A visit to the Southern Downs summer sunflowers
Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I’ve done.
The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs region is an event on every local photographer’s calendar as there are few things more picturesque than rows upon rows of the biggest, brightest flowers raising their faces to the sky. The places to spot them are around the areas of Warwick and Allora but they can be tough to find as they only bloom for a month of two throughout summer and only if conditions are prime.
Without doing the proper research you’ll probably find yourself like me on my first visit, driving along Warwick’s Sunflower Route expecting to be surrounded by fields of gold but finding only fields of green. My best advice is to check in regularly with Warwick QLD Visitor Information Centre’s Facebook page from December to March and once they announce the sunflowers are in bloom wait until people start posting their own photos to the page so you can hone in on specific locations. If you’re really keen there are a number of Brisbane Photography Facebook groups full of sunflower seekers who’ll be sure to offer advice.
The three best locations I’ve found (based on ease of entry and safe areas to pull over) are:
1. Freestone Road
My favourite drive from Brisbane to Warwick is via Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. As you get closer to Warwick, Freestone Road will be a turn off to your left. Travel along for awhile and once past Freestone (blink and you’ll miss it) there’s a well accessible field to your right with shoulder height, tightly spaced, sunflowers.
2. Cunningham Highway junction between Warwick and Allora
The Cunningham Highway reaches a junction where you’ll need to choose between turning right to Allora or left to Warwick. Dead ahead you’ll find a couple of huge fields with 6 foot, well-spaced sunflowers. (They’re very close to Glengallan Homestead.)
NB. When we headed up to Warwick it was heavily overcast and threatened to rain the entire day. About 30 minutes before sunset I looked out the hotel room window and noticed a touch of colour in the sky so I jumped in the car and drove back to the sunflowers *just in case*. These images were the result.
3. Emu Vale, between Yangan and Killarney
From Warwick drive towards Yangan/Killarney and around Emu Vale you’ll spot yellow faces in the distance. Take the left just beforehand for best access and here you’ll find perfectly sized and spaced sunflowers.
It’s always recommended to get the farmer’s permission before you go tromping about in the fields but in all honesty I found it difficult to know which properties to approach and just tried to be as respectful of the flowers as possible. I definitely recommend taking gumboots as the ground can get squelchy if there’s been rain about and be prepared for bees and flies aplenty. Being the height of summer also remember the hat and sunscreen; I came away burnt after only twenty minutes.
Tips for photographing the sunflowers
Use a high aperture (f/11 or above) and take overhead shots of the field to get the rows of sunflowers in focus. Use a low aperture (f5.6 or below) among the flowers themselves to blur those closest to camera and direct the eye to an interesting flower or person. Try and put something or someone into the scene for interest, preferably in colours that stand out from the flowers. Aim for a time when the sun is low so you can capture it shining through the flowers.
Warwick is a good two hour drive from Brisbane and if you’re keen to photograph the sunflowers at sunrise or sunset you’ll need to spend a night in the region so check out this post featuring recommendations on other things to experience while you’re here!
Have you been to see the sunflowers?