Posted in Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Keukenhof gardens – Amsterdam

Keukenhof gardens are situated in Lisse, 30 minutes from Amsterdam airport (a bus service runs continuously during opening hours) and are open to the public annually so visitors can see the amazing flowers that have been grown across the 80 acres of land.

The beautiful spring gardens are open for 8 weeks each year between March and May. I visited at the very end of April and everything was in full bloom. It was a pretty miserable day, raining on and off throughout, but with it being spring you never can tell what the weather will be like! This however didn’t put anyone off visiting, it was heaving with people and the amazing displays certainly brightened up the day.

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The history of Keukenhof

In the 15th century the Keukenhof estate was owned by Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria (Dutch – Jacoba Van Beieren.)  She decided to use the space to grow herbs and vegetables to take back to her castle which is where the name originates from: Kitchen garden.

The Countess lived a very eventful life. She was born in France in 1401 and between 1417 – 1433 became the ruler of Holland, Zeeland and Henegouwen. During her short life of 35 years she was married four times, spent a couple of years in prison, was exiled to England and after being forced to abdicate she withdrew from public life. She died of Tuberculosis not far from Keukenhof a few years later in 1436.

After the death of the countess, the land was passed through the hands of several wealthy merchant families and the design of the English landscape garden was created in 1857 and formed the basis of what the park is today.

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In 2018 the park celebrated it’s 69th anniversary and went with the theme of ‘Romance in Flowers’ I thought this was pretty fitting with it being open right before a royal wedding and all.

Benches and bridges

The gardens are huge (we did get lost on more than one occasion) with a large lake in the middle and rivers of water flowing throughout so you often have to walk over small bridges to get around and rest your feet every now and again. There are a total of 280 benches throughout the park and 32 bridges.

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Trees and fountains

For some reason I assumed the gardens would be flat but it was full of rolling hills and enormous trees, even though there were loads of people, there were moments of tranquillity when you strolled through the trees and didn’t notice anybody else around. The calming sounds of the water created an oasis and the there was an array of fountains in different designs to admire. In total there are over 2500 trees in 87 varieties and 15 fountains.

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Sculptures

It is not just the flowers that are on show in the gardens but also around a 100 art objects by different artists dotted about for you to spot on your walks. There is also a maze which we wanted to visit but after realising that the whole park is a bit of a maze we gave up looking for it.

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Restaurants and shops

There are lots of buildings around the park, great to seek refuge when the rain gets too much! The indoor pavilions including Willem-Alexander, Beatrix, Juliana and Oranje Nassau house all sorts, from exhibitions to flower arrangement demonstrations and bulb growing information services as well as 7 souvenir shops and 6 restaurants. The restaurants seemed quite busy and we didn’t eat inside but if you were feeling peckish or just wanted a snack there are pop up eateries all over with everything from burgers to strawberries and cream.

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Windmill

The windmill at Keukenhof is over a century old and was donated to the gardens by the Holland – America line in 1957. Situated at the end of the park, the windmill has great views of the tulip fields across the way. I thought there would be long queues to go up the windmill as there isn’t very much space up there but it moves really quickly as other than looking at the view there isn’t much else to do at the top.

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Child friendly

I didn’t think of Keukenhof as somewhere to bring children as I thought it was just flowers on show and as much as they look pretty they don’t really capture the attention span of the smaller people for very long! I was surprised that on our walk around we came across a large play area, a zip wire, a Miffy house and even a small petting zoo with a variety of animals including pigs, goats and chickens.

Every year the gardens welcome more than a million visitors to Keukenhof and 75% of those are tourists from abroad. Every year the visitor numbers are growing with more people bringing their families and they were recently awarded the Certificate of Excellence from Trip advisor.

Tulips

Although there are lots of flowers on show, with over 7 million bulbs planted every year, the tulips are definitely the stars of the show with their variety of vibrant colours and the neat way they are all laid out.

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The tulip is a Dutch icon but hasn’t always been that way. Here is a story of the journey of the tulip…

The tulip travelled far before arriving in the Netherlands. Tulips were originally found in the Tian Shan mountain region of the north-western Himalaya. Dozens of different types in all kinds of colours still grow there each spring. In the 11th Century the Seljuks, who lived there at that time, took the tulip with them to Turkey, where they drove out the Byzantines. The tulip became a cherished flower in Turkish culture, and is still so today. Sultans organised tulip parties each spring. And the most extraordinary tulips were illustrated in beautiful books. Tulips were also depicted on tiles and other household objects.

