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.
Every year Washington DC welcomes millions of visitors traveling to the National Mall to take in all the sights and history. Many will start coming in the springtime to catch a glimpse of the beautiful cherry blossom trees at the Tidal Basin. They are alluring, but can sometimes be elusive. Especially when you are dealing with nature, you never know exactly when they are going to bloom or how long they will even last. In general, they will stick around for a week to 10 days. This already leaves a short window of time to see them and that doesn’t include the fact that these flowers are fragile and can fall off their branches with a sudden gust of wind or rain.
So this guide is for all you flower nature lovers who may have missed the cherry blossoms and are here to see what else the city has to offer. Don’t worry because there’s a lot! From Saucer Magnolias to Star Magnolias, Tulips and Forsythia, there is no shortage of beautiful blossoms in the city. You just have to know where to go to see them.
Washington DC, especially the mall area, is a very nice area to walk. I highly suggest just taking the day to wander and get lost. There is no doubt that you will run into flowers and beautiful trees while walking around the area. Even the side streets that lead up to the Mall have pretty florets to look at. But if you’re on a time crunch, here are a few specific places to go:
It’s been 15 days since the first confirmed case of the coronavirus hitting Washington DC and I’m still a little speechless. I know everyone around the world is dealing with Covid-19 in their own way so I just wanted to take a second to say Hello. How are you doing? I hope all is well.
Magnolia and Forsythias
Like many others, I’ve been feeling unsettled and worried. With so much information and rumors being spread around, it’s hard to know what to believe. I’m constantly checking news sites for updates but unintentionally getting information flashed before me on social media and by friends and family sharing links. There have been times where I’ve felt so overwhelmed that I needed to turn off my phone.
All of my photography walks, talks and events have been canceled for this month and next. I’ve never mentioned this before, but I was in the middle of working on a coffee table book with a book publisher that was expected to be released in 2022 and that has even been canceled. This whole situation has been disappointing, to say the least.
View of the Washington Monument from the Enid A Haupt Garden
So I did what I thought was best. I found myself seeking more spiritual advice and journaling my feelings. I tried to look on the bright side of things:
I have a home where I can stay comfortably and safely with everything I need right here.
I’ve been reconnecting with old friends since everyone seems to have a little more time on their hands.
The sense of community and working together has never felt so warming and needed.
But even more so, the sense of gratitude has uplifted me through the times where I’ve felt helpless:
People all over the world are risking their own health to save others.
Thank you, doctors and other health care professionals, food delivery men and women, news reporters, government officials, and everyone in between who is doing their best to make the world a safer and easier place to live.
People who are on the internet spreading the good word and encouraging everyone to stay mentally and physically healthy by offering advice has made me smile every day.
Acts of generosity that have come from unexpected places have filled my heart.
Washington Monument is seen from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial
With all these new feelings of confusion, worry but also gratitude, I keep coming back to the fact that I am very lucky. I’m lucky that my family and I are healthy and safe. There are people dealing with far more pressing issues than getting bored at home all the time. I am fine. Andrew’s fine. My parents, brother and distant relatives are fine. Frankie’s fine. *thank you.
But before all of this happened, I was writing a spring guide to DC flowers which I will probably finish at a later time. It just doesn’t feel right or natural to keep on working on it right now. But what’s most natural to me, is going out and photographing the city. The days leading up to the craziness of the Coronavirus, I was busy photographing the saucer magnolias that were peaking around the city. I knew we would be quarantined or on lockdown soon so I tried my best to go out and capture them so I had some images to edit while I was home.
Magnolias in peak bloom around Washington DC
Now that cherry blossoms are peaking and we’re told to practice social distancing, I have been going out this past week to take pictures, but by myself. I’m usually out there in the mornings when there aren’t as many people around. It’s so weird when a popular event like the cherry blossoms peaking at the Tidal Basin is usually shoulder to shoulder crowded but this year is a lot less crowded and everyone is cautious avoiding each other.
Stone lantern at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC
Bur from here on out, I’ll be self-quarantining only leaving my house to walk Frankie around the neighborhood or if we need groceries. Everything else will have to wait. Expect a “best places to find spring in DC” post soon. But for now, I just thought I’d drop in and tell you that you are loved and I hope you are safe.
As I’m writing this, it’s 12:32 am. I usually would have been sleeping 2 1/2 hours ago and in all honesty, I was. I fell asleep on the couch watching Love is Blind. But then Andrew woke me so we could go to bed and I have not been able to sleep since.
