Living in the Washington DC area, the arrival of cherry blossom season means the beginning of spring, warmer weather, and one of my favorite times of year to go out to create images. I try to go as much as I can and early morning is always the best bet. There are fewer people and more available parking 🙂
This year’s cherry blossom season has come and gone and it felt like it went by in a blink of an eye. The weather in March was all over the place with nice warm days and cold snowy days so it was nice to see the flowers finally bloom. It felt like all the days that I went out to photograph were very cloudy. The silver lining to clouds meant that when the sun would peek through them, it created this beautiful glow on the flowers. This was the moment I was living for.
I have been photographing the cherry blossoms for almost 10 years now and each year is still very exciting. Obviously, I love photographing the typical scenes: cherry blossoms with the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and just the flowers themselves.
I also like trying to photograph the images that tell the unique story of that year. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of going to the same location and photographing the flowers in the same way, but I tried my best to do things differently this year. That meant parking my car in a different location (other than Ohio Dr) standing a little further back in the grassy areas instead of the sidewalk, and basically, letting life unfold in front of me instead of rushing to find the shot.
The first morning I went out to the Tidal Basin had a bit of fog presunrise. As I was walking from my car to the trees, I couldn’t help but capture the way that it was glowing in the lights of the Washington Monument.
But I found the most fun just standing back and people watching. Since I was there in the early mornings, the light varied each day and as the time went on.
Another way that I tried to make this year different was by switching up my gear. My go-to lens is usually the 70-200mm telephoto lens. I just love the compression that I get from this lens but for some reason, was not feeling it this time around. I had my 50mm prime on for 90% of the time.
It’s been a while since I’ve gone out for sunrise. No particular reason except summer makes it hard to wake up so early. So for a little extra motivation, I was looking back at some sunrises in DC this past year.
I always thought that winter has the best sunrises. There’s something about that cold air that really brings out the colors in the sky. And on this particular January morning, it did not disappoint! I met up with a small group of photographers and it was great to see some people who I hadn’t seen in more than a year.
At first, it just a cold morning. I didn’t think much would happen…
So I spent my time walking around the Lincoln Memorial, trying to find something interesting to photograph if the sky wasn’t going to do anything. To be honest, I didn’t even pull my camera out of my camera bag until I was already 3/4ths around the memorial. Then I started to notice more and more people starting to gather in the front.
The sky went from a cold grey to a warm orangey-pink. I was not expecting it at all but was so happy. Since I was there with photography friends, I knew I wanted to try to find a different angle. I figured most of them would be on the perimeter of the memorial, so I went inside. It was also a good idea because it was so cold and windy, the inside of the memorial provided some great shelter.
What first started off as an attempt to get a little warmer, ended up being a really good move. I love how the light is pouring into the memorial and seeing the silhouettes of all the early morning risers. Overall, looking back at these pictures makes me so happy and reminiscent. I hope to photograph a similar sunrise in the near future.
Photographers are special people. We can have all the camera gear and equipment in the world, but it’s still not enough. Which can make it easy AND hard to shop for us for the holidays. Depending on the type of photographer you are shopping for, there can be an endless supply of gadgets and accessories that will make anyone smile.
So to make life a little easier, here are my top suggestions for holiday gifts for your favorite photographer:
One camera bag is not enough. I feel as though I need a variety of camera bags for a variety of situations. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood will not require as much camera equipment as an epic day of travel or even studio work. To accommodate all my gear and equipment, diversity in camera bag size and storage is ideal.
Hex Ranger Black Camera Mini Sling
For a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or going out to dinner with friends, this is my go-to bag. It’s small enough to fit just my camera and 1 lens so it makes it super easy and convenient to be on the go. What makes this bag different than other sling bags is that it’s specifically made for cameras so there’s padding inside and my camera is well protected.
On the totally opposite end, if you just want something even more portable, check out this Ape Case Cubeze. It inserts seamlessly into your backpack, purse, or whatever. I carried this around for years before purchasing a real photo backpack and never had any issues with my camera equipment.
