Saturday, May 1, 2021

Cherry Blossoms at University of Washington

Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
 The Cherry Blossoms on the University of Washington's Seattle campus are a sight to behold.  Each year they seem to gain in popularity as groves of people make their way to what is known as The Quad toward the center of campus.  Cherry blossoms actually exist all across campus, but this is where they are concentrated in large volume.

In normal years on a nice sunny weekend day the crowds resemble those of a concert or football game!  Television news cameras broadcast video from the air as helicopters capture images from above.

Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
But this is not a normal year of course, due to the pandemic.  To increase my chances of avoiding any crowds, I chose to go on a weekday, and arrive well before sunrise.  This was a wise choice as I had the entire area to myself as I began clicking away.  Soon another photographer showed up and then we were two for quite some time.  When I left after a couple hours of shooting, their might have been a dozen total people in the area (not counting joggers or students passing thru).  Everyone wore masks.
Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
The time of season for these beautiful trees to reach their peak bloom can vary.  Typically, early April is their prime time.  But I have seen them hit peak in late March some years, and closer to mid or late April other years.

If you live in the area, you can't escape the reports on TV on when they are hitting.

If you are not a photographer (or even if you are), the school has done a really cool thing this year.  In hopes of keeping the crowds down during the pandemic, they installed a web cam high above!  I love this vantage!

Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
There are lots of things to play with composition wise here.  Shooting architecture can be much different than landscape photography in some ways.  Others, not so much.  I like to let my imagination run free and try new things.  Traditional "landscape" compositions like the first couple images above seem to come easy to me.  But then there are other options, such as up close and personal, and peak-a-boo shots thru the blooms of the trees.  The sky is the limit!

Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
The Victorian style architecture of the buildings on this campus really compliment the setting, and are fun objects to shoot in their own right.  

I think I focused a lot more on "shooting high" during this visit, both to capture these beautiful buildings, and also because of what seemed like a sea of "Mask Up" and "Social Distance" signs spread across the ground.  Yeah, there was a downside to visiting during this time.  Some people would move the signs to get them out of their composition, such as hide them behind a tree.  Then move them back once they were finished.

Others, such as me, tried to place them in such a way that they could be easily removed in Photoshop with the spot removal tool or content-aware fill.  The more plain the background behind the image is, the easier this task becomes. Complexity can add challenges.

Finally, what lens to use.  I say bring them all!  I mostly used my 24-70mm.  But I did play with my 70-200mm a bit for close-ups.  Wide angle lenses might have been the most popular for others during my visit.  But you would want to have people in your images, or plan to spend a lot of time in front of the computer removing them!

Image of University of Washington Cherry Blossoms
I hope you get a chance to visit this wonderful place in the coming years.  If you do, I recommend a weekday, and go early (the crowds come mid-day on).

Bring your patience and be respectful of others, of course.  You might have to wait for another photographer to finish, the person taking the selfie to move on, or the group of friends trying to get their group shot just right!  I've even seen wedding pictures being taken here!  No mater, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment.  It will be worth it!

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As always, thanks for looking!