"God made heaven and earth," the saying goes, "but men made Holland." With more than a quarter of its landmass below sea level, Holland's diked, drained and "reclaimed" polderlands never fail to impress as one of the most unusual human-influenced landscapes on Earth. Though the Netherlands is one of the world's most densely populated countries, the Dutch pride themselves on being at the vanguard of the environmental revolution of the past 25 years. And even more important, they have figured out a way to make money while being green by exporting their innovative environmental technologies around the globe.
"Great tour for color and variety! The tour leaders know where the best spots are and get there at the right time of day. They work with you to improve your techniques as you photograph the icons of Holland's traditions in flowers, gardens, villages and windmills. Bruges is not to be missed—historic, continental and easy to wander."
Our Holland at Tulip Time photo tour concentrates largely on the northwestern provinces of Noord and Zuid (North and South) Holland from which the Netherlands get their "Holland" moniker. Colorful commercial tulip fields and a world famous tulip garden are an important part of our photography. First, we visit the spectacular 80-acre Keukenhof garden park—the world's largest spring bulb garden—where seven million exuberant tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other bulbs are planted in a tailored woodland setting. The Keukenhof garden is literally a trade show for Holland's major bulb producers. The newest hybrids are presented here en masse, and a remarkable glass-enclosed pavilion offers thousands of tulips and other flowers in perfect light and near-windless conditions for photography.
The commercial tulip fields of Noord Holland are next on our agenda, along with the picturesque hamlet and working windmills of Zaanse Schans. The density of tulip and hyacinth fields in this area is the highest in Holland. Field after field of vivid color gives us much to do.
We photograph one of the best-known examples of the typical Dutch landscape—the windmills of Kinderdijk. Images of this unique windmill landscape are featured in virtually every photo book of Holland. And, in 1997, the 19 Kinderdijk mills were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For our final stop, we travel to northern Belgium to the "Venice of the North," the delightful medieval city of Bruges. One of the most visually-stunning cities in Europe, the historical center of Bruges was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Here, as we walk the egg-shaped maze of cobblestoned streets, follow the winding canals, and explore the town squares, we find ourselves in a photogenic world of colorful brick and stone—brilliant in the spring sunlight. We climb the winding staircase of the Belfort, the belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower, to capture panoramic images of red brick facades, steep Flemish rooflines, and the market square below.
Each evening, just at dusk, the landmark buildings along the canals are illuminated to create an exquisite palette for photography—medieval gables and spires, and gracefully-arching stone bridges are reflected in a warm golden glow during the magical hours of transition.
Travel with us to where the North Sea meets the land—and the present and past await our cameras. In Holland, vibrant springtime flower bulb gardens and fields of unimaginable hues stretch to the horizon. Iconic windmills pierce the softly-lit sky and reflect in the calm waters of the polderlands. Bruges, in Belgium, is a timeless world where architectural imagery abounds throughout the day and into the luminous night.
For more information, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.
Depart from home.
Day 2 (Apr 9)
Arrive in Amsterdam. Meet for dinner at our airport hotel. (D)
We drive to the Keukenhof garden park. After lunch and hotel check in we spend the afternoon exploring the spectacular garden with our cameras. (BLD)
Keukenhof is a photo-rich environment with sweeping garden vistas and intimate close-up possibilities. In the event of rain, the garden offers a huge indoor pavilion featuring thousands of flowering bulbs under an immense glass ceiling with wonderfully diffused light. The surrounding area is also home to a substantial number of commercial bulb fields. We pick and choose from the best photo opportunities both within the garden and the adjacent fields. (BLD)
We drive north to the vibrant bulb fields of Noord Holland. Our trip is timed for the predicted height of the bloom—and prior to the flower harvest! (BLD)
After morning bulb field photography, we enter private land to shoot a remote and picturesque windmill in the midst of the flowering fields—a scene not easy to find in Holland today! This evening we shoot the charming hamlet and working windmills of Zaanse Schans. In one of these working windmills, the parchment for the ceremonial copy of the US Declaration of Independence was fabricated. (BLD)
We drive to Kinderdijk, Holland's quintessential landscape, in hope of late afternoon light on the photogenic windmills. (BLD)
We rise early and attempt to catch the windmills in silhouette in the lavender predawn light. Following breakfast, we shoot the windmills until early afternoon before heading to Bruges, Belgium. (BLD)
A full day of photography in the historical city core of Bruges. From our conveniently-located hotel, we explore on foot—the best way to experience this wonderfully-preserved remnant of the medieval world. In the evening, warmly-lit buildings and bridges with their colorful flickering reflections in the canal waters are our prime subjects. (BLD)
Morning photography in Bruges before returning to our Amsterdam airport hotel. (BLD)
Day 12 (Apr 19)
Depart for home. (B)
If you want a care-free photographic experience and top notch photographic leaders you won’t be disappointed if you select Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris as your tour operator.
A fabulous trip. The leaders did a great job in getting us to the right locations in the right light.