National Park Service

Cherry Blossom Trail - Washington, D.C. by Todd Henson

Cherry Blossom Trail - A path leading from the FDR Memorial towards the Tidal Basin.

It’s almost that time of year again, when the cherry blossoms bloom along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Above is a photograph I created from a previous year. As you can see, it was on the tail end of peak bloom when the petals start falling, covering the ground, the trail, and the water of the Tidal Basin.

In this image we see a couple of National Park Service rangers walking down the trail from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial towards the trail along the Tidal Basin. I loved the placement of the rangers on the curved trail, both smiling, one looking towards the other, having a pleasant conversation as they walk. I loved all the scattered pink petals on the ground and on the two benches.

I created a number of frames, but this was my favorite. I do wish the orange construction cones hadn’t been placed along the pavement in the back of the image, but I could probably remove those in Photoshop if I chose to. It was a very overcast day, so there were no harsh hot spots or shadows.

Technical Details

Because it was overcast and I was hand holding and experimenting, I wanted a shutter speed fast enough to minimize the risk of blur caused by camera movement. So I set my ISO to 1600, giving me a shutter speed of 1/100 sec at an aperture of f/8. I used f/8 because I wanted a reasonable depth of field, and at 16 mm this worked very well. I love using my Nikon 16-35 mm lens when walking around town photographing these wider angle scenes.

To add a little punch and warmth to the color I often use a warming polarizer in scenes like this, with leaves or flowers as a major focus. The specific polarizer I like is my Singh-Ray LB “Lighter, Brighter” Warming Polarizer. Being a polarizer, it reduces any glare on the leaves and petals, which helps naturally add a bit of saturation to the color. And the warming aspect of this particular filter adds just a touch of warmth, something you could do in post-processing, but I enjoy being behind the camera more than the computer so I try to handle as much as I can in the field. That being said, I do still usually tweak various settings in post.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial by Todd Henson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath

In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday let’s take a short visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. The street address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., referencing the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and cherry blossoms across tidal basin

The memorial opened to the public in 2011. The design, created by ROMA Design Group, centers on a large stone sculpture created by the Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. In the sculpture Martin Luther King, Jr. is seemingly pulled from a mountain of stone behind it. The theme for this design came from part of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech where King said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Behind all this is a curved wall of quotations facing the tidal basin, and wide walkways to accommodate large numbers visitors.

Cherry blossoms, crowds and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin with Lincoln Memorial in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath and controversial drum major quote

It didn’t take long before there was some controversy surrounding the memorial. One of the quotations on the side of the main sculpture read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” This was a paraphrase from the longer, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Some people felt the paraphrased quote misrepresented King’s words, so in 2013 the text was removed from the sculpture.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with drum major quote

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with stone of hope quote

I photographed the memorial both with and without the controversial quote. Seeing how things do change over time reminded me why it’s important to take the time to photograph subjects when you’re there, regardless of whether you think the photo might turn out well. Sometimes it’s more about documenting something you may never see again, or something that may never happen again. Times do change, and we won’t always have a second chance to go back and photograph it again. This is something I need to periodically be reminded of.

Long exposure showing moving crowds around Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (drum major quote removed). This photograph is an Infrared black and white.

Another angle of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in infrared black and white

If you’d like to learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial visit the National Park Service website dedicated to the memorial. And by all means, if you have the opportunity, go visit the memorial and the many others in the area. The tidal basin is especially beautiful during early spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. It gets very crowded, but it’s always worth the trip.

Profile of sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Black and white of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. The American holiday marking his birthday occurs the 3rd Monday of each January. In 2017, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is January 16.

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial through cherry blossoms

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Some of the images in this post first appeared in Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms - 2016. A different version of an infrared image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was posted in Infrared Experiments During National Cherry Blossom Festival. And for images of more National Park lands, including monuments and memorials around Washington, D.C., check out National Park Service Centennial.

National Park Service Centennial by Todd Henson

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 on Thursday, August 25, 2016. The National Parks, and other lands managed by the NPS, truly are some of the jewels of the United States. The NPS works to preserve some of the most beautiful locations in the country, while still keeping them open and accessible to the public. I have benefited greatly from this system of parks and monuments, and I hope they continue to be preserved far into the future.

I have not visited nearly as many of the parks or monuments as I would like, but included in this post are photographs from a number of the locations I have had the privilege of visiting, sometimes multiple times. The National Park Foundation can help you find a park near you.

