August 1, 2014

Buttonwood Farms Annual Sunflower festival

It seems like the older I get, the more I work for some reason?  A six day work week has become the “norm” for me, at least for the last couple years anyhow. These days I only get one day off every week and for the time being, that’s Sunday. Because of this, I have to try even more to make the most out of my free time and I like to try to get out shooting when I can. Like most photo shoots, this usually takes a little pre-planning. While I was online recently searching for some ideas I found out that this particular weekend coming up was the last two days of the annual Buttonwood Farms Sunflower Harvest. This annual 10 day event was held being this year from July 17 - 27th. 

You might ask, what is the Sunflower harvest?   Well, ever since 2004, Buttonwood Farms (located in Griswold CT ) has been the home to the Sunflowers for Wishes fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut. For those who don’t know, the Make-A-Wish foundation helps make wishes possible for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

As the story goes, at the suggestion of a friend the owners planted one acre of sunflowers in 2003 and almost immediately people started coming from miles away to check them out and photograph them. But at the end of the season, the plants were just chopped down and fed to their cows. After some thought, the owners decided that they could find a better use for the flowers and decided to start the Sunflowers for the Wishes fundraiser. 

For a $5.00 donation you’ll receive a bouquet of sunflowers and 100% of the proceeds go to Make-A-Wish.  The idea caught on immediately. Well it was clear that this was a good thing and the following year they planted 10 acres of sunflowers to see what would happen and the rest is history. Since 2004 they’ve been able to donate over $800,000. 2014 was their best year yet raising $113,232.....Nice huh? 

Well as luck would have it, I was watching the weather reports and it said it’d be overcast with heavy showers off and on all day. Overcast skies can be a good thing for photographers though, so I figured I’d take a chance and take a drive down.

Buttonwood Farms is located located on the Rhode Island / Conn. Border, which is about 55 miles from my home.  It takes me about 1½ hrs to get there, with about 20 miles of the trip driving through rural country back roads. But as it turns out, I was glad I went because I did get a few keepers, even though I eventually get caught it a downpour and got soaked.  

That day I only took one camera and a single lens, a Canon 5D MkII and my trusty Tamron 28-300mm Di VC lens. I did a post on the Tamron last fall and I have come too really like it. In fact, it's on my camera 75% of the time. It’s a ƒ3.5 - 6.3 lens and listed as a Macro / Ultra Zoom and I’m definitely impressed for the price. Its lightweight, quiet and it’s a good all-around lens when you don’t want to lug a bunch of equipment around with you. I wanted to try to get a few shots of all the bees on the plants and actually got a few I was happy with. The final image on this post was taken last year and converted to HDR, but all three shots of the bees were all taken with the Tamron and just cropped and sharpened a little. What do you think?

Buttonwood Farms is also a working dairy farm. They also offer hayrides daily through the cow pastures and through 4 acres of sunflowers with all the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish foundation.

In addtion to the hayrides they also have a little tractor pull for the kiddies to chug around the farm.  Since 1997, Buttonwood Farms has been known for its fantastic home-made ice cream. People had been coming from all around just for their ice cream. Because of the rain, I didn’t stand in line and wait for an ice cream, but that’ll give me a good reason to go back next year huh?  

I hope you enjoyed this little story and if you ever get a chance to check out the Sunflower Festival I'm sure you will enjoy it. 
Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!

© D. Gould Photography