Tidal Basin

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.


Cherry Blossoms 2019 - Washington DC by Todd Henson

Soft Cherry Blossoms. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

One of the early highlights of the spring season in the Washington DC area are the thousands of cherry trees that burst into bloom. There are many locations to see cherry blossoms in the area, but the most popular has to be along the Tidal Basin where you can view the cherry trees with the many monuments and memorials along the way.

Cherry Blossoms. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

This year I went into town with a goal of creating photographs of smaller, more intimate arrangements of blossoms. I was looking for details, trying to showcase the beauty of the cherry blossoms, excluding most of the background and throwing elements out of focus. I brought along my Lensbaby Velvet 56, a soft focus lens, to help create a more ethereal look to some of the images, to give them that soft, dream-like quality I had in mind.

We took the first train into town which arrived sometime around 8 am. By the time we walked from the station to the Tidal Basin the sun was up and, unfortunately, the clouds had departed. This type of situation usually results in strong contrast, harsh sunlight and deep shadows, which is fine for some types of photography, but not well suited to creating that softer, dream-like look. To work around this issue I looked for blossoms in shade, giving me a soft diffused light similar to what clouds would’ve provided.

After creating a couple of the very soft focus photographs of the fully open cherry blossoms, I began looking for the smaller, unopened buds. Many trees have these growing directly off the main trunk, something I always find fascinating. So I focused on a couple of these, in one case showing the unopened pink buds against the dark craggy bark of the tree trunk, and in another focusing on a smaller cluster of buds beginning to open.

Cherry Tree Buds. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

Bud to Bloom. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

At the end of the day I was very happy with the photographs I created. And, as so often happens, even if none of the photographs had turned out I still had a fantastic day walking the Tidal Basin with my brother.


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