location scouting guide: dutch tulip fields (part two: keukenhof)
A Google search for Dutch tulips will surface results for Keukenhof and instructions for when to go (opened March 21 this year) and how to get there. It’s a botanical garden in a town called Lisse and just a short journey from Amsterdam. There are various ways to get there - bus, car, a bike ride from a local train station. The adult entry fee is 17 euros online and 18 euros at the ticket office. I’m not always one for tourist attractions, but this is a place to put on your list.
Personal photography is permitted and believe me , I saw a lot of professional equipment there amongst the smart phones. People were excited. If you’re doing a commercial or engagement shoot, they request you get written permission from management. From my experience at other venues, this usually benefits you in some way whether it’s special access or just helping getting people out of the way.
This is place is kind of like the Disney Land of flowers and I have experienced this now first hand. Holy cow, it’s packed and at some points annoying to walk through (this is coming from a city girl who worked in Time Square). So in an ideal world being there early - like when it opens for the day - is best. This is challenging if you’re planning to take the train from Amsterdam. You’ll need to be on the train before 6:30am (there is a 6:04am train) to beat rush hour and will need to rent your bike the night before since rental shops do not open until 9am/10am. BUT, just think, - you can get up early, take some sunrise photos at (not in) the surrounding fields and then be first into the gardens to have the place to yourself. (Note, park hours are 8am to 7:30pm.)
I’m not really sure what I expected walking into Keukenhof. Really, I was just kind of checking a box and much more interested in biking around the fields in Lisse and Hillegom, but 18 euros later, I was inside to discover the complexity of the gardens. There are plenty of points of interest that should keep you busy, provide variety and give you something different.
I highly encourage you to look beyond the flowers and match the imaginations of the people who designed this garden. Be unique. Find interesting perspectives. Be playful. I challenge you to create something other than macro photos of flowers and girls running in flower fields.
Pond Stepping “Stones”:
There are stepping “stones” (they’re actually circular planks of woodish material) in the pond that make for a great photo op. Be patient and wait for the 20 other tourists competing for their turn to take the photos. A cool shot would be someone running across the planks - a woman in a flowly dress or a kid in a raincoat and boots.
Not surprisingly, there are many bridges in the park. You’ll have large ones and smaller more intimate ones to work with while wondering around.
Most of the park is just a series of winding paths through spectacular flower beds. There are ones with overhead tree coverage and then many where you can get the sky in the background. Some like those in the woods have potential to be a bit quieter.
There is a massive windmill in park that overlooks the giant tulip fields. You can actually see this windmill from Loosterweg Noord road when biking to Keukenhof. And you can climb twoish quick flights of stairs (note, this if you have people who cannot do stairs or heavy equipment) to go up in the windmill! The views are awesome and I think the windmill itself is a nice backdrop from the ground. Obviously get some photos up top with tulip fields in the background, but when on the balcony you can get some cool photos using the panels of the windmill and the exterior walls. Inside the windmill you can get moody photos near windows and on the stairs (if it isn’t busy) and through the window shots. The height of the windmill gives you an advantage of being able to capture images from above. Definitely look for new perspectives and locations from up here.
For 8 euros you can ride a quiet boat through the Keukenhof canal. Tickets can be purchased at the windmill. It’s a 60 minute tour and looked really pleasant. I was rather antsy to get moving so I opted out of the this activity, but I imagine the photos you would get are fantastic since you’ll get up close to the fields. (note, they cannot bring wheelchairs on the boat.)
The park really has worked hard to make the garden playful and surprising. There’s even a petting zoo! This hedge maze stuck out to me as a place for a fun shoot. It spits you out to a tower overlook of the tulip fields. If I wasn’t alone I would have taken a portrait in the maze. You can climb up in the tower to get a shot above the maze.
The outer edge of the park near the parking lots has a canal that runs against the tulip fields. There are plenty of access points to get to the edge and have the tulip fields in the background. Hang along the side and you’ll come across a break in the trees or a board walk. Get the right one and you can make it seem like no one else is there!
Architecture & Other Neat Details
Overall a lot of imagination and design went into the park. It’s scattered with restaurants in greenhouses, bbq served from RVs, sculptures, arch ways and art installations. There are many fountains, benches and towers. The possibilities for photos are endless. Honestly, I spent an extra hour at the park than I planned because I kept seeing new potential shots. And I didn’t even get to half the park (I really wanted to see more fields…). Relax, be patient, go early, and stay open-minded while wandering around. You’ll get amazing work done.