Washington Monument

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.


Autumn Cherry Trees, Washington, D.C. by Todd Henson

Cherry trees along the Tidal Basin during autumn, with the Washington Monument in the background. Washington, D.C.

This is an image I created a number of years ago during early November, when the leaves on the cherry trees in Washington, D.C. change color. These trees are most visited during spring when they are full of beautiful cherry blossoms, but as you can see they are also beautiful in autumn.

The Washington Monument is visible in the center of the image, and the water is known as the Tidal Basin, around which are several other monuments. I was fortunate to photograph a jogger under the trees to the left.

Looking at the image now, years after creating it, I can see things I would do differently. If I could go back I would try to frame the image a little more to the left, showing more of the closest tree handing over the water, which would also move the Washington Monument out of the center and more to the right. I think that might make for a stronger composition.

It’s good to learn from your older photos. Study them. Decide whether or not they work. If they do work do you know why? Can you use this to create more images that work? If they don’t work, why not? How could you improve them? What would you do differently?

Keep these lessons in mind next time you go out shooting and look for ways to apply them. Learn from your past work and keep growing as a photographer. And never forget to keep having fun!

Autumn Cherry Trees is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.



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Washington's Birthday / President's Day by Todd Henson

Low angle view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool during the blue hour before sunrise.

Washington’s Birthday, also often called President’s Day, is a United States holiday recognizing George Washington, the first President of the United States, and the man who led this country through the Revolutionary War. He is considered the Father of the Country. The holiday is celebrated the third Monday of February. This year that falls on February 20th, though George Washington was actually born on February 22nd, 1732. This year, then, would be his 285th birthday.

Vertical photo of the Washington Monument and a clear blue sky.

The day is considered President’s Day by many states, some to also honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, and known as the Savior of the Country for his part in bringing an end to the Civil War and starting the healing and reconstruction that followed. He was born on February 12th, 1809. This year would be his 208th birthday.

To celebrate these birthdays I’m sharing a selection of photographs of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which were built to honor these two United States Presidents.

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot marble obelisk located on the National Mall. If you draw lines from The White House and the US Capitol the Washington Monument resides at their intersection. It is very easy to locate from anywhere nearby. When it was completed in 1884 it was the tallest building in the world.

The Lincoln Memorial is located at the west end of the National Mall. It is a distinctive rectangular building with vertical columns all around it, and a statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln inside, visible from between the front columns. This memorial was completed in 1922.

Lincoln Memorial before sunrise.

With the completion of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, the east/west vista of the National Mall nearly was complete. The Reflecting Pool would be finished shortly thereafter and the visual connection between the Father of the Country and the Savior of the Country would be fulfilled.
— National Park Service

Black & white photo of the statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial.

All but one of the photos in this post was created before sunrise on a cloudy day. This kept the background of Lincoln’s statue dark, as no light was leaking in from outside. And the two photos of the lit Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool were creating during the blue hour, just before the sun begins to rise. You can see in these photos why it's called the blue hour.

One Capitol Morning: National World War II Memorial, bottom portion of Washington Monument, and US Capitol, all lined up with flags waving. (5 image HDR)

In the photo above I only showed the lower portion of the Washington Monument, but also included the US Capitol building in the distance and the National World War II Memorial in the foreground. There was enough wind to keep the flags extended, which adds a really nice touch. And the warm glow of color in the sky shows it was just before sunrise. You can see some early morning joggers and walkers on some of the paths. I used a telephoto lens at 200mm to compose the image, compressing the distance, allowing everything to appear closer together than it really is. I used an aperture of f/22 to assure everything was in focus, from the closer WWII Memorial to the distant Capitol building. The photo is actually a high dynamic range (HDR) image built from 5 separate photos with shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 to 1/60 of a second. The slower shutter speeds in some of the images is what causes the little bit of motion blur in some of the flags and people. I created the 5 exposures and processed them into an HDR to allow for a decent exposure on the buildings and memorials and to capture what color was left in the sky.

The vertical photo of the Washington Monument was created a little later in the morning, after the sun had fully risen, on a different day when the sky was clear of all clouds. I find it interesting to compare the flags in this image with that of the Washington Monument, US Capitol, and WWII Memorial. In the other image the wind was strongly in a single direction, with all the flags fairly uniformly displayed. Whereas, the vertical image of the Washington Monument shows flags in a number of different directions from a more inconsistent wind. Little things like this can greatly affect how a finished image will look, so always stay aware of the weather and the changing environment.

Another view of the lit Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool during the blue hour. This photo was created a few minutes after the one at the top of the post, notice the sky has lightened a bit.

The photo above, Dawn Reflections Of The Washington Monument, can be purchased as wall art or on a variety of products.

For those who want to visit the Washington Monument, note that the inside of it is closed until spring 2019 to allow the National Park Service to modernize the elevator.