Sunflower Fields

On July 22, I had four photo sessions out at the McKee Besher sunflower fields in Maryland with the shoot starting at 08:00AM and going until 12:00 PM.  I determined four hours of shooting in a very sunny field with very little shade makes for a very long morning.
For this shoot, I had an interesting equipment list, which included the following:
  •       Canon 70D,
  •        18 -200mm lens,
  •        2x 430 EX –IIIRT speed light
  •        Light stand
  •        Reflector that doubled as a diffuser
  •        Ladder
  •        Bug spray
  •        Bottled water
  •        Hat
  •        Flexible cold pack
  •     And an assistant (my husband).

You may be asking why I had a ladder with me, this was so I could get above the sunflowers and shoot down onto the model.  Basically, the ladder gave me height, which as a short person I don’t have.  I am also thankful to my husband who moved the ladder around for me and held the diffuser/reflector for some of the shots.  I thanked him by taking him out for Chipotle’s after the shoot.

I took a little over 400 shots and posted 291 fully edited photos.  For all the photos, I was at an ISO of 100 using an aperture of between F5and F8 with 62 percent of the photos taken at F6.3. I used a focal length between 18mm and 90mm with 55 percent of the photos taken at 18mm.  The shutter speeds varied widely from 1/60s to 1/2000s with the about 60 percent of the photos taken at 1/250s or 1/400s depending on the lighting conditions.   It should also be noted that even though it was sunny, I used flash as a fill to help separate my subject from the background and try to keep both the sky and the model properly exposed.  I did basic edits on all the photos in Lightroom paying close attention to the highlights. I used several graduated filters within Lightroom to reduce the brightness of the sky and bring back the blue in the sky.  Below I will discuss a few images from each of the four sessions in the sunflower fields.

The first session was with Jennifer Glinzak Costumery &Couture as Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty.” I loved working with her, and she was able to show a wide range of poses and expressions with very little direction.  I had so many favorites from this session it was hard to narrow it down to just one to discuss, so I will discuss a couple of the photos. (You can see all the photos here.)  This first shot was taken while I was up on the ladder, and she was facing away from the sun, so a flash was used to light her and reduce shadows.   When editing this shot I decided to keep the crop large.  I then faded the image to give it a slight sepia/golden tone, which I feel give the image more of a fairy tale look. This second shot I like because she has a bit of a mischievous look and she definitely has the smize down.  In the second shot I again had her looking away from the sun (it was really bright) but had her turn towards the camera.  I placed the flash slightly to right, to light her face, and then balanced it slightly with the rest of the scene.  During the editing process, the color was intensified along with the clarity.  I then added some slight vignetting to finish the image.

Focal length 50mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/250s
Focal length 24mm, Aperture F5, Shutter 1/800s

The second session was with Sara Cosplays, who I always enjoy working with.  She did Belle from the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast”.  Again, I have so many favorites it is hard to pick to just one so I am going to discuss a couple of them (You can see all the photos here.)  The first one is a ¾-length portrait that was lit using only the sun and a white/gold reflector.  As you can tell this was not taken in the middle of the fields but in the little wooded patch near the sunflower fields. The only edits I did to this image were increasing the clarity and saturation slightly, making sure the whites were white, and adding a little bit of vignetting to the image.  The second image was taken in the same area with the same edits applied.  I like these two photos because I think they really embody the character of Belle.

Focal length 60mm, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s
Focal length 28mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/125s

The third shoot was with Evolution Cosplay as Mavis from “Hotel Transylvania.”  She did bring out Mavis’s personality, and if you haven’t seen the movie, it is a bubbly, new to the world teenage vampire.  Thus when I went to edit the photos I actually tried to edit them like a teenager taking photos for their Instagram page.  My favorite photo from the shoot is the one that really seems to capture a teenager.  I edited this photo by fading it out and adding an orange/teal split tone. I then added a preset that makes photo have a vintage slide film look.  (You can see all the photos here.)

Focal length 32mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/250s

The final shoot was with Maggie Cosplays who did Kiki from “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”  Since the movie is a bright kind of cheery anime film, I kept the editing of the photos bright.  I also tried to pose her in scenes that would possibly fit into the movie. (You can see all the photos here.) I did experiment with the shoot a little bit, and will discuss that photo.  This photo was shot with her standing on a ladder so it would look like she was flying over the field, since her character is a witch who flies on broomstick to deliver items to people.  When I edited the photo, I removed the ladder using content aware fill in Photoshop.   I realized after I started editing the photo, if I had shown both her feet, it would have created a better illusion of her flying.  To show both of her feet would have required her to stand one-step further up on the ladder.  Overall, it is not a bad attempt, and does give a little bit of the illusion she is flying.

Focal length 18mm, Aperture F6.3, Shutter 1/1000s

Overall I am generally happy with the photos from the four sessions, but learned I physically can’t handle being out in the sun and heat for four hours.  I was mentally and physically exhausted by the time I was done with all the sessions.  I did try to keep myself hydrated by drinking cold water, and cool by placing one of those flexible cold packs on the back of my neck between sessions. However, I think it was just too much sun that really started to drain me near the end.  I think if I was to do this again, I would either limit the number of shoots or start earlier in the morning. 


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