In the Spring of 2015 I traveled to Washington, D.C. on assignment for This Is Feeling Photography to photograph an engagement session. Conveniently, my best friend, Jon, calls D.C. home so I was able to crash at his place and explore the area together. Alexis & Miguel, the couple I was photographing, really wanted to have their session with the cherry blossoms in bloom so we did our best to plan my trip accordingly. We lucked out big time. The weekend we planned their session just happened to be when the blossoms were at their peak and the weather was incredible. During my week long stay I had the pleasure of trying Ethiopian food for the first time, photographed not one, but two amazing couples, made some new friends, went on various hikes, and spent a lot of time drowning in waves of tourists who flooded the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin.
On my first full day in town, Jon took me to hike at Chain Bridge and I was happy to be among such gorgeous rock formations. We took a few spills on slippery rocks and managed to get our socks soaked but it was, as always, totally worth it. I could have spent the entire day shooting here among the jagged earth.
The neighborhood one street over from where I started Alexis & Miguel's engagement session is by far the most colorful street I have seen in North America. If only more towns in major urban areas were like this.
Before boarding the Metro en route to the National Mall, we jumped in front of this mural of their boss at the time, President Obama. So good! I had a ton of fun wandering the city with Alexis & Miguel, and after parting ways I unsurprisingly found myself back at the cherry blossoms to play in the setting sun.
Another day of hiking with Jon, this time at Great Falls National Park. We were able to spend some bonding time with new, reptilian friends. It took a lot of patience to earn the relative trust of an Eastern Fence Lizard, but after a while Jon and I were able to get close enough to capture them with an 85mm. Go figure the one day I don't bring my macro lens with me...
Eventually we came across a beautiful 4.5ft long Northern Black Racer basking in the sun, right in the middle of the trail. After enough time being bothered by us it slowly made its way to the nearest tree and began to climb.
This was supposed to be a blog about the Cherry Blossom Festival, right? Wrong - it's about my experience in D.C. during the festival, but fine. Here we go...
While waiting for the sun to get a little lower I watched visitors flood the steps of the Jefferson Memorial from across the tidal basin. There were some clouds looming over the horizon at this point and I was really worried I would lose the light of golden hour considering this was my last chance to capture the blossoms while in town. Luckily the clouds opened up, spilling gorgeous golden magic on the whole scene.
This is one of my favorite shots from this trip, which I've made available in my Shop. I was freelensing for this image, and if you've ever used this technique you can imagine how frustrating it is to focus when your subject is moving in the wind. In the end I got exactly what I wanted - The dreamy flow of the branches motion, a few clusters of blossoms and ripples in the water in focus, and that golden hour light dancing on the pink-white petals.
Another freelensing image seen above to show the growing crowd at the Jefferson Memorial.
I always struggle when asked to pick one super power. My choices are always either the ability to control weather or stop time. It's moments like this one where I know with certainty I would pick the ability to stop time. To swim in this light for hours on end and shoot and shoot and shoot. But living in reality we can only wade in the sun's ocean for as long as the sun allows, a constant reminder of how timeless everything around us truly is.
I watched this man for about five minutes as he tried to balance his son, or at least I assumed it was indeed his child, on this tree so he could take a photo. After many unsuccessful attempts, he forfeit to the power of gravity. No children were harmed in the making of this photograph.
I briefly spoke with one of the crew members from MacGillivray Freeman Films about their upcoming release, "National Parks Adventure," a tribute to U.S. National Parks. This film's release was set to to coincide with the centennial of the National Park Service and is now available on Netflix. I wish I could have watched them work longer but I, too, had light and time against me.
This particular tree displays it's lack of pigmentation during it's peak. At their peak bloom, cherry blossoms lose their pink pigmentation and appear to be more white than anything else. Only when they are in their early stages do they appear pink.
Here is a decent depiction of what the walkway along the tidal basin looks like during the festival. Shoulder to shoulder, jam packed with folks both local and tourists, domestic and foreign. So much diversity in one space - all of whom are there to appreciate natural wonder, yet there is still trash left on the ground all over. Not saying every single person litters, but it certainly happens more than it should (never). Here's to hoping more people will learn to truly appreciate nature as a whole and be responsible and thoughtful about their actions.
As the sun crept away, so did the crowds. Night time at the National Mall was totally different, leaving time and room to play with tripods, torches, gels, and long exposures. Above and below are two shots I captured with 30 second long exposures. The Washington Monument above is a more simple shot with some flashlight beams hitting the blossoms on the left. The blossoms below are along the tidal basin and illuminated with a pink gel on my torch.
I'm really glad I was able to take part in this event as it may be very unlikely my future travels here line up during the festival. Always thankful to see my friends, and a very special thanks to Alexis and Miguel for making this trip happen. I owe one final thanks to another person, because without him their relationship may not have grown the way it did. Alexis and Miquel's relationship grew stronger after working together in Chicago during his 2012 campaign, so... thanks, Obama!