washington monument

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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 finally happened! We finally got some decent snow in the Washington DC area. I originally thought we were going to get pounded by 8-12″ of snow and I was jumping up and down from excitement. But in the end we may have gotten about 3″ if that. I’m just happy it was enough to cover the grass. I hope there will be more opportunities later on in the month for snow, but until then, I’m happy with what we got.

I don’t think he wanted his picture taken so as soon as he saw me lift my camera to my eye, he made a sharp turn for inside the Lincoln Memorial

The snow started in the middle of the night so I set my alarm clock to wake up for sunrise. I knew there wasn’t actually going to be a sunrise, but I just wanted to get out as early as I could because I love the look of fresh, untouched snow. I knew if I waited later in the day, there would be more people out and I just wanted to have a quiet morning to myself and my camera.

I started at the Lincoln Memorial, walked along the side of the reflecting pool, past the WWII memorial, and then back down the other side of the reflection pool with one last stop at the Korean War Memorial.

 

 

The path leading to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

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In November 2020, I was out trying to photograph the full moon and unfortunately, clouds had a different idea. The moon was completely covered and I was just standing in the cold with my camera and 70-200mm on a tripod. I could have gone the next night when the sky would have been clear but I just was feeling so discouraged that I didn’t want to. This had been my 3rd month in a row where I wasn’t able to capture the moon. So I wanted to do something that would keep me motivated to go out and shoot.

Right then and there I came up with an idea that I should rent the biggest lens I can find. LOL.

So after discussing this idea with a few friends, I finally decided that I’d rent a 200-600mm lens. This would bring a whole new view to the city that I couldn’t even imagine. I rented it from lensrentals.com and I could not have been more excited that it actually came 3 days earlier than I had expected. So I had 10 days with the lens and I was pumped!

My first real test came on an afternoon at the Washington Monument. It is actually the same exact place where I came up with the idea to rent the lens so it’s funny that this was the first place that I want to go to test it out.

I was blown away!

The compression on the lens is CRAZY. These people were at least 20 feet away from me. The US Capitol is about a mile away from the Washington Monument. But if you asked me, it seriously looks like you could just reach out and touch the people.

It was on!

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At the end of every year, I like to sit down and look through all the images I’ve taken in the past year. It’s one of my favorite traditions because I reflect back on the year and most of the time, I have forgotten about some of the fun photo excursions I’ve been on. It’s also really nice to put all these images together in one place and view them as a collection.

We can all agree that 2020 was very unusual. Not only were there times where I felt uncomfortable going out to take pictures, but there were times where I just felt uninspired and a lot of judgment towards my own work. The judgment towards my work has always been there, however it was much more amplified this year. I tried my best to go out and shoot at least once a week but there have been at least a dozen photo walks that I’ve been on where NO ONE has seen the pictures from. I just wasn’t happy with them, so they are just sitting in my Lightroom catalog as we speak.

But that’s not to say that I lost my passion for photography. I feel like I am even more passionate about it than ever. When I wasn’t out shooting or doing the normal stuff I would typically be doing in a normal year, I was at home learning. I have never watched so many tutorial videos, read so many books, and slowed down to be really present while I’m out shooting. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been so hard with myself. I always felt like something could be better or different and I’m trying to use all that I’ve learned and apply it to my real-life shooting.

Typically I would have another blog post about my favorite travel images, but that obviously didn’t happen this year either… LOL. So here are my favorite images from 2020 🙂

January

washington dc, national mall, puddle, reflection, american flags, washington monument, sunrise, early morning, national parks, sylvan theater,

At the very beginning of the year, my friend Andy messaged a few of friends and started a little group called Sunday Sunrise. We were going to try to meet up every Sunday… for sunrise. LOL. Unfortunately, the group was only able to meet a few times in the beginning of the year, but while we were in the peak of meeting up, I created this one beautiful morning. I just love how the reflection turned out with that person walking towards the Washington Monument.

It’s interesting because this was the day that I realized that I take a majority of my images in a vertical orientation. A couple of years back, a friend of mine told me that magazines are always looking for vertical images because magazines are vertical. So ever since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself with the vertical orientation. And then Instagram started favoring the vertical orientation as well, so I’ve been creating pictures that way without even realizing it. This year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to take more horizontals to balance out the way that my imagines are seen.

February

US Capitol, sunrise, capitol dome, united states capitol, washington dc, puddle, Ulysses S Grant Memorial, reflecting pool, national mall, washington dc,

Another image with our Sunday Sunrise group. I don’t remember it raining or anything the day before, but there was this large puddle at the Grant Memorial. It was an awesome find because it gave such a different perspective of the US Capitol building. The beautiful sunrise colors was an added bonus!

March

It felt like spring came early this year and it was very much welcomed. I find that I’m always on the hunt to find new places to capture all the beautiful blooms in the city. I have been to the National Cathedral a few times for spring, but it was mostly to photograph the Saucer Magnolias that are at the park next to it. Never had I thought of walking the grounds and I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw these beautiful blooms.

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