You know I like these when I have 2 or 3 of my own. I love that if I want to pack my camera or lens into my purse, I can just wrap these Tenba protective wraps around them and I feel very confident that my gear will be protected. They are great for quick on the go situations.
I hope you all had a happy and safe night last night. 2019 was a great year for me and my travel bucket list. I am so lucky to have been able to travel to new places, destinations to see family I hadn’t seen in years and revisit some places I’ve been to in the past and relive some beautiful memories. I’m already thinking about all the places I want to go to in the new year. HAHA
Similar to yesterday’s post about my favorite images from Washington DC, these are my personal favorite images I’ve taken on my travels. They are in no special order but chronological. And I added a few more comments about each of the images now. Feel free to click on each of the images to see my original blog post.
For the past two years, Andrew and I had celebrated the New Year in San Diego, California. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year but I really hope to visit Southern California sometime later this year. One of my favorite parts about visiting is being able to fly my drone whenever I want. By the end of this trip, I was flying my drone so much more than taking pictures with my actual camera. One of the best parts is being able to fly over places that would be difficult to see. For example, this image is of my cousin getting ready to get some morning surf in.
When I was young, my mom would take me to visit Las Vegas every summer. I always loved visiting because I always thought that her sister, my aunt, lived in the coolest city in the world. At that time, Las Vegas was a lot more family-friendly, but it’s just as fun visiting now as an adult. So when we visited in February it was around the time of Chinese New Year. It was pretty cool to see how each of the casinos celebrated the holiday. This was taken outside the Bellagio hotel. I don’t remember if this was a water fixture, fountain or what, but it was just an open area of water that had a perfect reflection of the red lanterns. Another highlight of that trip? Visiting the Neon Museum for the first time.
I mentioned this before, but I thought our trip to Chicago was very successful from a photography standpoint (and pizza standpoint too). I came back from that trip with so many images I loved. So many more than what I’ve included in this travel photography post because I wanted to limit myself and only put my absolute favorites. But this image of Cloud Gate is definitely on the top. I absolutely love that glow that’s coming from the sun rising and hitting the bottom of the sculpture. Plus that lady standing in the middle is perfect.
As far as Chicago city photography, I went on the trip knowing that parking garages are a great place to go to get some nice vantage points. For this particular spot, people are usually facing to the right to photograph some L trains from above. But I thought the view on the left was really interesting as well. I really liked how all the light posts lined up. So I made it a point to look in both directions while I was taking pictures from this garage. Luckily, I turned my head at the right moment to see these pedestrians walking almost in the same pattern as the light posts, all wearing dark colors. This moment could have not been planned more perfectly.
3 days in Turks and Caicos was not enough. I spent most of the days relaxing under a beach umbrella and it was amazing. I love the calming sounds of the water and ocean breeze. UGH thinking about it now makes me really miss it since it’s so cold here on the east coast right now. At least I have these images to remind me just how beautiful the world is. I captured this image in the morning time. I try to be considerate of other people’s feelings towards drones so I knew if I had it out later in the day, there would be more chances of people not liking it on the beach. So in crowded places, I try to fly as early in the day as possible. But I just love the contrast of the blue water and pink umbrellas in this image. The shadows of the palm trees and people walking past were not expected but I think really adds to the image.
I still can’t believe how many cameras I had with me on this trip. For such a short trip, I had 5 cameras, if you include my iPhone. At any given moment, I had at least two cameras with me. So this image was taken with my GoPro. I love that little camera, especially for underwater photography. You can get so creative with all the different mounts. So I bought this FiftyFifty Dome specifically for this trip but the secret for me for capturing this image was putting the camera on timelapse mode and selecting the best one from the entire series. I’d love to do more images like this next time I’m at a beach.
The Presidents Heads in Croaker, Virginia has been on my list to visit forever. I actually have been wanting to go to this abandoned field for some time that this was actually my second attempt ongoing. The first time didn’t work out. But it’s ok because this second trip made it all worth it. I loved going there with my photography friends and capturing the Presidents Heads at sunset and night time. It made the whole experience so much more memorable. PS. I also heard they’re filming an episode of Walking Dead here soon. I’ve stopped watching the series but I will definitely be on the lookout for that episode. That’s going to be so cool.
