• Gina Matarazzo

Photo Fun Excursions: Von Thun Sunflower Farm

I took numerous photo trips during 2019, with most of them being in the Summer. Some were individual or with friends, while others were part of an amazing photography course I took at Northampton Community College (Tannersville, PA). If I dedicated one blog to all the trips I took last year, that blog would be long! So, instead, I have decided to feature some of these trips in my blog twice a month, entitling them “Photo Fun Excursions” My goal is to introduce you to some of the places I loved exploring. These are the places where I captured great photos, but most importantly, they created great memories.

The first trip to be featured is from July. My friend—a fellow photographer and adventure seeker—and I went to the Von Thun Sunflower Farm in Monmouth Junction, NJ. This place is amazing! With over six acres of sunflowers, it is easy to spend hours here walking around the “Sunflower Trail”, taking great shots—which is exactly what we did! The Von Thun Sunflower Farm’s Sunflower Trail usually opens in July, when the sunflowers are in full bloom. There are several admissions packages you can get. I recommend the $19.99 Ultimate Package, which includes the Sunflower Trail, a hayride around the field, access to the farm animal barnyard and activity area, and three sunflowers (that you get to cut!). All that for about $20? I’ll take it!

When my friend and I got there, the hayride had just taken a group out, so we had thirty minutes to spare. We walked around the farm animal barnyard, capturing some great shots of a goat, chickens, and a pig. I love photographing animals because they are so unpredictable! One of our favorites was Boris the Pig. The farm has a big sign up stating that Boris cannot be fed by guests due to his special diet. Whenever people come by, what does Boris automatically do? That’s right—he looks for food! He’s super adorable and super friendly! I recommend stopping by his pen if you visit the farm.

Next, we visited the activity area. This area is set up for kids and has a wide variety of activities for younger guests. Giant checkers, a bicycle and tire ring obstacle course, and mini-golf are just a few of the activities kids can enjoy while at the farm. Even though we didn’t have children with us, this area was still fun to explore. It wasn’t crowded, so we had a lot of activities to ourselves. The unique patterns and vivid colors of some of the toys make for great shots.

That half-hour of taking pictures flew by and we were ready for the hayride. A little rocky, but definitely worth it! The ride takes you around the entire sunflower field, as well as some of the vegetable fields. It is the most beautiful site! There’s a point on the ride where you look back and all you see is a field of golden yellow and green. It’s so picturesque that the guide tells you a few minutes before you get to that point to get your cameras or phones ready. The guide gives some great facts about the crops grown and about the farm. Surprisingly, the Von Thun Sunflower Farm doesn’t only grow sunflowers. Vegetables, such as pumpkins, and fruits, such as apples, are also grown there. It makes for a great Fall photo excursion that I hope to take one day!

Once the hayride was over, it was exploration time! We stopped in the main general store to pick up a special cutting device for the sunflowers we chose and then we were off! We walked through the apple orchard before arriving at the sunflower field. The apples weren’t ready for picking yet. They still were mainly green, with hints of red. When we got to the sunflower field, it was amazing! You do not realize how tall a sunflower is until you are in a field of them! It was an amazing feeling to be so close to nature! One of the things I liked about the trail was that every few feet, there were signs with either a sunflower fact or a joke. For example, one pound of sunflower oil takes about 12 pounds of crushed sunflower seeds.

The last stop before leaving the farm was to the general store. Here we found many assortments of homemade goodies, such as jams and jellies. It had a real country feel to it.

To capture my shots, I used my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. Mirrorless cameras are lighter and easier to carry. I have also found that the images taken with my mirrorless Olympus compared to my DSLR Canon are sharper/more vivid. Being that I was up close to the sunflowers, my 14-150 mm lens was more than enough. Another reason for using my Olympus camera is because of one particular feature I have come to love—Art BKT (Bracket). With this feature, you take a shot and it converts that shot into 12 different shots, each with a different filter. You can have a sepia image, a color pop image, or even an image that looks like a watercolor. I use this feature often with my Olympus. Looking at the same picture with different art filters really changes things up! My favorites tend to be Art Pop and Dramatic.

The Von Thun Sunflower Farm is one of my favorite places for a photo excursion because it has so much to offer! Animals, flowers, fruits—all amazing subjects for great photos. So, if you’re looking for a fun excursion this Summer—one the whole family can enjoy—I recommend taking a trip to the Von Thun Sunflower Farm. Check out their website for more details on the 2020 opening of the Sunflower Trail and to purchase tickets! https://vonthunfarms.com

Thanks for reading!

XO Gina

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