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A First Timer’s Guide Photographing the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Oregon

The Pacific Northwest is a show-stopper and favorite for photographers and travelers due to its stunning natural beauty, lush forests, and vibrant gardens. Every spring, one of the most colorful events takes place at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Oregon. Hosted at the Wooden Shoe Farm in Woodburn, Oregon, the festival showcases a colorful display of tulips, reminiscent of the famous tulip fields in Amsterdam.

Wooden shoe tulip festival in Oregon
Sunrise at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Oregon.

Since I didn’t have any future plans to visit Amsterdam (not yet anyway), I decided to book a flight to Oregon and experience this floral extravaganza for myself. And I was glad I did. The festival is quite popular among photographers and since I am a professional photographer myself, these tips are more about attending as a photographer. If you’re considering attending this tulip festival in Oregon, below are a few tips and tricks for first-timers.

Attending the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Oregon

pink tractor and tulips at the Wooden Shoe Farm in Oregon
The iconic pink John Deere tractor in the background during the tulip festival.

The Fields of Tulips

One of the most popular questions I get asked about this tulip festival in Oregon is, is it worth it? I would say definitely yes. It’s an experience one should do at least once in their life. Centered in the Willamette Valley, the Wooden Shoe farm spans over 40 acres with thousands upon thousands of tulip bulbs representing dozens of different varieties and colors. Brilliant reds, sunny yellows, pastel pinks, deep purples, and more create a stunning patchwork of colors that seem to dip into the horizon.

tulip festival in Oregon, red tulips
Rows and rows of colorful tulips stretch for as far as the eye can see.

You can tell that this is not the farm’s first rodeo (or festival) as they have thought of everything. With well-groomed paths, parking, photo opportunities, and timed entries it’s easy to enjoy your time there. I spent hours wandering alongside rows of tulips, where I could admire them up close as well as from far away and even up high.

The Woodburn Tulip Festival runs from late March through early May each year. The fields are in peak bloom typically in April. Arrive early for the best parking and to beat the crowds. Be prepared for the possibility of mud if it has rained recently. Their website features daily updates on the bloom status, so you can keep an eye on the best time to visit.

Tips for Visiting as a Photographer

sunrise photo at the tulip festival in Oregon
Sunrise shot at the Wooden Shoe Farm with the many photographers in the distance.

As a photographer, one of the main reasons I wanted to attend this tulip festival in Oregon was to get some good photographs. For photographers, you want to be there early morning for sunrise and then at the end of the day for sunset. For this, you want to purchase the Sunrise tickets. This allows access beginning at 5 a.m. and until sunset.

This is the ticket I purchased and was able to get there at sunrise before the crowds and with good light. I also came back at sunset for more photos. If you want to, you can stay all day with the Sunrise ticket, but I decided to check out more of the Willamette Valley instead.

I will say, I was a bit shocked to see SO many photographers there. It was a bit overwhelming to get the “best” shot with so many crouching in the tulip fields and tripods dotting the skyline. So, my best advice is to get there early and be cognisant of other photographers who are trying to get the same shot as you. Don’t hog the shot!

For those who want to fly their drones, they do offer a drone add-on upgrade. Flight time is only in the morning from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. This does not include your general admission ticket.

Photography tips for photographing the tulips

Look for unique angles and framing

One of the best ways to showcase the tulips is to get down low, close to the ground, and shoot across the rows. This allows you to blur the background of tulips into a colorful bokeh while keeping your main subjects sharp.

up close image of tulips
Don’t forget to get up close and change your perspective when photographing the tulips.

While overall scenes are spectacular, look for interesting ways to frame and isolate parts of the fields. Shoot detailed foreground tulips to focus on patterns, colors, and details. Wander the rows to find complementing or contrasting tulip color combinations. I believe they still offer an elevated platform at one end of the farm for overhead shots from above.

Use a Wide Angle Lens  

The vast acres of tulip fields make it perfect for using a wide-angle lens. This allows you to capture the scale and undulating rows stretching out before you. Get low with a 16-35mm lens and you can even allow some foreground tulips to fill the frame for an immersive perspective. I shot mostly in landscape mode and aperture priority to capture everything from the tulips in the foreground to the distant mountains in the background.

If you are looking to get a more up-close, detailed shot, then I suggest a zoom lens and setting your aperture to f2/8 or f/4 for that beautiful bokeh background.

colorful tulips in Oregon
Another unique perspective from the tulip farm.

Sunrise and Sunset Light

The soft, directional light during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset is incredibly flattering for tulip photography and really any photography. This is why the Sunrise ticket for photographers is your best bet for entry and photo shoot timing.

Capture other elements

In addition to floral landscapes, weave in other festival elements to give a sense of story and scale. The farm does a great job of adding eye-catching elements such as the hot air balloons, colorful benches, and the popular pink tractor.

pink tractor at Wooden Shoe Farm Oregon
Add in different elements for scale and perspective.

With fields of every tulip color imaginable all densely planted together, the Woodburn Tulip Festival is a dream for photographers. You could spend all day there capturing all the different details, angles, and colors you’ll find at this tulip festival in Oregon.

Whether you’re a flower enthusiast, or photographer, or looking for a unique family trip idea, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival is well worth a visit.

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