Sunflowers and Photo Ops

Blog Category
Discover Nature Notes
Published Display Date
Jul 26, 2023

Blooming sunflower fields make for stunning photo ops. Now is a great time to be awash in sunflowers at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in St. Louis County.  Staff have been planting these fields for years for September dove hunting and pollinators. Their viewing has become an annual tradition for many visitors.  There is also sunflower viewing at Weldon Spring Conservation Area. Watch the video below to be inspired before visiting.


When visiting, please do not pick sunflowers, avoid blocking roadways and gates while parking, and pack out what you bring in after enjoying your visit.

Photo Tips

Missouri is rich in these natural backdrops, from Ozark bluffs and scenic rivers to prairie landscapes and forest wildflowers. Here are some tips to make the most of your nature photos.

  • Besides focus, finding the right lighting is essential.  There are golden hours around sunrise and sunset that offer softer light and color boosts.  Mid-day sun often creates harsher light and starker contrasts. 
  • Having the light at your back offers the best foreground exposure.  And off to the side keeps people from squinting.
  • Look for interesting angles to shoot from and keep your subjects off center for more dynamic photos. And when shooting wildlife, slow and steady wins the shot.
  • How you place your subject in the frame can make or break a photo. Pretend your camera frame is divided into thirds like a tic-tac-toe grid. Place your subject where the horizontal and vertical lines cross.
  • It’s often more interesting to give a plant or animal room to roam. Try placing it off to one side. This also helps show a bit of the habitat where it lives.
  • Don’t shoot everything from your perspective. Get eye-to-eye with your subject — even if it doesn’t have eyes.
  • Pay attention to what’s behind your subject to make sure it doesn’t take away from your photo.

Discover more with MDC Photographer David Stonner in our (2021) Nature Boost podcast episode 15 on Nature Photography.

Learn more about nature photography.

  • The common sunflower (Helianthus annulus) is an extremely large and showy member of the same family as daisies. Their striking height, color, and uniform rows attract wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
  • There are about 50 species of Helianthus and all are native to North America.
  • Our largest sunflower species can reach 10 feet tall.  Shorter species reach about five feet.
  • Sunflowers grow in open areas like prairies, glades, pastures, fields, roadsides, banks of streams, rivers, and vacant lots.
  • Sunflowers have been important to many cultures and were transported all over the world.
  • Many bees, moths, butterflies, beetles, and other insect visits sunflowers for pollen and nectar.
  • Sunflowers time well with goldfinch nesting and feeding.

Discover more about sunflowers in our Field Guide.



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