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Somehow I’m lucky enough to live right in the middle of two awesome airports, Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.  But for some reason, I’m always flying out of Dulles. So when the rare opportunity comes up to fly out of Reagan, I take FULL ADVANTAGE! I do my research and try to figure out where I can sit on the plane to make sure I get the birds eye view of the National Mall. If you want to do the same, read on…

I know you can see the monuments if you’re flying north of DC and about 50% sure you can see them when you’re flying west of the city. You definietly won’t see them if you’re flying south. So if you’re flying north, try to sit on the right hand side of the plane. Obviously, when you’re flying back to DC, sit on the left hand side. If you aren’t able reserve those seats, you’ll still be able to get pretty cool views of the Pentagon and Air Force Memorial on the opposite side so be on the look out for those. Either way, window seats are key! And have your camera ready right at take off or when you are descending. It’s  surprising how fast the memorials will pop into your window. You’ll see them as you’re climbing your way up to the clouds or when you’re right about to touch down.

In order to take this image, I was sitting in the window seat, but I had to lean into the middle seat to capture it. My intention was to capture the light coming from the window and use it to frame the monuments. I really like this image, but I also wish I went a little closer to capture only the monuments. Oh well! There’s always next time:

My settings for this image is 1/3200 of a second at F/8 ISO 1000 with my 16-35mm wide angle lens and Sony A7II.

 

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Cherry Blossoms! On one hand I wish they would stick around longer than a week at a time. On the other, I think it’s what makes me appreciate them even more. They’re so delicate and beautiful. My favorite is when they look like kernels of popcorn jumping off the branch.

My trick with cherry blossoms is to photograph them off the tripod. That’s right, no tripod at all. Unless you’re shooting the sky at sunrise or sunset, I feel like the tripod can be restricting. Especially when you’re trying for new angles and points of view. I tend to put my camera as close as I can get to them and start composing from there. They make for great foreground elements as well a good way to frame and using the branches for line. I particularly like this image because the cherry blossoms are coming at you from every which way. Some may say the ones in the very front should be in focus, but I like the out of focus ones the most. It adds an extra element of depth that you wouldn’t get if they were in sharp.

This was shot early morning, right after sunrise. So my camera settings for this image was F/8 at 1/1000th of a second ISO 1000. Not sure why my ISO was so high. That must have been a mistake. If I were to do it again, it’d probably be in the 100 to 200 range. Results would be the same but I’m sure during post processing I had to denoise it to get rid of the small specks.

Here’s hoping we get a normal winter this year and the snow stops falling in February instead of March like it did this year! A lot of these suckers didn’t’ get to full term this year 🙁

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One of my favorite places to go to when I want to spend a day outside. It’s crazy to think that this amazing place is only 15 miles away from Washington DC, yet there are so many people who still have not visited.

When I think about Great Falls Park, I always think about high school. That was when I was first getting into photography and my mom would take me to practice my compositions. I also remember having to write a school paper about the park with my friend Anna. We walked the trails and researched the heck out of the history but only got a “B” on that paper. It’s ok though because I also remember gossiping and laughing our way through the whole project. It was kind of a miracle that we even got it together enough to write the paper.

As an adult, Andrew and I have taken our nephews to the park to play soccer or we’d walk the trails with Frankie. When we first started dating, we walked the whole entire Billy Goat trail while getting to know each other. Another time my cousin, Lynn came to visit from North Carolina and she got her first signs of pregnancy in the park 🙂 And I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been here and witnessed the most amazing sunrises and sunsets.

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The amazing beauty of the Potomac River on a cold winter morning

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Close up view

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We’re not the only ones who love the park. Its not uncommon to see these beautiful blue herons fishing for dinner.

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The park is so big that it is in both Maryland and Virginia. This is a small part of the Maryland side.

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Although Virginia is still my favorite side

Hope you enjoyed that stroll down memory lane. I didn’t realize how much Great Falls park meant to me until I had sat down and looked through all these images. I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did <3

 

In case you missed the any of my other DC guides:

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Spring is my favorite time to be in Washington DC. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. What’s not to love? It’s a special time to be in the city where tourists and locals alike flock to the famous cherry blossoms to admire their beauty.

The cherry blossoms are scattered all over the city but my favorite ones to photograph are the ones around the Tidal Basin. The trees are much bigger and abundant. You can get some killer shots with the Washington memorials as your backdrop and experiment with interesting water reflections. What’s not to love?

