Pictures of Tulips
... Holland and beyond


Pictures of tulips can be so dramatic that only the sweet scent is missing. The colours in a tulip garden are so overwhelming, especially to photographers... where do you start? Spring, and the dramatic colour festival, is so fleeting, you have to grab it by the petals while you can. 

“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It doesn’t struggle to be
different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different.
And there’s room in the garden for every flower."
~ Marianne Williamson

Tulip Gardens
... stunning landscapes of colourful tulips

Get pictures of tulips as a total garden scene... a landscape. But "landscape" doesn't mean that the image has to be a horizontal image, like in the scene above. Make sure you get vertical shots of the same scene. 

Take in the entire view and see how the garden's been planned out. If you're like me, once you get into your macro lens, you'll be tempted to spend all your time peering though it...but drag yourself away for the bigger picture!

Use a wide angle lens, maybe 35 mm or a 50 mm, and get lots of  landscape views.

Flower lovers flock to Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. In the spring, it's such a cheerful, heart warming place to be. Spring bulbs bust out of the ground in February while Old Man Winter still has the rest of Canada screaming for mercy.

Here's a horizontal landscape shot behind the conservatory, beside the quarry garden.

Remember to shoot landscapes and not always just one or two flowers. Wait until later in the day when the sun isn't as strong, or when the sun is  striking the plants from the side.

This photo was taken in the evening and the light is rich and warm. In the golden light of evening, my pictures of tulips were radiant.

This is a photo with everything in focus. You won't see that in all the photos on this page. Sometimes you want one, or a few, flowers very sharp and everything else blurred to highlight the subject. 

If you need a refresher on Exposure:
Determining your aperture
Digital Camera Modes

Photo Editing
... the Artistic Touch

 I love the digital darkroom.  Just as much as I loved the darkroom with chemical baths and negatives. Yep, a die-hard… held on to slide film and chemicals for eons before I opened my heart to the digital revolution. I keep a foot in both worlds!

Want to give your pictures a little extra zip? Learn some basic photo editing. Bet you can't stop with basic....

...that's right, you know you want to push those pixels to the edge. So...

Download a free or bargain-priced model and play.. Crop, boost the saturation, change the white balance. And just play!

Textures are Terrific
... cut your creativity loose!



Most of my images now have textures of some kind added in my editing process.

Photographers differ on their opinions about artistic photo editing. My only advice is to express yourself however you want to!

That's art. Enjoy it!

If you work for a newspaper, then you don't have a choice.... you can't over edit your photos. They must be "real".

Vignettes
... Highlight the subject

You can apply vignettes right onto the original picture but that's NOT a good idea.  Applying any treatment to the photo layer isn't a smart way to go.  It destroys the original picture (pixels) and when you close the file and save it, that's final.  If you decide you don't like it the next day (and who doesn't?) you're stuck with it!

So get comfortable with layers... totally non-destructive.  You can change your mind 1,000 times and your original file is happily unaffected.  I could never have created this dreamy tulip image if I hadn't used layers.

At Daegu University in South Korea, one of my favourite photo gardens was between the Engineering buildings and the main administrative building. There's a small apple tree in the centre. The plaque says it was a graft from Newton's famed apple tree... remember the apple that landed on his head?

I didn't get even one picture of that tree but... my collection of photos has multitudes of pictures of tulips, peonies and all sorts of spring and summer blooms. I'm thankful for all the hours these tulips were my models... all colours and shapes!  I'm sorry that they dug out all the bulbs and planted bushes in their place.

If you go to my photo composition page,  Fibonacci and the Golden ratio you'll see this photo at the bottom of the page.

Also, the original image has foliage around the sides ...I lightened that up with white vignetting so the yellow tulips are all you concentrate on. 

In colour theory, red and yellow are primary, hot colours. So, these tulips have maximum sparkle!


These yellow tulips are backlit by a bright sun.  Backlighting makes petals nearly translucent. Get the exposure for your pictures of tulips right in camera so you don't have "rescue" a poor quality image in your photo editor.

... time to experiment with creative effects. I've learned the tools that give me the looks I really like. Like this photo... the background of clouds and blue sky were added as a layer in Photoshop.

The foliage and soil didn't add anything to this variegated tulip, so I lightened up the background.  The tulip is large in the frame and the one droopy petal changes the shape... there's an imaginary triangle formed across the bottom of the flower with the other two sides meeting in a point at the top... outside the picture.

Pictures of Tulips
... dark, vibrant, psychedelic colour

One of my favourite pictures of tulips from photography school days.  These red and yellow Darwinian tulips were dazzling. I remember it had just rained and the whole garden was glowing. I decided to try a few abstract shots and this one was a keeper

And this pink and white variegated tulip is another of my favourite pictures of tulips from photography school days.  The light falling on it is superb, almost ethereal. The foliage and other flowers blur into a soft, dark background.

Since this tulip is in a garden and not a vase, the blue and green shades flow, rather than making a solid black. I totally love the colours... almost like blue-green flames.

Filtering for shadows in Camera Raw or Lightroom would bring out the background and give much lighter, blues and greens.

But the dark canvas highlights this sensational  tulip and I love it!

This is 35 mm. slide film, scanned on a Nikon Coolscan. I still really enjoy shooting with my Nikon film camera.

Wow, this saturated magenta tulip and foliage are gorgeous. Red-purple and yellow-green are complementary on the colour wheel.

The image below has a white vignette.  Even with burned out edges, it fits in with the other dark and vibrant pictures of tulips.

I could have masked the foliage and "burned" it to a much lighter shade but this photo has such amazing colour that it only needed a white vignette around the edges.

I don't often use solid black backdrops but this photo turned out great. Shooting out in the garden is more my style. I don't have studio lights but that's not really a big problem with huge windows. Be careful with backdrops that they aren't shiny... you'll end up with horrible reflective spots in your photos.  Make sure it's a flat matte and you're not shooting in strong, direct sunlight.

This was the tiniest tulip I'd ever seen. The vase is only 3 inches tall.

I used a circular polarizer to bring out the intense red in the petals. And a black backdrop makes the tulip pop right out at you.

I set this up on my glassed-in balcony and waited for the clouds to cover the sun. It's still a very contrasty image but that's the way it was meant to be.

Tip...Doing indoor shots?  You'll need a tripod.

Wrapping It Up

Of course, the best place to be in the spring for exquisite pictures of tulips, is the Netherlands. I've been several times and not once has it been the height of tulip season.  That trip is on my bucket list.

Since I'm back in the BC, Canada area now, the Skagit Tulip Festival is not far across the US border. That is going to be an amazing day trip!

You don't need acres of bulbs to get great pictures of tulips, though.  They're popular garden bulbs and you can always buy a few at the flower shop and take some close up or macro photos. Always get a mixture of shots for your flower picture collections... horizontal and vertical as well as close up, macro and landscape.


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