National Cherry Blossom Festival…[updated]

12 03 2012

…these words strike fear into the locals. Long lines on the Metro. Restaurants that are packed. People shoulder to shoulder around the tidal basin. With that being said, the festival is a big event that is loved by many.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of the relationship between Japan and the United States (you know, the good parts of it) that started with hundreds of cherry trees being sent from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s. It attracts visitors from all around the world that take over the District of Columbia for a few weeks each spring.

The blossoms are a sight to see. Early morning (sunrise) is a great time to see the blossoms. The weather is cool, downtown isn’t year crowded, and the light is beautiful. I’d recommend it to anyone willing to crawl out of bed while it’s still dark to get down to the Tidal Basin. The cherry blossoms are expected to be at peak bloom from March 20-23 March 24-28, 2012; early this year due to the mild “winter”.

Below are a few photos of the Tidal Basin that I’ve taken during previous visits to see the cherry blossoms. You may also view other photos from Washington, D.C .by visiting my Washington, D.C. gallery.

Washington Monument at Sunrise - Cherry Blossoms

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin

Sunrise at the Washington Monument

Abstract sunrise

Sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial - Cherry Blossoms

Sunrise at the Jefferson Memorial

Cherry Blossoms and the Washington Monument

Early morning light with the Washington Monument


Wait Your Turn

9 12 2010

While visiting Maui in May, my wife and I spent a day driving the Road to Hana. It’s a great drive, unless you get nauseous. For a while, I thought that she would just say she didn’t feel well when we were out taking photos (read “while I was out taking photos and she was along for the ride”) and was tired of stop and go driving. After a few trips out sight-seeing, we learned that she doesn’t do well on windy roads. But enough of the side story; car-sickness or not, driving to Hana along the north coast of Maui is an unforgettable ride. There are great views of the ocean, cliffs, beaches, and a few small towns along way. We enjoyed the adventure of exploring Maui.

During our day out, we stopped at Waianapanapa State Park to check out the black sand beach and the surrounding lava shelves. While there, we walked through a beach cave that led to the ocean. As we walked through the cave, I took my camera out to take some photos. When we got to the end, we came across a boy that was looking at the water. You couldn’t continue through the ocean side without getting pounded by the waves. In my mind, I wanted a photo of the cave and ocean; I had no real inspiration to have a person in the photo. But as I patiently waited for my “turn” at the front of the cave, I decided to snap a shot or two using him as a subject. The resulting photo is posted below. Taking a few moments to wait and get the photo I wanted actually provided the opportunity to take what turned out to be a significantly stronger photograph (at least in my opinion).

When we turned around to leave the cave, we found about 25 people in one of the larger areas. As we approached the exit, we found that it started to rain fairly hard and people came to the cave for cover. We decided to make a run for the car and wait out the short shower there.

Additional photos from Maui and Waianapanapa State Park can be seen in my gallery named Maui: The Valley Isle – 2010.

Watching the Water

A boy watching the ocean through a beach cave at Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui (Hawaii).

Photography Tip – Don’t Take Scenes for Granted

1 03 2010

My photography tip or thought for the day has to do with taking a scene for granted. Long story short, when you’re looking at a scene, keep in mind that you may be able to get “that” photograph again. For a short story made longer, read on:

I first saw the barn in the photo below about 5 years ago. It’s located just off of Georgetown Pike (Northern Virginia) on the way to Great Falls National Park. I thought that it was an interesting photo subject but there was no where to park. I drove past the bard about 2-3 times a year for the next 4 years. Every time I visited Great Falls I thought about how I could get a photo or two of it. Eventually this past fall I sucked it up. I pulled my car off of the road and parked in some high grass. It was probably a spot that had no business being parked on. Anyone that has driven this road can probably picture the lack of “pull off” parking. I walked about 100 yards to the opening in the tree line that allowed me to capture the shot below.

Why do I tell you all of this? Well a few weeks ago, I took a drive to Great Falls shortly after the back to back blizzards (B^3 would have been a clever name). It was a day that there certainly no where to stash a car off of the side of the road because of 4 snow plowed embankments. I was curious to see the barn in a winter like scene as I had never gone to Great Falls with snow on the ground. As I approached the barn, I saw that the scene was no more. The roof had collapsed under the weight of the snow and I would guess that the barn will be demolished in the near future.

So with this photo of a barn in mind, I suggest taking a photograph of a good scene when you find one because it might not always be there for the taking.

Photography Tips: Take Many to Get One

5 01 2010

One common misconception of “good” photographers is that every photograph they take is a good shot. In my experience, this is hardly the case. I just choose not to show you my bad shots. In the world of digital photography, bad shots are cheap. They cost nothing to delete.

