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…
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.
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.
I love La Jolla. Out of all the places that we have visited in San Diego, La Jolla is my favorite place to be. I love the beaches, the views and how photogenic that little part of SoCal is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it also seems a bit quieter than the neighboring Pacific Beach and just an overall cool place to hang out.
This image was taken after a night of rain. It actually rained a couple of times while we were out there which was so weird because I thought it never rained in southern California? Anyways, Vincent was taking another surf lesson at sunrise so Andrew and I decided to tag along. We figured we could bring Frankie and let him run around on the beach before a lot of people got there and I could also take some early morning shots too. It turned out to such a quiet and beautiful morning of just walking in the sand and flying the drone. But after awhile both Andrew and I got a little hungry. We found a cafe close by that we could walk to but along the way we had to walk across the parking lot. It was like hitting the puddle jacket pot. I also distinctly remember saying out loud “oh snap, reflections ahead”. LOL. Who does that? It must have been my way of warning Andrew that we were going to be in the parking lot for a little while.
But honestly, if I had to pick one place with the best palm trees in San Diego, La Jolla Shores has to be it. There’s nothing special or different about them. The only difference is that there’s a lot of them on area.
My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/5000th sec at ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.
If you asked my friend, Sue what her favorite part of our whole Acadia trip was, she’d say it was Ocean Path. It’s a super easy hike from Otter Point to Sandy Beach with a stop at Thunder Hole along the way. It’s two miles long and would typically take people 2-3 hours to complete, it took us almost 4. LOL. That’s only because we stopped a lot to take pictures… and snack breaks. This was our early morning hike so we didn’t have any breakfast prior.
If I had to guess, she liked this hike the most because every view point and every stop was so typical “Acadia”. Like when you google imaged pictures of Acadia, these are the views you’d see in the search results. We were also hiking on a super cloudy day and the air was crisp and cool. It made it so much more comfortable for us to really take our time and enjoy the scenery.
So if you have plans on visiting Acadia National Park, this hike would be one of my top suggestions. It faces east so basically anywhere you stand, you’re going to get a great view of the sunrise. And I’m not sure if we were just lucky or what it was, but we barely saw anyone on the hike. It wasn’t until we got closer to Sandy Beach (our end destination) where we really started seeing people. I think most people go to Cadillac Mountain to view the sunrise if they’re going to wake up that early, but there are other beautiful places in the park to see it too and Ocean Path is one of them!
The best part was being able to take a bus back to our original starting point, Otter Point where we parked our car 🙂 Luckily we got on the bus just in time before it started pouring rain. Man I can’t express how happy I was to be able to take that bus back instead of walking back 2 miles in the rain.
As far as photography goes, summer is my favorite because of the storms. We can get some pretty serious storm rain here in the DC area but the great part about them is that they don’t last too long. Usually about 30 minutes which is perfect! The best is when they end right around sunset. Man the skies open up and all this light comes through. It’s so beautiful.
Last week was no exception. Not only did we have amazing fog, but we got a crazy down pour of rain that ended right before sunset. It was everything that I wish for. But for some reason, I could not figure out where I wanted to go shoot. I was being indecisive driving around when I finally saw the back of the Lincoln Memorial. Skrrrch. Stop right there. The light that was being casted on the columns was so pretty and warm. Luckily I found the very first parking spot open on the Arlington Memorial bridge and rushed toward the memorial. Then I got stopped in my tracks when I noticed this puddle on the sidewalk. It was a perfect reflection of the memorial as well as the light that was being casted. I’m pretty sure I got a lot of crazy looks by the cars that were driving past, but it doesn’t matter. I was so excited to capture one. And on my first try! I was so surprised how well everything lined up.
My camera settings for this image was F/4.0 at 5 seconds ISO 160 handheld. The only reason I shot this handheld was because I couldn’t get low enough on my tripod to get the majority of the reflection. Plus with my really right stuff tripod bracket, it made it easy to hold it up without my camera getting wet.