Dutch trading, including with the then Constantinople, increased towards the middle of the 16th Century. The tulip was a new flower to the Dutch. Botanists such as Dodeneus and Clusius managed to obtain tulip bulbs and by 1560 the first examples were flowering in Antwerp and Mechelen. Clusius was extremely interested in the tulip, wrote a lot about it and, via his network across Europe, maintained a lively barter trade including in tulips. When Carolus Clusius became Hortus Prefectus, or Director, of the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden in 1593, the tulip was one of the things he took with him. This is how the tulip became established in our country.

The purpose of my trip was to take photos for my project on the production of flowers and after seeing the gardens online I was eager to see it in person and so glad that I made the effort! Although it was just a flying visit I also managed to see the auction rooms at Aalsmeer Royalflora and the press photo exhibition in the city centre so it was quite a productive trip. (I still want to go back and see so much more!)

If you think you may want to visit Keukenhof when it reopens next Spring, it will be open from March 21st – May 19th with the annual flower parade taking place on April 13th. For opening times and prices see the official site closer to the time.

Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

A floral perspective – Photography book

I am just getting my head around the fact that I am no longer a photography student and thinking about what my next steps in life are, does it mean I am now a professional photographer?

Well I am the owner of a new photography book! When I say photography book I don’t mean that it is available to buy in a store near you…not yet anyway. This is a book that I created for my final degree show to display alongside a couple of prints that I took on my recent trip to Holland’s Keukenhof gardens and Aalsmeer auction market.

The book is a collection of still life images, some of which I shared on a previous post and are of one of my favourite subjects…flowers!

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The photos are accompanied by simple definitions of parts of a flower to get the viewer thinking about the flower as a whole and seeing them in a different perspective.

I have only included a few of the pages so if you want to see the full thing you will just have to visit our degree show which will be shown at the Free Range festival, at the Truman Brewery, in Bethnal green between 22nd and 25th of June. There will be loads of work on show from graduates across the country and it is a free event so you don’t want to miss out!

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Aalsmeer flower auction – Holland

 

I recently took a trip to Holland (the hub of the flower industry) to work on my photography project, looking into the production and importation of flowers, and was pointed in the direction of Aalsmeer by the lovely Catie who lives not too far away.

Aalsmeer (also known as Royal Flora Holland) is the largest trade centre for flowers in the world, described as a portal to a world full of scent and bloom, it is open to the public on certain days so they can take a look at the amount of work that goes into ensuring fresh flowers are available in your local supermarket whenever you feel like purchasing them.

A statement from Royal Flora…

FloraHolland is a cooperative venture belonging to the growers of flowers and plants. They bring their supply together to perform a single international trade platform, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The members/growers are the owners of this company. We are also a ‘Royal’ firm and have been ever since our centenary in 2011 when FloraHolland was presented with the royal title.

On arriving at FloraHolland we were met with coach loads of tourists queueing at the door which I was quite surprised about because compared to other flower attractions in Holland, particularly Keukenhof, this was not advertised anywhere. As you enter the reception area you can purchase tickets priced at 7.50 euros and receive a map, although this isn’t really needed as the route is very straight forward.

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You are basically on a viewing platform above the market floor in the form of a bridge which you walk the length of the building and back again on the opposite side. It is quite a surreal experience to just be watching normal people go about their daily work and you do wonder if they are aware, or care, that people are watching and taking photos of them. At the same time, for the sheer size of the place, I did feel like I was at one of the wonders of the world and really intrigued by the whole process.

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Along the journey we came across a room that is used for research purposes and was filled with flowers. A guy saw us taking photos outside and asked if we would like to have a look around inside, which we were privileged to do so as it is not open to the public. He explained that they are sent new crops of flowers that haven’t as yet been grown for sale and they test them to see how they react to certain lights and temperatures and give them a value depending on their life span and quality.

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As you reach the other end of the bridge you can see the auctions taking place through the windows, unfortunately they were not in full swing when we arrived but there were still a few people bidding on flowers so we got to observe the process.

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After we had watched the bidding and had a bite to eat in the small café we made our way back down the other side of the bridge. As we reached the end of the viewing platform, there was a room that looked like a museum that gave out some information about the history of FloraHolland through videos and photographs and some statistics on the industry via posters.

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If you are a fan of flowers then this is a great place to visit, it is different to other attractions as all the behind the scenes action is the actual show. There is nothing fancy or put on about it and it is a bit dated but I found it to be a real spectacle and so glad I visited. I also purchased some tulip bulbs from the gift shop so I can think of my trip when they grow in the garden.

