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:
One of my favorite things to do before the New Year is to go back and look through all my images from the past year. It’s fun to reminisce on all the memories and it’s a great way to see how much I’ve grown as a person and photographer. It’s funny how looking back at some of these images can bring back so many memories. In general, I feel like I share a lot when I’m posting a new image every single weekday on this blog so there’s bound to be some images that I connect with more than others. So without any social media influence or outside judgment, here are my personal favorite images I created in 2019.
Something that I found interesting is that the images that are my favorite from this past year aren’t your stereotypical Washington DC monument images. Yes, they may have some of the monuments and landmarks included in the image, but I love how unique and creative these images are. So I’m pretty sure you should expect to see even more of these types of images in 2020!
P.S. You can click on each image to read the original blog post but I’ll try to add some additional light on these images now that I’ve sat on them for a while. So in no particular order except chronological, here are my favorite Washington DC images of 2019.
Ok, the first image on the list and I’ve already cheated. LOL. This image was actually taken in 2018, but I didn’t get a chance to post it until 2019. Regardless, I love this image. It’s just so simple but my favorite part is the Washington Monument reflection down the middle. It’s not super obvious, but this was taken just after the sun had risen a bit and it was hitting the Monument at the right spot to make it glow orange in the US Capitol Reflecting Pool. I just love how subtle reflection is. The water also kind of reminds me of a Mary Cassatt painting. Just an impression of water with tiny brush strokes.
Besides the cherry blossoms, I always look forward to the magnolias trees in the Washington DC area. My favorite of the bunch can be found behind the Smithsonian Castle in the Smithsonian Gardens on the National Mall. On this particular morning, I was with my friend, Birch while out shooting and I remember telling her about my upcoming road trip to Austin. She had been there before so she was giving me advice on what to do there. See, isn’t that crazy? I remember all those details from just this one single image? HAHA.
I’ve never captured an image like this, but I’m in love. I think this may be my favorite cherry blossom image I captured all season. It’s the one that always comes to mind whenever I think of this spring and I just think it’s so unique. It’s also the fact that when the cherry blossoms flowers start falling off the trees, they fall so delicately and so beautifully that it’s actually pretty hard to capture. Especially when you’re doing it organically as opposed to staging a photo. But this image is of cherry blossom petals falling times 100. LOL. I didn’t pose this image but I did have some assistance. National Park Service was actually cleaning up all the fallen petals from the ground near the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial by using a leaf blower. So as they were trying to gather all of the petals in a pile, I was ready with my camera to capture them as they were flying in the air.
On one of the last days of the cherry blossoms, we had rain. Rain or wind are usually the two deadliest elements for cherry blossoms so I knew this would probably be the end of them for the year. As I was walking around the Tidal Basin, I was noticing some petals that had already fallen onto the ground and in the water. So I captured this image almost by accident. I had left my camera settings the same as the previous image, but looking down onto the water was a little darker than it was photographing them in the trees. So by accident, this was sort of like a long exposure. Whatever the case, I love the way it turned out. The motion in this image is so interesting to me and I love how you can still make out the shape of the flower petals. SWOOSH.
I’m starting to notice a flower theme I’ve got going on here. HAHA. But this is an image that I did not expect to find. I woke up early one summer morning so I could catch the sunrise at the US Capitol. I love just walking around with my earphones in, listening to music and watching the sunrise however the sunrise itself didn’t end up being that spectacular. So I decided to just take advantage of the early morning hour and empty Capitol grounds with my camera and walked around. I’ve noticed these rose bushes bloom every year and I’ve always tried to come up with a creative composition with them before but never really found one that I really liked until this one. I love how they are engulfing the Capitol building and all that is left is the dome in the middle of the image. I feel like this looks like a greeting card for Washington DC. LOL.
This technically was not photographed in the city of Washington DC, but I added it to the list anyways. This was taken in Potomac, Maryland, a little less than an hour away from Washington DC but it’s one of my favorite places to be in the summer because of all the sunflower fields! It was captured during an Instagram meet up with IGDC. My friend, Birch and I decided to go in the middle of the sunflower field to see if we could find something interesting. With a step ladder, we took turns climbing to see if there was a unique point of view but while I was on the ground, I found this framing. I just love how the top flower petals look larger than life. Or larger than a Birch! HAHA.
For a unique view of the US Capitol, consider visiting Union Station. The top level of the parking garage is usually pretty quiet, especially if you’re there early in the morning. I don’t know why, but I’m usually just standing by the ledge you see in this image. When you look down you can get a cool shot of taxis and pedestrians walking to the train station, but this day I decided to take a step back. Not sure what compelled me to do it. I think I was just looking for a different view, but then I saw how all these light posts lined up and thought it looked very interesting. This parking garage is so quiet that I actually had to wait a bit for someone to walk by. But when he did, I was ready for him.
One of the best things to happen in 2019 was in September when the Washington Monument had finally reopened. After 3 long years, visitors can finally go to the top and see the city from a whole new point of view. I could have added a whole bunch of images you would see from the windows of the Monument, but I really liked how this one turned out. Just a moment of silence and contemplation as a couple as they look out on the view. If I remember correctly, they were facing north towards the White House at sunset.
