Cherry Blossom Update

Photo colleague Carla and I checked out potential images on Friday afternoon and concluded that the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin will not be ready for prime time until Monday or Tuesday.  And the prospects for rain and snow on the weekend have raised some concerns that the blossoms may be damaged before then. A thorough article in the Washington Post provides the details.

On the positive side, the magnolia trees continued to be magnificent everywhere they are growing as illustrated in the image below.

Cherry Blossoms 01

Magnolia Trees at Enid Haupt Garden, Smithsonian Castle

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 35mm.  Hand held, with fill flash 1/200th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

They also can be found, among other places, in the Outdoor Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art, Rawlins Park between the two lanes of E Street, and a small stand near the Korean War Memorial.

Cherry Blossoms 02

Magnolia Trees Reflected in Korean War Memorial Pool

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm.  Hand held, exposure of 1/160th sec. @ f/14, ISO 800)

In addition to the Magnolias, the weeping cherry trees are in excellent viewing condition, but tend to be found as single trees in various locations.  The weeping willows along the Potomac are also looking very nice.

Cherry Blossoms 03

Weeping Willow Trees and Weeping Cherry along the Potomac

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 29mm.  Hand held, exposure at 1/125th sec. @ f/14, ISO 400)

And if you are over in the Federal Triangle area, check out the newly restored Mellon Memorial Fountain at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue.  I suspect it will look good in any weather.

Mellon Memorial Fountain 05

Mellon Memorial Fountain, March 17, 2016

In the meantime,

Keep Shooting…..

Cherry Blossoms-Now!

MMMaDespite the threat of rain, it was time for another dawn patrol to check on things in DC. After all, the entire city (or so the news played it) had experienced a power loss yesterday, who knows what conditions would be like around the monuments.  First stop, the Lincoln Memorial about 30 minutes before sunrise.  I figured with the dismal weather, there would be no one else about.  But what had been a deserted plaza two days ago was now filled with about 50 twenty-somethings engaged in an energetic calisthenics workout .  I managed to resist their enthusiasm and climbed the steps in search of a puddle that might provide an interesting reflection.

Lincoln Memorial 01

Reflections, Lincoln Memorial

Shortly afterwards, the entire gang of exercise enthusiasts came up the steps apparently having completed their routine and intent on giving themselves a standing ovation for their efforts.  This was my cue to head over to the Tidal Basin.

The lights were still ablaze at the Martin Luther King Memorial and it was clear that the cherry trees  were making excellent progress.  In fact, they are ready to be photographed. So I obliged them, trying out a few new compositions of the Memorial with some of the trees as a backdrop.  The image below is a sample.

MLK 01

Early Morning, Martin Luther King Memorial

The conditions in the Tidal Basin itself were less positive.  The heavy cloud cover prevented any color from the rising sun and a medium breeze eliminated any chances for an interesting reflection in the water.  But as the image below shows, the trees are doing their part.

Tidal Basin 03

Morning clouds, Tidal Basin

Finally, to provide a better idea of the status of the blossoms this morning, the image below shows a close-up.

Cherry Blossoms 01

If today’s forecast of temperatures in the low 50s holds true, the blossoms’ emergence will be a little less rapid.  My advice: get down there as soon as you think the weather is favorable for your visit.  The crowds will be there soon.

Cherry Blossoms–Now?

Things are moving fast down at the Tidal Basin.  The partial eclipse at dawn on Saturday was a bust because of clouds, but there was a full moon rise that evening, and the Cherry Blossom Festival decided to launch a bunch of fireworks at about the same time.  .So of course I went down to practice my Fireworks-Moonrise-Jefferson Memorial-Night Scene technique.  The image below is the result.

Jefferson Fireworks

Moonrise and Fireworks, Jefferson Memorial

I’m not sure when I’ll get another chance at this combination, so I’ll have to be satisfied with this one unless I want to cheat.

On Sunday morning I returned for another moon image, this time the setting moon with the Jefferson which would also give me a chance to check on the status of the cherry blossoms. Even in the pre-dawn twilight it was obvious that they had been busy that night because there was a pink cast to the trees that had been absent the day before.  It’s hard to see in the small image below, but the so-called “indicator tree” that is typically a few days ahead of all the others was indicating good things were coming soon.  There were 9,000 people attending a sunrise church service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial but there was hardly anyone around the Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Moonset 01

Setting Moon at Dawn, April 5

I returned again this morning and found the walkways were still virtually deserted.   However, there was an incredibly long line waiting for admission to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing which was fine with me. The pink tone in the trees was much stronger and the lack of wind before sunrise enabled some nice reflections.

Tidal Basin 02

Tidal Basin, 10 Minutes before Sunrise, April 6

Tidal Basin 01

Tidal Basin, 30 Minutes after Sunrise, April 6

Today was quite warm so there should be further progress on Tuesday.  The forecast for Tuesday calls for some rain and cloudy weather but a while back I stupidly made a morning dental appointment for this day.  But I’ll definitely be back there on Wednesday, rain or shine.

