Friday, February 15, 2013

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival Bloom Watch 2013

Updated Bloom Schedule Prediction from the National Park Service (blog updated 3/21/13)

When I think of Spring, I think of Cherry Blossoms framing the Tidal Basin in Washington DC.  Last Spring was the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC and I had the privilege of being able to photograph the blossoms in their peak bloom.  This was something on my bucket list of places to photograph and it surpassed every dream that I could have imagined.

The most important thing to know is that the cherry blossoms do not necessarily bloom during the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Washington DC sets up the dates for the festival almost a year in advance, but the blooming of the cherry blossom trees is based strictly on the weather and how early or late Spring comes.  Last year the cherry blossoms bloomed very early with a peak bloom on March 20th.   I cannot tell you how many people stopped and asked me where the cherry blossoms were two and three weeks after they bloomed.

Here are 5 Tips so that you can capture your own amazing and breathtaking Washington DC Cherry Blossom photographs.

Tip #1
Watch the Bloom Watch

ISO 100 ~ 135mm ~ f/5.7 ~ 1/80 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Aside from driving by the Tidal Basin every few days to see the progress of the buds, there is a website that I used last year that is invaluable!  The National Park Service posts a bloom watch for the Cherry Blossom Trees along the Tidal Basin.  You can see the averages for the past few years.  As soon as the trees start to bud, they will begin entering those dates and you will be able to start predicting about when the blooms will be in peak bloom.  There is also a webcam that you can see how the trees look without setting foot into DC.

Tip #2
Best Time to Photograph the Blossoms

ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/6.4 ~ 1/125 sec
© Corrie M Avila

The best time to photograph the blossoms is at sunrise.  You have to arrive before the sun comes up ~ seriously.  If you want to see the sunset over the cherry blossoms, by all means, go and see it ~ but don't expect to get any fantastic photographs because there are MILLIONS of other people there doing the same thing.  The best time to go is sunrise.  If you are patient and plan your shots well, you will be able to get some nice photos without people in them.  You will also get that nice lighting that makes the blossoms glow.

Tip #3
What to Wear

ISO 100 ~ 35mm ~ f/6.4 ~ 1/60 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Dress appropriately for the weather.  I made the H.U.G.E. mistake of wearing sandals when I went last year because the temps were forecasted to be in the 50's.  It was foggy, drizzly, and very very wet.  My feet were cold, wet, and damp and I will never do that again.  It is always colder and windier around the National Mall or the Tidal Basin.  Trust me on this one, you want to make sure you have comfortable and closed toed shoes along with a warm enough sweater or jacket.

Tip #4

ISO 100 ~ 14mm ~ f/7.0 ~ 1/50 sec
© Corrie M Avila

When photographing the blossoms, think about how you can frame the photo.  Can you use the branches of the blossoms to border the Lincoln Memorial?  How about using the natural curvature of the basin in your photo as a leading line?  It can be overwhelming trying to capture the vastness of the cherry blossoms in a single photograph, so try to isolate one idea/area and focus on that first.  Many times when you start with a small focus area and work your way out, you'll have captured the essence of the location.

Tip #5
Watch where you are Going!

ISO 125 ~ 28mm ~ f/5.7 ~ 1/40 sec
© Corrie M Avila

Some of these trees are the original planted trees from 100 years ago.  In their senior years, the tree trunks have begun to reach out towards the water.  WATCH OUT FOR LOW TREE LIMBS!  They actually have signs posted that say this... I even took a photo of one of the signs :)  And then later I proceeded to walk directly into a tree limb that left stars in my eyes and a bump on my head.  You also need to watch where you are walking.  I know this may seem like a silly statement, but there is a large area of the basin that is not fenced and if you are not watching where the edge is ~ you and your camera will be going for a nice cold and icy dip.  Thankfully, I managed to avoid this!

final thoughts....

When I think back to my time out photographing the cherry blossoms, it stirs up the best memories.  I picture myself laying down in the grass under a cherry blossom tree, looking up, and having the petals falling on me like a soft and fragrant rain <3 <3 <3

Me <3
ISO 100 ~ 28mm ~ f/4.0 ~ 1/50 sec
© Corrie M Avila

This winter seems to be following the track of last year.  It has been unseasonably warm and it looks like Spring will come a little earlier again.  So if I were to guess, I would say that the blossoms will most likely bloom around the same time table that they did last year (March 20th).  But really, all that is, is a guess.  If you are making plans to come for the festival, you can find all the dates, times, and info here.  If you are trying to come to see the cherry blossoms in peak bloom, you may need to be a little flexible and make sure to do your homework.  If you can catch the blossoms in their peak bloom, it is an experience you will never forget!

Capturing the Moment,

Corrie <3

PS ~ All the photos you see above are available for sale ~ please contact me if interested ~

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