cherry blossoms

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Washington DC is ideal for sunrise photography.

I’ve lived in the area my whole life and been photographing the National Mall for over 8 years. I’ve pretty much been to every one of these places at least 20 times. So I compiled the top 7 best spots to make your trip to the Nation’s capital easier to navigate.

I’ve done all the research for you so you can just get out there and shoot. Here’s everything you need to know to capture a stunning sunrise in Washington DC:

How to Prepare for Sunrise

I love the alignment of where the sun rises among the monuments as opposed to where the sun 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.

Don’t worry though even if no one else is around, park police have the memorials under constant surveillance which makes this one of the safest places to be in DC at night. If anything bad should happen, help will not be far away.

I typically try to arrive at my sunrise location about 30 minutes before the sun actually 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 so I would just take your tripod if you want and just be respectful when photographing the grounds. The worst that will happen is that someone will ask you to put it away.

One last thing to note, I wrote a book all about photographing Washington DC. It’s called Snap DC: Your Guide to taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond… and it is available on Amazon. So if you are interested in seeing more of Washington DC than just the sunrise, click here to check it out.  As an added bonus I created a 1, 3, and 5 day sample photo itinerary for your trip to Washington DC, click here to download my ideal schedule.

Now on to that sunrise…

You Can’t Go Wrong with the Reflecting Pool

In my opinion, the Reflecting Pool 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 to 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.

Click here to read more

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Lately whenever I think of snow, I’ve been thinking cherry blossoms. Pretty awful, right? Only because the past few years when we have had snow storms, it has always been later in the season and interfered with the cherry blossom peak. So last week when we had our first “snow” in the Washington DC area, it made me want to look back to some of my spring images. You could say I’m already missing the warmer weather 🙂

Washington DC has two awesome flower trees. Obviously the cherry blossoms (captured on the left side right below the US Capitol dome) but a very close second are these pink magnolia trees. The magnolias are just as beautiful but the flowers themselves are bigger and I believe less delicate meaning they won’t fall after a huge gust of wind or rain. They can be found all around the city but my favorite ones are located on the National Mall. Although the US Capitol isn’t technically the National Mall, I feel like it’s close enough….

Seeing these pink flowers frame some of our nation’s most iconic landmarks make me so happy. It definietly gives them a more feminine and warm feel.  This particular day was a foggy spring morning. I think it works though because now the whole image is filled with pink flowers instead competing with blue skies. And yes, I did have to wait like 5 minutes to get some people walking along the path. You know, just your local, lurking photographer waiting for you to walk past 🙂 LOL. Yes, to be honest sometimes I do feel like a creeper sometimes. But it’s for the ART!

My camera settings for this image is F10 at 1/30th sec and ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.

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One of my favorite places to go to shoot in Northern Virginia is Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. I actually learned about it through Andrew. The first time we went here was on one our first dates. I still remember thinking it was weird that he took me here because he gets bad allergies in the spring time but he knew it was a place that I’d enjoy so I really appreciated that about him. Some of my favorite cherry blossom images that I’ve ever taken were taken from here. For example this one and this one. I just love the variety of flowers that you can see here.

So when I got the opportunity to pick a workshop location for a recent one-on-one teach that I did, Meadowlark was the first place that popped in my head. It is beautiful but still quiet enough where we’d be able to walk and talk about cameras and settings without disturbing many other people. The National Mall is a good place too, but it can get pretty crowded and parking isn’t always the best situation. So a great alternative is Meadowlark.

This image was taken from across the lake facing the Korean Bell Garden. I love how the branches create a cool frame around the pagoda. If I didn’t know any better than I would have assumed this was taken somewhere in Asia.

Just in case you’re in the area, the gates will open at 6a on Saturday May, 19th when they typically open at 10a. I bet this would look really nice in the early morning light. And if you’re interested in my workshops, click here for more information. They’re one-on-one so I can cater the information based on whatever you’d like to learn. Plus you don’t have to live in the DC metro area, we could go over everything through google hangouts or skype 🙂

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/1250th of a second at ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm handheld.

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What’s crazy is that I’m still not even close to done with all my cherry blossom images from this year! We had great bloom and I tried to go out as often as I could. You would say that I went pretty hard! Out of the two weeks, I think I only missed two sunrises. Even if it was really grey and windy, I still went out to see what I could find.

