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