To be fully prepared, I reference this website a lot. It’s National Park Services’ Bloom watch. I think they have the most accurate up to date information about the peak bloom. They also break down the stages so that you know what you’re looking at in case you are overly eager and want to check out the trees asap.

So if this is your first Cherry Blossom experience, let me try to break it down for you…

Favorite Shooting Location in the Tidal Basin:
The tidal basin is 2.1 miles of pure beauty so it’s difficult to know where to start, especially if this is your first cherry blossom experience in the Nation’s capital. So let me try to explain this as best as I can. My favorite cherry blossom trees are the ones located right next to the small foot bridge seen on this map. If you’re standing on it, walk towards the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial on the sidewalk. There are some great trees that hang over the sidewalk and into the water that are some of my favorites to shoot no matter the season. The branches and limbs make for great framing elements to the Jefferson Memorial or even if you want to use them as an arch way for another foreground element… like a fellow photographer 🙂

O Hai Thar!

My second favorite cluster of trees are the ones located near the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. If you’re standing in front of the MLK Jr memorial, facing the Jefferson Memorial, go towards your left. Theres a great set of trees there that look perfect in the morning light if you are standing underneath them. If you catch them at the right time, they glow from the sunlight is unbelievable.

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People All Around:
No matter how early you go, there will always be other people out. Theres just no way of getting around that. At times it can be a bit frustrating if you’re trying to go for a people-less image but know that this is the kind of thing to expect while at the Basin. The sidewalks aren’t the biggest so people area almost everywhere. Just be patient and hopefully you will get your shot. Just be prepared for when it happens because it probably won’t last long.

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If it gets too crowded, why not use a macro lens and focus in on the little details? I can almost guarantee no on will get in your way for those close up shots. Some of my favorite images are the simplest ones.

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Parking:
On a usual day, parking isn’t too bad. But with everyone checking out the cherry blossoms, the car situation can be a little more challenging. Plus they close the paddle boat parking lot located on the northeast side of the Tidal Basin so it makes it even more difficult. With the very limited parking available I suggest either metro it in to the area or going really early in the morning.

There are several places where you can potentially find parking. Ohio Drive along the south east portion of the Tidal Basin is a good place. Be careful though, in the past I have seen DC police block off the street and making it a 1 way street as opposed to it’s usual 2 way drive.

If you’re coming from E Basin Drive, turn left onto Ohio Drive and you’ll see some parking lots on your left. There’s three of them but the last one is a pretty far walk. Try to find parking in the first two if you can!

Another warning, there is no more free parking in Washington DC. Make sure you pay attention to the parking meters and signs. To be on the safe side, download the park mobile app on your phone. It will save you a whole bunch of time plus help you with the parking requirements. The best part is that if you find yourself spending more time than expected at the blossoms, you can just add money from your phone instead of walking all the way back to your car.

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Metro:
The closest metro stop to the Tidal Basin is “Smithsonian”. It’s a pretty good walk from the metro to the Tidal Basin but it’s cool because you can also see the cherry blossoms trees by the Washington Monument on your way there. They aren’t as big but you can get some pretty unique compositions from the smaller trees as well.

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Other Places to see the Cherry Blossoms:
US Capitol
Other viewing spots include, the US Capitol. If you’re facing east, you’ll see some great ones on the left side of the government building. Consider how you can use the cherry blossoms to frame the beautiful dome. If you walk a little further up Madison Dr, there are more nice ones on the National Gallery of Art grounds.

As a reference, here’s a guide the US Capitol just posted. Hopefully this will make it easier to maximize your cherry blossom viewing experience around the Capitol.

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Enid A Haupt Garden

The Enid A Haupt Garden is one of my favorite places in general. It doesn’t have to be spring (although that’s the best time) for me to enjoy a walk behind the Smithsonian Castle. There are quite a few cherry blossom trees located inside the Moongate Garden and my favorite is the weeping cherry blossom tree. You won’t see any like it near the Tidal Basin plus its far less crowded.

To be honest though, my favorite part about the garden are the magnolia trees. They line the walkway and are so big and bountiful, I unintentionally spend most of my time photographing the pink magnolias instead of the cherry blossoms. If you’re a flower lover, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the gardens no matter what.

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Hope you found these tips useful and you enjoy your time outdoors. Visiting the Cherry Blossoms is truly a magical experience. I hope this made it a little easier for you to get around and capture the images that you want to create.

If you have any other questions, put them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them.

If liked this guide and want to see a few more, check these out: