Driving through Northern Spain in the height of Summer, you can’t help but be struck by the beauty of the countless fields of sunflowers. Rows upon rows of huge yellow and orange faces worshipping the sun, surrounded by dark green foliage and deep azure sky without a cloud in sight. Really, what’s not to like?
Capturing a nice photo of a field of sunflowers is on the bucket list of most landscape photographers but it’s harder than it looks. The trick is to have a hero flower dominating the frame, surrounded by many others. You want to see the detail in the primary model, but it’s crucial that it’s not a flower in isolation, rather one nestled among a field of many others.
It’s only when you start framing things up that you realise many of the flowers may not be as perfect as they seemed when you were driving past, and when you do find a really good one, it could be surrounded by a load of mediocre-looking ones. So, the first step is to find a star model that’s surrounded by some good-looking counterparts, but even then that may not be quite enough. In order to see the flowers around the ‘hero bloom’, try to find a slightly elevated position, looking down a little. The problem is, the hero flower may be resolutely pointing straight forward, and when viewed a little from above, may look like it’s actually pointing down or away from you as if shy or disinterested. For the ultimate pose, you will want a great-looking flower that is not only surrounded by other good-looking flowers, but also pointing up a little. And you thought posing kids was difficult!
Once you have you candidate, thinking about using a standard wide-angle lens to capture the shot with the aperture wide open and focused very close to the hero flower. If you’re using a wide lens, modest aperture, and small format camera, the depth of field will never be very shallow, but at this close range there’s still a little blurring to separate the subject from the flowers behind it.
Favouring a huge hero flower surrounded by smaller flowers is best achieved with a wide lens, but it doesn’t have to be an ultra-wide. This photo was taken using a 28mm-equivalent field of view, which in wide-angle terms is fairly mild. If you go for something wider still, you could certainly further accentuate the size of the hero against the background, but you’ll need to get even closer to it, running the risk of casting a shadow and of losing precise focus as the flower sways gently in the breeze.
- Olympus OM-D EM-5
- Lumix 7–14mm
- 14mm (28mm equivalent)
- 1/2500 second
- +0.3 EV
- ISO 200
- Natural white balance
In Camera is Gordon Laing’s guide to making the most out of your digital camera, and never feeling as if technology has left you behind. In Camera will teach you the skills to push your camera to the limit and capture the perfect shot, under all conditions, with no post-processing required.