Cherry Blossoms at Peak

 

The cherry trees were entering the peak phase today and the tidal basin was lined with photographers at sunrise.  Last night, however, there was a full moon and only three of us (photo colleagues Joan and Cynthia) were shooting in this new location.

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Full Moon, View from Virginia Shoreline

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 165mm; exposure: 2.5 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 400; taken about 35 minutes after sunset)

While the moon was rising the cherry trees were hard at work, getting ready for this morning.  Both of the images below were taken before sunrise this morning.

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Dawn, Tidal Basin

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24mm; exposure: 5 sec. at f/16, ISO 800; On-camera flash at reduced power to provide slight fill on blossoms, taken about 35 minutes before sunrise)

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Dawn, Jefferson Memorial

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 48mm; exposure: 0.5 sec. at f/16, ISO 800; On-camera flash at normal power to provide fill on blossoms, taken about 25 minutes before sunrise)

I suspect none of the photographers there were thrilled to see all those cranes to the left of the Jefferson Memorial.  They are in the early phases of a major development along the waterfront on Maine Avenue.  I suspect most of us will be using Photoshop to “disappear” them.

The blossoms will be with us for a few more days, weather permitting.

Keep Shooting….

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.

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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.

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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.

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Mellon Memorial Fountain, March 17, 2016

In the meantime,

Keep Shooting…..

Cherry Blossom Mania

It had been a quiet week, thanks to the cloudy weather and intermittent rain.  The cherry blossoms had not been officially declared “at peak.”  Few photographers bothered to show up in the wee hours before the sun made its appearance.  But on Saturday, everything changed.

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A little after 6:00 AM and there were only a few spots with some room.

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And it was possible to get a pretty decent image at 6:25 AM

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But soon it seemed that anyone who had a camera was here.

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Even an IMAX film crew working a documentary for the National Park Service.

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A few photographers were fashionably color coordinated (Note the teal accents).

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Even the Tripod Police dressed up with nice blue accessories.

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Everyone was in a good mood, some especially so.

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Those who got up late paid the price (But pink and blue was still the rule).

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Still, photo ops are where you find them

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Others used the blossoms as a prop instead of the subject.

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This magnolia tree is a favorite for wedding photographers

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A wedding announcement?  Not a bad idea.

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This pose started to draw a crowd.

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As did this one

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But the men practicing for the Kumu’ohu Challenge race on April 18 could care less.

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No need to hire a photographer, get a remote and Voila!

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A classic áo dài, and a perfect occasion for it.

Recipe for a perfect cherry blossom shoot?

The day before official peak must be a weekday, with a forecast that calls for clouds, rain, and wind. And the forecast turns out to be wrong on all three counts.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tidal Basin, 10 Minutes before Sunrise, April 6

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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.

After-Before Friday Forum — Week 21

The After-Before Friday Forum, sponsored by Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing is an opportunity for photographers to exchange ideas on various post-processing techniques they use to achieve their creative vision. After all, when the shutter closes, there is still work to be done.  All of the submissions can be found at  the Forum Week 21 posting here.  Anyone can participate and the guidelines can be found in Stacy’s Forum post each week.

My submission this week was taken a few years ago at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC.  The cherry blossoms had peaked a day or so before and a night rain had knocked a lot of petals off the blossoms giving the appearance of a pink snow flurry.  I was fortunate in that no one had yet walked through the petals.  When photographing cherry blossoms in low light, I always use an on-camera flash to provide some fill light.  Just a touch is all that’s needed so I typically dial the flash back 2 or 3 stops.  In addition, I use a magenta gel filter on the flash so the white light doesn’t blow out the color of the petals.  (Technical data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24mm; exposure: 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 800) This produced the RAW file shown below.

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Original RAW Image

The exposure was OK with the cherry blossoms, the twilight blue of the sky, and the display wall.  The chief problem areas are: the overly hot flood light (upper center) and the uplights along the base of the wall; the underexposed pillars; and the foreground with the pink petals.  The image was opened in Adobe Camera RAW as the first step.

 Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 02Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

Only four changes were needed here (red arrows). The “Highlights adjustment was moved to -53 to tone down the hotspots in the lights. The “Shadows” adjustment was maxed out to +100 to open up the dark areas which helped improve the pillars. Some “Clarity” was added (+26) and just a smidgen (+13)  with the “Vibrance” slider.  The image is well saturated already and doesn’t need much more.

