Celebrating the sunflower season

Outdoor photography in Sacramento  goes through seasonal cycles. In the summer, besides the Lotus photography at the William Land Park, photographers fiercely chase the abundant sunflowers in the nearby fields. After all, California is known for its agriculture and the Sacramento area is surrounded by farms and ranches. 

Although I did photograph sunflower fields in the past, I have not felt very enthusiastic about this type of photography this year. At home, I have found my own way to celebrate the sunflower season with a still life project: I photographed a wilting sunflower every day for a week, then I combined the resulting photos into one digital artwork. This digital art has been uploaded to my Digital Art gallery at GeoGalleries.

“Wilting flowers” used to be my favorite kind of photography, but at some point I got tired of people asking what’s wrong with me. In a previous post, Fading beauty photography, I elaborate a little on my motivations to photograph decaying botanicals, and how I came to walk away from the subject. Pacific Dogwood Flowers at Big Trees is another post showing a wilting flower, this time in nature. 

Equipment: Nikon Z50, Nikon 105 mm 2.8, table, background (white), tripod, white board reflector, white paper for background and backdrop, speed light, speed light stand; home-made diffuser for the speed light, black foam to direct the light, tripod;

Settings: f/16, 2.0 s, ISO 160;

Photography Tips: I am not going to go into too much detail about how I did this. There are many ways to achieve the same result. However, in order to do something similar, you need to have a dedicated space where the camera and set up will not be moved during the duration of the experiment. My set up is below. On the left hand side, I have a speed light going through a home-made diffuser and a dark foam around the diffuser directing the light to the center of the sunflower. In my exposure, I used both natural and flash light, but this can be done with natural light only. I took two pictures a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to combine them later into Photoshop layers with different opacities. In the end, I applied a texture to the picture as the top layer and cleaned it off from the flower with the eraser tool. After all that, I converted the image to black and white.

19 thoughts on “Celebrating the sunflower season

  1. Alexander S. Kunz says:

    Elaborate setting and kudos for managing to leave it static for an entire week! 😮 Not sure if I’d manage to do that at our house…

    Beautiful result too, of course. It reminds me of an x-ray, with the perceived transparency of the petals.


  2. Steve Schwartzman says:

    That’s funny: “‘Wilting flowers’ used to be my favorite kind of photography, but at some point I got tired of people asking what’s wrong with me.”

    I’ve read your description of how you created this photograph, and yet my first reaction was that the image had the feel of a negative. Maybe that comes from spending years working with film. Back then I’d sometimes prefer the negative version of a photograph to the positive version. You may have occasionally felt that about a picture, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alessandra Chaves says:

      You are not the first person who mentions this. I never developed my own negatives, so I would not know. If you set up your digital camera to perform double exposure and set it to monochrome, the resulting picture will look something like this. The cameras set the transparency of each photo to about 50%


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