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.
2021 Update: National Park Service is predicting a peak bloom on April 2-5,2021. Meaning about 70% of the blossoms around the Tidal Basin will be in bloom <3 However, this year may be different. With COVID-19 still a concern in the Capital Region, the National Mall and Memorial Parks are encouraging people to watch them from the webcam and currently deciding if they should offer very limited in-person viewing or close off the area entirely. I’ll update this post as soon as I get the official word.
But just in case we are allowed to visit this year, let me try to break it down for you…
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.
Back in 2018, my cousin gifted me with his old film camera. It was unexpected but I am so grateful for it. It brought back many memories of when I first started in photography. At that time, there was no digital photography. Everything was on a negative film. But what had initially sparked my interest in photography was being able to go out with my friends and capturing portraits of them with my SLR camera, point and shoot, and even disposable cameras. It was just something fun for us to do and I used to love seeing pictures I took on my friend’s bedroom walls or lockers. So from that point on, everywhere I went, I had a camera on me.
Obviously with a “new camera” comes new adventures so when I got the film camera, I was excited to start experimenting with it. It’s been a while since I have used film so along the way, I’ve learned to take my time with composition and framing. I learned that each frame is precious and should not be taken for granted, especially since a roll is film is just 24 or 36 frames. Photograph the moments that really speak to you. And practice patience in creating and developing the images.
But omg, that sound of the shutter too! It instantly brought back so many memories.
So I thought it would be fun to go through some images that I’ve taken in the past year or so with my Canon T70 and 35-70mm lens. By the way, none of these images on this post have been edited. I may or may not edit them in the future, but for now, it’s just fun seeing the results of the film.
My first set of images were taken in August 2018. I brought it on a peach picking trip with me and it was really just to see if the camera was working if there were any light leaks and a refresher on how to use film. I’m sorry to say that I forgot what kind of film these were captured on. I tried going through my Amazon orders and I don’t see any film listed. It may have just been some old rolls of film my cousin had in his camera bag. Although it’s a little fuzzy, this roll of film got me excited to start shooting again.
Delaplane, Virginia August 2018
Nowadays, I find myself researching different kinds of film and cameras, just to see what’s out there. I love watching youtube videos of other photographers getting great images with their analog cameras. I have to admit though, it’s a little hard for me to capture film images. I have my digital camera which I love, but it’s hard to balance the time between my digital and film camera. I spend most of my time shooting on my digital camera because I’m so used to it that sometimes I’ll even forget that I have a film camera on me.
It has helped to go on photo outings that are dedicated to just film. I’ll leave my digital camera at home and I love the feeling of roaming with such light equipment. Since I don’t have additional lenses or equipment for my film camera, it has been a nice change of pace to just have one camera with one lens.
Kodak UltraMax 400: San Diego, California January 2019
Kodak UltraMax 400: San Diego, California January 2019
I am extremely grateful for my friend, Jim. He was my photography mentor when I interned at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum while I was in high school. We’ve been able to reconnect through social media which was really cool when we found each other! Last year, he was kind enough to give me a whole bunch of expired Portra film 400 and 800 rolls of film. It has been so fun to try to go through all the rolls. I’m nowhere near completing them, but to see how the expired film develops has been super interesting.
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:
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.
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.
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.
In the past few weeks and even days, I’ve started realizing all the things I used to take for granted. I used to take for granted meeting up with a friend for lunch. I never even considered the fact that I would be unsafe walking past someone on the sidewalk. I took for granted being able to run to the grocery store real quick when we ran out of eggs. Now it’s a lengthy discussion with Andrew as to who’s going to go, what we want to eat for the next couple of days and if we have all the ingredients, fun snacks and even to make a note to look out for toilet paper (which we’re running dangerously low on!). Needless to say, it’s a crazy time where I’ve been feeling a lot of ups and downs. When I’m feeling up, I am productive doing things that make me happy.
A few images from an expired roll of Porta 400 film from cherry blossom season. I got these images developed from PhotoVision.
When I’m feeling down, I try my best to journal or write at least write down the things that I’m grateful for. Going on neighborhood walks has helped. Sitting down and expressing my feelings out to Andrew or friends on the phone has been great too. I’m still constantly thinking about what’s going to happen after all of this is done, when it’s going to be done but I just know all this uncertainty can’t be answered right now. When I catch myself feeling like this, I try to remember how I’m blessed to even have my health and almost instantly feel better.
From a walk on the Mt Vernon Trail before the stay at home order in Virginia.
I’ve also realized that every time I step foot outside my house, I’m concerned about the coronavirus. Even if it’s just to walk Frankie, I’m on the lookout to see who’s about to come near us and I feel so disturbed having those feelings. This has also hindered my photography. I’m not going out nearly as much as I used to but still feel the urge to capture images. I’ve taken a few pictures around my neighborhood and surrounding areas which has been nice.
Our local grocery store that I can walk to.
One day, Andrew and I just needed to get out so we decided we’d go fo a car ride. It was great to get out but so weird to see the streets of DC so quite. Frankie loved the little outing too. I also need to make a mental note that whenever I leave the house, I should bring my camera. I want to get better at that, especially since it doesn’t happen very often.
We didn’t get out of the car. Just enjoyed the views from inside.
While I’m home, I’ve been working on a few personal projects. One project that I’ve mentioned in my newsletter and on Instagram is that I’ve been scanning old family pictures. Luckily, my mom gave me a few photo albums before everything really broke out so it’s been keeping me busy. I’ve also taken the time out to scan images from high school.
A few family scans
But a majority of the time I’ve been trying to learn more. I want to take this time to try to improve my own photography. I love watching youtube videos of other photographers and attending webinars. I’ve learned that one thing that I don’t want to take for granted now is all this extra time we’ve been given. No more time spent stuck in traffic, no more time even commuting anywhere or even running mindless errands has given me so much “extra” time. All those things that I use to say that I would do if I had more time, I’m going to try to do them now!
I’ve also been going back and editing some older images. (L) Our first snowstorm in March 2018. (R) Surfer in San Diego in January 2019
But I think one of the most rewarding experiences so far has been running again. It’s been a great release for me. Andrew and I used to run a lot together when we first started dating. But after I ran a half marathon in 2015, I haven’t ran much. Running now has shown me how much stronger I have gotten over the years just by working out at the gym (which has now been replaced by virtual workouts). But in general, I feel less winded and my mile has definitely gotten faster. I am starting to feel really good when I go out for a run too. After all of this, I’m not sure if I’ll still continue running. But for now, I’m am grateful to be able to concentrate more on my health.
That’s all from me. This update was kind of all over the place with all the things I’ve been thinking about and doing but I hope you enjoyed it. Sending you much love and well wishes. Stay safe!
PS If there are any particular blog posts or photo content that you’d like to see from me, please let me know in the comments below! I’d love to use my skills to try to make you feel safe and more comfortable at home.
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: