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.
So when I was trying to come up with a blog post idea for today, I actually google previous blog posts I created on this same day but in previous years. The best part about daily blogging is that I had at least 5 other posts I could refer to. The best part was that all of them were flower images too. That just added another check mark to the consistency tracker. LOL.
This blog post is paying an homage to the one I created on March 21st of 2016. Click here to see it. That image and this one were probably taken on the same day behind the Smithsonian Castle at the Enid A Haupt Garden. The best part about it is that in the caption I wrote, “I feel like if I ever had a book about my life, this would be the cover”. Well, the story about my life has yet to be written but little did I know that less than 2 years later, I would actually write a book. CRAZY! That image didn’t end up being the cover but I felt like that was foreshadowing to what really happened.
Fast forward 2 years, swap the magnolia flowers for cherry blossoms and it’s almost been a full year that Snap DC has been published. I still can’t believe it and it’s probably one of the projects I’m most proud of. I still get messages from people about how they’re using my book and feel inspired by it. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. And if you haven’t checked it out already, I definietly talk about my favorite places to capture flowers around the Washington DC area and the Enid A Haupt garden is on that list because of beauties like these.
My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/400th sec ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.
A little while ago I met up with my friend, Birch to check out the christmas wreaths at Union Station for sunrise. Although this isn’t the best sunrise spot, I thought it would be interesting to see all the holiday decorations and I love just visiting Union Station. Maybe because it’s so transit, the same reasons why I love airports so much. There’s just so much hustle and bustle going on that there’s never really a dull moment. Plus I love the Christmas wreaths they hang outside the station. With so much going on, people everywhere, cars honking horns, the wreaths and their lights always bring a smile to my face.
So after walking around the inside and outside of the station, Birch and I decided to walk along side of the building to see if we could find anything interesting going on. I’ve always loved how all the red taxis line up on the side of the train station just waiting for passengers. I knew there had to be something interesting here, I just had to wait for it. Then this lady walked passed with her red hat. It was perfect. It even goes with the H&M sign on the side of the building. I figured this in itself was festive with the lights and red colors.
I spent yesterday afternoon in Dumbarton Oaks photographing the wisteria there. Can I tell you that Wisteria Hysteria is a real thing? They are so beautiful in real life. I must have taken a million pics. Not really but I can not wait to look through those images. It was actually my second time there this season and I can’t get enough of that place. Ever since I visited last year with Andrew, I made a mental note that I had go in the spring. I bet fall is nice there too. Let me know if you’ve ever been in the autumn time. I wonder if there are a lot of colorful trees.
Well anyways, this image was from my first trip this season. I think my favorite part of the gardens at that time were these magnolias. They were so big and hardy (is that the right word to describe them?) that I don’t think I could hold one in one hand alone. *cat heart eye emoji* Obviously I didn’t want to touch them but I spent a significant amount of time staring up and circling these trees with my camera until I found the perfect sun flare. Love you, spring!
PS Happy Cinco de Mayo mañana. I usually don’t celebrate holidays unless it’s Thanksgiving or Mothers day or something like that, but I’ll be celebrating tomorrow. I had the best week ever! Thank you all so much for the positive feedback to Snap DC. I could not be more excited about it and I am even more excited for you to hold it in your hands! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! And yes, celebrations always include pizza 🙂
A little break from all the pink spring flowers for some yellow ones. I captured this image behind the George Mason Memorial. It’s a little hidden gem that’s so close to the Tidal Basin but I don’t know how many people actually know about it. It’s kind of an empty space and I believe there’s still construction going on in the very center of the memorial. Regardless, it’s a great way to escape the crowds of the Tidal Basin but still capture some beautiful flowers.
What originally caught my attention about this space were all the beautiful magnolia trees. You can see them sort of in the center layer at the edges of this image. But once I actually started composing, I liked the yellow flowers more. They were just so beautiful and whimsical. I love how there are even more yellow flowers in the center layer, in between the magnolia trees.
The whole time I was editing this image, I was thinking of my mom. Her favorite color is yellow and she loves gardening. She doesn’t grow flowers or anything but she has a full fledge garden in her backyard of all kinds of fruits and vegetables for the spring/summer. In fact, she’s had a garden in every house that we’ve lived in and I have so many memories with her in those gardens. Whether it’s picking the fruit and vegetables that I wanted to eat or her making me pull weeds and laying out the soil because I was eating her fruits and vegetables and I had to contribute in some way. We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors together and that may be one of the reasons why I love being outside so much. Interesting that I never put those two things together before…