One of my photographs that I enjoy is posted below. It was a particularly difficult shot to capture how I wanted as I was on one small boat trying to photograph another. The boat rocked up, down, left, and right. And I missed the shot up, down, left, and right. It took many attempts to get the boat framed how I envisioned and do it with a straight horizon. It was my decision to take about 10 shots of the same scene that allowed me to capture a good shot. If I had stopped at 1, 2, or even 3 attempts, I would have been left with less clutter on  my computer and nothing to show for it. Taking a few extra shots allowed me to get a photograph that is at least worth sharing.

I’m not suggesting that one decide to shoot recklessly in all situations. This will not challenge a photographer to improve. But when difficult circumstances present themselves, don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to take a few bad shots to capture the good one.

A sailbot on the bay in Annapolis, MD

Wait for a Photography Tip

18 10 2009

Last weekend I was at the U.S. Capitol looking to get some decent shots as the sun began to set.  My goal was catch a shot of the Capitol (from the east front) with a lit up sky behind it. It was a cloudy day that was breaking; the kind of day that often produces something dramatic at sunset. I got to the Capitol and found my spots, but was disappointed to find that clouds had gathered blocking the sunset and what I thought would be potential color.

I left the east front somewhat disappointed with the shots I had taken. Nothing post worthy. I headed to the west front to figure out what to do with the rest of the evening. I was sitting along the reflecting pool by the Capitol facing the building. There was a fair number of tourits due to the comfortable weather and long (Columbus Day) weekend. When I turned around, I was greeted by what I was waiting for:

The light of the golden hour lit the sky. The sun had already set below the clouded horizon, but after a few minutes the sun spread its color over the western side of Washington, DC.

So to get to the photography tip, don’t give up on light. Wait for the light. It’s called the golden hour for a reason. Not because it’s always an hour, but because the time that the sky lights up varies from day to day.

The photos above and other new images can also be seen at New Additions. Feel free to view other photos from Washington, DC.

Photography Tip: Find Your Niche

15 02 2009

I was traveling on Friday and listening to the radio. The host was talking about the NBA and in particular a player that has the ability to play numerous positions, but none particularly well. He went on to compare this player to a handful of stars in the league that are limited to one position by their abilities. The moral of the rant was that the host would rather have a basketball player that did one thing well instead of 5 things in a mediocre fashion.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

This idea immediately stuck in my head as one that can easily relate to photography. In the world of photography, there are photographers that shoot weddings, portraits, landscapes, wildlife, macro, and the list can go on. While the principles of a good photograph can apply to various types of photography, it takes a lot of time and practice to improve the skills of any one type. There is a better chance of making your work stand out if you find your niche in the photography world. Find that area of interest or talent that you can develop into your strength. I would expect that you’ll have more success with a portfolio of strong wedding portraits than one that has average wildlife, portrait, and macro shots.

Here are some factors that may impact you in finding your niche:

  • personal interest – first and foremost, photography should be fun, so shoot things you like
  • equipment
  • accessibility – you might really like shooting abandoned properties, but access to these sights might be limited
  • time
  • money – if you’re trying to make a living, you might have to consider where the money is!

I have found my “niche” in landscape, nature, and architecture photography because I enjoy the process of finding and taking good photographs outdoors.  Sports photography is another great interest, but I am limited by my equipment as I have not yet invested in a lens that will give me a fighting chance in capturing strong sports images.

Morning Light at the Capitol

31 01 2009
The US Capitol Dome at Sunrise

The US Capitol Dome at Sunrise

Photographers usually suggest that one should shoot at the beginning or end of daylight because the light is “best” at those times. I’ve seen many sunsets in the DC area, but have never found the right scene with the Capitol Building at sunset. Part of this might be because the East Front (the side you would shoot if you wanted the sunset behind the building) of the building has been under renovation for the time I have lived in this area. But the bigger issue is I was never able to drag myself out of bed with the time to get to the Capitol for sunrise.

Statue of Uslysses S. Grant at the Capitol

Statue of Uslysses S. Grant at the Capitol

My biggest fear of getting up to photograph sunrise is a big cloud that hides the sun and dulls the colors. But on the day after Christmas (2008), the stars aligned. I was planning to take my wife to work that day and she had to be into the city before sunrise. I took her in and was able to easily get downtown and park close (and for free) to the Capitol. There were a few scattered clouds, but only enough to add character to the sky, not hide the light. The sunrise was spectacular.

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

The reflecting pool added to a great sunrise. It was partially frozen which provided for a unique foreground. The ice reflected the color and the water provided a perfect mirror. Everything came together for some nice photographs.

Utilizing some common photography tips allowed me to enjoy a cool crisp morning with the camera AND capture some good photographs. Among the tips I was sure to utilize were:

  • shoot at sunrise or sunset
  • use a tripod; this allowed me to capture a longer exposure and get good light
  • find a scene in a scene (to follow my advice from a previous post!)

Please feel free to visit my Washington, DC gallery.