I’ve always loved sunflowers. Seeing them reminds me of summertime in Connecticut. I would go every year to the local farms and orchards to pick what was in season and take in their golden glory. Now, I think they’ll remind me of my new home in Napa Valley. I’ve been busy exploring sunflower fields in Northern California, most specifically in Yolo County, and here are my favorites.
Intersection of Road 27 and Road 89 – Winters, California
This is my favorite spot – super remote and all to ourselves. We almost gave up trying to find a field in mid-July and we’re heading back to Napa when I saw this out of my passenger side window. We immediately got off the exit and found a safe place to park and wander around. The grounds are muddy so be sure to pack shoes you are comfortable exploring in!
Currey Road – Dixon, California
I stumbled upon the famous sunflower fields of Dixon by chance two summers ago when driving back from Sacramento to Napa. There they were basking in the sunlight off I-80. But, when I returned with my camera a few weeks later, they were sadly dried up and weeping. I’ve been overly-aware of the sunflower season since then to ensure that wouldn’t happen again. I had to do a little bit of driving along Currey Road in Dixon before I found the perfect field in bloom but it was breathtaking when I did. The fields are irrigated heavily because of the heat so make sure to wear sneakers or rain boots if you want to really explore the flowers.
Muller Ranch – Woodland, California
Just north of Dixon, is Muller Ranch, a farm in Yolo County that grows sunflowers among other crops. Just across the way from their sunflower field is a field of heirloom tomatoes (perfect one stop shop!). I recommend going at sunset when the lighting is soft and the bees are not as busy in the flowers.
Tips for When you Visit
• The best time to visit is late June/early July. If you go too early, the flowers will be too small. If you go too late, the flowers may not look as healthy or may even already be harvested. I’ve learned timing is everything.
• On the hunt for the perfect sunflower field – don’t give up! A great starting point is Currey Road in Dixon, but this can often be crowded. Be open to adventure and take a drive along the backroads towards Woodland. There are many secluded fields along Road 89 – if you find one you like, just pull over!
• The best time to photograph is sunrise or sunset…AKA golden hour. I’m not much of a morning riser, so the late evening glow is what I’m always after. This year (2020), we arrived around at 8pm to capture photos for the most delicate, soft light. There’s something about the sunflowers all facing West as the sun descends below the horizon. Whatever time of day you choose, it’s best to avoid peak afternoon hours as the sun is hot, and the lighting is harsh for high quality photos.
• Lastly and above all, be respectful of the flowers and the farmers. Remember most of these fields are private property, so admire the beauties from the roadside and refrain from going deep into the fields. If you wish to conduct more than an impromptu photoshoot such as an engagement, maternity, or portrait session, then be sure to contact the land owner for approval.
I market, photograph, write about, and (mostly) drink wine.