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.
2019 Update: National Park Service and Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang are both predicting the first week of April as peak bloom so it sounds like a pretty safe bet that April is going to start off really pink <3
So if this is your first Cherry Blossom experience in the Nation’s Capital, let me try to break it down for you…
Being from the east coast, I love our annual getaways to the west. Sort of like how birds migrate to the south for winter, I like to migrate the west and soak up the California sun and surf. Plus any excuse for a fresh acai bowl, amirite?
To be honest though, San Diego is one of my favorite places to be. I love the vibe of the city, everyone is super friendly and there’s no shortage of things to do. You have the beach life but also a fun downtown area if the city is more of your scene. It’s all of that plus a super dog friendly city. Frankie loves taking his morning walks on the beach, you basically have to drag him off the sand.
This was our second year in a row visiting around the start of the new year, but I have visited many times in the past too. This will definietly not be our last time visiting so keep checking back as I update this guide.
So if you’re heading to San Diego, here are the best places to take pictures:
One of my favorite parts about Pacific Beach was standing at the end of Crystal Pier. The pier allowed for unique, overhead shots of the wave riders and definietly provided a lot of great photo opportunities. And you can usually find the bubble man around sunset. I love watching the huge bubbles fly in the air and can’t resist trying to pop some if they float in my direction. The kids love them too!
(left) view from Crystal Pier (right) bubble from the bubble man framing a palm tree
If you asked me my favorite time of day to photograph Washington DC, it has to be sunrise. Hands down, no questions asked, absolutely the best. Yes, the early wake up time can be a little brutal especially in the long summer months but it is so worth it. I love the alignment of where the sun rises among the monuments as opposed to where it sets from. It gives off this amazing warm glow on the memorials that’s hard to get at sunset. Plus there is this overwhelming feeling of peace and calm in a city that’s usually hustling and bustling during the day. At sunrise you’re more likely to get images with no one in them while at sunset it’s nearly impossible.
Whether you’re traveling or live within the DC Metro area, I highly recommend you try to make your way down to the National Mall early in the morning at least once. I typically try to arrive at my sunrise location about 30 minutes before the sun rises. That way you will see all the great predawn colors in the sky. Dress according to the weather and grab a coffee, you won’t regret it.
For the serious photographers out there, you may be wondering about tripods. For the most part they are not allowed. However if you’re photographing sunrise and there is no one else around, you could probably get away with it. I think the biggest concern is when the memorials are crowded and other people may trip over the legs. Out of all the times I’ve been out for sunrise (trust me it’s way more than I can count), I have been asked to put it away once while I was at the Lincoln Memorial. All other times other than sunrise at any of the memorials, it’s pretty much out of the question.
The United States Capitol is slightly different. Technically, it’s not the National Mall so the same rules don’t apply as they do at the memorials. There is way more security there and I’ve heard conflicting rules about tripods. The last time I spoke to a Capitol Policeman about it, he said they are allowed. However since then I’ve heard of photographer friends being asked to put it away. It seems like there is no right or wrong answer there so I would take your tripod if you want and just be respectful when photographing the grounds.
In my opinion, this is the ultimate sunrise location in Washington DC. It’s the most iconic and it is the place that I tell everyone they must go if they have never been to the national mall and especially at sunrise. It’s the center of 4 great landmarks all within a central area. A one stop shop if you will.
I got this camera when it came time to replace my Canon 5d Mark II. Coming from a heavier full frame camera to this mirrorless dslr, I could not have been happier. It just fits so perfectly in my hands. I’ve been using it for 4 years now and knowing all the settings and where each button is just second nature to me now. However my favorite part about the camera is how lightweight and small it is. It’s so easy to travel with and just throw it in my backpack when I’m not using it. I used to feel back and shoulder pains when I would carry the 5d Mark II around but I haven’t felt that with my Sony A7II. I’ve taken it hiking and even got caught in a rainstorm with it. It’s a great durable, reliable camera.
Although the camera isn’t waterproof, it is weather resistant. I’ve taken it out with me during rainstorms, snow storms, all kinds of weather and never had a major issue. I have these camera sleeves just in case, but never had to use them while out on the field. I mainly have them so I can cover my camera while it’s in my un-weatherproof backpack or purse. My camera settings for this image is F5.6 1/30 sec ISO 640 with 16-35mm wide angle lens handheld.
A guide for any level of photographer. All of my personal favorites.
Practical gifts 1. These Rocket Air Blaster: are pretty awesome. They blow out air but won’t suck it back in. Awesome to clean those little dust spots on lenses or mirrors. I have 2. 2. SD CardsSo simple, yet so necessary. You can’t get more practical than that. 3. Domke Protective Wrap makes it super easy to take your camera or lenses on the go and keep them protected. 4. When I travel I like to keep all my cords and electronic things together. This Travel Electronic Organizer is perfect. 5. It’s important to stay hydrated and comfortable while out shooting. The Swell Water Bottle will help keep your water tasty. 6. Gorilla pod tripods are cool because they can support the weight of DSLRS but I’d still be a little careful with it depending on the lens. Super fun to get creative angles with this.
7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is about you and your creativity. 5 stars. Highly recommended. 8. These Personalized Greeting Cards by Moo are such great quality. I mean the paper is so nice and thick plus they have lots of other great personalized gifts. 9. I love this JBL Speaker. I listen to it all the time while editing my images and blast it when I’m in the shower. 10. Another essential to keeping comfortable while taking pictures. These Rainboots are comfortable to walk in all day. 11. Fujifilm Instax Printer I have S-1 but the S-2 looks even cooler. I love being able to take pictures on my phone but print them out on this Polaroid film.
Independence day is right around the corner and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where to shoot. So here it is, the best places to shoot the fireworks in Washington DC with views of the monuments:
Of course the National Mall is the top pick. This was taken on the Washington Monument lawn facing the Lincoln Memorial. The earlier you get there the better, but you don’t have to wait all day. I got there 3-4 hours before the fireworks started and there was still plenty of room for everyone. Count on the metro to be super crowded. And of course, the bathrooms are an extraaa long wait.
Fireworks on the National Mall
Here’s a quick little video to watch them in action:
Another good place to go is Roosevelt Island off of the GW Parkway. You get a killer view of the Lincoln and Washington Monument all lined up. You could pack a picnic and go early for this one but again, its not completely necessary. There are so many places along the trail that offer great views of the fireworks. However, the traffic on the parkway can get pretty nuts. Especially once the fireworks get going, many cars stop to watch. If anything, plan on walking to Rosslyn metro station to get home.
A 10 minute walk from Roosevelt Island
Last but not least, Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington VA. This is the ONLY one where I recommend you get there as early as possible. Like pack a lunch and dinner because I’ve seen some people wait there starting morning time. The only area available to sit and watch is the little grassy area by the apartments so go early if you want a good line up of the Iwo Jima memorial with the DC monuments. Did I mention you should go early?
Fireworks at the Iwo Jima Memorial
Skip to 3:50 to see what it’s actually like.
And if you need a few tips on how to photograph the fireworks, here’s a little video I made a couple of years ago on how to do it. This is the exact way I shot all these fireworks images in this guide.