This was followed by moving the image into Photoshop (see image below). The first step  involved the pillars.  The underexposed sections were selected (red lines) and a Curves

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First Curves Adjustment for Pillars

Adjustment Layer (blue arrow) was opened.  It required a fairly push  up with the curve to get the desired detail.  The blend mode was left in the default position of Normal.The final step was to brighten up the foreground a bit.  The pink are was selected (red line in the image below) and a second Curves Adjustment was made (blue arrow).  The blend mode

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 04

Second Curves Adjustment for Foreground

was left at Normal again and only a modest push was made to the Curve.   This produced the final image which is shown below.

Robin Kent After Week 21 FDR 01

Final Image

Once again, many thanks to Stacy Fischer for keeping this Forum up and running.  Please check out the submissions by the other participants at her post for Week 21 here.  And stay tuned for a special edition coming soon that is based on a suggestion from one of the participants.

Cherry Blossoms: Final Report

It was all too brief.  They were late to arrive, then came in with a rush, delighted us for just a few days, and now they are leaving.  For those of us who want to photograph them, it seems harder each year as more and more people descend upon this little landscape of pink trees framed by blue water and skies with constantly changing hues.

I guess it started on March 29th when the first hints appeared. An early morning fog blanketed the scene with an air of mystery, the almost invisible shade of pink suggestive of what might be in store.  The nearly deserted sidewalks suggested that only a privileged few knew of this place. For more than a week, the tease continued.  But by the morning of April 8th, the buds were beginning to open.  From a distance, the trees glowed with that distinctive pink while up close you could anticipate something better was yet to come.

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April 8, 2014, 6:43 AM, overcast sky

But suddenly, the accelerator was pushed to the floor and in the next 24 hours, the blossoms swelled considerably.  Yet the number of people was still manageable.  There was no real problem finding a place to set up.  But warning bells of experience from past years were sounding in my brain.

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Sunrise, April 9, 2014

On Thursday April 10th, the floodgates opened and, as if on signal, a human tsunami rolled into the Tidal Basin.  For a brilliant description of the crowds from the perspective of a photographer, you can’t do better than the post by Mitch Zeissler. People wandering through the scene are a fact of life for DC photographers and adaptation is the only alternative to surrender.  One approach is combining patience with anticipation.  This image below is a merge of 4 separate shots, the first three taken from the extreme left to the middle right.  Then I waited until there was a brief moment when the sidewalk in the foreground was relatively clear and took the fourth image.

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Sunrise, April 10, 2014

An obvious tactic is to incorporate the people in the image.  The tree below was a magnet for every camera phone that came by.  At any given moment some half dozen people would be somewhere in the foreground of this scene even though I was less than 10 feet from the tree.  The image here is actually a merge of 9 images shot of small sections of the tree that had no one in the picture.  But the portion immediately under the low branch arching over the sidewalk was always packed.  Then another photographer with a model appeared and the river of pedestrians kindly diverted around the tree to allow the fashion shoot to proceed undisturbed.   I grabbed the final shot with just the two of them in it.  Below it is what a photographic ethicist would call blatant cheating.  The two were removed digitally

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Early Morning April 10, 2014

         ImagePhotoshop “Cheating”

The next morning I arrived about 45 minutes before sunrise and managed to find a location that held some promise for an unobstructed composition.  The result is the image below.  This one is a merge of six images.  (Technical data: Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod; Focal length 31mm, exposure 0.5 sec @f/16, EV set @ -1; flash unit off camera handheld with flash power reduced 3 stops and set at rear curtain sync.)

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Dawn, April 11, 2014

The next day was a Saturday, the weather was forecast to be perfect, and the Cherry Blossom parade was scheduled for later that morning.  It didn’t take a genius to know that the crowds would be far worse, but a friend and I bravely set forth to see what we could find.  As it happened, things worked out OK, and this is one image from that morning, taken at 6:25 AM. (Technical Data: Single image taken with Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod; Focal length 70mm,exposure 1/5th sec @ f/16, no flash.)

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Morning Twilight, April 12, 2014

It was a beautiful day and about as perfect as it gets here so the long walk back to the car was quite special, if you don’t mind sharing the moment with 50,000 people.  But signs of the end were clearly visible.  The occasional small flecks of tiny pink petals floating down from the trees told the tale.  The blossoms had peaked and the downward decline had begun.  The cycle was moving onward and a year from now we’ll be back here again.  I can hardly wait.