National Cherry Blossom Festival: Check out these 5 spots in DC to capture the best photos

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer

Cherry blossoms along Tidal Basin

Cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (Photo/Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

From the first day of spring through April 14, 2019, more than 1.5 million people are expected to descend upon the nation’s capital to take in the stunning beauty of the famous National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The annual springtime event, which begins on March 20, has been running since the early 20th century and commemorates the United States’ continued close relationship with Japan.

The millions of visitors expected to flock to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks will undoubtedly have their cameras and cell phones in tow, scouting out the best spots around the capital from which to capture the most breathtaking photos.

The National Park Service announced on March 6 that the peak bloom dates for 2019 are anticipated to fall between April 3 and 6. The peak bloom date is the period during which 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are open, and it varies each year depending on weather conditions.

Professional photographers suggest that when aiming to snap images of the blossoms during their peak period, visitors should keep in mind – the earlier, the better.

“The main thing to do when the cherry blossoms are at their peak is to get there early,” said Steve Heap, a stock photographer who focuses on travel, landscape and nature shots. Though it might be to the dismay of those who aren’t exactly morning people, Heap recommends arriving at your location by 6 a.m., before sunrise.

“Ideally, look for your best compositions around the Tidal Basin the evening before and go straight there the next day,” Heap said. “Try to be in position to catch the morning sun just striking the blossoms of the trees so they are well-lit and not in shadow.”

When photographing flowers, New York-based photographer Darcy Rogers focuses on composition.

“I look for sweeping curves that will lead the viewer's eye to various parts of the scene, and if possible, I also look to isolate color,” Rogers said. “For example, angling the camera so that the blossoms are against blue sky or green foliage.”

This draws the central focus on the flower and eliminates any possible distracting elements in the background, Rogers explained. She offered a technical tip of underexposing the shot by one-half to three-quarters of a stop in order to draw out richer colors.

Cherry blossoms at the White House

Cherry blossoms visible from the White House lawn. (Photo/Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

“Doing this also ensures that you have the pixel information for any post-production work,” Rogers said.

Below are some of the recommended spots in Washington, D.C., for taking the best photos of the cherry blossoms this spring.

US National Arboretum

Although the blossoms here usually peak at a different time than those around the Tidal Basin, the U.S. National Arboretum is considered a “hidden gem” for photographing the flowers, according to Destination D.C.

Hains Point Loop Trail

Brandon Ballweg, a wedding and street photographer who founded online photography resource ComposeClick, noted the Hains Point Loop Trail is a great spot for capturing cherry blossom images.

“At this location, you'll see multiple species of cherry blossom trees and have waterfront views of the Washington Channel and Potomac and Anacostia [Rivers],” Ballweg told AccuWeather, adding that the 4.1-mile loop is a nice location for a stroll without the crowds typical of other places in the capital.

“By having the rivers in the background, it helps to isolate the cherry blossoms as your subject, which removes distraction,” Ballweg said.

Memorial Loop

Cherry blossoms at Jefferson Memorial

A scenic view of D.C.'s cherry blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial in the distance. (Photo/Steve Heap/Shutterstock)

The 2.7-mile Memorial Loop has varieties of cherry blossoms including Fugenzo, Japanese Weeping and Akebono trees, according to the National Park Service.

Along the loop are also national memorials like the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln and Korean War Veterans Memorials.

Tidal Basin

One of the most popular locations to photograph the trees is around the 2.1-mile Tidal Basin loop, which is ringed with cherry blossoms. Yoshino cherry trees are most common here, according to the National Park Service.

The Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument are visible from many parts of the basin. The scenic setup will allow photographers to frame the monuments with the flowers and water reflections, according to skyline and landscape photographer Sean Pavone.

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“The possible compositions from here are endless,” Pavone said, adding that dusk and dawn during cherry blossom season are popular times for photographers.

“Try for added depth of field by focusing first on the blossoms close to you, and then take a second shot of the distant monument across the water,” Heap suggested. “Blending the two images in Photoshop will give you a much sharper final image.”

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The grounds of North America’s largest Roman Catholic church are home to more than 150 cherry blossom trees.

Located in the Brookland neighborhood of D.C., it’s the 10th-largest church in the world.

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