Cherry Blossoms–Not Yet!

Although the cherry blossoms have yet to  fully awaken, there are plenty of other photographic opportunities right now in Washington, DC.

At sunrise two days ago, the tidal basin was almost completely deserted.   The sky was clear which means you can get the shot below as the sun clears the horizon.

Jefferson Sunrise 02

Sunrise, April 2, 2015

At sunrise the  next day, rain clouds were coming in from the west but there were some openings in the eastern sky.  Again, the tidal basin was deserted.

Jefferson Sunrise

Sunrise, April 3, 2015

The rain started within an hour after the image above was taken but it was a light rain so I checked out the status of the pink magnolia trees in Rawlins Park (E Street, Foggy Bottom) that usually are open before the cherry blossoms.

Tulip Trees 01

Afternoon Rain Shower, Rawlins Park

Tulip Trees 02

Magnolia, Rawlins Square

Tulip Trees 03

Magnolia, Rawlins Square

While photographing the square, I noticed some white magnolias across the street at the Red Cross National Headquarters (20th and E Streets NW).  A quick check showed that an evening shot might be worthwhile.

Red Cross 01

Evening, Red Cross Headquarters

This morning, I checked out the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue.

Tulip Trees 05

Morning, April 4, 2015

If you want to photograph these trees, don’t delay.  They go quickly and inclement weather is forecast for mid-week.You can also find them in the Sculpture Garden (National Gallery of Art) and at the George Mason Memorial near the Jefferson Memorial.

Scouting Report: Getting Ready for Spring

The signs are unmistakable: the calendar says March, sunrise is coming earlier each day, the temperatures are rising, and the snow is disappearing.

Jefferson at Sunrise

Jefferson Memorial at Sunrise, March 12, 2012

After all, it’s been 3 years since I got a decent image on March 12th.  So yesterday afternoon (March 12th), I made a scouting run into the city to check out a few sites for possible photo opportunities.  As I made the rounds, it appeared that conditions were promising for a sunset image (see below) so I kept my eye on the clouds building up as I explored the area around the National Mall.

The scouting findings may be of interest to photographers in the Washington, DC area, others can skip to the end and see what happened at 7:25 PM.

Solar Cycle:  For the next few days, the late afternoon sun (when skies are clear) will be providing some opportunities as it illuminates the Federal Triangle Buildings along the north side of Constitution Avenue and the recently renovated Arts and Industries Building on Independence Avenue.

Fountains:  As usual at this time of year, virtually all of the fountains are still shut down for the winter.  This includes the fountains and pool at the World War II Memorial and the Reflecting Pool between the WW II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  In addition, the waterfall at the northwest corner of the Museum of the American Indian is dry and the waterfalls at the FDR Memorial are also turned off.

The Tidal Basin:  There is a significant amount of ice still in the Basin, but this should be melted in a few days.

National Gallery, East Wing: The large construction crane is finally gone, although there is still a considerable amount of fencing and construction equipment on the south and east sides of the building.  However, there are good angles on the west side of the building.

Ongoing Construction:  The US Capitol is still under scaffolding, of course, and the white plastic wrap covering part of the scaffolding has been altered for the worse (who would have thought that was possible) by adding a section with a tawdry taupe color.  The new African American Museum is still far from completion and news reports state that the opening date has been pushed back to early 2017.  There is better news a few blocks to the west where the interminable construction project for a relatively small flood control wall (17th Street and Constitution Avenue) is all but wrapped up.  The unsightly wooden fence on the northeast corner of 17th and Constitution is gone, leaving a rather graceful stone wall curving toward the Washington Monument.  Across 17th, the construction equipment has been removed and the landscaping seems completed.  However, there are still some chain link fences protecting the larger trees along 17th Street.

Upcoming Events

March 14: DC Rock ‘n Roll MarathonThe Start Time 7:30 AM likely will complicate efforts to photograph anything else so plan accordingly.  Details here.

March 20: The Equinox.  Check your Photographer’s Ephemeris app for an opportunity near you.

March 28: Kite Festival, the long-running kite festival will be in its usual location on the grounds of the Washington Monument starting at 10:00 AM.  For details, click here.

April 4: Full Moon. Check your Photographer’s Ephemeris app for an opportunity near you.

Kite Festival 02

Kite Festival

Kite Festival 03

Kite Festival

Sunset at the FDR Memorial

As the sun edged closer to the horizon last night, I made my way over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial which is located on the west side of the Tidal Basin.  DC locals might think this is a strange location to capture a sunset, but I thought it would be a good backdrop for a specific feature at the Memorial.  The result is shown below.

Roosevelt Memorial

FDR Memorial at Sunset, March 12, 2015

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod, extended to 24mm; exposure 1 sec. @f/16, EV = -1.0 ISO 400.)

