Weekly Pick - NPN Weekly Challenge gallery

My photo of “wall to wall” sunflowers was selected as the Weekly Pick in the Weekly Challenge gallery on Nature Photographers Network.  The theme for the Weekly Challenge last week was “State or National Symbols.”  Naturally, when I think of my wonderful home state of Kansas, sunflowers come to mind (but maybe that’s because I have a sunflower “fetish”).  I posted two sunflower images last week, and this one was selected as the winner.  I feel so very honored.  This is the third WP honor I’ve received.  It was a good week for Kansas NPN photographers – Wayne Rhodus received a WP for his columbine image in the Flora gallery, and Rob Graham received a WP for his image of an oil rig at Monument Rocks in the Environmental Photojournalism gallery.

I made this image near Morrowville, in Washington Co., Kansas last August.  A fellow NPN member, Scott Bean, gave me the directions to this particular field, and I certainly was not disappointed.  I set my camera up in the bed of my husband’s Tundra pickup to get slightly elevated.  Since I’m so short, this is sometimes a problem, especially with tall subjects like sunflowers.  We found a great spot where the rolling terrain was covered with blooms, and I used my 70-300 mm lens to compress the scene, and focused on the first row of flowers nearest to me.  Looking through the viewfinder, all I could see was a sea of sunflowers – perfect!  The sun kept playing peek-a-boo with some widely scattered clouds, so I just waited for the sun to be covered up to diffuse the light a bit, and squeezed off a few shots.  My one regret is that I didn’t have my new Canon 70-200 lens for this, as it is much sharper than my old lens.  Guess that means I’ll just have to try and recreate it again sometime 😉

After a busy Saturday in Wichita on August 29 for my firm’s annual picnic (held at the Sedgwick Co. Zoo), on Sunday we headed to Wilson Lake for some biking & hiking. We then headed back home via the northern route (Highway 36) and stopped at a couple of sunflower fields in Washington Co. near Morrowville that fellow CSNP member Scott Bean told me about.  The fields were in great condition!  The rolling hills in the field combined with the sunny sunflowers to create quite a dramatic combination.  When looking through the viewfinder, I just wanted to see sunflowers going into infinity and nothing else. I set my tripod up in the bed of our truck to gain extra height.  I also used my 70-300 mm lens @ 300 mm to accomplish this. Although I did get some distortion on the edges, that was easily cropped out.  The sun hid behind some clouds for a few minutes, which caused the light to be more diffuse and pleasing, and saturated the colors. I fired off a few shots and came away with this.

Sunflower Fields Forever

Of course, the classic combination of bright yellow sunflowers against a bright blue sky couldn’t be ignored in a more intimate portrait.

Walking on Sunshine

I liked how the petals were slightly backlit against the sky and seemed to glow.  Unfortunately, these sunflowers weren’t the large variety and were planted very close together, making it impossible to get close-up individual portraits like I did last year near Beloit.

The next weekend, I found out about a field in Jackson Co. just north of Holton on Highway 75. Of course, I had to visit!  Again, I used our truck to give me the height advantage over the tall blooms.  I liked the pattern created by the sideways sunflowers and noticed one lone flower was above the rest.

Above the Crowd

This field also had an added bonus of the quintessential Kansas windmill off in the distance.

Sunny Windmill

The ground wasn’t quite as hilly as that in Washington Co. and those feed trucks that kept blasting by me were quite annoying, but I still enjoyed my time with my favorite flowers on earth. There are two things I can literally spend hours shooting:  waterfalls and sunflowers.