The National Mall in DC has the deception effect that Las Vegas Strip has, just in a smaller scale. In the open area of and near the Mall, every landmark seems walkable. On a nice day with plenty of time, walking is indeed the best way to get around. But under the heat in the muggy August or when you are in a rush, getting from the Lincoln Memorial to the visitor center of the Capitol on foot would not be quite feasible. Tidal Basin is the same. It actually takes some time to walk around the basin. If lighting and timing are important to you, you might want to know exactly where and when to be to get good pictures.
華府的國家廣場(the Mall)跟拉斯維加斯一樣有騙人效果，什麼都看起來很近但其實要走很久，DC當然不像拉斯維加斯大道一棟飯店就是一公里半這麼誇張，大部分景點也真的都走得到，但熱死人的夏天或者趕時間的時候，真的不會想要從林肯紀念堂走到國會山莊。潮汐湖(Tidal Basin)也是一樣的道理，如果要拍照、要追求某個時間點或特定的光線，真的很需要知道該在什麼時候去哪。
I’ve been to the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms many times, but never with the ambition to shoot predawn and sunrise. This time I was not able to find the exact information I needed online. That is why I decided to write up these amateur tips.
If you are a Washingtonian that photographs cherry blossoms for years, you’d find this post laughable. (Comment and advice are very welcomed!) If you are planning your first DC cherry blossom trip or you want to shoot cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin for the first time, my experience might help you plan your trip. And…this is for shooting landscape. Obviously it’s a different story if you need shades for portraits or you want to shoot withered or falling cherry blossoms after a rain or something. Also, I did not go at sunset or in the evening, so I don’t have any tips for that.
There are a couple of online articles about best spots for photographing cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. For general cherry blossom viewing, Stroll Around provides a very useful map.
The Peak Bloom 盛開期
Ideally, it would be perfect to stay in DC for days to see the blossoms in different stages. Without that luxury, the trip actually may be hard to plan because the predicted peak varies from source to source.
The peak bloom date is the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin are open. About a month prior, the National Park Service would announce their prediction, which is a range of a couple of days. The Washington Post and other news agencies have their own prediction. The predicted peak dates from different sources can be a week apart. The blog “Have Camera Will Travel” provides a blossom watch with photos. A famous DC photographer Angela B. Pan makes videos to give you a sneak peak in her YouTube channel before and during the cherry blossom season.
盛開是指在潮汐湖旁邊百分之七十的吉野櫻開花的那天，國家公園 (the National Park Service) 大概在一個月前會公告他們預測的盛開期，他們網站上有實境影片可以看櫻花開的情形。華盛頓郵報和其他媒體也各有各的盛開日預測，各家說法常常會差到一個禮拜，有個網誌 Have Camera Will Travel會不定期報告櫻花最新狀況，一位有名DC攝影師Angela B. Pan通常也會在她的YouTube頻道放櫻花季前和櫻花盛開期的拍照影片。
The average peak is March 31. The 2013 to 2104 winter was brutal and it dragged on and on. The National Park Service peak bloom prediction was April 8-12. The actual peak landed on the 10th.
I think the best time to shoot is the day of and before the peak bloom if you care about the golden hours or predawn. After the National Park Service announces the peak bloom, pretty pictures flood the news and social media, and the Tidal Basin gets very crowded.
(Map from Stroll Around)
Where and When
For general blossom viewing during the day, walking a full circle around the Tidal Basin would be the best. Any time is a good time. Maps are available at the tents set up by the Cherry Blossom Festival at the welcome area near 1 in the map above. The Japanese stone lantern is around 3 at the end of the Kutz Memorial Bridge. The Japanese pagoda is outside of the FDR Memorial.
If you are going after work between 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. and do not want a whole lot of walking, pick the welcome area side. As the sun sets, the MLK Memorial side would all be in shade and the golden hour sunlight would shine on the blossoms on the welcome area side. You can start from the Smithsonian Station, pass the Washington Monument, walk toward the Jefferson Memorial on the tent side, and peal off to get a cab near the Holocaust Museum or walk to the L’Enfant Plaza Station.
