A photo collage showing weather imagery captured during my five favorite photo shoots of 2017. (Kevin Ambrose)

It was a memorable year for weather photography in our region. The year began with a historic blizzard in Williamsburg on Jan. 7, followed by an unprecedented cherry blossom freeze and ice storm in mid-March at Washington’s Tidal Basin. It was then capped off with a fairly rare snowfall on D.C.’s Christmas trees on Dec. 9.  Throw in a severe thunderstorm and solar eclipse in August, and this year stands out for providing plenty of unique photo opportunities.

Here are my five favorite photo shoots from 2017 in chronological order.

No. 1: The Williamsburg blizzard of Jan. 7, 2017

Near-blizzard conditions at Bruton Parish Church on Jan. 7. (Kevin Ambrose)

It was a snowstorm for the record books in Williamsburg, Va. Snow fell for more than 20 hours on Jan. 7, and 12.5 inches accumulated. The snow was light and powdery, and it drifted and swirled down Duke of Gloucester Street with the storm’s strong winds. The beautiful colonial capital in Southeast Virginia was transformed into a winter wonderland.

Shooting the event was particularly enjoyable for me because the snow was dry, and the setting was beautiful. Because I stayed at the Williamsburg Lodge which is a short walk to all of the Colonial Williamsburg photo targets. The only downside with the storm is the heavy snow missed the D.C. area.

Related: A snowstorm to remember in Williamsburg

A couple walks along Duke of Gloucester Street in the snow on Jan. 7. The Colonial Capitol is visible in the background. (Kevin Ambrose)

No. 2: The cherry blossom freeze and ice storm of March 14-15

Cherry trees at the Tidal Basin were blooming during the ice storm of March 14.  Approximately half of the cherry blossoms were killed in the freeze that followed the storm. (Kevin Ambrose)

The blowing sleet stung my face as I took my first shots of the morning on March 14. The scene at the Tidal Basin was both beautiful and sad. The blooming cherry blossoms were encased in a thick coat of ice, and few blossoms had already turned brown.

I booked a hotel in Rosslyn before the storm because I figured the roads would be too dangerous for an early morning commute. Walking from Rosslyn to D.C. through two inches of sleet, however, was like walking through thick beach sand. The photo shoot certainly provided great exercise.

Unfortunately, the cold weather that followed the storm killed about half of the cherry blossoms. The remaining blossoms reached peak bloom on March 25. Despite the freeze, peak bloom at the Tidal Basin still looked fairly good.

Related: The cherry blossoms don’t look good

Developing cherry blossoms are encrusted in ice during the morning of March 14. (Kevin Ambrose)

No. 3: The severe thunderstorm of Aug. 12

Cloud-to-ground lightning strikes near the Mall, Aug. 12. (Kevin Ambrose)

A bright bolt of lightning flashed across the Mall, and the explosive sound of thunder instantly followed. The crowd inside the Lincoln Memorial cheered. A severe thunderstorm can rival the best fireworks show in D.C.

The severe thunderstorm of Aug. 12 produced blinding sheets of rain, frequent lightning and strong winds. The storm’s rain shield concealed most of the lightning flashes from view, but a few lightning bolts were visible, which I captured with my camera. I also photographed the incoming storm clouds, which appeared quite ominous.

Related: Incoming! A charged up photo sequence from Saturday’s severe thunderstorm

Storm clouds rapidly pushed from northwest to the southeast over Washington on Aug. 12. (Kevin Ambrose)

No. 4: The solar eclipse

My solar eclipse photo sequence over the Washington Monument was cut short by an approaching thunderstorm on Aug. 21. The storm clouds are visible on the right. (Kevin Ambrose)

Boom! Thunder echoed across the Mall. “That ends our photo shoot,” I said to my son. We had photographed the solar eclipse over the Washington Monument every minute for the two hours. We were two-thirds of the way through the sequence of the eclipsing sun when the storm approached. We packed the cameras and rushed off the monument grounds.

My son, Michael, joined me for the photo shoot, which made the trip extra special. We took hundreds of photos of the sun with and without a solar filter on our two cameras. Only a few photos turned out well without the solar filter, and that occurred only when clouds provided a natural filter for the sun’s bright light. One of those cloud-filtered photos is displayed above.

The solar eclipse photo sequence displayed above shows the eclipsing sun at five-minute increments, shot with a solar filter. The background image and storm clouds were photographed without a solar filter. Through the magic of Photoshop, the photos were combined into a single solar eclipse sequence image.

Related: Photographing Washington’s solar eclipse was special

A crescent sun is visible over the Washington Monument Aug. 12.  The passing clouds provided a natural solar filter for this photo. (Kevin Ambrose)

No. 5: Snow on D.C.’s Christmas trees

Snow on the Capitol Christmas Tree on Dec. 9. A flash was used to illuminate blurry snowflakes in the air. (Kevin Ambrose)

The small crowd cheered when the lights on the Capitol Christmas Tree were turned on during the evening of Dec. 9. Snow was gently falling at the time, and the temperature hovered near freezing. It was beautiful and festive — quite fitting for the holiday season. It’s a snowy scene rarely experienced in Washington, at least in early- to mid-December.

Christmas snow always seems particularly special to me. Perhaps I watched “Frosty the Snowman” too many times as a kid, but that’s something I have always felt. So when it snows in December in Washington, I never miss the chance to photograph the National and Capitol Christmas trees in the snow. This year gave me another opportunity to shoot D.C.’s snowy Christmas trees, which only seems to happen every few years, at best.

Related: Beautiful snowy scenes in Washington, D.C.

Snow on the National Christmas Tree Dec. 9. (Kevin Ambrose)

Honorable mention: The changing seasons of 2017 at the Tidal Basin

A photo collage of a Tidal Basin scene photographed in all four seasons of 2017. The photos were taken March 14, March 25, July 29 and Nov. 9. (Kevin Ambrose)

It’s great we live in an area that experiences four distinct seasons, and I love photographing each season with all of the various types of weather Mother Nature throws our way.

Each year, I try to shoot the same scene in all four seasons. For 2017, I chose a cherry tree at the Tidal Basin as my seasonal subject. Cherry trees work well because of their beautiful bloom in the spring and colorful foliage in the fall.

Here’s a brief description of the four photos above:

  • In early 2017, cold weather and snow were scarce, but I finally got a snow shoot on March 14.  Hard freezes followed the March snow and ice storm, and 50 percent of the cherry blossoms were killed.
  • The blossoms that survived the freeze reached peak bloom March 25, which provided my spring photo.
  • A rare summer nor’easter occurred July 29. That provided wet and windy conditions for my summer photo shoot.
  • Unseasonably warm weather delayed my fall photo shoot to Nov. 9. The color of the foliage was less than spectacular.

I think the photos turned out well despite a few challenges shooting winter, spring and fall.

Related: Frozen cherry blossoms to fall color