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Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

A transformation at the Natural History Museum

I haven’t posted any photos of flowers for a while so I thought it was about time I shared a few for you!

I recently attended an event being held at the Natural History Museum where it was transformed into a wedding reception venue. I was there just to photograph for the event florists and had to have all the photos taken before the bride and groom made their entrance, which was no mean feat considering there were around a hundred people working in there and the lighting was constantly changing!

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My next adventure will be photographing flowers before they have been arranged into beautiful centrepieces, in fact before they have even been picked from the fields as I am taking a trip to Holland next week to visit Keukenhof gardens. Have you ever been?

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized

Still life floral photography

I am currently working on my major project at university and the theme I have chosen is the importation of flowers. I am going to travel to Holland later in the month to visit the flower gardens and look more into the floral industry. In the meantime I have been researching lots of other photography projects and the way people photograph flowers.

Although I have come across some really amazing pieces of work by talented artists, I have found that in general flower photography is very generic. Flowers are normally displayed in vases to look their best so I have decided to try and create some images that break the rules and focus on the flower as a whole not just the pretty part at the top, and displaying them in an unconventional way.

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Posted in London, Photography, Uncategorized

Metro imaging and end of year show

Metro imaging is a Photographic, printing, framing and retouching service with a shop just off Clerkenwell road in London.

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Most people that want to print everyday photos will probably use an online service or high street shop but if you are looking for something special then a C type or Giclee print is the way to go, often used by professionals or photography students that are displaying work for a gallery.

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Metro imaging is very hands on, you can go in and print your own work in a variety of sizes with staff members on hand to provide assistance or you can send it over via the website. There are so many options to chose regarding printing on different media and finishes that it can seem overwhelming but it can also give your work the wow factor and make it stand out from the crowd.

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This is a selection of work printed on different materials, including wood and metal.

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We visited Metro Imaging as a class as we were preparing for our Pilot major project work to be exhibited at the end of the year. It was great to see how work can be displayed in so many different ways and a few of us from class decided to use the services of Metro imaging to print our work.

My project has been documenting the journey of the flower and you may have seen in previous posts that I have visited places such as New Covent Garden Market and Columbia road flower market. I have also been spending time with an event florist in their workshop and accompanying them to events to photograph for them.

I ended the project with a selection of nine images printed out in A3 and A4 size I then mounted them myself on mounting board using the vacuum press at uni. I didn’t chose the images that I thought looked the nicest but the ones that told the story of the process the flower goes through in its short lifespan. I am hoping to carry on this project in semester two  and hopefully visit some floral gardens in Holland and spend some time with the charity Floral angels who donate bouquets of flowers to nursing homes and refuges after they have been displayed at events.

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We were all really pleased with our exhibition which was displayed at Borough road gallery and looking forward to the final major project which should be displayed at Free Range photography festival in The Old Truman Brewery in East London in June.

Here are some of the work of other students…

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Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Columbia road flower market

I have wanted to visit Columbia road flower market for a while and with my recent photography project documenting the journey of the flower, I thought it would be the perfect time to go and take some photos.

On the bus journey over, the streets were empty as it was a cold, drizzly afternoon, that is until I reached Shoreditch and there was a real buzz as the streets were lined with people carrying bunches of flowers and Christmas trees.

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The flower market is open from 8am until around 3pm and I decided to go in the middle of the afternoon because I wanted it to be busy. I don’t think I was prepared for just how busy it was and trying to navigate through the market while taking photos is no mean feat. The road is quite narrow and the pavements have even less space, so although they are filled with what looks like quirky little shops and cafes it is hard to have a proper look when you are fighting your way past other people.

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I had plenty of photos of flowers from my trip to New Covent garden market so what I really wanted to capture was the people.

Being a flower market and with a street lined with cute shops it obviously attracts people with their cameras but a lot of the market traders don’t seem too impressed by this, one asked me to delete his photo as he was “fed up of people taking photos to put on Facebook” I was going to tell him that they would more likely end up on Instagram but didn’t think he would appreciate it either way!

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The market obviously attracts lots of customers but I think a lot of people also go just to have a look and take photos. I didn’t actually buy any flowers but the prices seemed pretty reasonable. I would like to go back in the Spring when it’s a bit warmer to buy some flowers but I think I will go a bit earlier or later in the day when it isn’t so busy.

Have you visited Columbia road before?