如果要下班之後五點半到七點之間去看櫻花，又不想走太多路，那帳篷側比較理想。傍晚其實蠻早羅斯福側舊照不到陽光了，夕陽只會打在帳篷側的櫻花和步道上，可以從地鐵Smithsonian Station開始，經過華盛頓紀念碑前面，過馬路走帳棚區這一側，往傑佛遜紀念堂方向，在轉往紀念堂的橋之前閃人，走到靠近大屠殺博物館那邊去招車或者走到地鐵L’Enfant Plaza Station。
The FDR Memorial side is beautiful with opportunities to frame your shots of blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument.
For shooting predawn and sunrise, the most concentrated area of tripods is between the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (6 in the map) and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Some people stay in between the end of the Kutz Memorial Bridge (around 3 in the map) and the MLK Memorial and find spots where low hanging cherry tree branches frame the shot. Closer to the MLK Memorial, you can get a shot of the arch of cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument, or multiple shots of the entire Tidal Basin and all the landmarks to stitch together. Closer to the FDR Memorial, you can get the arch of blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial.
Before the peak bloom, getting there 40 minutes before sunrise should give you plenty of time. After the peak and especially on weekends, you might want to get there an hour or more before sunrise to get a spot. I’m not sure how early is enough. (More photos and my experience of early morning Tidal Basin photo-shoot will be in other posts.)
拍日出的腳架們大部分集中在馬丁路德金恩博士紀念碑 (MLK Memorial，地圖氣球6) 到羅斯福紀念碑之間，也有些人會在MLK紀念碑和日本燈籠之間找低低的櫻花樹枝構圖。靠近MLK紀念碑這一邊可以拍潮汐湖畔櫻花和華盛頓紀念碑，或者廣角拍多張再縫起來；靠近羅斯福紀念碑那一邊可以拍櫻花加傑佛遜紀念堂。盛開日之前，大概在日出前四十分鐘到就差不多了，盛開日之後，尤其是週末，就要日出前一個小時或更早來卡位，我其實不知道到底多早才夠搶到好位置。
During the cherry blossom season, the Tidal Basin is packed throughout the day. People start flooding in as early as 7 to 7:30 a.m. If you want to easily frame some clean shots or get clear reflection of the blossoms in the water, early morning is the best. The golden hour sunlight at dusk does not shine on blossoms on the MLK Memorial side. Only the welcome area side would be lit. Yet the welcome area side of the Tidal Basin is more convenient and therefore tends to be very crowded in the afternoon. So early morning really is your best bet.
How To Get There
The closest metro station is the Smithsonian Station, which is convenient for the blue and orange lines as well as the red line from the north. An alternative is the L’Enfant Plaza Station (green/yellow/blue/orange), which is about 10 minutes of walk further from the Smithsonian Station.
From the Smithsonian Station to the MLK Memorial is about 20 minutes in walking distance. On week days, the metro starts running at 5 a.m. and is very convenient. On weekends, the metro is not open until 7 a.m. Buses start running earlier than that. However, unless you live or stay near a very convenient and reliable bus route, it generally takes much longer. Uber might be your best friend for getting to the Tidal Basin before sunrise. In 2014, the Cherry Blossom Festival partnered with Uber. You can get a free ride up to $20.
最近的地鐵站是Smithsonian Station，藍線橘線或紅線從北邊都很方便，另外也可以坐到L’Enfant Plaza Station (藍橘黃綠線)，比Smithsonian大概遠個十分鐘。
Bathroom Options for Your Early Morning Photo-Shoot
I hate using porta-johns so I pay attention to this random but important thing to know. On the way of your early morning photo-shoot from the Smithsonian Station to the FDR Memorial, you have two restroom options. One is the round structure hidden behind the trees close to the Washington Monument and the National Sylvan Theater near Independence and 15th. It’s dark and often dirty but it opens early (or is never locked?!) Then there is a bathroom at the FDR Memorial but I don’t think it opens until about 9 a.m.
我超討厭流動廁所，所以留意哪裡有廁所十分重要。早上去拍日出從Smithsonian Station走到羅斯福紀念碑這段路上，有兩個選擇，一個是華盛頓紀念碑前面、National Sylvan Theater這邊的一棟圓形建築，藏在樹後面，通常有點髒，但他很早就開了 (或者不會鎖!?) 另一個是羅斯福紀念碑的廁所，很乾淨，但晚上會鎖，到九點或九點半才會開。