It’s that time of year again – time to visit the Tulip Festival up in Skagit Valley.   So out came the camera and I set up a road trip with a couple of friends from work (Chris Pearson and Eric Bie).  The plan was to drive up to Mount Vernon to get some tulip shots, then head out to La Conner for lunch, and finally check out Deception Pass for some scenic shots of the bridge and beaches.

Now I’ve been going up to the festival for the last few years so none of this is that new.  Last year I went early April and none of the tulips were out – big disappointment.  So I had to go back towards the end of the month to get the good flower shots.  So this year we decided to wait until the third week of April until we went.  As you would expect this year it was different and the flowers bloomed early.  So we got there today and found a LOAD of empty fields.

There are really two places to go, one is Roozen Gaarde which is run by the Roozen family who have been growing tulips since the 1700’s, the other is Tulip Town where another family (the DeGoede’s) also have a huge history in tulip growing.  Both families stem from Holland which is perceived as the home of the tulip. As the tulips were pretty much gone we hit Tulip Town first and were lucky to find some there.

Now I have hundreds of tulip pictures already, so rather than shoot the same thing over and over again I chose to be a bit picky and just shoot something different.  As it was a little wet early this morning it wasn’t too busy there so we got some nice shots.  Unfortunately though the sky was pretty crappy so most of my shots were low down capturing the flowers.

Anyway we got some great pictures and decided to head out before it started to rain again, so we went back to the car with a ridiculous amount of mud on our shoes (the car is a right state) and drove over to La Conner.  La Conner is a great little town located on the water front just off Skagit Bay.  We found somewhere to eat and grabbed a burger.  Then it was off to Deception Pass.

Deception Pass has this huge bridge that’s really popular for photographers and it’s basically located in a state park.  The park has loads of trails and beaches and we thought it might be nice for some pictures.  The beach we went to had a great view of the bridge and was a beach I hadn’t been to before and I was really pleased with the shots I got.  After that it was time to go home.

We left this morning at 9am and got home around 5pm.  In all I took a pretty low 200 pictures and got less than 20 I really liked (and I would class that as a successful day out).  Some of the shots I liked are below.

 

Today’s image was taken in La Conner which sits on the Swinomish Channel.  This large channel separates the Swinomish Indian Reservation from the Skagit Valley mainland.  There are only two bridges that cross the channel, the picture below shows one of them, this is called locally the Rainbow Bridge.

The Channel is pretty wide and while I was taking this picture seals kept popping up to the surface.  Obviously the moment I tried to take a picture they would dive under – question is how do they know I’m trying to photograph them?

The city of La Conner is not very big, it has less than 1000 residents and based on the number of restaurants and gift type shops I would guess one of their main industries in tourism.  While there I had an excellent pint in a local pub with a really nice pizza to go with it.

Something else I thought I’d mention in this posting is that just over nine years ago I moved to the US from England.  To keep my family and friends back in the UK up to date with our activities I created a web site.  On that web site I placed a visitor counter.  Nine years later I have 6,599 visits.  Now by contrast I set up this site back in January (3 1/2 months ago) and I now have 6,672 visits!  Clearly my family site sucks!  So I’ll be shutting that down soon (mind you posting every day definitely helps, the last time I updated the family site was in April 2010).

The Halo guys went to play in the neighborhood park today and found a climbing wall.  Not being guys who turn down a challenge, they went for it.

Today was a really good day.  I woke up this morning at 7am and drove to Lynnwood where I met with a Shutter Tour bus.  Shutter Tours are a tour company that target photographers and take you to places of interest in the area and provide guidance on capturing great pictures.

The guy who runs the company (Terry) was there to meet us and off we went to the Skagit County Tulip Festival.  Initially there were four of us on the bus, but we had to drive to Stanwood to pick up two more people.  Once we collected everyone we went on to Roozengaarde where they have a garden (big surprise) full of flowers.  When we arrived the sun was shinning and it was really warm, fortunately we were there early enough before the majority of tourists turned up so we could take pictures without lots of people in the way.  Having said that I was repeatedly asked to take pictures of couples with their own camera – kind-a hard to say no when they ask nice!

After Roozengaarde we moved on to Tulip City and then La Conner for lunch.  This small town was the location where I found the old Chevy below.  We were walking through the town and I saw this car and had to take a picture.  I love these classics and thought it looked fantastic.  But hang on I hear you ask, why are you posting a picture of a car when you went to a tulip festival?

Well, I booked this tour over a month ago, and the festival started back at the beginning of the April.  I figured by the second weekend in April the tulips will definitely be in bloom.  Well I was wrong.  Apparently the really cold rain we have been having here recently had set the tulips back a week or two.  So all we saw were a load of green stalks.  Actually I’m being a little unfair, there were some tulips but not the number we were expecting.  Basically Mother Nature did a number on us and we made the best of a bad situation.  Hence the Chevy below.

I felt a bit sorry for the tour company as they were trying really hard to find great locations for us to shoot, and the primary reason for being there (the tulips) hadn’t come through yet.  But at the end of the day there’s nothing you can do about that we we pressed on.  Incidentally if anyone is in the area and want to use Shutter Tours here is a link to their site – I really recommend using them: http://www.shuttertours.com/.

Having said all this I had a great time.  The tour company was really good and took us to Rosario Beach where I got some really great shots and then onto some daffodil fields for some more great pictures.  We even had time to fit in a visit to the Tulip Valley Winery and Snowgoose Produce where they sell the biggest ice creams cones I have ever seen!  By the time I got home I was exhausted – had a little sun burn (how funny is that) and had loads of pictures from the day that I’ll be posting in the days / weeks to come.

I’ll wait a week or two and then head back to Skagit with the family and shoot those tulips, until then you will have to make do with cars, beaches and daffodils.

I think Carter and the other guys think that “sack racing” is an Olympic event!  Well Carter tried too hard I think, look at his feet, he’s a sack race cheater.