Photographing tulip fields in The Netherlands

I’m from a Dutch family, and even though I’ve been living elsewhere in the last 20 years, I’m always happy to be back. Coming back in spring is even better, because now is the time all the bulbs are flowering!
Every year is different as the farmers plant different colours in different fields, create new colours and of course the weather is different every year.

Where to go?

Most tourists come to the Keukenhof, which is a beautiful garden where around 3 million bulbs are planted every year. It is actually an exhibition of the bulb cultivators and it’s a truly colourful show. While this is a great place to take photos of single tulips or small groups of them, it’s not a place adapted to landscape photography. In addition it seems to get busier every year. But if you have never been there, you should absolutely pay it a visit, it is still a very beautiful park!
For fields full of bulbs the area around the Keukenhof (but not only!) is a great place. There are many fields in the surroundings with colours as far as your eye can see. You can have a look on the website www.bloemenradar.nl which keeps track of what blooms where.

Field of yellow daffodils under a blue sky
I’ve split this field of daffodils in two which looks great under the blue sky.

What lens(es) do I use?

For close-ups of the tulips I normally use my Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8 USM IS II. With the wide aperture (low f/ number) you obtain a nice blurred background with only in focus what you want. This helps to make the main flower in your composition stand out. This lens is stabilized so it’s even easier to take sharp photos handheld.
For the bulb fields I prefer a wide angle lens, which for me is a Canon EF 16-35 mm f/4 USM IS. This lens is sharp and light and let’s you focus close to the subject in the foreground. It will accentuate the lines created by the rows of tulips as the objects in the background will be a lot smaller than those in the foreground, creating a strong perspective.

Composition of bulb flowers and bulb fields

Of course possible compositions are infinite, so I will show only a few that I think work well, but please use your imagination when out there and try different compositions. Photography is about expressing yourself, but that also comes with a lot of practice. You need to understand the ‘technical’ part of photography, so you don’t have to think about that anymore, and then you can concentrate on the ‘artistic’ part of photography.

Leading lines

The rows of tulips make for easy leading lines, especially if you don’t take your photo from too low. If you don’t want to show the rows, then take your photo in a direction diagonally or perpendicular to the rows. Now this would be a good moment to take that low shot to avoid showing the gaps between the rows and make it seem like an infinite stretch of tulips.

Pink tulips under a blue sky
Classic example of leading lines. The spaces between the rows of tulips create the lines that lead your eye through the frame.

 

Abstraction

Often there are more than one colour of bulbs in one field. This gives you the opportunity to play with colours and lines, creating a more abstract photograph.

Rows of hyacinths, purple, pink and white
The rows of hyacinths look like a modern art painting
Red and yellow tulips split over the diagonal of the photo
Diagonal split. It almost looks like a flag.

Portrait of a tulip

Often in a fields of tulips, you can find a few that are sticking out or of that are of a different colours. They make excellent subjects to be singled out.

Tulip with dented edge
I’ve singled this one out. It was a bit taller than the rest and use an aperture wide open the background becomes all blurred.
Golden light on pink tulips
One of the tulips in focus is blooming while the other is still closed. You can now see the different stages of tulips.

Are you hoping it was spring already?

Spring is a beautiful period of the year in most places, but with all the colourful fields, spring in The Netherlands is special. We do a photography tour in spring 2021, so if you want to join us to photograph tulips in Holland, this is your chance. We will not only photograph tulips, but also windmills and canals. In short some of the icons of the Dutch landscape.

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