Sunflowers

Not far from my house the sunflowers are in bloom. We had an afternoon with really nice light so I grabbed my camera bag and headed over to where all these sunflowers are growing along the road. The sunflowers are nice enough to face right into the late afternoon sun and catch all that golden light. All I had to do was watch my shadow.

The first lens I grabbed was the 16-35mm f/4 lens that I recently acquired. I was excited to see how sharp it was and what I could do with a really wide angle. The first picture below is at 16mm focal length and the second one is at 35mm. You can definitely notice the distant horizon compressed more in the first image. You can also see that at really wide focal length, the focus depth is really deep.

Sunflowers in afternoon sun near road in Leander Texas
Nikon D750+16-35mm f/4; 16mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO100
Sunflowers in afternoon sun near road in Leander Texas
Nikon D750+16-35mm f/4; 35mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO100

There are some buildings in the far background but they are either blurred well enough at 35mm or compressed enough at 16mm that they don’t really matter. I edited both images in Lightroom by applying the landscape filter, upping the contrast slightly, and turning down the luminance on the blue to deepen the sky. I like the first image better.

Now, is the lens sharp enough for me? The below photo of the sunflower and bee against the green background was shot at 16mm. The next image is a crop of just the flower and bee. I don’t know about you, but I’m happy.

Lone Sunflower and bee in the afternoon sun near road in Leander Texas
Nikon D750+16-35mm f/4; 16mm, f/8, 1/400s, ISO100
Sunflower and bee in afternoon sun near road in Leander Texas
Nikon D750+16-35mm f/4; 16mm, f/8, 1/400s, ISO100

One more shot at 35mm portrait orientation. I wanted to catch this flower isolated against the blue sky for the contrast. Not sure if I like the background flower there or not.

Texas_sunflowers_16-35mm_5
Nikon D750+16-35mm f/4; 35mm, f/4, 1/1250s, ISO100

There was a bit of a wind blowing so I opened the lens up to f/4 to get a fast shutter speed. I had to stand in some deep grass and weeds to get this and I was getting a bit worried about finding a snake. I should probably increase the exposure on this one a bit.

Next I went back to the car and got the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as I wanted to get some close-ups with lots of bokeh. My first idea was trying to get a lot of greens and yellows blurred in the background with a sharp sunflower in the foreground. The first image below is at 140mm focal length and the second one is at 200mm.

Texas_sunflowers_70-200mm_2
Nikon D750+Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8; 140mm, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO100
Texas_sunflowers_70-200mm_1
Nikon D750+Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8; 200mm, f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO100

I baked both of these in Lightroom by enhancing the yellows and greens a little and adding a bit of contrast. Perhaps I should have found a more isolated flower, but I did get some good background blur.

Tip: My technique was to try to get almost to the minimum focus distance from the subject flower. This ensures maximum bokeh. You can manually dial your focus all the way in and see how close you can get or use continuous servo autofocus until you get a good focus.

I also tried a variation with the blue sky and flowers in the background. I think I like the way these turned out better. The warm yellow really contrasts well against the cool blue sky. I also really like how the images shot at 200mm look as you really get maximum subject isolation.

Texas_sunflowers_70-200mm_3
Nikon D750+Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8; 200mm, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO100
Texas_sunflowers_70-200mm_4
Nikon D750+Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8; 105mm, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO100

Getting good hand-held shots with the Sigma 70-200mm is not always easy, but I had so much light that I could use really fast shutter and get sharp photos even with a good breeze blowing. I had to be very careful with the blues in Lightroom to avoid halos around the background flowers.

This last one is a bit of a crop to get something ugly out of the picture. It is one of my favorites as the flower is so well isolated and the background is clean and colorful.

Texas_sunflowers_70-200mm_5
Nikon D750+Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8; 200mm, f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO100

Those are my sunflower pictures. I hope you enjoyed them. Please leave a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Sunflowers

  1. “Not sure if I like the background flower…” – That’s a tricky one, I personally like to have just a single flower in a square photo format with the background blurred. However that’s not always possible, even if you change the POV, and then you’ve got to think of something else. A shallow depth of field like you’ve used often works.

    ( Our sunflowers are not out yet, but they’re getting there, camera is ready! )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that one problem I have is not doing a very good job of chimping after I take a picture. I take a quick look at the camera screen and move on. I should really spend more effort checking my composition after I take the picture.
      I was mainly thinking about the background when I was taking these pictures. I think that some of them worked and some could have been better.

      Like

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