Dronie Sunday – 2 August 2020

Mapleton, North Dakota.

Sunflowers are a source of oil and food for people and birds. There are two different types grown typically with North Dakota products generally the variety for food rather than oil. The majority of sunflower fields are found in central and western North Dakota, but there are a couple of fields near Fargo. When I learned there is a field near Mapleton yesterday, I grabbed my camera and headed about 13 miles (21 km) to the field that is visible just off I-94 and southwest of the town. Since I wasn’t quite sure where it is located and I didn’t know if it would be photogenic, I thought I’d check it out before committing to a drone flight. Another factor for not using the drone is that it is a bit windy tonight.

I found the fields just where I expected them to be and I opened the trunk to grab my camera bag… only to realize that I’d grabbed my drone bag after all. Nothing like being committed. I’d just finished a drone photoshoot earlier this week, and I have learned that the best practice is to charge batteries just before you fly to ensure they are “topped off.” Of course, these batteries were still in their mostly discharged state.

I knew, though, that the last battery I used was still at over 50 percent when I put the drone away. For sure that should be enough to capture some images. As it turned out, the plants are tall enough, and the road low enough that a ground-based camera would have only shown the first couple of rows. After firing up the drone, I was pleasantly surprised to find that last battery at 75 percent charge. It would be more than enough to capture some images of the field. When I was done, the charge was still at 49 percent. At 30 percent, I get a low battery warning and need to return for landing, so there was enough capacity to capture 27 photos altogether. There may be more sunflower images to share since I know where the field is, it’s still in a growth mode, and I’d like to get some images during the golden hour just before sunset.

About the photo: As usual, I captured the field in several shots with the idea of creating a panorama from which I could find the best view of the field and crop to the 16×9 format that I prefer. The heads of the sunflower were pointing to the northwest so the sun was strong in the late afternoon western sky. The fixed lens is always at f/2.8, I set the ISO to 100, and selected 1/2200 sec. After bringing the photos into Adobe Lightroom, I selected one batch of three side-by-side exposures and created a panorama. From there I cropped the final image at 16×9, did my basic tweaks in Lightroom, and finished off the image in Luminar 4. In most browsers, you can select the image to enlarge it for a better view.

John Steiner


    • I always enjoy passing a sunflower field. Last year I was too late in the season to photograph one. Another beautiful field is canola. Thousands of yellow flowers on a green carpet.

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