Washington DC

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A lot has happened since my last blog post on protests in Washington DC. I have attended more protests and was able to capture a ton more images. As news about Black Lives Matter and protests continued every day, I tried my best to try to find unique locations and views of what was going on in the nation’s capital.

So after spending two days at the White House, I wanted to go somewhere different. I knew the BLM protests were happening all over the city, I just had to find them. So on Wednesday, June 3rd, I started a bit earlier in the day and went straight to the Lincoln Memorial. I saw some images of the National Guard all along the steps so I wanted to see it for myself.

But I may have been a little too early because there weren’t as many people as I thought there would be at the Lincoln Memorial so I headed to the US Capitol. The thing about these protests is that I don’t really know where they will pop up. I just sort of show up and hoped there will be people there.

So my luck at the US Capitol was about the same at the Lincoln Memorial. I overheard that I was about 30 minutes too late and most of the protestors that were there, had already left.

I made a loop around the US Capitol grounds and I was about to call it quits. I figured I’ve already captured some pretty good images that past few days, I knew I would be back for more so I didn’t want to push my luck. But there was just one more place that I wanted to check before leaving the city. I wanted to check out the Trump Hotel since it was on my way home and I figured that could be a good place for some action. On my way there, I noticed a bunch of police vehicles blocking off the road. I thought it was unusual but weaved in and out of the streets to try to get as close as I could to the hotel without being stopped. Once I got out of the car, I realized I was right in the middle of a walking protest! The police cars were there to make a safe path for the pedestrians. It was amazing to stumble upon them.

This group of protestors had just left the Trump hotel and was making there way back to the US Capitol so I had to follow them.

While walking to the US Capitol I couldn’t help but notice people helping people. People were handing out cold Gatorade and water, offering snacks and masks, and even medical aid.

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Monday, June 1st morning was the first day I went out to the White House in months. I don’t usually spend too much time photographing the iconic residence because honestly, it’s just not in the best location for sunrise/sunsets. That’s it.

But after a weekend of Black Lives Matters protests, riots, and looting, I had to go. I knew the city was going to look very different than it did just a week ago. So I woke up early in the morning to see if I could capture some of the rioting aftermath.

(L) Cash register found on the sidewalk (R) Broken glass storefront

It didn’t take long to find damage. I knew the White House was the epicenter of the weekend so I had planned to drive around until I found something. Turns out, I could have parked my car anywhere around there and see the destruction.

Windows smashed in from riots along Vermont Ave NW

I noticed a lot of people cleaning up the shattered glass of business storefronts and graffiti on walls while other people were making sure it doesn’t happen again by putting up boards over windows.

The morning after a lot of rioting and looting.

(L) DC Fire & EMS putting out fires from the night before (R) Graffiti seen on the street.

But going in the morning was not enough. I didn’t want to just create images of the wrecking, I wanted to photograph the protest. I wanted to photograph the people, emotions, and voices of the protest. Later in the afternoon, I found myself driving back into the city. 

For the most part, it was peaceful. People chanting “George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe,” and “No Justice, No Peace“. Most seemed determined to have their voices heard, others were there supporting them.

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Virginia was issued the initial stay at home order on March 30th, 2020 due to the Coronavirus. It didn’t come as a surprise but it was still something that I had to mentally prepare for. Honestly, one of my first thoughts about it all was, “How am I going to go and take pictures?” Not only is photography fun for me, but it is my way of exploring places, finding stories, and expressing myself. In the past, the longest I had ever gone without taking pictures was a week. I already knew the stay at home order was going to be tough.

The world was a rapidly changing place and I was craving to capture it. Here’s are the images I created in the first two months:

Cherry Blossoms

Covid-19 really started being a concern in the Washington DC area just before the cherry blossom season. We had an unusually mild, dry winter that allowed the cherry blossoms to bloom a bit earlier in the year than they usually do. So I was excited to be able to visit the Tidal Basin with a bit less of a crowd since travel was in the process of slowing down and social distancing was starting to become a new term. I tried to go as much as I could until it started to get too crowded. When it got to be too much, I decided to just stay home and be happy with the images I was able to create. My logic was to take as many pictures as I could until it got to be unsafe and then spend quarantine editing them.

Weekdays at sunrise are really the best times to visit the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, Coronavirus or not.

The last day I was at the Tidal Basin when it started to get a little too crowded

The cherry blossom trees are smaller at the Washington Monument, but still just as beautiful. I tried capturing a few images from there since it’s a larger area to roam.

Cherry blossom trees are seen from the George Mason Memorial

Mt Vernon Trail/Georgetown

That weekend, Andrew and I decided that we should try to get out “one last time” before we had to stay home. We decided that the Mount Vernon trail would be a good place to go and stretch our legs. Andrew walked Frankie on the trail which allowed me to take my camera and capture a few images as well.

Considering the stay at home order was placed the very next day, I’m so glad we did this. It was a foggy morning and the trail was not as crowded as it usually is. We parked our car at Gravelly Point and headed towards the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial.

At the cherry blossom peak bloom, but the pink flowers came out a little hazy in the fog.

(L) A quick stop in Georgetown along the Key Bridge. (R) Views of the Washington Memorials are seen all along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Vienna Metro

So this is where my real pandemic images begin. It had been about 1.5-2 weeks since our walk on the Mount Vernon trail and I was going crazy. I had never purposely taken such a long break from taking pictures, and it was not making me feel good. I was really craving creativity, seeing what this new world looked like, and just to walk around with my camera. So I started locally. I mean really local since I live within a few blocks from the metro. I figured with public transportation being at an all-time low, it was probably the safest and most isolated I would ever see it.

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It all started when I saw a photograph similar to this one. I had never seen anything like it before.

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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

So here’s what I learned:

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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.

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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.

But if you are only interested in the cherry blossoms, I’ve got your back. Click here for the cherry blossom guide!

The National Mall:

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:

Enid A Haupt Garden

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