The light from the rising sun illuminates the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin Saturday morning, March 26, 2016. (Kevin Ambrose)

The cherry blossoms reached peak bloom this past weekend at the Tidal Basin as we experienced a combination of clouds, sun, wind and a little rain. Saturday was the best day for weather with lots sun in the morning and gentle breezes. Saturday’s good weather, however, was book-ended by cloudy weather on Friday and Sunday with spits of light rain occurring both days.

The Tidal Basin attracted a huge crowd of photographers, tourists and blossom watchers. Traffic on Constitution, Independence and Ohio Drive was almost as heavy as the pedestrian traffic on the trail around the Tidal Basin. The city was bustling this past weekend and the blossom scenes were beautiful with both clouds and sun.


Why are cherry blossoms blue? Police lights flashing near the camera. This is a comparison of the blossoms Saturday morning using a flash (top) and the same blossoms illuminated by police lights (bottom). A police officer parked behind the camera on West Basin Drive with lights flashing for a few minutes which illuminated the blossoms blue. These photos were taken at dawn on Saturday morning. (Kevin Ambrose)

Blue blossoms?

Traffic became heavy early Saturday morning around the Tidal Basin as photographers and blossom watchers rushed to see and photograph the sunrise with the cherry blossoms. A resulting traffic snarl on West Basin Drive attracted the police with their lights flashing. As the police parked to sort out the situation, their flashing lights gave the west side of the Tidal Basin a pulsing blue glow.

My first thought was that the blue police lights were messing up the photography. My friend, Dennis Govoni, who was standing next to me took a photo and announced he liked the look of blue blossoms. I joined Dennis and took a few photos of the blue blossoms. I have included a photo comparison of the blossoms using a camera flash and the same blossoms illuminated by the blue police lights (above). I have also included a blue blossom photo from Dennis (below).

The police left the scene after a few minutes and blue blossom were not seen again.


A wide view of the blue blossoms Saturday morning caused by police lights on West Basin Drive, March 26, 2016. (Dennis Govoni)

Crazy crowds

As the alarm sounded at 4 a.m., I thought to myself how much I hate to photograph cherry blossoms. I’ve learned from experience it takes a very early start time to secure a parking spot near the Tidal Basin and to find a good cherry tree to photograph. It’s a little painful if you’re not a morning person. Once I’m down on the Tidal Basin, however, I realize that I actually love to photograph the cherry blossoms I just hate waking up early.

On Saturday, I arrived at the west side of the Tidal Basin before 5:30 a.m. with a large group of early-bird photographers. I quickly chose a tree to photograph and I set up my tripod. Flashlights were needed to assemble camera gear because it was quite dark. Even as early as 5:30 a.m., strobes from camera flashes could be observed all around the Tidal Basin.


The Tidal Basin was very crowded Saturday morning. (Kevin Ambrose)

The crowd grew quickly. By 7:00 a.m., Saturday, when the sun was rising, photographers were standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the Tidal Basin. I didn’t see a single gap anywhere along the edge of the water. A photo of the crowd is included above.

At that same time, I noticed some movement near my feet. A woman had taken a seat next to my left foot and assembled a tripod under my tripod. I was mildly amused but thought it would have been polite to ask to share the spot. I also knew there were not many options for photographers who arrived at sunrise and she just wanted a good photo like the rest of us.

As the sun rose high above the horizon, the crowd grew even larger as people started to take their strolls on the Tidal Basin trail. I exited the Tidal Basin before 9 a.m. having captured another batch of cherry blossom photos. I hope to repeat the routine next year and I’m certain I’ll hate that 4 a.m. alarm once again.


Sunrise through the blossoms Saturday morning, March 26, 2016. (Kevin Ambrose)

Painting a beautiful scene at the Tidal Basin Saturday morning. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr )

The moon shines through clouds over the Tidal Basin. This photo was taken at 4:30 a.m., Sunday morning. (Buddy Secor)

Clouds returned to the Washington area early Sunday morning which made for a cloudy sunrise. (Navin Sarma)

Peaking through the blossoms on a sunny Saturday morning. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr )

Ducks on the Tidal Basin Saturday morning. (Dennis Govoni)

Friday morning was cloudy during my morning photo shoot. As I was leaving, I met a family from Cleveland, Ohio who were photographing their twin girls. The girls looked so cute I asked permission to take a photo. The mom agreed and the girls posed for me. This was my favorite photo from Friday. (Kevin Ambrose)

Sunrise at the Tidal Basin Saturday morning. (Dennis Govoni)

More cherry blossom coverage:

Cherry blossoms hit peak one week early

Photographers flock to Tidal Basin to get the perfect cherry blossom shot

The full moon rises over D.C.’s famed cherry blossoms

Tracking the cherry blossoms to peak bloom: What a difference a year makes

All Capital Weather Gang cherry blossom posts