Sunday looked to be the perfect day to visit the tulip fields in the Skagit Valley of Washington State. The sun shone brightly and I could only imagine the endless lines of frustrated drivers clogging the northbound lanes of I-5 north of Seattle. For those who don’t live in Puget Sound, you wouldn’t know that a trip to the tulip fields is tops on the annual spring bucket list for people here in the 32-shades of gray Northwest. In past years, we have avoided the snagged country roads by peddling our bicycles from a church parking lot far from the scene of the tulips. We would smile as we flew past idling engines and backseats filled with cranky kids and grumpy grandmas.
But this year we would do things differently again. Last fall at the Goodwill Discount Center, I discovered a book about photography and lighting. It was a forty-nine cent investment that changed everything on how we tour. Instead of going in the heat of the day, we would wait until crowds diminished and country lanes were free of suburban engines idling while snarling drivers charged like angry steers toward the only available parking spot near fields ripe with color.
We would leisurely drive north when everyone else was texting a change in their dinner reservation while waiting at clogged south-bound intersections in rural Skagit County.
About 4 PM my hubby and I leisurely left home. Forty-five minutes later we came upon a single field of reds and purples. Half a dozen cars were pulling out and we had our pick of parking. The sun was still high in the sky as we headed to find our position in fields still blown out by too much sun.
The first photo shows how overexposed the sky is. Nice but not the best. Most–all–of the photos I’ve shot in the past of the tulip fields were shot in this kind of light.
We passed a couple families shooting portraits with tulip backdrops. With gear over our shoulders, we ambled down the dirt road next to the field. Here we discovered other tractor trails teeing into the one we walked. We picked our way through mucky soil and navigated around standing water. With half a pound of rich Skagit Valley soil clinging to our walking shoes, we clomped right into the middle of tulip envy. Perfect! Now to wait for the sun to dip into the west.
As we waited, only a couple photographers remained thoughtfully busying themselves far off in the distance. Positioned much closer to the main road, they appeared only as tiny blips through my camera lens. The sun began to drop and we owned the field–just the two of us. Working together. Flourishing in one another’s company. Talking f-stops and apertures. Marveling as red tulips became as shiny as lipstick passed through the bunsen burner to set the glow.
Then we worked the scene. Here is a sampling of tulip envy.
Patiently we waited. How do you really capture such beauty in spectacular late afternoon light? You move in closer quivering with excitement as you inspect the camera display, but still the glory of the moment eludes the photo op. You just cannot capture this extravagant display of God’s glory not even with the finest camera! It is elusive. There must be a spiritual aspect to this moment that eludes replicating on a screen.
Oh! Water! What can we do with water? Can you capture this flourishing blush in a reflection?
We played around with some settings to achieve a painterly effect. Maybe this technique would capture the glory of this moment.
I am learning to make pictures that show layering and interesting lines that sweep into the photograph. I am also seeking to look at over-photographed scenes with new perspective. I am studying photography because I want to see better–physically and spiritually.
Today it is the spiritual nature of this tulip experience that I will not soon forget: experiencing the glory of God’s setting sun, the extraordinary light that melts tulip rows into liquid color, the companionship of a faithful and kind man who makes my heart sing. Pinch me! This is the flourishing life!
Capturing soil–soil which is so much a part of the success story of this valley–and so much the story of this trek through the tulips. It is the soil in our lives that brings forth the flourishing, but that is another post for another day.
We held steady watching and waiting. Physical needs threatened our determination. Thankfully, a farm workers’ privy was nearby complete with a hand washing station.
Time marched on. I kept shooting oblivious to my increasing thirst and fumbling fingers.
And then the real action began. I have talked with professional photographers who tell me that there is a five minute window when the sun is sublime! Oh yeah–we found it!
Making the most of a tankful of gasoline, I insist we wait it out to see what twilight offers. My fingers can hardly twist the dials, yet I am learning this time of day has its own glory. Patiently we waited! Surprise! The eastern view did not disappoint!
Three hours later, my fingers could barely wiggle they were so cold. We picked our way down the muddy road and out of the field wiping mucky soil from our shoes on any grass we could find. My husband promises next time he will bring the thermos of hot tea!
The lines heading south are long gone; the roadside tulip stands are tightly shut; lights are twinkling across the valley and we own the night.
Thank you, sweetheart! It was a beautiful evening–and the blush is still on this bride even as we approach our personal sunset! Thank you for buying this camera to celebrate our 35th anniversary! Thank you for being the wonderful man you are! Thank you for staying by my side even out in the muck of a bone-chilling tulip field when everyone else has gone home.
Marlee Huber ~ Your Flourishing Life!