My very first time visiting Oregon was amazing. I loved, loved, loved the coast and I can’t wait to go back again. And I was super happy when I found this framing. It was taken at Ecola State Park around sunrise time. I had to step back a little bit to find it and I believe this was one of the last images I captured from this viewpoint. I also think that the memory of showing this image to my mom and her saying that she liked this image because it reminded her of a Chinese watercolor painting also makes me like this image even more.
On our third morning along the coast, Andrew, Frankie and I woke up and went for a walk on the beach. This was actually taken on my birthday, so it makes it even more special. But I decided to take my drone out and fly it for a bit. I had every intention of capturing the haystack and ocean but wasn’t really happy with what I was getting. When I was about to land the drone, I flew it above us and saw all the long shadows the sun was creating. I loved the way it turned out, especially with the lines on the beach and how simple everything is. Its one of those images that is probably more sentimental than anything else. And if you’re wondering about the 4th shadow, that’s my camera bag. LOL.
On a last-minute road trip, my friend Sue and I decided to visit Falling Water in Pennsylvania. We booked an Airbnb in a town that was close by and had a great time visiting the surrounding areas. If you know me, I’m an early bird. My internal alarm clock woke me up super early. Like 30 minutes before my alarm went off, so I decided to take advantage of the early morning and tried to find somewhere to take pictures. I had planned to go to a waterfall, but I didn’t make it because this morning fog was distracting me. I found myself pulling over every 10-15 minutes taking pictures. Unfortunately, I left my drone in the Airbnb or else that would have made for some EPIC foggy shots.
Since we’re about a 4-hour drive to New York, I try to make it a point to visit at least once a year. This time we visited, I went to my very first photo expo, PhotoPlus. The expo was very impressive and a little overwhelming. Regardless, being in the city is always a good time. On our last day in New York, it rained a lot. But that didn’t stop us from getting our last meal in the city, soup dumplings. Luckily, Chinatown was amazing for these rainy day vibes. I loved how everyone was carrying around an umbrella and didn’t seem to mind the bad weather.
Is it me or is Central Park hard to photograph? Whenever I think of the park, I always think of how big and crowded it is. It’s a little overwhelming and intimidating if you ask me. So I was really happy with the way this image turned out. A little moment of peace with some Candian Geese. That rhymed. But my favorite part about the image is the framing and the yellow leaves around the bottom of the image. It just creates so much more depth that I think is needed in this image. I also think of Home Alone 2 when I think of Central Park, but that’s a different story. LOL.
The streets of Taipei are crowded! Even waking up before sunrise, you’ll always find people on the streets. It’s pretty crazy how noisy it can get, not necessarily from cars honking but just all the different types of cars engines on the road. From trucks to cars to scooters, you really gotta watch out while walking the streets. But I took full advantage of a busy street in Taipei and waited for this moment to happen. I saw this lady standing on the corner of a crosswalk, right by the taxis. I knew if I waited long enough, some taxis would cross in front of me and create this intersection of yellow. What I didn’t notice while I was capturing the moment was all the yellow in the signs too. I love it when things like this just work out!
Right before my trip to Taiwan, I got my first prime lens! I almost immediately fell in love and probably had that lens on my camera about 70% of the time I was traveling. I can’t even describe how it simplifies street photography and finding moments like this is so much easier to capture. There were a lot of images that I captured with that lens, but this one is probably one that sticks out the most because I just love that slice of light coming from the corner of the image.
I grew up visiting Taiwan. As I’ve gotten older, the visits have become less frequent but each time I go, I am reminded of so many memories while visiting in the past that I think I grow a greater appreciation for it. This time was even more special because it was going to be the last time I saw my grandfather on my mom’s side. He was 103 years old! I’m so grateful for the time we went because I got to see him while he was still healthy. I hadn’t mentioned it in the past, but he had a stroke during our visit and passed away soon after I came home. I’m grateful to have the last memories of him while he was healthy and to have been able to help him in the hospital. I was considering sharing some images I captured of him during the beginning of our trip, but not sure if I really will on my blog…
But with all that said, I created so many amazing memories this past year. A lot of them came from my travels and I could not be more grateful for the opportunities. There were moments that made me laugh hysterically and moments that made me cry. 2019 will be hard to forget. But it makes me so excited to see what’s in store for 2020 and all the images that still need to be created. Thank you all so much for following along on my journey.