This was captured at the National Gallery of Art. The same time I took this image. But at this point the sun had already come up so there was a little more light available. If you’re not familiar with the gallery, then it may be a little difficult to see what’s really going on. The blue part is just the side of the building. The orange/warm part is the inside of a corner of the building. It goes in a little bit and it has it’s own special uplighting which is causing the warmer tones. I love how the cherry blossom branch just unifies everything in this image.  I have a couple more variations of this image that I still need to play around with but if you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know I love the contrast between warm and cool tones that this image is bringing. It would be really neat to see this as a series. So many ideas, so little time! One day.

And the cherry blossom vlog is coming! It’s been taking me a while because I finally downloaded Final Cut Pro X. I figured it was time to upgrade my video workflow as well. Thanks to my friend, Andy for the extra push! I love how creative you can get with the videos but it’s just taking me a while because I literally have to google every single thing that I want to do. It will be worth it though. Just taking time… apologies.

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/25th of a second at ISO 1250 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.

 

All photos available for print and licensing >

I’ve had a significant change in my workflow recently. For a while there, I was team photoshop only! Everything that I ever needed to do, I could do it in photoshop. Why would I need any other software?

Well, thanks to my friend, Paul for showing me the light and the benefits of using lightroom. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert at lightroom or anything. I’m still learning how to do a lot of things but it has significantly cut my editing time down, especially when I’m working on multiple images from a shoot. I can’t tell you how much easier things have been and I’m lovinnnn’ it.

Paddle Boats, Washington DC, national mall, swan paddle boats, tidal basin, cherry blossoms, flowers, spring, lightroom, photoshop, workflow,

Left: F5.6 at 1/500th of a second ISO 200 Right: F5.6 at 1/2000th of a second at ISO 200

So if you use lightroom, let me know some of your favorite features about it. I’ve been slowly learning the keyboard shortcuts and things like that too.

I’m still team photoshop though. There are things in that program that I don’t think lightroom can replace.

So most recently, I worked on this set of images from my little paddle boat session with my friend, Birch. The whole experience was so fun. Mostly because I was with good company. But I loved the different point of views we were getting. Luckily, the swan paddle boats were motorized and we didn’t actually have to paddle. Which was a good thing because all we had left was steering and taking good pictures. Good pictures, I think I can handle. Steering on the hand, was not as easy. LOL there were definietly moments where I thought we were going to run into a wall and I had to reach my hands out just in case. Luckily we didn’t.

Paddle Boats, Washington DC, national mall, swan paddle boats, tidal basin, cherry blossoms, flowers, spring, lightroom, photoshop, workflow,

Top: F5.6 at 1/800th of a second ISO 200 Bottom: F5.6 at 1/1250th of a second ISO 200

Definietly doing this again next year!

My settings for the main image is F5.6 at 1/800th of sec at ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

I have to admit that I have been keeping a secret from you. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened. But on August 8, 2017 (yes, I marked it in my calendar), I decided that I was going to write a book. Not a coffee table book or a picture book in any kind of way. I wanted this book to be useful and informative. I decided that I was going to write a book based on all the messages and emails that I receive with questions like where to go shoot in Washington, where should I park if I’m going to the Lincoln Memorial, when is the best time to go and photograph the US Capitol?

It’s finally done and it is called, Snap D.C. You can’t see me, but I have the biggest smile on my face right now. Trust me.

In reality, I feel like its our book. You were the inspiration behind the book and it was written with you in mind. Whether you are a Washington DC local or just visiting for the weekend, I didn’t hold anything back. I even have my camera settings and drawn out maps to help you even futher. Basically all the knowledge and experience I have gathered in the past couple of years of shooting in our nation’s capital all in one book for you to have. This book isn’t just for DSLR shooters either. You can use it as an aid for your mobile cameras as well.

The book will be released on Amazon as a paperback or kindle version on May 20th. Click here to signup for release updates, extras and you will even get a see a preview of the first chapter.

I can’t wait for you to read it! I really hope you feel inspired and motivated to get out there and shoot! Photographing Washington has brought me so much happiness and I want to pass that along to you. AHHHH!!!! SMILEY FACEEEEEEEEE