Trip Report

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.

Looking Back at the 2012 Andrews Air Show by Todd Henson

USAF F-22 Raptor taxiing on the runway.

I’ve been in the process of going back through my back catalog of unprocessed images. In some cases there are entire shoots I just never got around to looking at. In other instances I’m taking a new look to see if I overlooked any promising photographs. One of the events I hadn’t processed or shared many images from was the 2012 Joint Service Open House and Air Show held at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

I don’t often get to airshows but I’ve really enjoyed all I’ve been to, including this one. For me the highlight of these shows are most often the aerial performances, and of those at the 2012 show I was most drawn to the F-22 Raptor performance and that of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

USAF F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is a remarkable aircraft, serving as a fifth generation stealth air superiority fighter for the United State Air Force. This was the first time I’d seen one of these in person. I recall when they first lit up the engines I was surprised at the sound. It was definitely the sound of a jet engine but it had this strange high pitched whine I’d never heard before. My pulse was pounding from that moment until the fighter landed. The things this aircraft can do are just amazing, seeming to defy gravity at times.

Raptor Flyby #1: USAF F-22 Raptor performing a flyby.

Raptor Flyby #2: USAF F-22 Raptor angled upward.

Below is a YouTube video of the 2012 performance of the Raptor. It’s a great video but it can’t do justice to the performance. This is the sort of thing you really do need to see in person. I highly recommend finding an airshow where you can view this incredible aircraft. Keep watching to the end of the video and you’ll also see the USAF Heritage Flight with the F-22 Raptor and the World War II era P-51 Mustang flying in formation.

USN Blue Angels

The Blue Angels are the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, flying six F/A-18 Hornets. Blue Angels pilots are extraordinarily skilled, something anyone who has seen them can attest to. They fly in some amazing formations, at times within 18 inches of one another. As with the Raptor demonstration, my pulse was racing throughout the entire Blue Angels performance.

Blue Angels Flyby #1: USN F/A-18 flyby at an angle.

Blue Angels Flyby #2: USN F/A-18 performing a flyby.

Blue Angels Flyby #3: The underside of a Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet.

Blue Angels Flyby #4: A pair of USN F/A-18 Hornets flying in formation.

I highly recommend seeing the Blue Angels in person if at all possible. But if you can’t below is a YouTube video of the entire 2012 performance.

Tour of Washington National Cathedral by Todd Henson

Washington National Cathedral viewed from across the street.

A number of years ago my brother and I signed up for a tour of Washington National Cathedral put together by Washington Photo Safari. We met a group of other photographers one Saturday morning and were led around the Cathedral by a very knowledgeable docent, along with a couple professional photographers from Washington Photo Safari. The docent taught us about the Cathedral and the Safari photographers taught us how to photograph the Cathedral.

As part of our tour we were led into portions of the Cathedral not normally open to the public. This was fantastic, getting to see the building from different vantage points. This alone was worth the trip.

Inside the Cathedral

Downstairs we were able to view the beautiful stained glass windows, which I showed a sampling of in a previous post. When light shone through the windows we sometimes were treated to vibrant colors reflecting off the nearby walls and hallways. This was a very beautiful location.

Colorful hallway illuminated by stained glass windows.

Light shining through a stained glass window.

Upstairs we were privy to an entirely different view of the interior of the building, looking down over the Nave towards the Great Choir, and behind that the High Altar. There were tours being conducted below while we were upstairs. You can see a group of people standing before the High Alter in one of the photos.

The Great Choir, and beyond that the High Altar. Photographed from an upstairs balcony.

Interior view of Washington National Cathedral from an upstairs balcony.

Photographing a photographer photographing details in Washington National Cathedral.

Outside the Cathedral

While upstairs we were led outside onto one of the walkways, and while we were out there it began to snow. This was a perfect day! We photographed the flying buttresses and pinnacles while snow lightly fell from the sky.

Details outside Washington National Cathedral, photographed from walkway.

From this perspective we had very good views of some of the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake. The Washington, D.C., area is not very prone to earthquakes, so these buildings were not built with earthquakes in mind. The Cathedral suffered large amounts of damage. You can see some of the damage in the photographs of the pinnacles.

Pinnacle atop Washington National Cathedral damaged by 2011 earthquake.

Pinnacle in the snow. Notice the hairline horizontal cracks from the earthquake.

They are still working to repair the damage 7 years later, and expect to continue doing so for years to come. The cost of the repairs is extraordinary so they repair as funds become available.

A missing pinnacle, having either fallen in the earthquake or been taken down for repairs.

After the tour we walked around the outside of the building for a while, photographing various elements. One amazing sculpture at the front of the Cathedral is titled Ex Nihilo, and depicts the birth of mankind. It’s quite a sight to see in person.

Ex Nihilo sculpture atop doors of Washington National Cathedral.

Looking Ahead

I would love to visit Washington National Cathedral again one day. I’d like to take a normal tour of the downstairs features, something we didn’t do during this trip. But I’d also like to take another of these special tours through the upper reaches of the building.

Details outside Washington National Cathedral.

Beautiful archways upstairs in Washington National Cathedral.

I’d highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the Washington, D.C., area. And I’d recommend the Washington Photo Safari group. This is the only tour I’ve taken with them, but I enjoyed it. The tour was a little less about photo instruction and a little more about access to the Cathedral and the docent, but the tour instructors were always near by to answer questions and were periodically offering advice on things to shoot and different techniques to try.

Metal sculpture on front door of Washington National Cathedral.

Have you ever been to Washington National Cathedral, or attended a Washington Photo Safari? If so let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

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