Spring came early this year. Almost one month earlier than last year in fact. The tulips in my country are currently in full-bloom, and now is the best time to see and photograph them. As a local and sort of “known” Dutch landscape photographer, I get bombarded with questions on where to find them via social media. I figured it would be easy to write a quick guide for all of you ‘tourists.’
As most of you probably already know, the most famous place to find flowers in the Netherlands is ‘de Keukenhof.’ One of the most famous tourist attractions in the country, this ‘garden’ is only open in Spring and yet it still gets over a million visitors each year.
While the Keukenhof is definitely beautiful to see, it’s not that great for photographers. It gets very crowded and you don’t see these endless fields of flowers that you see in the best photos on social media.
If you want to see these endless fields, drive your car around the area of the Keukenhof. Just drive around Lisse and Noordwijk and you’ll find many fields full of flowers. And if you want to know the exact location of all of these fields, go to www.bloemenradar.nl (“bloemen” means “flowers” in Dutch) where you’ll find the exact location and even recent photos of the fields. Very handy!
The West is not the only place for Tulips though. Because this area is popular, it can also get crowded. Another great option is to drive the yearly ‘Tuliproute.’ This is an over-100km route that you can drive by car and see LOTS of tulip fields. You can find a map of the route here (All in Dutch, but just check the map).
Other great areas to drive around in the country are in the South. Look for the area ‘Goeree Overflakkee,’ and there are also a lot of fields in the ‘Flevopolder.’ Up North, there’s an area around a town called Schagen that also has some beautiful fields.
By now you probably get the point: there’s a lot of areas in the Netherlands with tulips during Spring. I am probably forgetting lots of areas, and even as a local I don’t even know half of them!
When you finally found your spot to photograph the tulips, here’s some tips to get you started:
1. The tulip fields all have leading lines—use these lines to your advantage when creating compositions. There’s the classic composition where photographers let all the lines come together in the middle at the horizon, but try other compositions too, where you let the lines come from 1 side for example.
2. Turn on the grid lines on your camera display. Because the fields are often very symmetric, the grid lines on your camera display help you to put things exactly in the middle if you want to.
3. It can often get windy. During wind, the flowers move everywhere and it’s difficult to shoot them when there is less light (during a sunset for example). Crank up your ISO or the flowers will not be sharp.
4. Try shooting the tulips from a lower angle. This gives a cool perspective and removes all the ‘lines’ in the fields so that the flower fields really look endless.
5. Don’t only shoot in landscape orientation. Try portrait orientation to include that extra bit of foreground. Portrait orientation can sometimes work very well with flower shots to give a little bit of extra depth in a shot.
6. Use focus stacking when needed. When you go very close to the flowers to get a beautiful foreground, it’s possible to use a technique called ‘focus stacking’ where you make multiple shots at different focus points, which you later blend together to get everything in perfect focus.
What NOT to Do
The flowers in the Netherlands are definitely a sight to see, but don’t forget they’re on someone’s property. While a lot of farmers in the Netherlands don’t really care if people walk close to the tulips and photograph them as long as you respect their property, there are some that do not want you to walk around their flowers.
A few rules of thumb:
- When flower fields are blocked by a fence, don’t go over the fence. When there’s a small stream, don’t cross it. Respect the farmer’s wishes if they don’t want people in their fields. Think of it like your own garden: you wouldn’t just want random people walking around in your garden would you?
- Do not crush the flowers with your tripod. I sometimes go up very close to get a good composition but I am always careful and respectful to the flowers. Try not to break anything.
- I cannot stress this enough and I see this happen all the time (especially by tourists): Do not take flowers from the fields. These are someone’s property. Again, you wouldn’t want some tourist taking flowers from your personal garden right?
No matter how beautiful and romantic these red tulips are, don’t take them! If you want to give a flower to your lover, there are lots of places where you can buy some tulips. Or you can ask the farmer nicely.
Hope you all find this little flower guide useful and happy shooting in my country!
About the author: Albert Dros is a 31-year-old award-winning Dutch photographer. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.
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