tidal basin

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To say the 2021 cherry blossom season was really different is an understatement.

They came about a week earlier than expected which worked out well because crowds were a lot more manageable. There were road closures around the tidal basin, no in-person festivals celebrating the blooms, and the Jefferson Memorial is STILL under scaffolding.

Luckily, the blossoms were as beautiful as ever. I’m glad I was able to get out there when I could. I hit up my usual spots, tested out a new camera lens, and came home with some images I was really excited about.

Washington Monument

Since parking was really limited this year, Ohio Dr and the East Potomac Park parking lots were all closed, I had to get creative with the places I parked. Most of the time that meant parking on Jefferson Dr or Constitution Ave and walking past the Washington Monument to get to the Tidal Basin. I didn’t mind because I’ve always enjoyed these cherry trees as well. Although they aren’t as big as the ones by the Tidal Basin, they are beautiful trees that frame the Washington Monument.

Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms usually last about a week, maybe 10 days if we have some really nice weather. However, if it rains or gets really windy, the petals start falling off the flowers and start turning into green leaves. I think most locals know this and by the time the first rainstorm hits, a lot of people will stop going to the tidal basin, but it’s probably my favorite time to go. Puddles are everywhere and I love it when the petals start flying off and land in the water and all over the ground.

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I recently got a Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 E-mount lens for my Sony A7rIII. For the past few weeks, it’s been the main lens that I’ve been using while going out to take pictures and I have been really enjoying it so far. My first impression was that it was kind of short and stubby, but overall a great weight for an f1.8 lens and a lens I see carrying around for years to come.

If you’ve been following my work for a little while now, you’ll know that my usual go-to lens is a 70-200mm because I love the compression that I get with it. For being a prime lens, I am most impressed by the compression that I get with the 85mm.

So here are a few sample images I’ve captured using the 85mm. All of these images were taken with my Sony A7rIII in RAW and then edited using Lightroom.

ISO 160 f2.5 1/4000th sec 85mm

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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.

To fully prepared, I reference this website a lot. It’s National Park Services’ Bloom watch. I think they have the most accurate up-to-date information about the peak bloom. They also break down the stages so that you know what you’re looking at in case you are overly eager and want to check out the trees asap.

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…

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It’s been a while since I’ve had an update blog post. Mostly because I didn’t have much to update on. However, I was going through my catalog the other day and realized I have some images that I wanted to share!

Since coming back from New Hampshire, I tried my best to capture the fall colors around the Washington DC area. Even though Washington DC is a city, there are still some great places to go to see fall colors! All the different shades of red, yellow, and orange make me so happy. So this is a compilation of the images I’ve created from mid-October to the very end of November.

Shenandoah Sunrise

It was my friend, Larry and I’s 4th year anniversary of capturing the sunrise in Shenandoah National Park in the autumn time. I love this tradition. Mostly because it’s fun to reminisce on our friendship. Each year we go has been extremely different. But there has always been one thing in common, awesome fall colors!

This time around, we were lucky to get some fog. It was crazy because the entire time we were driving to and from Shenandoah, there was a lot of fog. So when we got to the top of the mountain, it was really cool to see it from above. They kind of look like spider webs!

Mt Vernon Trail Sunrise

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On June 9th in Houston, Texas, Rev Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral.  At that time he also announced that he would plan a demonstration in Washington to rally for criminal justice revisions. Ever since that day, I kept my eyes and ears open for the information as it developed. I knew this was going to be a huge event that I wanted to attend.

The Black Lives Matter movement in Washington has been an eye-opening experience for me. In all my years living in the area, I’ve never attended any protests or rallies like this. So when I went to my first one, I knew immediately that I wanted to keep going back with my camera. I couldn’t help but be in awe of all the passion and emotions I felt while attending these protests.

But the day before Rev Sharpton’s Commitment March on Washington, President Trump accepted his Republican nomination for  US President and had a fireworks display at the Washington Monument. Since I missed photographing on the 4th of July this past year, I figured I would go to the Reflecting Pool and practice some of my night photography. Although there were only 3 other photographers at the Reflecting Pool, there was also a news crew right next to me who was listening to President Trump’s speech. I listened to every word and as soon as he finished, the fireworks went off.

I’m glad I went because they were very different from the previous 4th of July firework displays. You could tell that they were shot off with the White House as the main spectators so all of my images were a little skewed to the right. I should have thought of that before picking my firework location. Oh well. I also noticed how the Washington Monument was the centerpiece of the show. I had never seen rings of fireworks go around it before. It was pretty cool and I had fun photographing the show from a vantage point that was only seen by a few others.

But watching the fireworks from the Reflecting Pool also allowed me to see the set up of the rally the night before. It was interesting to see how the sides of the Reflecting Pool were gated off, the chairs for people with special needs were socially distanced, and there were so many lights set up all over the memorial grounds.

A little sneak peek of the rally set up from the night before

On August 28, 2020, the 57th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev Sharpton and the National Action Network held its rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a march ending at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial.

I’m grateful to know this part of the city like the back of my hand so I was able to park my car as close as I could to the White House and walked over to the National Mall with ease. It was a hot, humid summer day and a little harder to breathe with a facemask on. With a water bottle in my backpack and my camera in hand, I was ready to go.

My game plan was to start close to the WWII memorial and walk down the Reflecting Pool to try to get as close to the Lincoln Memorial as I could. Other than that, I had no real intentions of what kind of images I wanted to photograph. I was just going to go with the flow and stay mindful of everything that was happening around me. That means I zipped my phone into my backpack and watched the people around me.

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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

Expired Film

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.

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