Cherry Blossoms in DC

I have lived in the Washington, DC area for nearly ten years, yet I had never gone out to photograph the annual Cherry Blossom bloom. The crowds intimidated me, and I don't like getting the same photograph as everyone else...

But I also knew it'd be criminal to live in the district this long and not photograph the blossoms! So I woke early this weekend and headed out in hopes of getting an image that was a little different.

My original goal was to get a nice sunrise, but heavy clouds dashed that hope immediately. Instead, I walked the perimeter of the tidal basin around the Jefferson Memorial in quest of some blossoms that would offer an interesting frame for the monument. Away from the crowds, I finally found this cluster of blossoms that framed the monument nicely.

To put my own unique spin on this quintessential DC image, I cropped the photograph to an extreme dimension. This allows the blossoms to dominate the frame and tell the story of this annual bloom.

If the weather cooperates, I'll hope to go out for one more stab at a good sunrise before the flowers drop....cross your fingers for some nice weather.

Washington's Moonrise

Sometimes it all comes together. Today was one of those days.

I had planned a very different photoshoot. But when side effects from the recent Nor'easter hampered my plans, I scrapped them. As luck would have it, tonight was a perfectly clear night, the moon was at 90%, and it was going to rise at 9pm over the National Mall in Washington, DC.

So I bundled up and headed out with the Nikon D850 in tow. Using my favorite app for photo planning - the Photographers Ephemeris - I planned my image of the Washington Monument to line up with the moon as it would ascend.

Some Photoshop magic was required to make this photograph. The moon's full size means it's extremely bright -- too bright. To make both the monument and moon visible, I captured them in separate exposures and combined them into the final product seen here.

Sometimes it all comes together.

Moonrise over the Washington Monument, March 2018

Moonrise over the Washington Monument, March 2018

Eclipse 2017

Like many people, I was bitten by Eclipse mania - I couldn't wait to peer up at the sky (through my safety glasses of course!) and see the moon cover the sun. Unfortunately, my work schedule meant I wouldn't be able to travel to an area that was part of the path of totality, and Washington, DC was only going to get about 85% obscuration. Despite the fact that this wasn't going to be the tremendous eclipse show that so much of the country would enjoy, I was determined to make the best of it and spent weeks planning my shot.

I will do a blog post in the coming days sharing how I took this image, because it is (obviously) a composite of several images. The sky never naturally looked like the image below, but every element in the photograph is genuine! 

As it would happen, planning in photography pays off, because I got a shot very close to the one I had visualized before setting out for the day. 

The sun images were captured with the Leica SL and a 400mm f/2.8 lens with 2x teleconverter (rendering an 800mm equivalent lens). I used a homemade filter to protect the lens and camera from the sun's harmful rays. The photograph of the Jefferson Memorial was made with my Leica SL and Leica 24-90mm lens with several neutral density filters and a polarizer mounted.

Come back soon to see the 'behind-the-scenes' for how this photograph was made. I hope you enjoy the finished product as much as I enjoyed taking it!

You can purchase a copy of this photograph for your home and have it delivered framed and ready to hang!

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Quick Shot: Frozen Potomac

It has been unusually cold in Washington, DC for the past few weeks, including a few solid inches of snow early last week. Snow and ice can bring out different behaviors in animals, so I decided to head out with my friend Tim to explore along the C&O Canal.

This particular Quick Shot captured something you'll rarely see in Washington, DC. Although snow is fairly common in the winter, the low temperatures that caused chunks of ice to be floating in the Potomac River are fairly uncommon. Apparently the creative part of my brain hadn't frozen despite a few hours in the brutal cold, because I was instantly struck by the beauty of the scene when I came across this view. The contrast of the white trees, white snow, and white ice chunks against dark and dreary winter captured my attention immediately. I wish this photo came with sound because listening to the chunks of ice scrape along the shore line was an incredible sound. 

I took this photograph from the Maryland side of the Potomac but the photograph is of the Virginia side of the river.

I decided to convert the photograph into black and white because the colors were already fairly muted in a grey winter sky. The photo was taken with a Nikon D800 + Nikon 80-400mm lens. 

 

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Quick Shot: Great Falls Sunrise

The weather in the DC area abruptly went from pleasant fall days to blistering cold this weekend, but despite the weather, a few brave trees still cling to their fall colors. I decided to try and capture a last glimpse of fall this weekend with a trip to a favorite DC photo destination, Great Falls National Park.

