#SeattlePlayedOut: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Edition

Hitched a ride with Craig and Brianna to Mount Vernon to find a tulip farm on Monday evening before the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival of 2018 came to a close. We figured Monday would be the best day of the week to avoid large crowds, while going as late as possible would afford us the widest range of natural light and hopefully include golden hour. Our needs were met by Roozengaarde Tulip Farm: They were open until 7pm and ejected patrons at sunset, far later than the oft shared Tulip Town, which closes at 5pm. As a welcome surprise, the weather was exceptionally nice as high temps crept to nearly 70 degrees Fahrenheit and mostly clear skies.

 

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yep, you’ve seen this view before. meh.

Military and Veterans get $1 off admission at Roozengaarde. The discount is applied to each ticket the veteran purchases, so bring a vet with your group and have him/her purchase admission. Proof of military/veteran status is required, so be ready to show your DD Form 2 or VA ID card.

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We have been planning this trip for weeks but it would get canned for one reason or another; the most recent was due to weather. Finally, the planets lined up or something and we packed most of our glass to ensure we could make the most of the excursion. We’re quite fortunate as the Tulip Festival runs until the end of April, so we had been quickly running out of time. Sure, everyone there brought a camera and have posted their results on social media, most for public consumption. However, we had our own ideas, some of which we hoped would create a unique look that sets us apart from the rest. I packed my 10-24mm ƒ/4, 16-55mm ƒ/2.8, 23mm ƒ/1.4, 56mm ƒ/1.2 with 16mm macro extension, and 50-140mm ƒ/2.8 with 2x teleconverter (15-36mm, 24-83mm, 35mm, 85mm, and 75-210mm equivalent in 35mm full frame, respectively). Add to this a B+W 10-stop ND filter, circular polarizers, and Benro Adventure 2 Carbon tripod… all in support of my Fujifilm X-T2 GSE body.

For details on the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, click here for a PDF brochure.

After spending 2.5 hours in traffic getting there from Woodinville, we almost put off going in past the gates only because their roadside floral display seemingly offered more potential for photographs than boring rows of tulips. Fortunately we decided to go into the paid admission area. But once we did, we immediately realized one thing…

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alpacas!

Overkill. I brought far more glass than I needed after walking halfway through the tulip field. After taking a few images with the 16-55, I decided to use the 50-140 and spent the rest of the evening using only that. As there’s only so many ways you can shoot rows of tulips that sit about 14 inches above the ground, I was fortunate to spot an alpaca farm next door, so I made sure to get a few photos of one of the most adorable animals on Earth.

As for the gear, this Fujifilm X-T2 never ceases to amaze me in it’s capability. There were a couple of photos that required heavy post processing in Lightroom to correct the exposure. Despite being an APS-C sized sensor, the dynamic range and low noise afforded by the X-Trans III sensor keeps surprising me. One image I took was just a “throwaway,” something I hoped would come out but my expectations were tempered because of the strong backlighting.

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If you’d seen the original RAW (compressed RAF) file, this is not the result you’d expect.

The in-camera preview was not good. I shot it at ISO 200 despite the low light, exposed to the left and accepted that I’d crushed the shadows into a speckled, black mess. Whatevs. Mind you, I also shoot compressed RAWs (Fujifilm claims there’s no quality difference between uncompressed and compressed RAW files). After +2.5 EV, pulling back the highlights and boosting the shadows in Lightroom, I saw no crushed blacks or noise in the shadows once the histogram was balanced. I was so shocked, I made screenshots of the before and after and excitedly sent them to Craig. Even he’s surprised by what this camera has been able to accomplish from a technological standpoint. Coming from a Nikon D200 10 years ago, there’s just no comparison, even at base ISO.

I use 1:1 smart previews to speed up Lightroom, so the before and after screenshots weren’t fully representative of the actual quality. Despite this, the previews were impressive.

My next post will probably show off these screenshots, just to further emphasize my point that Fujifilm’s X-Trans III APS-C cameras are able to rival all but the highest tier of 35mm sensor cameras. Yes, even in the hands of a born-again noob like me.

Anyways, I don’t know why I bothered detailing the whole experience, but whatever. I took surprisingly few pics but most of them resolved far better than I expected they would. Others I tried were a bit experimental as I tried to compose using the golden ratio, expose to the left and right, backlit scenes and scene compression. So, before you navigate away here are the rest of the photos:

Copyright 2018 © oakie & FriendlyFireShots (Pretentious Narcissistic Watermark). Photos may not be shared without my expressed consent.

 

 

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