July Week 3 – Sunflowers

Sunflowers inimitably resemble their namesake.   It looks like a sun with all its fiery beams sprouting forth. The sunflower belongs to the genus Helianthus annus. “Helios” means “sun” in Greek and  “annus” means the flower is an annual.

“If I had a ladder…”  I would have a better vantage point for photographing the fields of Sunflowers that grow in the Sacramento Valley.  Some photographers actually drag around a ladder or have built platforms on the tops of their vehicles so that they can photograph certain subjects from above.

Each time I pulled over on the roads around Dixon, CA. I had great views of the initial rows of the sunflowers that were usually as tall as or taller than me, making it almost impossible to see the hundreds of others behind them.

Fortunately I found one group of sunflowers that had a slight incline on the other side of the dirt road that ran along the edge of the field.  In the morning hours, even in overcast light, the heads of the sunflowers all face the East.  It is as if the are all paying homage to the source of energy that gives them life.

Photographed from 3 feet above – 120 mm

Using a telephoto lens the sunflowers are “compressed” – giving the impression that they are extremely close to each other.  (Remember – grey skies are not worth including in your image).

About three thousand years ago, Native Americans started growing sunflowers for food. There are three main reasons for sunflower farms today: seeds, oil and for floral arrangements.

Shallow depth-of-field isolates one sunflower

Of all the crops harvested for seed, the sunflower is the only one that was domesticated in North America. This widely adapted crop is now grown in every temperate region of the world. Although the sunflowers themselves are generally not exported, the products derived from them are.

I didn’t realize that the crops are usually left to dry right in the fields because the heads remain too wet for harvest by machines until the brown color appears. The sight of rows upon rows of a sunflower in bloom is truly inspiring.  The sunflower resembles one huge flower, but a single sunflower head actually hosts hundreds of tiny flowers called florets.  The brown center of the sunflower is composed of  hundreds of flowers, all growing individually, and from these each sunflower seed will originate.

The sunflowers were rising above their roots, buzzed by bees, waiting for the harvest!

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