Located on the border between Maryland, Virginia, and DC, Great Falls is a wonderful place to escape the urban sprawl. I've photographed the falls here several times, but never walked away with a photograph that I thought was particularly grand or truely captured the beauty of these falls. This time I woke up excruciatingly early to get to the falls for sunrise in the hope that the first rays of sun would cast a warm glow over the scene.

Although the sunrise wasn't spectacular, the location of the sun provided a brilliant golden light to the rocks in the middle of the river. To give the image some drama and depth, I used a long exposure to get the wispy effect on the falls. I wanted the resulting image to have lots of depth but to be very calm and inviting, and I think I hit the mark!

Shot with the Nikon D800 with Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens using a Gitzo tripod and ND8 neutral density filter. Minor adjustments made in photoshop. 

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Quick Shot: Pink

Summer is officially upon us, which means water lily time is also upon us! Every year, at the end of June/beginning of July, I head out to photograph water lilies at some of the local aquatic gardens. 

Photographing lilies requires several things. First, you need to set your alarm pretty early so you can be out shooting at day break. The bright sun and marsh humidity makes a summer day photographing these flowers unbearable at any other time of day. Second, you'll want a tripod and a decent telephoto lens. Third, you'll want some great light (either from the sun or a flash). 

My favorite destination is the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which are located in downtown Washington, DC. This area is subject to tides flooding some of the walking paths, so it's generally best to time your visit for a cool part of the day at mid/low tide. The gardens feature acre after acre of aquatic plants and lilies. Some aquatic birds and thousands of dragonflies also call Kenilworth home.  

Last year I tried to take an abstract approach to the lily flower. I wanted bright colors, lots of pop, and a little flair. When I found this lily, I knew I'd found my flower. I used a flash to over expose the background and focused on the petal closes to the camera to get the great detail in each petal. Adjustments for color, sharpness, and contrast were done in Adobe Photoshop.

In the next week or two I'll be headed back out to Kenilworth to see what I can find this year! 

Shot with Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm macro/micro lens, and SB-700 flash. 

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Quick Shot: Final Flight

On Tuesday, April 17th, 2012, the Space Shuttle Discovery made its final flight to Washington, DC where it will now be on display at the Air and Space Museum near Dulles, Virginia. I knew I had to photograph the end of this important era in American space history.

Getting this shot, however, was a bit of luck...

Any given Tuesday you're likely to find me sitting behind my desk at work - not out with my camera. However, my mom was in town with our wedding planner so I'd taken a few days off work so we could run the gauntlet of errands associated with planning a wedding. Knowing the space shuttle would be flying over DC, we decided to take a mid-day break from our errands to try and see the final flight. 

With my Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens in tow, we set off for Gravely Point, an area located just north of the Washington Reagan National Airport. That is a popular spot with plane spotters and is located at the edge of DC, giving me a great chance to shoot the shuttle as it flew along the monuments. 

I never made it. 

Traffic was a disaster and the shuttle arrived a little earlier than we anticipated. Our first view of the shuttle came right as we were passing the airport - just 1,000 feet from Gravely Point. Traffic was completely stopped and the shuttle flew directly overhead - the best view was from my sun roof!  I was driving and missed a great shot, but it's one of those photos that I'll always have in my mind.

We inched forward a few feet and decided we'd join the crowd of hundreds of people who decided to illegally park on the side of I-395 to see the shuttle. The police, who were patrolling, didn't seem to mind given the unique circumstances.... so long as we didn't block the road.  

I popped out with camera in hand and watched for 30 minutes as the shuttle Discovery made her final flight through DC. I went to space camp several times as a child but had never seen a shuttle that had actually been to space with my own eyes before that... it was magical. At the same time, it was equally sad to witness the end of an era. 

I got many great shots that day, but the one I like the best is also the simplest. The photos of the shuttle next to the monuments diluted the power of the flight.... this shot captured the beauty and power of these amazing machines. I converted it into black and white to emphasize the dirt and space grim from a shuttle that had worked very hard in her career.

Shot with Nikon D800 and Sigma 150-500mm lens. Edited in Photoshop CS6 and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

Don't forget you can buy this and other prints online at www.scenictraverse.com/buy

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Video: Washington DC at Night

What happens after the tourists go to sleep? 

Join Kristen as she explores Washington, DC during the late evening hours (including dusk) to explore the monuments after the tourists go to bed. If you've ever been to DC and toured some of these places, then you know how long Kristen was out in order to capture photos of the Lincoln Memorial completely empty (It helps if you go in the dead of winter!).