Acres of Sunflowers

What’s more emblematic of high summer than a sunflower in bloom? Acres of them.

McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management area, sunflowers

Montgomery County's McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management area attracts photographers like me in mid-summer when acres of sunflowers are in bloom.

A couple of summers ago, a camera club colleague of mine shared a photograph with the club that stunned us. A panorama, it showed lines of sunflowers, stretching for miles, and it hadn’t been taken in Tuscany. Instead, the location was within driving distance in our own county – the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland. Seems that every year, the county plants acres of sunflowers to lure doves for hunting season (kind of sad, actually, at least in my book), which appear after the flowers are mowed down in September.

I’ve been out to the fields three summers running, including last weekend. Photographing the flowers takes sensitivity to light conditions and exposure,  and has given me an appreciation for what a difference the sky and light can make in the success or failure (so to speak) of my images. The photo at top, for example, was taken on this year’s trip. I was there at first light but because the sky was hazy, I had to work very hard in processing the image to bring out any color in the sky at all, and brighten the yellows of the sunflowers. So for the most part, I stuck to images that didn’t show the sky, like this one.


This year's flowers were pretty much at eye level, which helped me photograph them without catching "dead" skies.

Last year’s photos are probably the best of the lot. Amazingly blue sky with puffy clouds set off the color of the flowers perfectly, and they were taller than this year, so I had to shoot upwards (not having thought to bring a ladder).


A tall sunflower with a perfect sky behind it, from last summer's trip to McKee-Beshers.

I also got a few images without the sky, like this one that reminds me of a mother and child duo:


An open sunflower with another one ready to bloom just behind it.

The sunflowers are planted in rows that run north-south but their heads turn towards the sun.


The rows look pretty cool from the back as well as the front.

Here are my two favorite images from the 2009 trip, one cropped from the other.

sunflowers, McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area

A group of sunflowers rising high above ground level.


Cropped from the image above. I like the graphic feel of the single sunflower against the blue sky and clouds.

One of the things I do with my photography is to make blank note cards, which I sell or give to friends. Here’s an image I’ve used in a “pano” card, from 2008:


As a card, this is cropped a little differently, more like my "slice" headers.

The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas. It’s also practical, tough – and beautiful in bloom. I don’t grow them in my garden, but I’m glad the county makes up for that lack of foresight on my part. Some day, I hope to make it to Tuscany to photograph them there, but until then, I can always find them just up a county road.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

And now, it’s time to announce the winner of the custom header design I offered several weeks ago. My son Adam chose the following piece of paper, from the four entrants, and here’s the winning slip:

And Jean is the winner!

Congratulations to Jean of Jean’s Garden. I’ll be in touch with her to start work on the design soon.  Thanks to everyone who entered!

Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, photography

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12 Comments on “Acres of Sunflowers”

  1. bangchik Says:

    Just look at the sea of sunflowers. So beautiful, and i am imagining them doing mass prayer, being happy and thankful to GOD.
    Have a great weekend,

    • Melissa Says:

      They do look happy, don’t they. I actually saw another photographer adorn one with a straw hat and sunglasses, giving it a beatifically smiling appearance.

  2. Jean Says:

    Melissa, Those sunflower shots are wonderful! There’s a place along US 15 just north of Gettysburg where the road abuts huge fields of sunflowers. The first time I saw them all in bloom, I almost drove off the road. What a sight!
    I’m delighted to have won your drawing and very excited about my new custom header! Thanks.

    • Melissa Says:

      Fortunately for traffic here, this field isn’t visible from the road – you have to know where to park and walk in a little way.

      I’m happy to be working on your header design and should have some options to show you soon!

  3. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, I just love these fields of sunflowers which look just like the many hundreds of acres of them also growing here in Hungary. I always feel that they are such jolly flowers and, grown as a crop, they look truly magnificent.

    • Melissa Says:

      Hungary! I’m so jealous. I hope you are enjoying your time there. Thank you for stopping by. I’m still reading your blog faithfully even if I don’t always have time to comment.

  4. Melissa, how gorgeous to see such a huge display of sunflowers. They are absolutely beautiful and so are your photographs.

    • Melissa Says:

      You are too kind. I really do like last year’s better than this year’s, but they are a great subject for macro work, an area in which I’m trying to improve.

  5. John Says:

    I’ve heard that the display of sunflowers this year didn’t measure up to last year’s crop but I’m to go out this week anyway to see if I can capture some of the indigo buntings that were in and out of the sunflowers last year. I got just enough of a sampling last year to entice me to try to get that perfect shot of impossibly blue bird next to perfect yellow flowers.

  6. Britt Conley Says:

    Wow Melissa! These are great! Blog look phenomenal! I’m going to have to head up there next year. Unless they are still blooming? I presume not.

    • Melissa Says:

      Check out John’s blog (above) since he went more recently than I. There might still be some blooms left but the field was at its peak when I went – and I don’t know what it would look like now. Thanks for the kind words.

  7. […] weeks ago a posting from Melissa at Garden Shoots reminded me that last year I had made a photography trip out to the sunflower fields that Maryland […]

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