North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

Skagit Valley Tulips

The start of spring in Skagit Valley heralds the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Broad swaths of brightly colored tulips spring up all over the flats.

This is one stop along the Cascade Loop that you don’t want to miss!

Photographing them is wonderful fun. The saturation of colors, the often cloudy skies and lots of mud always make the trip an experience.

The Washington Bulb Company is the leading grower of tulip, daffodil, and iris bulbs in North America. They grow bulbs throughout the valley and have a huge display garden, Roozengaarde. There is a store, a windmill and manicured beds of flowers, and in the back, large fields of tulips.

You can read about the history of tulips in Western Washington and Tulip Festival here.

Always stick to sunrise and sunsets, and avoid the “Tulip Area” at all costs between 10am and 6pm on weekends and your experience will be a pleasant one!

Each year the location of the fields change, and so do the backdrops. Barns are sometimes nearby the fields, as well as buses, trees and other cool stuff.  You can see where the tulips are, and when they bloom through the Bloom Map.

Once you have scouted out where the fields are for the new season you can get a good idea of whats best for each location. Some will be better shot at sunset and others at sunrise.

Parking is always an issue. Sometimes the large fields have a parking area nearby and collect fees for visiting. Sometimes the fields are located near no parking at all. Be prepared to walk a while.

I visit the fields often, they are close by. The skies in Skagit Valley can get crazy late in the afternoon. Often the worst, rainiest days are best: the dark, heavy clouds sometimes give way to magnificent sunsets.

Photo Tours are available, I take tours on weekdays, for sunset and on weekends for sunrise. Here is the link.

Here are a few images from Tulip Festivals Past!


Skagit Valley Tulips 2015 – Best Images

I went to the tulip and daffodil fields often this year.

Daffodils, Morning Light

Daffodils, Morning Light

Eighteen times to be precise.

Yellow Tulips and a Smile

Yellow Tulips and a Smile

A new record for visits in one year.

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_3

Backlighting, my favorite

The Daffodils started in February.

Skagit_Valley_Daffodil_Festival 2015_3


As of today, April 17, the tulips are done.

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_29


Finished, kaput.

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_15

Pink River

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_2


I am not sorry, I’m relieved.

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_6

Tulip Selfie

My Tulip Goal for this year was two-fold: to get an image of a huge double rainbow directly over the blazing tulip fields AND to somehow capture an image of dark skies over the tulips being ripped asunder by searing bolts of lightning.

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_33


Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_45

The Barn

Skagit_Valley_Tulip_Festival 2015_52




I failed miserably on both of these counts.



All of these image, and many more, are for sale as fine art prints as well as Canvas Wrapped Prints. Here is the place to view and buy!

Love the backlit cene

Love the back lit scene



Water in the rows

Water in the rows



Skagit Valley Tulip Photo Tours

Skagit Tulip Festival Photography Tours

Harvesting Tulips at Sunrise

Harvesting Tulips at Sunrise

Each spring the flats of Skagit Valley are alive with the vibrant, multi-colored tapestry of tulips and daffodils.  There is really nothing to compare to the sight of (seemingly) endless fields of tulips under the wonderful skies of Skagit County during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Tulip – Daffodil Season starts at the end of March and ends, of course it’s all dependent upon the weather really. The general Bloom Schedule is Daffodils first starting in late March and Tulips starting in early April. Each year is a little different, some years we’ve had a late snow, other years were very wet, delaying the starting dates a bit.

The fields of flowers are spread out over a large area encompassing parts of the towns of La Conner and Mount Vernon, Washington. Tulip and Daffodil fields are rotated regularly and each year the precise location of the flowery fields changes.

There are two tulip festival ‘tourist centers’: Rozengaarde and Tulip Town. Both of these provide tons of free parking and have both beautiful manicured multi-colored tulip beds (complete with wind mills, ponds and other back drops) as well as huge fields of tulips to wander in. Each also has a huge shop where you can purchase any and all things tulip related: postcards, prints (both large and small) cups, mugs, placemats, and literally hundreds of wonderful gifts. And of course you can always get bundles of freshly cut tulips, daffodils and Irises as well as buy bulbs for planting!

Here is a gallery of Andy Porter’s Tulip and Daffodil Images available for purchase online!

In addition to these two main hubs of tourist activity, the tulip growers also have huge fields here and there through the nearby area, like bright quilt squares. The growers provide a Bloom Map each year showing the locations of these fields, which flowers are growing there, and updates the map regularly so that anyone can see which fields are blooming.

Andy Porter Guided Tulip Festival Photography Tours

Living here in Skagit Valley not far from Tulip Heaven I am able to visit the tulip fields every day.


Morning Tulip Tour Image

As tulip season gets started I head out to scout the new year’s tulip and daffodil field locations and plan where are the best spots (and times, mornings or evenings) for capturing fabulous images.

The best time of day to visit the tulip fields is early morning or late afternoon. The low light and clouds offer some incredible back drops for the flowers.

The best days to visit are Monday through Friday to avoid the throngs of people. On Tulip Festival Weekends after 10am, the entire tulip area is mired in a horrible traffic snarl. Weekends between 9am and 5pm are times to avoid the tulip fields, unless you enjoy traffic!

Evening – Sunset Tulip Tour

Pink Tulips at Sunset

Pink Tulips at Sunset

This tour is available Monday through Friday, every week that the flowers are blooming. The tour starts at 3pm and ends at 10pm. (Note: the times and itinerary are always up for change, depending on your preferences!)


3:00 – Meet at Skagit Food Coop, relax, discuss photo techniques.

3:30 – Begin our photo tour at either of the two main Tulip Tourist centers (Optional)

5:00 – Drive out to several of the year’s best locations to get great evening shots of the flowers at sunset.

