Every spring, the Skagit Valley, just south of where I live, is bursting with color as the commercial tulip fields there bloom. Thousands of people from the region make the trip just to spend an hour or two admiring the rows of bright flowers growing in the fields. I hadn’t visited the fields for a couple of years so thought I’d wander down on what was the last weekend of this year’s tulip festival.
The fields had bloomed early this year. The farmers had already begun topping the stems in preparation to harvest the bulbs. Upon arriving at the tulip fields, I checked in at the office of the Washington Bulb Company and asked about the conditions of the fields. The only field still in flower was behind the bulb company’s exhibition gardens. Access to it, through the gardens, wasn’t possible until 9 a.m.
By that time the light would be too bright for my photographs. A nice layer of low fog lying over the field could have made for some dramatic photos but since I couldn’t get into it until 9, it could disappear by then.
My choices were either to leave and go home without taking a single image or stay and see what I could do despite the limited access. I decided to stay and see what photographs I could make before the gates opened and the crowds began to arrive. It would be a good challenge.
My friend and I walked down the road to the unopened gardens. Plenty of tulips were growing in the beds outside the main gate and fence. I pulled out my camera and began photographing. Thirty minutes later, I had finished. I gathered up my gear and we headed back, stopping along the way for a couple more photos before pulling into a little cafe for breakfast. We were back in Bellingham by 10 a.m., our ‘field trip’ was over and the rest of the weekend still lay ahead. The images from that morning were not what I had expected and yet I found many that I liked. I hope you do too.