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 decided they would offer very limited in-person viewing.
But just in case we are allowed to visit this year, let me try to break it down for you…
It all started when I saw a photograph similar to this one. I had never seen anything like it before.
I feel in love with the way it was so mysterious and the way it made the Jefferson Memorial look so obscure. Even though I had photographed a little bit of fog in 2012, I didn’t know it could get this foggy in the city until I saw that particular image.
I’m sorry I don’t have a link to the original image anymore, but I studied that picture. I wanted to know exactly where the photographer was standing and tried to figure out different ways I could have potentially captured it.
It finally happened to me on Christmas Day 2015. I woke up early for sunrise since my family doesn’t celebrate until later in the evening. I figured the best way to start off the day would be to take a quick morning walk around the National Mall. I checked the weather and it said it was going to be unseasonably warm, so why not.
I don’t remember how long the fog took to appear but I do remember it was quite a bit after sunrise. When it first started forming, I was over by the Potomac River. I had never seen fog just appear out of nowhere but something triggered in my head that if it was starting to form on the river, maybe it was forming at the Tidal Basin. I walked over as quickly as I could and there it was! It was the white Christmas I never knew I wanted.
After that, I became obsessed with finding out more about fog. How to capture it, when it was going to happen and all the best places in the Washington DC area to photograph it.
The Lincoln Memorial on a foggy morning. (L) Predawn (R) 20 minutes after sunrise
This image was taken on the same day as this one. When I first arrived at the reflecting pool about 45 minutes before sunrise, I saw that the World War II memorial was beautifully lit with the fountain flowing. So I got busy trying to capture the image I had imagined in my head. After 10 minutes of being there, the fountains turned off at the World War II memorial. It was unfortunate because the image I had imagined had to do with the fountains. So I shifted my focus on photographing the Atlantic side of the memorial. But then I didn’t even notice that the Pacific side was glowing with color! It was one of those mornings when I seemed to be a little off with everything but oh well. I was glad I went out either way.
So when I finally noticed the color, I ran with my tripod inside the memorial. You may see that I caught a little bit of the remaining color, but it was pretty much gone by the time I set my camera back up. Either way, I still think the reflection turned out so nice and crisp.
I should look up the fountain schedule thou. It was so weird that they turned it off at sunrise. I wonder when they turn it back on?
My camera settings for this image are F5 at 1/16th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 35mm prime lens.
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.
If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for cute, cuddly things. So obviously, I had to spend some time at La Jolla Cove while I was out in San Diego. This image was captured early morning while I was out shooting sunrise with Andrew and Frankie. As soon as I saw the seals, I squealed and yelled out that I had to get closer. Andrew, who is always looking out for me, told me that I can’t get too close but I didn’t listen. I pretty much hopped the wall and walked over to seals as fast as I could. Obviously I didn’t want to disturb them so I threw on my 70-200mm lens and got as close as I could without them noticing.
I love that little guy in the middle. Doesn’t it look like he’s smiling? It’s like a dog pile that I wish I were a part of. There were other seals all along the rocks but this group really made me happy. You know what though, one of my friends told me that there are times when there aren’t any seals here? Is that true? I’m grateful that I’ve never witnessed that. I always look forward to the seals whenever I’m in the area.
One last thing, this Thursday I’ll be a part of a travel writing panel at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. If you’re free, I’d love for you to attend. I’ll be there with my friends, Katie Bianco, author of 100 Things to do in Washington, DC Before you Die and Jennifer Barger who has worked with National Geographic, Traveler, etc as we discuss our experiences about writing and photographing the District. I will be talking about Snap DC.