Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Up at the Jefferson Memorial by Todd Henson


Up at the Jefferson Memorial. Washington, DC. 3/30/2019


One of the highlights of visiting Washington, DC is stopping by some of the many memorials around town. One of these, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, sits along the Tidal Basin and is a very convenient stop when walking the Tidal Basin viewing the spring cherry blossoms.

The Jefferson Memorial can get very busy and crowded, and this was certainly one of those days. But I found one way of minimizing the crowds is to look and photograph UP. Of course, it helps when you’re using a fisheye lens capable of seeing both up and into the memorial. This let me capture both the statue of Thomas Jefferson and the ceiling of the main entrance into the memorial. You can see the heads and shoulders of some of the crowd down below, as they fill the memorial, admiring the statue and the writings on the inside walls.

A fisheye lens can introduce a lot of distortion to a scene, creating curves of what would normally be straight lines. I did correct a small amount of this curvature in Lightroom and Photoshop, attempting to straighten the columns as much as I could. But I left the rest of the curvature because I liked the way it looked.

Next time you visit a memorial take the time to look up. Maybe you’ll find something interesting to photograph, even if you don’t have a fisheye lens with you.

If you like this photograph you can purchase it at my online store. Up at the Jefferson Memorial is available as wall art and on a variety of products.


Photography Prints by Todd Henson


Cherry Blossom Crowds 2019 - Washington, DC by Todd Henson

Washington, DC Cherry Blossom Crowds along the Tidal Basin

Early each spring large crowds of people travel into Washington, DC hoping to see the cherry blossoms framing the Tidal Basin and scattered in many other areas around the capital. Some years and certain days of the week or times of day are more crowded than others, but if it’s cherry blossom season it’s a good bet there will be crowds of some size anytime you visit.

This year (2019) my brother and I visited DC on Saturday, March 30th, with peak bloom predicted to be April 1st. We took the first Metro into town, which arrived sometime around 8 am. This isn’t early from many a photographer’s perspective, but it is early as far as most folks are concerned. You will still find crowds at that time, but they will be smaller than those around noontime.

Washington Monument Cherry Blossom Crowds

The photos in this post give an example of how the crowds might look at different locations around the Tidal Basin. It was a clear day with no rain forecast, so there was nothing to keep people away, except perhaps for the Kite Festival on the Mall. I heard the crowds on the following weekend (April 6-7) were larger than those we saw.

This year there were several sections of grass that were fenced in, keeping people to the paved path around the Tidal Basin. I assume this was to let the grass regrow in these areas, as it can get rather trampled with all the foot traffic. Other areas were open, letting people wander under the trees.

Some of the monuments, such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, have large open areas where people can gather. The FDR Memorial doesn’t have as many large open spaces but has lots of small to medium spaces.

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Cherry Blossom Crowds

Tidal Basin Inlet Bridge Cherry Blossom Crowds

It was nearing noon when we made it to the Jefferson Memorial, a favorite of the crowds. Its large extended steps are perfect places to sit and rest for a bit, watching the paddle boats out on the Tidal Basin. But the inside also draws large crowds. I’m not one for crowds, but these places are well worth visiting if you never have.

Cherry Blossom Crowds on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial

Cherry Blossom Crowds inside the Jefferson Memorial

Looking out at the Cherry Blossom crowds from the Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial Cherry Blossom Crowds

When leaving town just after noon it takes far more time to walk from the Tidal Basin back to a Metro stop than it does to walk from the stop to the Tidal Basin earlier in the morning. You’re stuck walking the speed of the general crowds, which always bunch up around crosswalks. I really feel for those crossing guards, having to manage so many people and vehicles all vying for the same space.

Cherry Blossom crowds while leaving Washington, DC

I hope this post has given you a realistic look at the crowds you might expect if heading into Washington, DC on a cherry blossom weekend. It may be more or less crowded when you arrive, but you should certainly expect some crowds. So give yourself time, bring along some water and a snack, and have patience. You’ll run into people of all sorts, but overall I’ve always found the majority of the crowds to be pleasant and polite. They’re typically there for the same reasons you are. So head into DC and enjoy your stay.

Pedal Boating by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial by Todd Henson

Pedal boating in the Tidal Basin in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.

I recently realized I have not travelled into Washington, D.C. to photograph anything in over a year. This prompted me to look back over some of the photographs from my previous trips to see if perhaps there was something in there I had yet to process.

I have a bad habit of importing my photos onto the computer and then moving on to the next shoot, forgetting about what I’d just imported. So occasionally going through my back catalog is a useful exercise. Thankfully, it’s also a lot of fun, bringing back memories of the days I snapped the shutter.

Today’s photograph was from early Spring many years back. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom. You can see some of them on the shore surrounding the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. And of course, on days like this people love to take the pedal boats out into the Tidal Basin. So I included a family in a pedal boat as they passed by the memorial. I also positioned myself to include at least part of the profile of Thomas Jefferson’s statue in the memorial.

The weather was very interesting that day. For the first part of the day it was pleasant, if slightly overcast. This actually worked well for photographing the cherry blossoms. The clouds acted like a giant soft box, softening the light and helping to avoid harsh shadows. Today’s photo was from this time period, when the light was fairly soft.

Later in the day the sky darkened and we were drenched by a pop-up storm that quickly moved over the city. After that, the sun came back out and many of the clouds broke up. We ended up visiting one of the museums before heading back out of town.

But back to today’s photograph. It was from the time period prior to the storm, when the clouds in the sky contributed to a generally soft light without overly harsh shadows. Something about this prompted me to process the image as a high key black and white. I thought the soft light was perfect for a high key image, where everything is very light and bright, with very little dark throughout the image.

Split Toning settings I used in Adobe Lightroom

Split Toning settings I used in Adobe Lightroom

After I’d finished the conversion to black and white I felt the image seemed a little cool and wanted to warm it up just a touch. To do this I used split toning, where you tone the highlights one color and tone the shadows another color. But I didn’t want the image to feel like a color image so I kept the tones very, very subtle. I gave the highlights a very light touch of yellow and the shadows an even lighter touch of red.

Here are both versions of the photograph, one as a black and white, and the other as a black and white with the subtle split tone.

Which version do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below.

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.