The Washington Post

Fall foliage gives blossom bloom a run for its money at the Tidal Basin (PHOTOS)

Cherry blossom and fall foliage views of the Tidal Basin.  The top two photos are from April 9, 2013 and the bottom two photos are from Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

Thousands of tourists descend upon Washington, D.C. every spring to stroll along the banks of the Tidal Basin to view the world-famous cherry blossoms.  Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for visitors and events in the city.

In fall, however, as the leaves of the cherry trees turn brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow, far fewer tourists make the trip.  Even very few Washington area residents have seen the pretty sight that is the Tidal Basin in fall.

Autumn is a beautiful season in D.C., one that seems to be underrated.

Colors of all types are illuminated in the morning sun at the Tidal Basin on Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

The cherry trees along the Tidal Basin show off their color, Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

We teamed up for another photo shoot this past Saturday. The Tidal Basin at sunrise was the target. We knew from web cams and NPS Facebook posts that the leaves on the cherry trees were starting to take on heavy color. Maybe not quite peak at the time, but we’re both fans of those remaining greens as contrast. Plus the forecast featured increasing wind as the weekend wore on.

For one of us (Ian), just getting up for sunrise was quite an accomplishment!  It helped that Saturday’s sunrise around 7:37 a.m. was the latest of the entire year.  And for the most part, the weather cooperated for our shoot, making it worth the effort to set the alarm early.

A cloud-filled sunrise at the Tidal Basin, Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

The sun shortly after rising above a bit of a cloud deck off to the east Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

Strolling the Tidal Basin, there were very few people on the walkway that circles the water’s edge.  Just a handful of photographers in addition to us, one man fishing, and several joggers. We had a nice meet and chat with Kevin Wolf, a regular in the Capital Weather Gang Flickr pool, whose fantastic work has been shared here on a number of occasions.

The same scene during the spring, with cherry blossoms blooming, would have been a mob scene featuring hundreds of photographers staking off turf with their tripods and a never-ending stream of tourists and locals wandering about.

Cherry blossom viewing along the Tidal Basin on April 9, 2013 and Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

A Tidal Basin panorama comparison from April 9, 2013 and Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

The pathway across from the Jefferson Memorial in spring 2008 and on Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

Before dawn, we took a few photos of the Washington Monument with its scaffolding illuminated.  It was the last weekend for the scaffolding lights on the monument as the repairs from the 2011 earthquake head toward completion.

When the sun rose above the horizon, the mix of sunlight and altocumulus clouds provided a nice backdrop to the cherry trees that were showing off shades of red, orange, and yellow.  The reflection of the clouds and trees on the surface of the Tidal Basin’s water was beautiful.

An external flash was used to illuminate the cherry tree leaves at dawn, Nov. 2, 2013. This was the last weekend for the scaffolding lights on the Washington Monument. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Washington Monument with still-glowing scaffolding on one of the last days for such. Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

The photo shoot on Saturday was much more peaceful and serene than our typical spring shoots in the very same area. Looking at each season and setting — cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in fall  — they are very different experiences, and both have their charm.

We do think more people should take advantage of viewing the nice autumn scenes at the Tidal Basin and around town.  It’s certainly worth the time and effort. There’s still time left…

Three photos were stitched and cropped to make this sunrise panorama of the Tidal Basin, Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

Early-morning reflections along a colorful Tidal Basin walkway, Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

Kevin Ambrose (left) and Ian Livingston (right) shoot blossoms and fall foliage at the Tidal Basin in 2013. (Ian Livington, Kevin Ambrose)


Just before sunrise, a huge flock of Cormorants landed on the Tidal Basin. It was quite a sight, and came out well on video:

Tidal Basin Cormorants. Nov. 2, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

The sky ranged from partly to mostly clear while we were out. For a brief moment, somewhat rare Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds made an appearance:

Remnants of unusual Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds are seen in the moments before sunrise on the Tidal Basin Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

After we split up, a wander toward the National Mall provided this pretty scene of a maple tree in full color with the Washington Monument as a backdrop:

Bright foliage from a maple tree at peak serves as foreground to the Washington Monument early on Nov. 2, 2013. (Ian Livingston)

We want your fall foliage photos too! Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Flickr!


Fall foliage from space: before and after (Oct 30)
Searching for peak color at Eagle Rock and Capon Springs, WV (PHOTOS) (Oct 28)
Fall colors popping from Great Falls to Richmond (PHOTOS) (Oct 22)
Photos from Skyline Drive: Near peak foliage color (Oct 21)

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