Find the Right Light Friday – Sunflowers

By Lane Erickson

Welcome to Find the Right Light Friday, where I showcase one image that captures intriguing or interesting light and I describe how the photograph was created. The goal of Find the Right Light Friday is to help you as a photographer recognize the kinds of light that make for great photographs. 

Our first installment of Find the Right Light Friday focused (no pun intended) on the Teton mountains with the Moon rising above them. In this second installment, my focus is on the Sun. 

The reality is that without the sun there really could be no photography in the first place. Oh I suppose we could try to make do with strobes, or flashlights, or small flash units, or other sources of artificial light. Many times these do create fantastic light that leads to the creation of great photographs. But, let’s be real for a moment here. The sun is number one when it comes to producing light for our photography. 

With the sun we have sunrises and sunsets, the golden hour, harsh light, soft muted light, shadow light, and so forth. The sun can produce overhead lighting side lighting backlighting and direct light. Depending on the conditions, the sun can produce colors of light ranging from golden all the way to bluish. 

We call sunlight natural light because, well, it occurs naturally. Even though we can try to manipulate it, or add to it, we simply can’t create natural light. All we can really do is try to find it. Once we have, and once we understand how it works, we can use it to create fantastic photography! 

This leads me to today’s photo. 

Summer yellow flowers growing up towards sun in blue sky

This photo was created more than a decade ago on a May afternoon. I was driving on a highway across the desert in Idaho, when I noticed off in the distance a sea of yellow colored Balsm-Root Sunflowers. Even though I was in a hurry, I knew I had to go explore this amazing sight. I found a side road and soon I was driving amongst thousands of flowers. The problem is, they weren’t as closely bunched together as they looked like they were from the highway. 

I pulled out my telephoto lenses and ran around trying to find a composition that captured what I saw from the highway. I just couldn’t make it work and because I was short of time I was getting frustrated. As a last-ditch effort, I pulled out my fisheye lens and was immediately amazed by what I saw. 

The field of view with this lens included the bright sun against a clear, blue sky. When I stopped the lens down it created a beautiful sunstar out of the Sun. I quickly found a composition that included a small bunch of flowers and use the sun and the sun’s rays to a dynamic photograph.

The flowers, plants, and even the ground (because of the tilt of the fisheye lens), all appear to reach towards the warmth of the sun. In return, the sun’s rays warmly embrace everything. Additionally, because the yellow flowers are backlight they glow against the azure sky. 

Some people will tell you that you can’t make good landscape or nature photographs in the middle of the day. While that rule may stop most photographers, it doesn’t stop those of us who are always looking for the right light. To me, this rule is meant to be broken. According to the exif data, this photograph was created at 2:43 pm, on May 15, 2008. If I listened to this “don’t shoot photographs in the middle of the day” rule I would never have created this photograph, which I love.   

For those of you interested in the technical data, to create this image, I used my Nikon D200 with a Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 lens.  The exposure was ISO 200, 1/350 at f/16 which is the maximum aperture on this lens. I no longer use Nikon gear. If I shot this image today, I would use one of my Fujifilm X cameras and the fantastic Samyang, 8mm f/2.8 manual focus fisheye lens, which also creates wonderful sunstars when stopped down. 

Always open to comments, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions and even your critiques. Have a great Friday and best wishes in finding the right light in your own photographs.


    1. Paul, thank you for your comment and your question. Yes, the Samyang 8mm works awesomely on Fuji X cameras! The only negative: it is manual focus. However, because of the wide angle and the extreme depth of field it is pretty easy to keep everything in focus. I got mine brand new on sale for $219 from B&H. It looks like they are selling now for $249. My only regret about this lens is that I didn’t get it sooner.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Tatiana, thank you. Also, I accidentally pushed the wrong button on your comment about the blizzard street view photo on my other blog article. I was trying to tell you that I wasn’t brave enough to actually be out in the snow. I shot that image through my bedroom window. Sorry I pushed the wrong button. Thank you for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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