Storm Over Washington - The Story Behind the Image / by Todd Henson

Storm over Washington

Changing weather can create amazing photographic opportunities, if you’re in the right place at the right time and have your gear ready. Sometimes you can plan for the opportunities, watching the weather, knowing there may be gaps in a storm, or arriving just before or after a storm breaks up, hoping opportunities will emerge. Other times you may get lucky and happen into a situation when you’re able to take advantage of it. My “Storm over Washington” photo benefited from a little of both. My brother and I were in Washington, D.C., hiking around the Tidal Basin photographing the cherry blossoms. We knew there was a chance of rain but decided to make the trip anyway, knowing the weather might just work out.

We started near the Washington Monument and hiked in the direction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The weather held for most of the hike, until we were close to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Facing the Jefferson the sky was nice and clear with a few puffy clouds here and there. But looking back to the left, where we’d come from, was a long string of storm clouds moving in quickly. It looked fantastic. I brought up my camera and started shooting, knowing it wouldn’t be long before the storm reached us. I kept looking to the right to judge how long it would take to reach the shelter of the Jefferson, then back to the left to judge how long until the rain reached us. We exchanged glances, somewhat wide eyed.   We could tell from the clouds it was really pouring, but we were both willing to take the chance.

After I felt I had some nice shots we started quickly walking towards the Jefferson, trying to pack our cameras into our bags as we walked. Lots of other people were doing the same thing, and the Jefferson already looked full of people. As luck would have it, we didn’t quite make it before the rain started pummeling us. By the time we reached the Jefferson we were soaked, but laughing about it. I felt confident I had captured some images that would be worth the soaking.

Thankfully, I was not disappointed. When I got home and looked through the images I felt compelled to try a black and white treatment on the photo, thinking this would bring out the drama in the sky and the sun light illuminating the Washington Monument. I spent a little time dodging and burning different areas, trying to keep the cherry blossoms from going too dark, and adding a bit of a vignette to keep the eye in the frame. I like how the line of clouds and the cherry blossom shoreline leads the eye to the Washington Monument. Creating this image was a great ending to a fantastic day.