Like I always say, “More Rooftops, More Better”. And the Smithsonian National Museum of American History listened. Soon after the Washington Monument reopening, the American History museum followed by opening its doors to the rooftop. Unfortunately, it not opened to the public, just for private events, but based on where it’s located on the National Mall, this rooftop will provide some amazing views of the city. I mean, could you imagine getting married with a view like this? This image is of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I just love the rigid lines of the architecture with the curves on the sidewalk. It’s such a contrast that I think really works for this image. Plus that sunset glow makes it even better. So if you’re planning on hosting an event here, I’d love the opportunity to go back here again! *hint, hint*
And last but not least, this image I posted last week on the blog. LOL. I still find it hard to believe that I didn’t know I captured this but not really all at the same time. When I’m out photographing lightning, I’m usually shooting off my images so fast that I don’t really get the chance to review them in between shots. So there could be many more lightning images that I’ve missed. I’ll have to go through my archives more carefully. Not only do I love the way the lightning strike turned out, I think the clouds behind the Capitol look so powerful. It looks like a storm that I should have stayed indoors for but glad I didn’t.
So there it is! My favorite images from 2019. I can’t believe that actually ended up being 10 images. I didn’t plan for it to be that way but it’s pretty cool that it did. I had a lot of fun creating these images and this list. It makes me excited to get back out there and photograph even more in 2020. Let me know what you think of this list and if you have any favorites. I’d love to see them.
And if you live in the Washington DC area or find yourself traveling to the capital city, check out my book, Snap DC, Your Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond… It was created for any level of photographer from mobile to DSLR, who wants to cut down the research time and spend their time out doing what they love- shooting.
Going through some images I took earlier in the year, I found this gem. I had no idea I captured the lightning because the exposure was actually pretty dark. I thought maybe a lightning strike hit behind the clouds or something but it was the bright light on the left-hand corner that caught my eye where I thought it could be something. So in Lightroom, I brought up the exposure and found the lightning strike! It was so exciting. Probably almost as exciting as capturing it, even though I didn’t know I had captured it at all.
It brought back all these memories of that evening. Obviously, I knew I captured this one and waiting out the rain on the west side of the Capitol was awesome because we didn’t actually get wet. But it’s always a good time storm chasing with friends. It makes the time go by so much faster.
My camera settings for this image are F4 at 1/5th sec and ISO 2000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm.
And this is what it looks like when lightning strikes behind the clouds. I love the glow the clouds are giving off in this image. So much so that it’s kind of hard for me to say if I like this image better or the one I took of the actual lightning strike. There’s something about seeing all the definition in the clouds that I can’t stop looking at. Plus it’s incredible how much light actually comes from lightning. *trying my best not to reference Grease Lightning*
Let me know in the comments which one you prefer.
In other news, Andrew and I are headed to Oregon next week. I can’t wait. It’s our first times visiting and I’m really looking forward to spending time exploring the Pacific Northwest. You should see my google map. It’s filled with pins. Is it me or does it seem like everywhere you turn is another waterfall in Oregon? While I was doing some photo research, I read that someone called it the “Iceland of America”. I giggled but also really hope it’s true.
I also discovered that Oregon seems super dog-friendly. Out of all the places I was interested in going, Crater Lake National Park is the only place that dogs aren’t allowed to go. So with that in mind, Frankie’s coming on the trip with us too! I can’t wait to go on hikes with him and run on the beach. Don’t worry though, we bought a backpack for when he gets tired on the hikes 🙂 Can’t wait!!
My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/5th sec and ISO 2000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle lens with my tripod.
So this is what it looks like when you have a severe thunderstorm warning around sunset. I always think that this is the best time to take storm related pictures. The clouds are so dramatic but you never know what it’s going to exactly look like until you get out there. Sometimes the sun may peek through the clouds and create so interesting lights and shadows. Other times it is just plain drama. Either way, I love it.
This image was captured about 30 minutes before this one and I really like this point of view because you can see it all. The United States Capitol building, the dramatic clouds, and even the downpour of rain. Luckily, we didn’t get wet at all. Just in case though, we were standing on the grassy part of the Capitol grounds which had shelter right behind us in case it did start downpouring. I think it makes the adventure of taking pictures more exciting but makes for a cold ride home in dripping wet clothes.
This was also right after they turned on all the lights in the Capitol. I love the way it makes it look even spookier.
My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/1000th sec and ISO 2000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide-angle lens.
Taken from the top of the parking garage, this image definitely took a lot of patience.
I made my way to Union Station for sunrise and figured the parking garage may be a good place to start the morning walk. It has such a great view of the US Capitol that it’s a stop I make pretty much every time I visit the train station.
As I was shooting, I kept on thinking about how there had to be another composition that hadn’t been done before. So I kept on walking around, each step getting further and further from the parking garage wall when I noticed the parking lights. I figured if anything, I could get repetition or something out of them, but when I put my camera up to my eye, I was surprised that the dome was peaking out too.
So I moved to a position where I could frame the dome with the lights and loved the way it turned out but it needed something else. There was too much empty space. So I was actually waiting for a bird or something to fly into the frame because like I said, it was early morning and the very top of the parking garage isn’t as busy as you would think it is. No way did I think someone was actually going to go all the way up to park when 15 minutes later, a car ACTUALLY PARKED! I was so excited. I was across the parking lot waiting for him to walk to the elevator. I felt a little stalker-ish but he put on his vest and went straight to the elevator and it turned out way better than I could have imagined. I love how perfectly everything lines up!
My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/320th sec and ISO 1600 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.