Soft light, still water, and peak bloom at the Tidal Basin moments before sunrise, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Ambrose)

Washington’s world famous cherry blossoms peaked this weekend, accompanied with perfect weather for blossom viewing.

The peak bloom also coincided with the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Saturday and the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on Sunday. The combination of good weather and good timing for peak bloom is not often seen in Washington.

We were fortunate that the warm front on Friday never made it through the Washington area. While we hovered near 60 degrees with clouds and showers Friday afternoon, Central Virginia experienced temperatures in the 80s with severe thunderstorms. The blossoms benefited from the gradual warm up into the weekend without the strong winds, hail, and roller coaster temperatures that was experienced just to our south. Hail and strong winds would have devastated the blossoms.

[Beautiful start and end to the week, but gloomy in the middle]

As expected, the crowds were huge on the Mall and Tidal Basin on both Saturday and Sunday. By 6 a.m. on Sunday, the Tidal Basin was already full of photographers and early bird tourists. By 8 a.m., the Tidal Basin trail was packed with people. By afternoon, it was challenging just to walk one loop around the Tidal Basin.


The first light from sunrise illuminates the Tidal Basin, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Ambrose)

Sunday marked the end of my seven week cherry blossom photographing series. Starting on Feb. 28, I photographed the same cherry tree and park bench every weekend until full bloom (full series below). I was amazed that each weekend featured a clear sky sunrise to show the position of the sun on the horizon.

Often, early spring weather in Washington is dominated by clouds and precipitation. The weather cooperated this year for seven weekends in a row of clear weather! In the photo sequence below, check out how fast the sun tracks north across the horizon from week-to-week. The days have been rapidly growing longer.

[How much did you get? Final snowfall map for D.C. area]

I joked with friends that the last photograph of my series would not show an empty bench, even at sunrise. I was right. For most of the moments after sunrise, the scene around my bench was crowded with at least a dozen tourists and photographers.  I was fortunate to capture a scene with only a few people around the bench as a gap developed in the constant stream of people walking the trail along the Tidal Basin.

[Forecasters predict quieter-than-average hurricane season]

I’ll return to the bench to photograph it in summer and fall to have a four panel series showing the seasons at the Tidal Basin. I bet summer and fall will feature an empty bench.


Seven weeks of photographing the same bench and cherry tree. Check out how the position of the sun has steadily shifted north in each successive photo. The first photo was taken February 28 and the last photo was taken April 12. (Kevin Ambrose)

Cherry blossom tracking series

March 3: Tidal Basin, Potomac are iced over — what does it mean for cherry trees?

March 9: Even more snow and ice than week one!

March 16: Snow has melted but the ice lingers

March 23: Tracking the cherry blossoms to full bloom — the ice is finally gone!

March 30: Swelling buds, but nowhere near peak

April 6: Peduncle elongation!

Some more images from my photo shoot on April 12:


Photographers line the edge of the Tidal Basin waiting for sunrise, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Ambrose)

The weather was perfect for the National Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 12, 2015. And the cherry blossoms were blooming too. (Kevin Ambrose)

The north end of the Tidal Basin near the Kutz Bridge, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Ambrose)

The cherry trees at the Tidal Basin were full of starlings.  This bird was pulling off blossoms with its beak. (Kevin Ambrose)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with cherry blossoms, April 12, 2015. (Kevin Ambrose)

The weather was beautiful Sunday morning for checking out the blossoms. (Kevin Ambrose)

The warm glow from sunrise illuminates the trunk of one of the older cherry trees along the Tidal Basin. I’ve noticed a lot of people photograph the trunk blossoms. I always take a few shots. The NPS will be snipping the trunk shoots soon. (Kevin Ambrose)

A collage showing a few of the scenes of people around the bench that I was photographing for my series. I never asked anyone to move for the photo. (Kevin Ambrose)

The last photo of my seven week series. All seven photos are included above. (Kevin Ambrose)