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.
2021 Update: National Park Service is predicting a peak bloom on April 2-5,2021. Meaning about 70% of the blossoms around the Tidal Basin will be in bloom <3 However, this year may be different. With COVID-19 still a concern in the Capital Region, the National Mall and Memorial Parks are encouraging people to watch them from the webcam and decided they would offer very limited in-person viewing.
But just in case we are allowed to visit this year, let me try to break it down for you…
Photographers are special people. We can have all the camera gear and equipment in the world, but it’s still not enough. Which can make it easy AND hard to shop for us for the holidays. Depending on the type of photographer you are shopping for, there can be an endless supply of gadgets and accessories that will make anyone smile.
So to make life a little easier, here are my top suggestions for holiday gifts for your favorite photographer:
One camera bag is not enough. I feel as though I need a variety of camera bags for a variety of situations. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood will not require as much camera equipment as an epic day of travel or even studio work. To accommodate all my gear and equipment, diversity in camera bag size and storage is ideal.
Hex Ranger Black Camera Mini Sling
For a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or going out to dinner with friends, this is my go-to bag. It’s small enough to fit just my camera and 1 lens so it makes it super easy and convenient to be on the go. What makes this bag different than other sling bags is that it’s specifically made for cameras so there’s padding inside and my camera is well protected.
On the totally opposite end, if you just want something even more portable, check out this Ape Case Cubeze. It inserts seamlessly into your backpack, purse, or whatever. I carried this around for years before purchasing a real photo backpack and never had any issues with my camera equipment.
You know I like these when I have 2 or 3 of my own. I love that if I want to pack my camera or lens into my purse, I can just wrap these Tenba protective wraps around them and I feel very confident that my gear will be protected. They are great for quick on the go situations.
The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the best places to go for those who enjoy being active outdoors but doesn’t want to deal with the crowds in Washington DC. The 17 miles trail spans from Rosslyn, VA to President George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon but along the way provides some of the best views of the nation’s capital and then some. The trail itself is protected by the National Park Service and can be accessed year-round from 6 am- 10 pm.
For a majority of the time, the trail is sandwiched between the Potomac River and the George Washington Parkway. This makes it really easy to hop on and off the trail at any given point. But it also provides some very beautiful waterfront views. In other words, you don’t have to walk the entire 17 miles in order to see the best of the best, here are some personal favorite points of interests and places where you can hop on and off the trail:
The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Arlington Memorial Bridge are seen from the Mount Vernon Trail in the middle of autumn.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
(L) the footbridge leading to Theodore Roosevelt Island (R) Theodore Roosevelt statue
Let’s start with one of my favorite places along the Mount Vernon Trail, Theodore Roosevelt Island. A great place to begin your outdoor adventure. I love it because it’s not like any other place along the trail. Park your car in the parking lot and cross the footbridge. You’ll be greeted by Theodore Roosevelt himself. Walk within the island for a bit more solitude than you would get along the Mount Vernon Trail. No bikes are allowed on the island but there’s a bike rack by the bridge so you can leave your bike and walk 🙂
Once you are back on the Mount Vernon Trail, you will see beautiful willow trees, and about half a mile away from Roosevelt island, you’ll start seeing some of the best views of the Washington DC Memorials. Its one of the only places where you can actually see the top 3 landmarks(Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol) all lined up in a row. There is not one spot, in particular, you should go to see them. The more you walk, the more the perspectives will change and the view from across the Potomac River is like no other. If you walk a little further, you’ll start seeing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well. Enjoy these views or the memorials anywhere from Roosevelt Island to the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial.
July 4th firework celebration
If you can, my favorite time to go here is on July 4th for the firework show. You basically get front row seats all along this part of the trail so you don’t really have to go early to claim your spot. If you do decide to go, then driving/parking may be a hassle. The best way to do it is to take the metro and get on and off at the Rosslyn stop. It’s a little more than half a mile walk but you’ll be saving so much more time by using the public transportation route. I have been on the George Washington Parkway when there are fireworks and cars will literally stop in the middle of the road to watch it. At that point, traffic gets super backed up!
It all started when I saw a photograph similar to this one. I had never seen anything like it before.
I feel in love with the way it was so mysterious and the way it made the Jefferson Memorial look so obscure. Even though I had photographed a little bit of fog in 2012, I didn’t know it could get this foggy in the city until I saw that particular image.
I’m sorry I don’t have a link to the original image anymore, but I studied that picture. I wanted to know exactly where the photographer was standing and tried to figure out different ways I could have potentially captured it.
It finally happened to me on Christmas Day 2015. I woke up early for sunrise since my family doesn’t celebrate until later in the evening. I figured the best way to start off the day would be to take a quick morning walk around the National Mall. I checked the weather and it said it was going to be unseasonably warm, so why not.
I don’t remember how long the fog took to appear but I do remember it was quite a bit after sunrise. When it first started forming, I was over by the Potomac River. I had never seen fog just appear out of nowhere but something triggered in my head that if it was starting to form on the river, maybe it was forming at the Tidal Basin. I walked over as quickly as I could and there it was! It was the white Christmas I never knew I wanted.
After that, I became obsessed with finding out more about fog. How to capture it, when it was going to happen and all the best places in the Washington DC area to photograph it.
The Lincoln Memorial on a foggy morning. (L) Predawn (R) 20 minutes after sunrise
Besides the Washington Monument, there aren’t many options in Washington for someone to get an elevated view of the city. Sure you could go to a rooftop bar or hotel, but who can pass up the opportunity to go to the third tallest building in the city, for free! The Old Post Office Tower is located at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave and considered to be a part of the National Mall. It’s viewing tower has some unique views that can’t be seen anywhere else and opened daily from 9 am – 5 pm daily (last entry is at 4:30 pm) except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In the early 1900s, this building was used as the city’s main post office. Since then has been transformed into office buildings and in 2016 Donald Trump redeveloped the property into a hotel with restaurants and retail.
The entrance is located in the middle of 12th street between Pennsylvania Ave NW and Constitution NW, next to the Starbucks. A little tucked away but there are signs that will lead you to the entrance. As you enter the building, there is security who checks your bags to make sure you aren’t carrying anything you aren’t supposed to be carrying. You are then directed down the hall to the elevators. This hallway was particularly interesting because it had old images of Washington DC from years ago. Living in the Washington area, these are scenes I see almost every day so it’s interesting to see what it actually looked like in the early 1900s.
Traveling to a new photo location can be fun and exciting but also intimidating. You’ve seen all these beautiful images on Instagram before your trip that got you hyped about travel but how can you actually capture images that compare? You’re only visiting this city for a limited amount of time. The pictures you’re seeing on social media are from locals who have spent almost the entire year in this location. They have the luxury of time and patience for the right weather conditions and lighting. You only have a limited amount of time before you have to hop back onto your flight home.
HERE’S HOW TO DO IT:
The key to creating memorable images are creative compositions that show your unique point of view of what it was like being there. Everyone knows what the Eiffel tower looks like, but only you see it with your unique, photographic eye. With a slightly different mindset and perspective on photography, you can make images that stun your friends and locals alike.
So here are a few tips I have compiled that may have you thinking a little more while you are out shooting, but they will be sure to make your images stand out from the mundane tourist images that others are taking. These are also good for any level of photographer, mobile or DSLR, so be sure to send this link to your friends!
One of the most important things you can do to capture a unique/creative image while traveling is to tell a story. It makes your viewer want to read more into the image making it more memorable and adds your own voice to the image. It sounds a lot easier said than done. But there are multiple ways of doing this.