8:30/9:00 – Head out for a bite to eat and a review of images and tips on editing.

Cost: $150 per person            Note:  Each tour is limited to no more than 5 people

Early Morning – Sunrise Tulip Tour

This tour is available every day, 7 days a week, every week that the flowers are blooming. The tour starts at 5am and ends at 10am. (Note: the times and itinerary are always up for change, depending on your preferences!)


5:00 am – Meet at Starbucks for coffee/tea and to discuss photo techniques.

6:00 am –  Drive to several of the year’s best locations to get great morning shots of the flowers at sunrise.

9:00 am – Head out for a bite to eat and a review of images and tips on editing.

Cost: $150 per person            Note:  Each tour is limited to no more than 5 people

Tulip Festival Photography Tours Planning

Yellows at Sunset

Yellows at Sunset


Skagit Valley Weather in the spring is…unpredictable. We can have snow, rain and sun, all in the same afternoon! Some days are gray and overcast, others with totally blue skies, but most often we will have a mix, throughout the day of clouds and sky. Rain is common. I have often seen days where it rained hard all day long, and in the late afternoon partially cleared into the most fantastic skies.

What to bring

  • Camera, lenses, filters, a tripod, extra batteries and memory cards.
  • Water, snacks and any other food/beverages.

What to wear

Plan to get dirty and muddy! The tulip fields are most always moist and often very wet. Wear pants and shoes that you are happy if they are covered in mud! Bring layers of clothing, sunrise and sunset can get cool quickly. Don’t forget a hat and gloves!

If you would like to sign up for a Skagit Valley Tulip Photo Tour, follow this link.  

Feel free to call or email with ANY questions. 360-809-0661

First Daffodils of 2014

Skagit Valley Daffodils
These images were taken at sunrise, on March 13th, 2014!

Skagit Valley is famous for tulips in the spring. And daffodils! Each year the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival harkens the arrival of spring to the Pacific Northwest.
Skagit Valley Daffodils
There are hundreds of acres of tulips and daffodils. If you want to visit, here is a link to the Bloom Map.

Daffodils bloom first, there three large fields alight now, with more to come. The arrival of the tulips generally happens in the first week of April, but it always depends on how many sunny days we get!
Skagit Valley Daffodils

Tulips of Skagit Valley

March has arrived and it’s not too long now (hopefully!) until it gets a little warmer and the flowers start to arrive.
Row of Red Tulips em Rows of Reds, Reflected

NW Travel Magazine March-April 2014 This months issue of NW Travel Mag with one of my images on the cover!

I live in Skagit County, named after the Skagit Indians and Skagit River) in the NW corner of Washington State. And among its other striking features such as the North Cascades and Puget Sound we have the Tulip Festival every April. Yellow tulips Yellows at sunset

I understand that outside of Holland there are more tulips grown here than anywhere. The valley floor has a wide expanse of fertile, flat farmland and near the towns of Mount Vernon and La Conner there are fields and fields of bright tulips. infinite pink tulips Infinite Pinks

Each year the bloom times change, but generally its mid April when they are at their height of color.
This is a web site that has a link for a map showing exactly where the fields are and when they are abloom.
rows and people Rows and people
Every Saturday and Sunday the roads are crammed with cars forming long lines. This is not a good time to come! If you do come on the weekend make sure to arrive for either sunrise or sunset. I am often out for the sunrise and the fields are bright a crisp, a few workers and photographers are there, and that’s about it.

Weekdays are the best, plan to arrive about 5 or 6. The tulipy stores are closed and the manicured gardens. But the huge expansive fields are alive with the hue of low light and alive with vibrance!
tulips 2014 6em Yellowy mud!
Make sure to dress for mud, and bring your tripod and polarizer!
red tulips blue and orange sky Reds and a dramatic sky
If you decide to make the trip for a sunrise or sunset and want a tour guide, make sure to let me know! I am always happy to have company!

Skagit Valley Tulip: RAW vs. JPEG

These images are from 2012. I recently revisited these images with new found skills using Photoshop Camera RAW.
If you are not capturing your images as RAW, you really should start! Even of you don’t have PS or know how to use it, some day you may…and when that day comes and you see all that you can do you will be most happy that you have your “old” images stored somewhere as RAW files… tulips 2014 2em

tulips 2014 3em

tulips 2014 4em

tulips 2014 5em

tulips 2014 6em

tulips 2014 7em

tulips 2014 em

Here are the original files of the images above.







Using Reflections

Reflections can add greatly to any photograph. There is something striking about reflections, they add depth, color, scale, texture and sort of pull you into the image.
AndyPorter_Shuksan_Landscape Mount Shuksan
cypress 3em Cypress Island

One item you’ll need to capture reflections is a polarizer. Try to position yourself at a 45 degree to the light for best results and as you rotate the polarizer you’ll see the reflection pop out. Be prepared to get low, maybe on your belly to get the shot!

Pond along Reiter Road Pond along Reiter Road
boat 6 Boats along Samish Bay

I am always on the hunt for any size body of water.
Sequim Balloon Festival Balloon reflected in a artificial “pond”
sunset through an open window Sunset Through an Open Window

Small puddles work great!
LB reflection 3m2 Liberty Bell from Washington Pass Overlook along the North Cascades Highway

The water does not have to be clear!
reds reflected em Tulips Reflected
sunset 1 Mud Puddle Reflection

Even wet surfaces can create wonderful reflections.
poa 17em Reflections in Sand

Everytime you see any standing water, try for a reflection!
Amphitheater Mountain Reflected Cathedral Peak, Pasayten Wilderness 3em Amphitheater Mountain Reflected, Pasayten Wilderness

ship em Squalicum Bay

sunset water Sunset and Muddy Water