Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All aboard the sunflower wagon

Sometimes acts of beauty combine with scenes of beauty. I became friends with this sunflower farmer (he's driving the tractor) when I stopped to photograph his fields several years ago. The sunflowers were growing along Interstate 90 in New York and at that time surrounded a red barn. I pulled off the thruway, hopped out of the car, and began photographing them.

They were only about thirty miles from my house.

A few days after I got home I returned via the back roads and photographed them again. John, the farmer, stopped by as I photographed and introduced himself. He was a hardworking farmer struggling to find success with what he loved to do. I met his family and twenty or so barnyard cats. I think he grew the sunflowers because he loved the fields of yellow and enjoyed seeing others take pleasure in them. He invited me to come back in two weekends when he would be offering sunflower wagon rides through his field.

I couldn't miss that. Two weeks later I was back. As I neared his farm, I spotted his wagon rolling through the sunflower fields on a makeshift road he had cut out. He was pulling a load of riders, including the local state representative who, complete with photographer, was out for some publicity.

When he returned to the barn, I climbed aboard the wagon and perched on its back slats. As it rolled through the sunflowers I set a variety of slow shutter speeds (from 1/4 to 1/15 second), and began photographing with my camera held firmly against a slat. I wanted to show the fields somewhat blurry to convey the sense of the wagon moving through them. The results weren't blurry enough so I enhanced the blur in Photoshop, using the Motion Filter.

When I drove by a few days ago, I saw only corn. Although he grew those fields of sunflowers for several years, I don't think they proved profitable and he finally had to give them up.

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