“The Flowers are Here! The Flowers are Here!”: 2013 Annual Lake Jesup Sunflower Extravaganza

Last week, my fellow Central Florida photographer Ed Rosack reminded us in his blog that: “The flowers are coming!  The flowers are coming!”  He was referring to the annual bloom of Sunflowers that cover fields as far as the eye can see on the Marl Bed Flats that border the northwestern shore of Lake Jesup.

I drove out there before dawn yesterday and was greeted with this sight:

Lake Jesup Sunflower Photo Tips and Guide

One of those sunrises a photographer dreams about…

Not only are the sunflowers in full bloom, but yesterday morning was blessed with one of those sunrises that had folks talking around the water cooler for the rest of the day.  It was still pitch black when I had arrived at the parking area and started hiking down the tunnel-like trail, so I had no idea that this incredible sunrise has developed until I cleared the treeline.  Needless to say, I practically ran to the edge of the flats to set up my tripod and capture the moment.  Time stood still for the next 20 minutes as I worked to take full advantage of this wonderful surprise.

Lake Jesup Wildflower Tips

I thought I had oversaturated the colors in photoshop…until I checked the raw file again and saw that the sunrise really was just this spectacular.

Like most sunrises, the 20-30 minutes before sunrise was better than after the sun actually peaked over the horizon.  The shot below was the last one I got before the color started to fade:

Lake Jessup Sunflower Photo Tips and Guide

I used some lighting to illuminate the Sunflowers in the foreground to help them ‘pop’ a bit.

I love taking panoramas here, so I stretched the limits a bit and got this 15 frame shot that actually covers more than 360 degrees.  See that tree at the far right and the far left in the shot below?  Same tree.  I kinda liked how including it twice added symmetry to the shot:

Lake Jesup Sunflower Photo Tips

Yes…15 frames…I must be insane.

Once my sunrise frenzy faded, I was able to take a breath and just enjoy the vista.  It is a calm a peaceful place.  For the next two hours, the only sounds were dragonflys and the cry of bald eagles.  It is hard to believe that you are only a few miles from  the 417 expressway.

Even if you don’t get there for the sunrise, the sunflowers are just magnificent.

Lake Jesup Sunflower Photo Tips and Guide

These are called Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius), another common name is Narrow Leaf Sunflowers

Okay…do you want to see this for yourself yet?  If so, I’ve got full directions as well as tips for you on a blog I wrote last year: Lake Jesup Wildflowers:  Photo Tips and Guide.  Click here to check it out.

You know, I’ve traveled across a good part of this planet to satisfy my passion for landscape photography.  Fifteen hour flights, 6500 mile roadtrips, 15 mile hikes thru the desert…so it still amazes me that one of the best landscape photography subjects on Earth is right here in Central Florida.  If you call yourself a serious photographer and you live anywhere near Central Florida, you owe it to yourself to make the effort to capture this spectacle yourself during the next two weeks before the blooms fade.

PS:  The mosquitos this year are truly ravenous.  Be sure to load-up on your DEET before you get out of the car!

Enjoy yourself!
Jeff

Here is one last panorama I stitched together in photoshop:

Lake Jesup Sunflower Photo Tips and Guide

A World Class View…right here in Central Florida

 Lake Jesup Sunflower Photo Tips and Guide

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13 Comments

  1. Janette October 7, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    I plan on going out tomorrow and shooting some. Have you gone to other locations to shoot like the Caldwell Fields? I found this map online but I do not know if th land is privately owned or not. http://floridahikes.com/lake-jesup-wilderness
    I don’t mind hiking a bit if the flowers are easier to photograph elsewhere.

    • Jeff Stamer October 8, 2015 at 6:35 am #

      Hi Janette, I was just out to the fields yesterday. Flowers are still blooming but it is still wet and the weeds are much higher than in previous years making photography challenging. I did find one really good spot at the end of the yellow diamond trail: When you begin your hike at the trailhead/parking area, the trail splits after about five minutes. Take the right trail which is marked with yellow diamonds. You will have to hike about 20 minutes. The trail will take you out to the flats and you can follow a long straight row of Palm trees that head east into the flats without getting wet. The best shots are to the left (east) with the sun behind you in the afternoon. I haven’t tried Caldwell Fields this year, but if you get out there, let me know what you see!

    • Janette October 12, 2015 at 11:39 am #

      I couldn’t make it to Caldwell Fields, maybe if I was wearing waders I could have made it through. I heard that flowers bloom along the Lake in the winter that are pink and there are white ones. Do you recommend this season for shooting too? Is it pretty?

      • Jeff Stamer October 12, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

        Hi Janette,
        Yes, I couldn’t make it to Caldwell Fields this year either…way too wet. I honestly haven’t seen much about the pink and white flowers during the winter…let me know if you find out more!
        Jeff

  2. Dale Hearndon October 4, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    Hi Jeff,
    Went there yesterday around dark and talked with a couple. They said the grass was really high where you couldn’t see much, is there a place where it’s not so high?

    • Jeff Stamer October 4, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

      Hi Dale, Once you reach the edge of the fields, you need to move to the right (South-west) along the treeline. After about ten minutes you will come to sections where you can see the fields pretty well from the treeline. However, if you move into the fields (which are a bit lower) the high grass and flowers will make it difficult to see much of anything. In past years, when the water level was lower, you could move out into the fields without getting your feet wet, which allowed you to see better. Although viewing conditions are not prime, it is still worth seeing if you’ve never visited before. Good Luck!

    • Jeff Stamer October 8, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      Hi Dale,
      I hiked out to the fields yesterday and found a better spot where the grass isn’t as bad. When you begin your hike at the trailhead/parking area, the trail splits after about five minutes. Take the right trail which is marked with yellow diamonds. You will have to hike about 20 minutes. The trail will take you out to the flats and you can follow a long straight row of Palm trees that head east into the flats without getting wet. The best shots are to the left (east) with the sun behind you in the afternoon.
      Good Luck!
      Jeff

  3. Audry July 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    Would love to see this. We live in Port Orange and Lake Jessup isn’t that far from us but I just wondered what time of year this was and when are the flowers out there???? I see your post is from Sept. Is that a good time to go? Thank you,

  4. Carol October 6, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Jeff, where do you go to take those pictures? I pulled over on the side of the road just over the Jesup bridge (on 417) and was abruptly told to leave by FHP. 🙁

  5. Ed Rosack October 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Beautiful sunrise, Jeff – I’m jealous!

    • Jeff Stamer October 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks Ed…wish you could have been there!

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