What’s on your travel list for 2020? and HAPPIEST NEW YEAR!!!
If you’re looking for the best spots to watch and photograph the sun setting in Washington DC, you’ve come to the right place.
The National Mall can get crowded, overwhelming and confusing. I’m here to help you navigate the park so you can get your best shots quickly and efficiently.
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 here’s my complete list of the best to watch the sunset in Washington DC:
But First, Here’s What You Need to Get Ready for Your Sunset Shoot
Because of the number of people that visit the National Mall every day, sunset is a little more difficult to navigate than sunrise. There are far more people, we’re talking busloads of people, so be prepared. That means if this is your first time in Washington DC, I’d highly suggest public transportation either by metro, Lyft or even an electric scooter! All are very convenient ways to get you around the Nation’s Capital.
Also with the number of people, I’d even say try to get to your sunset location earlier than you think you should. Who knows what kind of hang-ups you could possibly run into. If it were a cold winter day, I say you could get by with going 30 minutes early. On a beautiful summer day, I’d go as far as saying an hour before sunset would not be a bad idea.
And my number one most asked question, are tripods allowed? For the most part, yes, but you may run into some complications. If you’re in a densely crowded area like World War II Memorial or Lincoln Memorial, you will probably be asked to take it down immediately by Park Police. They can be a walking hazard and just get in the way of people. But if you’re in a more spread out area like the Washington Monument grounds or even the Tidal Basin, there is a little more elbow room so you could get away with it.
The United States Capitol is unique because it’s technically not a part of the National Mall. The last time I spoke to Capitol police they said tripods are allowed. Since then, other photographer friends have told me that the Capitol police asked them to take down their tripods. So I’m still pretty if-y if they are actually allowed. I tend to just bring my tripod to the Capitol and if I’m asked to put it away, I do so politely.
Now on to The Top 5 Sunset Locations in Washington DC:
The Washington Monument is Always a Good Idea
The Washington Monument is so iconically Washington DC and the tallest structure in the city. So because of that, there is no best time to photograph it. It can be seen from so many different vantage points around the city that the possibilities are endless. However, if you catch it at the right time, it can glow orange. It’s absolutely amazing if you see it.
In order to capture the glow, I’d recommend getting to your sunset location early and face east towards the Monument. I would suggest standing either in front of the World War II memorial or along the grassy area in front of the west side of the monument and maybe 30-40 minutes ahead of sunset will work. I think the closer you are to the monument the better the imagery. But the key is to be patient. The way that the sun reflects off of clouds and on to the monument to glow doesn’t happen every day but if you see it, it will make your travel images very unique.
Sometimes I go through my “Haven’t blogged yet” folder and I can’t believe some of the images that I haven’t blogged yet! Like this one! It was one of the first I captured this season and I love it because of the unique perspective.
I just happened to be walking around the Tidal Basin by myself when I noticed a group of people taking selfies. They looked like they were having fun so I didn’t want to interrupt them by walking past and being in the background of their shot. So I stood there a little while until they were done. But that’s when I noticed that to the right of them was a straight shot of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial statue. Now that I think of it, I don’t know if they were capturing the memorial or the cherry blossoms in the background but the sun had just come up a little and the light was shining very nicely on the memorial and the trees surrounding it. It was like the beacon in the middle of cherry blossom trees and just screaming for me to capture it.
I probably spent a good 10 minutes just standing there trying to get this shot how I wanted it. It took longer because there were floating heads in some shots from people walking in front of my lens but it was totally worth it. I feel like the lighting and the framing worked so well to bring attention to the distant memorial.
I’m actually surprised because it doesn’t even look like there’s that many people in front of the memorial. Usually there are wayyyy more people during cherry blossom season.
My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/640th sec and ISO 1600 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.