National Park lands are known for their iconic scenic views, beautiful mountain ranges, flowing streams and waterfalls, and fields of flowers. But they are also home to wildlife of all sorts: mammals, reptiles, birds, spiders, etc. And the Park lands also include many monuments and memorials showcasing fantastic statues and amazing architecture. If you haven't been to a National Park, Monument, or Memorial lately, get out there! Go visit one today. And take along your camera, create a few images. It's worth the trip.

 

Locations Around the National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial at night

Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool at dawn

Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms Reflected in the Tidal Basin

National World War II Memorial Water Fountains

Storm over the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin in Black & White

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Infrared

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and Washington Monument in Black & White

Closeup of Jefferson Memorial in Black & White

 

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

Lotus Flower and Bumble Bee against green background

White Water Lily in dark pond

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Bridge in Infrared

Dragonfly on unopened Lotus Flower

 

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park in Black & White

Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park

Uinta Chipmunk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Clark's Nutcracker in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot in Rocky Mountain National Park

Facing the Storm in Rocky Mountain National Park (Black & White)

 

Acadia National Park, Maine

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (warmer tones)

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (cooler tones)

Panorama of inlet and rocky beach in Acadia National Park, Maine

 

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Falls Along Canal in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Great Blue Heron Above Falls in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Double-crested Cormorant in Potomac River at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

 

Great Falls Park, Virginia

Prelude to Rafting at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Kayakers in Potomac River at Great Falls Park

To the Falls, Great Falls Park

Facing The Fingers on the Potomac River at Great Falls Park

 

Turkey Run Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia

Blue Phlox at Turkey Run Park

Yellow Trout Lily at Turkey Run Park

 

Prince William Forest Park, Virginia

Stream in Prince William Forest Park

Quaker Ladies Flowers in Prince William Forest Park

Daisy Fleabane Flower in Prince William Forest Park

Arrowhead Orbweaver Spider in Prince William Forest Park

 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

Flowers along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park

 

The resource list below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

 

Resources from my library

 
National Parks: Our American Landscape
$16.96
Earth Aware Editions

Ian Shive, recipient of the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, is well known for photographing America's National Parks. His work is showcased in a book titled, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. I own a paperback edition of this book, and it contains some fantastic imagery, along with a number of essays by different writers. The book is in landscape format, approximately 8" x 10.5" and is 228 pages in length.

Ian's photos in this book present a far better sampling of our National Parks than I've done above. He has visited and photographed a great many of the parks over the years, capturing all aspects of them, from the iconic to the smaller, more subtle details. I believe Ian is a true master of his craft.

 
Photographing America's National Parks  with Ian Shive.  Image credit: CreativeLive

Photographing America's National Parks with Ian Shive. Image credit: CreativeLive

In addition to the book mentioned above, Ian Shive has taught a 3-day class at CreativeLive titled, Photographing America's National Parks. This class includes over 15 1/2 hours of video, along with several PDF documents with extra info, such as the keynote slides and some amazing examples of Ian's work. I own this class and really enjoyed watching it. This was the first CreativeLive class to take the studio out to a National Park, allowing Ian to demonstrate, in the field, how he goes about creating his images. Most of the topics he discusses are relevant to any form of outdoor nature photography, whether in a local park, National Park, or just in your own backyard. In fact, he advocates starting in your backyard. Most of us have something near us worth photographing, and having it close by gives us the opportunity to easily return over and over again at different times of the day and during different seasons. We can really learn the place. And this helps later when we travel to other locations because we've already spent the time locally learning our lessons, getting to know our gear, learning about light and composition, knowing what's possible.

The class includes many videos on location. The locations include several parks along the Olympic Peninsula, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. In some videos Ian takes us through a photo shoot, describing what he sees and what he's thinking as he works the scene. In others he takes us on a scouting trip, looking for scenes that might prove promising at a different time in different light.

Back in the studio he talks about how to select and edit your images and takes us through his process. As with many of the CreativeLive photography classes, this one includes critique sessions where they discuss student photographs. These are great learning sessions. Later he talks about the business side of nature photography, describing different markets for selling your work, including a stock agency he founded, Tandem Stills + Motion.

Photographing America's National Parks is available seperately or as part of the Travel Photography Toolkit, which also includes: Post-Processing for Outdoor and Travel Photographers with Ben Willmore and Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Wilmore. I purchased the first two and received a free copy of Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.