A photo for every day in April: Documenting spring’s arrival in Washington, D.C.

D.C. was built for spring. Seriously, there’s no better time to see the city.

It’s also a time when it’s worth taking out the camera daily, as the scene is actually moving and changing continually.

How my month of photography started

I set a goal early in the month to take photos every day of the arriving season. A “photo a day” project is nothing new or exciting — many photographers do this all the time. I, however, tend to wait for severe weather or random inspiration. Both can be few and far between.

Given my love for spring in D.C., I felt the arrival of all things green was a story I could develop through imagery that touches on but also goes beyond the iconic spots D.C. is so well known for.

Before breaking down the month here, below is a collage of the finished initial part of this project.


A Day in April set on Flickr. I posted one photo each day here trying to tell the story of the month, not just this month but the arrival of spring in general. It happened to overlap April almost perfectly this year as luck would have it.

Related: A Day in April (Flickr album)

From winter to lush greenery in a few weeks

April 2014 started with basically bare trees and shrubbery. The earliest cherry types were in bloom, and little buds and leaflets were starting to emerge. Initially, I planned on hitting a bunch of spots multiple times. That evolved into me trying NOT to photograph the same area more than once (my typical yet impossible D.C. goal). In this case, except for small overlap, the task was achieved.

I was able to get a few comparison shots (be sure to click for larger, as you can on all images below).

Overlooking Rock Creek Park…


From left to right, pictures overlooking Rock Creek Park in early, mid and the end of April. (Ian Livingston)

A street corner in upper northwest D.C…


Spring explodes in D.C. during April 2014. (Ian Livingston)

In both cases above, the change is stark. That’s of course not unusual, but the quick green-up can also be partly attributed to a warm spell mid-month.


April 2014 in review. Dashed lines are normals for corresponding temperatures.

It was mostly nice as far as I was concerned, except the end of the month. The mid-month rain was also pretty substantial, but we ended up close to normal in the city for April temperatures (made up of warm and cold times of course). If the end of the month rainstorm occurred to start the month there’s a decent chance the idea may never have gotten off the ground…

When we think April in D.C., we think cherry blossoms


Cherry blossoms in peak bloom just before dawn on April 12. (Ian Livingston)

If you don’t mind a huge crowd, the cherry blossoms are always a sight to behold. Heck, even with the crowd they’re a sight to behold. I’m an evening into dusk photographer, but I have to say the sunrises on the Tidal Basin were well worth it this year, and something everyone should try at least once.

Related: Peak cherry blossom bloom sunrise in D.C., briefly kissed by light | Spring fever: Deep snow to cherry blossom peak in just a few weeks

Cherry blossoms are not just at the Tidal Basin either. Here’s a beautiful spot just chilling on a pathway near Union Station:


Weeping cherry tree near Union Station on April 8. (Ian Livingston)

Cherry trees just part of the story

We’ve got all sorts of flowering trees, but besides cherry blossoms of various types, the three below are perhaps the most common you’ll run into wandering the city.


Magnolias in full bloom on April 2 in Dupont Circle. (Ian Livingston)

Magnolias are among the first plant-life to pop in spring. They come out a little after the earliest cherries, which are pretty much the first thing to bloom in the city other than those crazy little crocuses.


Redbuds early in bloom on April 15 in Cleveland Park. (Ian Livingston)

While D.C. loves its cherry trees, redbud isn’t far behind when it comes to dominance around town. They peak a little after the yoshino cherries on the Tidal Basin, and vary quite a bit in timing throughout the city. Always unique, even in the rain.


Multiple colors of dogwoods in bloom between Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan on April 22. (Ian Livingston)

Dogwoods come on to the scene in full about 10 days after the Tidal Basin bloom. They have a lengthy flowering period and are quite pretty in groups, or just scattered among the dwellings throughout Washington.

Postcard D.C. is extra post-cardy in spring

It felt great to get outdoors after our Game of Thrones winter. Wandering among the icons of our country is always a good time. So is eating a hotdog watching a baseball game, and spotting a panda chow down on bamboo.


Trees come to life around the White House on April 8. (Ian Livingston)

Cherry blossoms near the U.S. Capitol Building on April 8. (Ian Livingston)

Kwanzan cherries in bloom at Nationals Park on April 19. (Ian Livingston)

This panda was pumped up about spring on April 20 at the National Zoo. (Ian Livingston)

Couldn’t skip these

Tulips aren’t too unique to D.C., though in many cases the city setting makes them extra special. Bright and bunchy, how can you not gravitate toward their pull?


Red tulips on a cloudy April 18 evening. Tip: Marriott Wardman Park is awesome if you like tulips. (Ian Livingston)

A heart of tulips in Woodley Park on April 21. (Ian Livingston)

Tulips in front of the Capitol on April 24. (Ian Livingston)

Rock Creek Park

The green space in D.C. holds a special place in my heart. I grew up in the country, so being able to see the sky and plentiful trees is critical. Rock Creek park is pretty great in all seasons, especially when you consider how accessible it is.

Related: A weekend of near peak color in Rock Creek Park (2011)


Trail along Rock Creek between Cleveland Park and Van Ness entrances on April 23. (Ian Livingston)

A quiet spring scene near Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park on April 23. (Ian Livingston)

Alas, April can be a wet month as cutoff lows and blocked up patterns tend to like early spring. This April was super wet, especially the end. The happy green park can become a little angry.


Water rushes toward a flooded Rock Creek on April 30. (Ian Livingston)

All told, it was about 60-90 miles of trecking around a relatively small portion of the city over the course of the month at an average of 2-3 miles a day. The entire process was tiring at times, but it was also fun and educational… perhaps I’ll make it a tradition.

Related

Tulip mania 2014: Top ten photos from Washington, D.C. area (April 24)

Beautiful bluebells bloom along Bull Run (April 22)

Spring kicking into high gear in D.C. (April 21)

A flower a day: Spring is springing in D.C. (April 8)

Ian Livingston is a forecaster/photographer and information lead for the Capital Weather Gang. By day, Ian is a defense and national security researcher at a D.C. think tank.
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