sunflower photos title

How to take beautiful sunflower photos

How to take sunflower photos

Sunflowers are the most beautiful crop when the plants are in full bloom. Before you head to sunflower nirvana, read these how-to tips.

We live in Goodland, Kan., one of the places where sunflower prices are set. In most years, farmers grow a lot of sunflowers. Every year, we look forward to the sunflower blooming season. We’re out photographing sunflowers nearly nightly so long as the blooms last. Here’s how you can take sunflower photos.

Where and when to find a blooming sunflower field

sunflower pictures
A single sunflower

Sunflower fields can be difficult to find. Because of that, don’t blindly wander around the countryside. If you need a destination, call local grain companies and crop insurance agents to ask about locations and bloom forecasts.

When you head for the field(s), look for “sunflower shine”. Sunflower shine is my term for yellow on the horizon. Blooming sunflower fields are an intense block of yellow. Sometimes the yellow is visible on the horizon, guiding you to your destination — or maybe a surprise field.

Pro tip: Look for “sunflower shine” as a guide to field locations.

sunflower field with beautiful sky
Look at the horizon when seeking sunflower fields. Sometimes the intense yellow will reflect into the sky.

Peak bloom time and field locations will vary

Because of crop rotation schedules, expected crop prices and weather, bloom time and field locations will vary annually. Peak bloom may occur at any time from late July to early September, depending on weather conditions. On the High Plains, the most likely peak blooming time comes in mid-August. Again, please confirm locations and blooming status before setting out.

Pro tip: Contact grain companies and/or crop insurance agents for sunflower field locations and bloom forecasts. Call the farmer for permission to take pictures in your chosen field(s).

Scouting for sunflower photos

Not all sunflower fields will produce good images. First, check to see whether the field is excessively weedy. A few weeds in the image can make it more interesting. Lots of weeds, on the other hand, are ugly and distracting. See if the light will be at a workable angle and also check whether parking will be safe. Last, look at the background. Is it pretty or will you have to work around it?

Pro tip: The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) shows local times for each day’s rising and setting of the sun and moon. The app also shows the angles they will be from your destination. Using this app enables me to anticipate where I need to position myself for the best light. It’s available on Android and iOS app stores. I highly recommend it. Caution: Some locations may not have adequate cellular coverage. Be sure to mark your chosen location ahead of your trip.

What to wear before taking sunflower photos

Please don’t wear anything fancy into any kind of agriculture setting. I usually wear old jeans and hiking boots because fields tend to be full of stickers. Watch for snakes.

Please remember to wear sunscreen.

Avoiding bees and other bugs

Blooming sunflowers are covered with pollen and, therefore, are highly attractive to bees and other insects.

If the temperature allows, I like to wear long sleeves. (However, temperatures mild enough to endure long sleeves are rare.) Long sleeves will protect you from stings. To further avoid stings, don’t put your face or any other body part too near the flowers.

Remember to use mosquito spray!

Pro tip: If you struggle with allergies, take some allergy medications before heading into the field. Please allow enough time for the medications to take effect.

Look top to bottom and side to side

Leaves in sunflower field
Curling sunflower leaves

Another photographer taught me to take agriculture pictures on a ladder in a pickup truck bed.

For another angle, when possible, shoot images from a ladder set on the ground.

Walk around the field when appropriate and shoot the flowers from straight on, from above and from below.

Make sure to look at the back of the sunflowers. Remember to look at the leaves. Some of the leaves are interesting on their own.

Pro tip: Park on the side of the road, as far to the right as possible, with flashers on. Please treat the sunflowers with respect. Every one of them is part of the farmer’s livelihood. Don’t mess with the farmer’s paycheck.

Experiment with sunflower photos and have fun!

Tripod on a ladder for sunflower photos
Setting up the tripod on the ladder in the pickup bed

Nothing is quite like the experience of being surrounded by huge sunflowers. Go out and have a good time. If you have shot interesting sunflower photos, I’d love to see them in the comments.

Pro tip: Use a remote timer to trip your camera’s shutter when shooting long exposures. Using a remote limits your chances of bumping your camera and blurring your photos. Since I shoot with a Nikon, I use the Nikon remote. Amazon Basics has a remote for $8.44, much cheaper than the Nikon, but I haven’t tried it.

Happy shooting!


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