— Dane Creek

“Tulip Shots”

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, 2006
Canon EOS 5D, 17-40 f/4.0L @ 25mm. ISO 640, 1/640 sec @ f/16.

Recently I had the honour and pleasure of sitting on a committee of photographers selecting images for a photo book that will help support the United Way this fall. I reviewed over 1900 images and got to see some truly awe inspiring photography. Along the way I coined a new term: “tulip shot”.

I must have seen 50 different variations of photos of tulips in the submissions. Warnings were given prior to submissions about the perils of submitting a tulip photo, but alas, they came in anyway. What’s the problem with a tulip shot? Well, it may be your best tulip shot ever, but when you submit it to a juried show or book competition, it is going head-to-head against the other 50 tulip shots that were submitted. You better be darn sure that your tulip shot is the super duper awesome best ever of those 50, because chances are if a tulip shot does make it into the show/book/whatever there will only be one.

There are many other types of photos that fall into the “tulip shot” bucket. Some that come to mind are: sunsets, mountains reflected in water, flowers, bugs, cute kids, I-used-a-lensbaby-look-at-my-out-of-focus-edges-!, waterfalls, leaves, anything shot in HDR, animals in zoo cages, etc. In the Pacific Northwest some regional variations are “tulip shots” as well: Canon Beach/Ruby Beach/Rialto Beach/Second Beach, cherry blossoms, Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and the Palouse region of Eastern Washington.

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Cherry Blossoms, 2007
Canon EOS 5D, 100mm f/2.8 macro. ISO 100, 1/250 sec @ f/4.5.

If you are ever submitting to a competition and your image contains any of the above you should think long and hard about what separates your variation of that particular scene from the rest of the pack. It is exceedingly difficult to stand back and take a critical view of your work, but it’s an important skill to learn.

Can’t decide whether your photo separates itself from the rest of the pack ? No worries: ask a photographer that’s better than you for their candid feedback. I do it all the time and while it can hurt my underbelly a bit I always find it hugely valuable.

This post has two “tulip shots” in it. I throw the comments open to everyone… any of them separate themselves from the pack?