Media group got him involved in commercial printing, and encouraged his transition from graphic designer to commercial photographer.
“After twenty years of deadlines and stress, I got tired, and decided it was time for a change,” Pullen stated.
That change has included becoming a photography class instructor, primarily at FGCU’s Renaissance Academy’s Herald Court Campus in Punta Gorda.
“The big thing I found is that a majority of my students are age 60-90. They wanted something to do – something to get them out and keep them active,” Pullen said. “I realized I could fill the void.”
“I got started in photography just at the dawn of the digital age,” Pullen mentioned. As it’s progressed, he added, he’s had the opportunity to learn all the aspects, and is now sharing his knowledge in a popular series of classes that include: Digital Camera Basics, Intro to Point & Shoot Cameras, Intro to DSLR Photography, Digital Photography Exposed, Digital Camera Exposed, HDR for Digital Photographers, Digital Photographer’s Toolbox, Lighting for Digital Photographers.
Additional classes teach how to process and edit digital photos, or, as Pullen says “Dress ‘em up and make ‘em look nice.” These include Mac Basics, Photoshop CS for Digital Photographers, Photoshop Elements for Digital Photographers, and How to Photograph for Online Sales.
While the classroom is where equipment and techniques are explained, students are also given the opportunity to practice methods on guided field trips with the instructor. Pullen laughed when he said “I can talk ‘til I’m blue in the face, but they won’t get it until I take them on a walk around town.” Students may also go to parks and historical sites for inspiration and instruction.
Lots of people, Pullen said, would enjoy photography, but they may be intimidated by the high cost of some equipment. “You don’t have to spend thousands to get a good photograph. It’s not the expensive camera, or the fancy lens, it’s the person behind the camera,” Pullen explained. He even knows of a photographer who used a cell phone camera to take a photo that was eventually published in National Geographic.
Pullen said many of his students ask “What makes a professional photographer?” He tells them “It’s taking more images, maybe thousands, of the same thing. You may stop, get up or down, look at the subject from a different angle, use different lighting, or give yourself other options to get that perfect shot.”
Pullen wants to encourage his students to follow his footsteps and enter photography contests. “You don’t have to be Ansel Adams,” he tells them, “just take rejection with a grain of salt. You may re-submit in another contest and win.” He also wants them to know that photography is supposed to be fun. “If not, it’s time to do something else!”
FGCU Program Director, Nancy Staub, said that Pullen’s students have a varying degree of ability but he treats each student equally, and provides one-on-one instruction for them.
“When I met with Spencer the first time, I realized his extreme passion would lead him to help people learn their cameras and photography techniques.”
“Every class, every time, in Spencer’s evaluation from his students, they give him the highest rank for knowledge, delivery, and patience”, Staub said. “We couldn’t be happier than to have him as our photography instructor.”
“Was I surprised at the contest results? No! I’ve seen his work!” Staub said.
While Pullen hopes to eventually travel the county and “focus” on shooting memorable black and white photos of “Americana” (people, nature, old buildings and vehicles), he plans to continue teaching.
“This is a blast!” Pullen exclaimed. “It’s lots of fun. I enjoy working with people. That’s where the pay-off is – to see students engaged, and understanding the material, and knowing they can take the information and continue on their photographic journey.”
Want to “travel” with award-winning photographer Spencer Pullen? Contact him at email@example.com or check his website, images, and blog at http://spencerpullen.com . FGCU class schedules and information can be found at www.fgcu.edu/hcc or visit the campus at 117 Herald Court #211, Punta Gorda.