If you live in the Central Florida area and want to photograph an endless field of flowers, get ready to head over to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) bloom from horizon to horizon during the last week in September and the first week of October.
Kevin M. in the flowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
I drove by on highway 417 this afternoon to see what’s going on, and there are already a few flowers out. My guess is that they’ll start peaking next weekend. Check out these links for info and maybe I’ll see you out there!
We may not get much Autumn color on our trees in Central Florida, but we do have one wonderful sign that fall is here – the sudden appearance of huge fields of Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) covering the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area.
If you haven’t driven over Lake Jesup on the 417 toll road to see this year’s flower extravaganza on the north shore, now’s the time . They started blooming last weekend and the peak will probably last through this coming weekend. You can see my earlier posts for more info:
Last year during wildflower season, I hesitated to venture out into the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area in the dark. I’ve seen several types of animals and birds out there and never any snakes, but it sure does seem like prime snake country to me. And I don’t relish stepping on something dangerous in the tall growth and dim light. This year, I was a little braver (and very careful) and got out into the wildflower fields just as the sun came up.
I’ve posted once before about wildflowers on the north-west shore of Lake Jesup. They bloom this time of year and I’ve photographed them since 2006, mostly from the side of the road.
October 10, 2006: Lake Jesup Flowers and Sunrise. 4 shot panorama, assembled in Photoshop; Nikon Coolpix P1, ISO 50, 126mm eq. focal length, f/5.2 at 1/30 sec.
In 2008, the area was completely under water and there were no blooms.
August 31, 2008: Lake Jesup flood waters from tropical storm Fay; Nikon D80, ISO 100, Nikon 18-70 lens at 18mm, f/16, three exposures combined with Photomatix
All year, I really hoped that the flooding hadn’t killed the flowers permanently. Once the water receded, I did a little exploring and found a park and a path out into the blooms through the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. About two weeks ago, I revisited the park and made these photos. As you can see, the blooms came back from the flooding. If anything, there are more than ever. If you are into flower photography, you have to ask yourself why you’ve never explored this wonderful place in late September. Get ready for next year!
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flowers and moon; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 62mm, f/16 at 1/50 sec
Here’s a close in photo of one of the blooms. There are so many different types of wildflowers, that Identifying them isn’t easy (for me anyway). These are in the Aster family and resemble Black Eyed Susans, but are taller than the 14 – 36 inches my book says Black Eyed Susans should be. If you recognize them and can supply a positive ID, please let me know in the comments.
1/24/2010 update – These are most likely Narrowleaf Sunflowers, also called “Swamp Sunflowers”.
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flower closeup; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 70mm, f/4 at 1/500 sec
This web page has directions on how to get to the Marl Bed Flats part of the conservation area, where I made these photos. It’s a short hike over flat ground from the parking area to where the flowers are.
The plants are fairly tall and the blooms range from a few feet off the ground to as high as 6 feet. A tall tripod will be helpful to get your camera above the vegetation. Bring a wide-angle lens to take in the incredible vista of so many flowers in one place. You might want to carry your macro lens too.
Get there early for calm winds. I was a little leery of walking out there in the dark, so I passed on sunrise shots this year.
If you plan to do this, you should scout the area and the time-line before hand. The blooms last a couple of weeks, but they are definitely better in the middle of the period than at either end.
Lake Jesup is in Seminole County, Florida between Oviedo / Winter Springs and Sanford. Wild flowers on the north-east shore start blooming in late September and peak the first week in October. To see them, head north-east on the toll way (417) from Oviedo / Winter Springs. You’ll see them on both sides of the road after you cross the bridge. There are many more toward the east.
I made my first photograph here in October of 2006, using a Nikon P1 point and shoot camera (image 1 in the gallery). I liked it, but wasn’t completely happy. I made it facing into the sun just after sunrise, and the flowers were underexposed since the sky dominated the camera meter. Some post processing made the flowers more prominent but still not as bright as I remembered seeing them. By the time I returned the following weekend, the blooms had passed their peak – so I had to wait a whole year to re-make the shot.
The image above was made today at 5:45 pm, looking east, just before that rain storm swept over me. Luckily, I did get back into my truck with my camera gear before the storm hit – it was quite a down pour.
The light in the scene this time was much more balanced. I also used my Nikon D80 in raw mode, which gave me a greater dynamic range to play with. I do wish I could have gotten over the water filled ditch at the side of the highway to include some foreground detail in the scene. Oh well, there’s always next year.
I think this is a better image than the one from a year ago. You can see several more of my Lake Jesup flower photos here.