It’s typically rainy this time of the year here in western Washington. However, this weekend it’s like the stars aligned: Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, the tulips were in full bloom at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, we unexpectedly scored free tickets on the way there, and the evening light made for some magical photos…
Alright.. so let’s rock and roll through this post!
Last weekend I saw PNW landscape photographer Kevin Pieper post an amazing shot of the tulip festival at sunset. Immediately recognizing his name, I hopped on over to FM and sure enough found his post there. It was mentioned that many fields weren’t quite peaking yet. The following week should be much better. Now combine that with a sunny day and expect a LOT of people there. Turned out that’s exactly what happened…
Now normally when it comes to hiking or photography, we’re normally up before dawn and at the trailhead bright and early in the morning, ready to hit sunrise. Today was a bit different. Instead we decided to cruise on over to Portage Bay for breakfast. (Good call Anna!) They have some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted, and they’re all about organic, healthy, fair trade, sustainable, non-GMO food. It was a nice warm sunny day (again, a rarity here in Seattle and an incredible treat!) and Anna and I scored an outdoor seat right in the sun. I ordered a greek omelette (with bacon inside! lol…) and it was literally the most unbelievable omelette I’ve ever eaten! Good God… I literally have no words for how this thing tasted… It’s one of those places where you want to keep coming back to try everything on the menu. YUM…
In the afternoon we finally hit the road heading north towards the tulip festival, us and about 18 zillion other people… A 60 mile trip of mostly highway driving took us nearly 3 1/2 hours… Traffic was insane! At one point we pulled off to a gas station for a bathroom/snack break and instead of getting back on the interstate, we took an access road that ran parallel to the freeway. Our exit was only two miles away but thanks to that access road, we cruised past about a mile and a half of nearly standstill traffic!! Score!!
Getting to the festival we hit plenty more stand-still traffic on the country roads. At one point when we were getting close on a little two-lane road, we were sitting basically stopped in one lane while the people leaving the festival were coming the opposite direction. I rolled down my window and started smiling and waving at everyone driving the opposite direction. For some odd reason I was having a complete ball at waving and seeing other people smile and wave back.
One girl driving by literally stopped her car next to mine, leaned out her driver-side window, and handed us a pair of tickets to get into the park! Sweet!! So now, literally in our car on the way there, we snagged free parking and free entry into the tulip festival! Thanks random lady!!
With our free ticket in hand, let’s get to the pics! The first field we found was all red and purple tulips.
I was overjoyed to find snow-capped peaks in the distance. They’d definitely make for some beautiful backgrounds!
The rows of flowers were set up in such a way that you could walk between the rows.
There were quite a few people here, including some workers with flags to keep people from romping through the fields. The rules were such that you could only go about 3 feet into the flowers, no more. As annoying as that limitation was at times, it was actually quite nice to not have people in the middle of the fields, messing up the pictures for everyone else.
Standing on the edge of the field, if you set it up just right, it looks like you’re way in the middle of the field.
Setting the camera to the 10 second timer and running on over to get in the frame was how we shot this image. Fortunately for us, another photographer offered to push the button for us, saving me the trouble of running back and forth, avoiding kicking up flowers in the process.
This shot was one of my early favorites, one that I was planning on featuring at the top of this blog, unless I got something I liked even better. Nevertheless, this is definitely one of my favorites. Props to Anna for the idea and for the leg kick! Nice touch.
Something odd we noticed… You would think that standing in a huge field of flowers, it’d be aroma city. However, it turns out that tulips don’t give off that much of a scent, oddly enough.
Now as you might have expected, they sell tulips there too. I asked about buying some tulip bulbs for my mom since tulips are her favorite flower (love you mom!!). Turns out they won’t have those until about August or September. Basically the way it works is later in the season the cut the heads off the tulips. The flower then sends its nutrients down to the roots rather than the head. They then take the bulbs and have them for planting later. So at the festival, they were selling mainly tulips (as well as other tulip-branded doodads like fridge magnets, mugs, postcards, and so on.)
At the tulip selling booth, we ran into the photographer from earlier who shot the images of us out in the field. When we asked about some of the other fields, he told us what we’d find in some of the neighboring fields, particularly what colors we’d find and what direction to head in to go in. Just off in the distance he pointed out a field with yellow tulips so that’s where we headed next!
As with the other field, there was a blending of various colors.
The bright red/yellow split felt like a great place to snap some more pics.
Let’s try a jumping one!
Looks like a great place for me to get a shot as well. This one I’m currently using for a facebook pic.
The barn and mountain in the distance looked like a great background for some photos so I focused on placing them behind the flowers.
The sun was starting to get nice and low now, casting a sweet light upon the earth. Anna jumped into the scene and we shot one of my favorite shots of her of the evening.
As the sun continued to drop in the late afternoon sky, we hopped back in the car and started heading over to the third area. This one would have a bunch more colors to view. Not only that, it was also way more touristy and populated. Apparently attempting to act like Amsterdam, they had some windmills large and small set up.
“RoozenGaarde.” Yep. Definitely Dutching it up. :p
The light here was really starting to drop, so I toyed around with some HDR’s. Here’s one as the sun neared the mountains in the distance.
I’m not completely convinced this came out “good,” but I’d say the rendering is good enough to post. If nothing else, it’s a fun change of pace.
Anna was wanting to shoot a bit, especially since the light was departing so rapidly, so I handed her the camera and she shot this image I really like.
Apparently Photoshop CS5 had a graduated neutral density filter built in. I tried it on the above image, experimenting with this feature for the first time, and it’s actually surprisingly useful! Granted it’s not magic and it can’t bring back detail out of a totally blown sky, but it can help bring back some color and definition (like the blue skies and clouds) that would otherwise need some fancier work to bring back.
Shooting a backlit shot of Anna, I cranked up the exposure compensation to get some detail of her. Shooting at EC +2 was a little beyond what I’d normally think to do, but this happy little accident produced another one of my favorite shots of the evening. This one has sort of a heavenly angelic glow to it. We both really like the look.
Doing a little more work to bring some detail into the sky, we created the following shot which is definitely one of my absolute favorite shots of the evening.
It’s amazing how many gorgeous shots you can shoot after the sun actually set. By this point almost everyone had left the fields, including even some of the flag guys keeping people from running into the fields. (That said, I did photoshop some people out of the background.. people who were walking back to their car.)
One great thing about the sun setting is that you get more of an overcast’ish look, with soft gentle shadowless light.
The most photogenic fields were those where the flowers were planted really tightly together. Those are the ones that I concentrated on this evening. Note the difference between the pinks and reds closer to the camera and then the bam slam of pinks in the distance. Pretty crazy, huh?
Feeling very happy and satisfied with this trip, we started heading back to the cars. On the way back, we found this beautiful area with a nice mix of
The above shot is one that my old 1D wouldn’t have been able to pull off. It’s an ISO 800 shot that I accidentally underexposed and had to push nearly 3 stops in post. (~ISO 6400) It’s not perfect, but it’s surprisngly great considering the conditions!
But whew! That’s it for the photos. Finally making it back to the car, we made it through just a wee little bit of traffic heading back to the highway and then it was smooth sailing back down to Seattle, taking a mere hour and fifteen minutes. Gotta love no traffic!
and so with that, time to sign off. Yet another fun life experience, and a great set of events one after another that just keep making things better and better!
Life in the flow… s’a great way to live!