How and Where to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is home to more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees, a gift from Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki in 1912. Today, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates this event and also coincides with the blooming of the cherry blossom trees. A beautiful sign of the arrival of spring, it’s a magical time to visit the nation’s capital. It’s also a once-a-year opportunity to photograph this stunning and ephemeral event. To make the most of your time, here are some tips on how to best photograph cherry blossoms, as well as the best photo shoot venues in Washington D.C. where you can capture them.

Tips for photographing cherry blossoms

Have the right equipment

A zoom lens is handy to capture a variety of shots. If you shoot only with prime lenses, bring several: a macro, wide-angle, and a 50mm and 105mm lens would be ideal. Bring the fastest lenses you have so you can blur out the backgrounds on certain images.

You’ll also want to bring a tripod to reduce camera shake and allow for longer exposures, key for maximizing the hours you can shoot at. Bring some filters (circular polarizer to cut the glare, and neutral density so you can work with longer exposures). A flash diffuser or reflector can also come in handy.

Pick the right time

For the best lighting, go in the early morning or early evening. As a bonus, you’ll also avoid the times with the most people. Avoid shooting in the midday sun as that will wash out your photos of the delicate blossoms. Use your tripod to get crisp photos in low lighting.

Going on an overcast day will help the colors of your photos pop. A rainy day can make for interesting photos as well — just make sure to protect your equipment from the elements.

You’ll also want to go during peak bloom if possible. Keep an eye on the forecasts and then time your visit accordingly. Just be aware that everyone is trying to be there during peak bloom too.

How and Where to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

Work on your composition

Try a variety of compositions. Shoot wide to capture an entire tree or grove of trees. Zoom in to focus on a cluster of blossoms. Use a macro lens to capture details on individual petals. 

Look for ways to add leading lines to your photos. Get creative in using branches and other elements to frame your photos. Also look for contrasting colors to balance all that pink and white.

Try different angles

While it’s fine to shoot straight on, you’ll want to vary your angles to get more interesting shots. Try shooting up from directly below a tree. The blue sky also makes for a nice contrast against the pink and white. Also try shooting down, looking for blossoms on the ground or in the water. Try shooting away from the tree and instead capturing the reflection in the water.

Watch your exposure

Pastel colors can be difficult for your camera’s light meter. Filling your entire frame with cherry blossoms will likely cause your image to be underexposed. Set your camera to overexpose to compensate for this.

Avoid using direct flash at close range as it will wash out the delicate blossoms. Try experimenting with fill flash for certain compositions. Use a diffuser to soften the harsh light from the flash.

Where to photograph cherry blossoms

Now that you know how you should go about photographing cherry blossoms, you also need to figure out where. Here are the best cherry blossom photoshoot locations in Washington D.C.

How and Where to Photograph Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.from North Carolina Lifestyle Blogger Adventures of Frugal Mom

1. Tidal Basin

It’s the most popular spot for viewing and capturing cherry blossoms, and for good reason. There are trees all around the basin, making it easily accessible. Plus, you can capture the iconic shots of cherry blossom trees framing the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. 

The downside is everyone else will be here too and you will be fighting the crowds during peak times.

2. National Arboretum

Located on the eastern edge of Washington D.C., the 446-acre arboretum boasts more than 1,000 cherry trees across 30 sites. The best part is the lack of crowds. Even if there are people around, just walk around until you find your perfect set of trees and blossoms.

3. Stanton Park

Tucked away on Capitol Hill, the perimeter of this 4-acre park is lined with cherry blossom trees. It’s also only a 10-minute walk from Union Station, making it an easily accessible, centrally located spot to see the cherry blossoms largely free from crowds.

4. Anacostia Park

Located next to the Anacostia River, Anacostia Park is one of the largest recreation areas in Washington D.C., with more than 1,200 acres of space. There are also groves of cherry trees along the Anacostia River.

5. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Located in Vienna, Virginia, the 95-acre park offers more than 100 cherry blossom trees. Most of the trees can be found near the entrance and around a lake. There are also plenty of other pretty flowers to photograph here too.

Final thoughts on photographing cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.

Photographing the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. is high on the shot list of many photographers. Following the tips in this article will help you properly capture this beautiful event. 

Be sure to check the National Park Service’s peak bloom predictor if you want to be there during peak bloom. Be prepared for the crowds around the Tidal Basin, or check out some of the lesser-known photo shoot venues in Washington D.C. for cherry blossoms. Plan your shots ahead of time to make sure you capture everything you want. And don’t forget to also enjoy the view!

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