I’m not sure what has got me thinking so much about it tonight, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I think this is a sign that now is the time to stop daily blogging. It wasn’t something I planned on but it just feels right to do it now.
I’ve been daily blogging on this website for 10 years! And I haven’t missed a single day. Even through emergency surgery, family deaths, and marriage, I made sure to have a new image on my website every single Monday through Friday. It’s bananas reflecting back on it.
One of the craziest images I’ve captured at the National Mall. Taken in February 2016.
It started as something to do for fun in October 2008. At that time my posts were very sporadic and had no real purpose. Then Andrew and I went on a trip to Yosemite in March of 2010. It was one of the best trips ever. To this day, if you asked me about my favorite national park (besides the national mall of course), I’d say Yosemite. So one day after we returned, I sat in front of my computer and created 5 blog posts from that trip, and I thought to myself, ‘man that was so easy. I could do this all the time.‘
So it was at that moment that I committed to a daily blog Monday through Friday. It started off as a way to prove how serious about photography I was. That I would be willing to take new pictures every single day and share it with the internet. That was fun but after a while, but then I felt like I just kept on capturing the same images over and over again. So it morphed into something where it kept me accountable to take new AND creative pictures. I started thinking of my blog more like a sketchbook where I would keep all my ideas and see the progress of my work. I wanted to challenge myself to come up with new points of view and explore different places of DC. And I did that over the years. Eventually, I felt like I explored so much and felt SO comfortable photographing DC that I wrote a book, Snap DC.
I still can’t believe I wrote a book.
Writing that book changed everything. Not only could I change my title from photographer to photographer SLASH author, but I also fell in love with writing. I’ve expressed it a few times in blog posts and newsletters but it’s a new creative outlet for me. I am able to elaborate more on my experiences and tell a story. It’s funny because I hated writing while I was in school, but I guess when you’re writing about something you are passionate about, the words just flow out of your fingertips.
So I started writing. My daily blog posts got longer. I also started writing short, easy to digest guides. They were a lot longer than my daily blog images but a more scaled-down version of Snap DC. I found a passion for sharing my knowledge with fellow photographers of location scouting, planning your trips to DC or other destinations, and gear reviews.
Now the daily blog is starting to feel more like busywork.
A few images from 2012’s blog posts.
I’m in a position where I am constantly taking new pictures and I don’t need a blog to help keep me accountable for that. Whether it’s for fun or for a photography job, new images are importing into my computer constantly. Although I have come up with a system for it, sometimes the feeling of having to get a daily blog done is overwhelming.
And I have so much more fun writing more meaningful, thoughtful blog posts, like this.
So that doesn’t mean I’m quitting blogging completely. From now on, I want to create more personal posts like this or travel guides around DC and the other places my camera and I get to visit. I just want the content on my blog to be more resourceful than just me sharing my work.
This is going to be a huge step for me. I actually am a little afraid. My whole workflow is going to change and the way I communicate my art is going to be different. I even caught myself saying that I’ll commit to a blog post a week, but I don’t want to put that rule on myself. You may have noticed that once I tell myself something that it’s hard for me to change my mind. So this is a big change. Maybe in the future, I can commit to something like that, but let’s just see where this “no-rules blog” goes for now.
I’m ready for the next chapter of my blog and photography.
A recent image from Rawlins Park in Foggy Bottom, DC
10 years ago this month, I started this blog. I tried looking back to see if I could find my old blog posts, but it was on a completely different web host then and I’ve lost about a year’s worth of my first blogs. Who knows, there’s probably even more lost between the years but, click here if you want to see the first blog post I can find: August 25, 2010. It’s funny how some things don’t change. LOL.
So keep checking in. I’ll still be posting and I hope you will enjoy the new blogging style. I already have a running list of the blog posts I want to create. But for now, Instagram is the best place to see my new images. Cherry blossoms will be peaking this week and you know I’ll be out shooting! I have a feeling my presence on Facebook and Twitter will change as far as how I share my work and my newsletters will still be going out on the first of the month as usual but who knows where that will go too. There are so many unknowns about this and I’m kind of excited.
Oh snap, does this mean I have to take a new profile picture? New blog, new me?
So this is my first official cherry blossom image for 2020. I’m really looking forward to capturing more blooms around the city!
With that said, this year will be a little different. I already have some cherry blossom workshops planned at the Tidal Basin, but other than that I won’t be capturing the Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms. I really wanted to spend this season capturing the flowers all around the city as opposed to that area. It’s going to be a fun challenge and I’m up for it. I’ve already started creating a list!
My camera settings for this image are F5.6 at 1/5000th sec and ISO 320 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle lens.