📸 Through The Lens | Sunflowers

Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas Athletics staff photographer Jeff Jacobsen shares his memories of what he saw “Through the Lens” from his 23-year career with the Jayhawks.

Decades ago, Ted and Kris Grinter planted sunflowers for bird seed on their farm northeast of Lawrence in Leavenworth County, Kansas. They welcomed guests to the fields from Labor Day and into the fall. Hundreds of thousands of photographs have been taken since. The only request by the Grinters was a donation.

Now, those fields cover 40 acres. An estimated 30,000 people from every corner of the world visited last year. The power the Kansas state flower holds on people has become a true phenomenon.

I understand the spectacle sunflowers spread lushly over the farm’s fields have on people. Today’s photograph of the KU 2014-15 women’s golf team in the Ginter fields is one of my most popular ever. That photograph leads off the lighting chapter of my book “Tribute to Crimson & the Blue.” As people page through the book, they always ooh and aah and linger on that spread even longer than spreads for KU men’s basketball.

Never have the sunflowers looked prettier than they did on an early evening in September 2014. Two battery-powered strobe lights, with controlled softbox modifiers, were positioned to balance just enough light onto the faces of one of KU’s best teams in history while letting the brilliance of the sunflowers shine in all their glory.

As I stood on a ladder taking this photograph, and then studying the image on the back of my digital camera, I know there was one gigantic smile shining on my face as those sunflowers and those women beamed in my eyes.