Sunflower Photography in Paradise

July 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Sunflowers in Crested ButteA-Sea-of-Yellow-1538x1024

A Sea of Yellow Sunflowers

Sunflowers are nothing special in Crested Butte, Colorado. They’re everywhere! Numerous varieties bloom here throughout the summer months (June – August). This year, however has been an especially vibrant sunflower summer. We’re witnessing flowers where we’ve never seen them in numbers that are hard to imagine. Whole hillsides are bright yellow.

The field above was photographed moments before the sun spread its warmth across the flowers. They were brightly lit by the open sky above but the contrast associated with full sun was absent. That’s a scenario I prefer for photographing flowers. I tend to think they’re more attractive in softer light with less contrast. Not having to deal with blown-out highlights or deep shadows makes post-production work easier too, but that’s not a good reason to choose a flattering type of light. When given an option, it’s important to photograph your subjects, whether they’re flowers, people, buildings or mountains in light that enhances what you like about your subject and diminishes attention to their flaws. For the subjects above, that meant making photographs in soft light. I could have waited for overcast skies and made a similar image except that clouds around here are usually accompanied by breezes. Moving flowers are much more difficult to photograph.

I wanted to show the expanse of flowers and their fresh, intense color. That meant that I would not include the sky or any surrounding trees. Including those would add an element which would detract from the “sea” of flowers. I began by using a small aperture to keep most of the flowers in focus but upon review, decided that there was no clear point of focus and thus no single place a viewer’s eye would end up. That’s generally not a good photograph. It should be apparent to the viewer what the photographer wants him/her to look at.  To solve this visual issue I chose to open up the aperture to f5.6 which would keep the background flowers recognizable but out of focus. I chose to focus on the taller and somewhat isolated sunflower in the lower right of the scene simply because it was a little taller, isolated against the green foliage and a perfect specimen. For me, this flower was an obvious choice since it was also facing slightly upward making it a little different from its surrounding flowers.

There was almost not post-production work on this image. I did warm the color temperature a tad and sharpened the photo as I usually do but nothing was added or subtracted and the scene looked the same in camera as it does above.

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