A split season view of the Tidal Basin photographed during the winter and spring of 2018. The left half was shot on Jan. 17 and the right half was shot on April 13.  The temperature was in the upper 20s (left) and in the low 80s (right) at the time of photos.  (Kevin Ambrose)

The cherry blossoms of spring will always grab the headlines at the Tidal Basin, but the frosty setting of winter presents its own unique beauty, which is much less viewed and enjoyed by the public. I made several trips to the Tidal Basin during this past winter and spring to take photos of the ice, snow, trees, and blossoms, to compare and contrast the seasons, with side-by-side images.

For winter, I chose two of the coldest afternoons to photograph the Tidal Basin — Jan. 4 and Jan. 17 — with temperatures in the 20s accompanied by howling northwest winds.  Ice covered the Tidal Basin on those days with a dusting of snow on the ground. Conversely, I chose one of the warmest days so far this year to shoot photos — April 13 — with temperatures that reached 86 degrees with bright sunshine and a cloudless sky.

I also shot photos on April 4 and 5, which were the days when the blossoms first reached peak bloom, and I shot photos of the snowstorm on March 21, which produced the District’s largest snow in two years, but it happened to occur in spring, not winter.


These two photos were taken three months apart and show the contrast of seasons.  The top photo was shot Jan. 4 and the bottom photo was shot April 4. (Kevin Ambrose)

For 2018, I have targeted two cherry trees on the east side of the Tidal Basin to photograph in all four seasons of the year.  You can see my selected trees in the first several photos of this post.

Winter was a disappointment for shooting the trees with snow, but there was plenty of ice on the Tidal Basin which added a frosty feel. Ice on the Tidal Basin is not a guarantee every winter, and apparently neither is snow. So at least there was ice and a dusting of snow in January.

Spring is always the most challenging season to shoot for my seasonal sequence because the best bloom period is fairly short, usually lasting a week or less, and huge crowds of tourists flock to the Tidal Basin, blocking the views of the cherry trees during my photo shoots. Each spring, I set up a tripod and patiently wait for gaps in the crowds to occur.  I can always find a gap, but sometimes it can take an hour or longer to appear.


A cherry tree frames the Jefferson Memorial with ice, snow, and blossoms.  These photos were taken Jan. 17 (upper left), March 21 (lower left), and April 4 (right). (Kevin Ambrose)

Summer is easy for shooting cherry trees.  The trees are green for months and the blossom-crazed crowds of spring disappear. Summer is a very quiet and enjoyable time to visit the Tidal Basin.

Fall is hit-or-miss for good foliage photos because the fall color of cherry trees varies from year-to-year. During some years, the cherry trees have extremely colorful and vibrant fall foliage while other years the color is drab and muted.  Even during the worst years, I can find enough shades of red and yellow in the trees to shoot a few keepers.


Sunset views of the Tidal Basin photographed Jan. 17 and April 13.  The temperature was in the upper 20s (top) and in the low 80s (bottom). (Kevin Ambrose)

For 2018, I have two more seasons left to shoot before I wrap up the series. The two most challenging seasons to shoot, winter and spring, are behind me.  I plan to post the 2018 series in November.

If you want to check out my previous seasonal shoots at the Tidal Basin, here is 2017, 2016 and 2015. My personal favorite is 2015.  The weather cooperated that year unlike 2017, which produced a hard freeze that killed many of the cherry blossoms.

Do you have a favorite season to visit the Tidal Basin? Each season is very different and beautiful, and it’s worth a trip in all four seasons, even on those icy days of winter.


Each season has its own unique beauty at the Tidal Basin.  Jan. 4 (left), March 21 (upper right) and April 5 (lower right).

Geese find a hole in the ice (Jan. 4), and ducks swim with a gentle breeze (April 4). (Kevin Ambrose)

The Tidal Basin is very quiet during the coldest days of winter but is full of life during the spring bloom. These photos were taken Jan. 17 and April 13. (Kevin Ambrose)

Cold vs. warm at the Tidal Basin.  Jan. 17 (top) and April 13 (bottom).  The temperature was in the upper 20s and low 80s. (Kevin Ambrose)

Contrasting views of ice, snow and blossoms. Jan. 17 (upper left), March 21 (lower left), and April 4 (right). (Kevin Ambrose)

A parting shot from spring, photographed on April 5. (Kevin Ambrose)