The Memorial, on 7.5 acres chronicles the four terms of Roosevelt’s Presidency.  This section, with the five pillars and five panels on the wall, were intended to represent the social programs (New Deal) during his presidency. The design has been criticized as the “least successful” of the many sculptures in the Memorial, and I would agree that their intended symbolism is opaque.  Nevertheless, I have found them to be an interesting photographic subject.

Coming Soon–Iguazu Falls (Really!)

Washington, D.C. — National Cathedral

National Cathedral 01The Washington Cathedral Nave, Looking West

The Washington National Cathedral is one of the great interior spaces in the city.  This week, it will be especially interesting because all of the seating has been removed from the nave.  In a special week-long program, the Cathedral is evoking the experience of Gothic cathedrals centuries ago when there was no seating.  The program (“Seeing Deeper”) included two morning photo sessions, allowing photographers to sign up for an opportunity to take pictures before normal opening hours.  Thanks to the sharp eye of my sister, I was alerted in time to snag one of the limited number of tickets for this morning’s session.

National Cathedral 03

The Photographers at Work

The event was well-organized as the Cathedral staff understood what was desired by everyone in the group: An unobstructed long view of the nave with no other photographers milling about in the scene. We were guided to the east end of the nave where there was sufficient space to set up without obstructing the efforts of others.  After about 20 minutes, we were released to wander about the main level and photograph whatever struck our fancy.

National Cathedral 02

View from Southwest Corner of Nave

The other good news is that much of the construction paraphanalia associated with the repair of earthquake damage is gone, such as the netting that had been hanging from the ceiling to protect against falling debris.  Some of the scaffolding is still there (see first image above), but the photography opportunities are much improved.  Information on the other events associated with the Seeing Deeper program can be found at the Cathedral’s web site.

Washington DC — November Scouting Report

Breaking News:  The scaffolding for the US Capitol Dome project is now completely up, but the unique illumination that makes it an interesting subject at night (see image below) may be about to disappear.  A check on the east front of the building showed an enormous white plastic sheet enveloping about 60% of the dome and scaffolding on that side and a small portion of the north side.

Capitol Dome Scaffolding

                                  US Capitol Under Repair  (View of West Front)                                   (Nikon D800E with 20-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod; exposure 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

This week, I made two scouting runs into the city to determine the feasibility of an evening shoot in the coming weeks.   Along the way, I checked the status of other sites that may be of interest to local photographers.

The Bad News

Fountains: A number of the major and minor fountains are no longer running, having been shut down for the winter.  These include the Bartholdi Fountain, the Court of Neptune at the Library of Congress, the two small fountains on the plaza of the Supreme Court, the Joseph Darlington Memorial Fountain at the intersection of Indiana Avenue and 5th Street NW, and the Mellon Fountain at the Federal Triangle.  And, of course, the long neglected but potentially impressive Columbus Fountain at Union Station continues to languish along with the two smaller basins on its flanks.

The Tulip Library:  The colorful annuals that were blooming in profusion not many weeks ago are now gone.  But in the spring there will be a new display of tulips providing a great foreground for images of the Washington Monument.

National Gallery, East Wing: There is still one crane remaining alongside the building on the Constitution Avenue side.  Close crop shots from a number of angles are possible, however.

Renwick Gallery:  The renovation, begun earlier this year, is still underway and will probably last through next year. The Gallery is closed and well hidden behind the construction scaffolding.

Old Post Office: Also closed, also lots of scaffolding plus an enormous sign with the new owner’s last name prominently displayed.

The Good News

Fountains:  Some are still running, but time is growing short.  The World War II Memorial seems to be in full operation and likely will be one of the last to shut down.  Others that still have running water include the new Disabled for Life Veterans Memorial (plus the flame was going strong this afternoon), the cascades on the northwest side of the American Indian Museum, the Senate Garage Fountain (although the illumination was turned off a few nights ago), the reflecting pool at the Japanese Internment Memorial (Louisiana Avenue and D Street, NW), and the twin fountains/cascades on the plaza of the US Navy Memorial (Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, NW).

Kennedy Center:  The large temporary tent that had been erected on the south side of the building is now gone.  Those wishing to take photographs from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge pedestrian sidewalk or from vantage points on that side of the Center will no longer have to contend with this.

Upcoming Events

The 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree is making its way from Minnesota and is scheduled to arrive at 10 AM on November 21st.  The lighting ceremony will be on December 2nd.  Traditionally, the Capitol Police have suspended the requirement for permits to use a tripod on the Capitol grounds for the entire month of December.  Hopefully, that will be repeated this year.  Stay tuned….

Preparations for the National Christmas Tree and Pathway to Peace are well underway now on the ellipse, but much remains to be done.  The lighting ceremony will be on December 6th.

The National Hanukkah Menorah to celebrate the 8-day Jewish holiday will also be on the ellipse.  The lighting ceremony will be at 4 PM on December 16th.

So, get out and get shooting…