Cherry Blossoms Festival?

Without reservation one of my favorite times of year in Washington D.C. was always the weeks when the cherry blossoms came into bloom and the city became overrun with photographers. After three years with those blossoms the flowers have come to be the heart of Spring to me. Getting out there to photograph them has become a yearly ritual, one I am bereft without.

When I moved away I knew that those blossoms would be the one aspect of the city that I would consistently miss. And I do. I miss getting up at 4 a.m. to catch the metro into the city at just after 5 to view the famed trees contrasted against the memorials and architecture of the nation's capital. I miss walking around the tidal basin for views of the Jefferson Memorial. I miss the trees that surround the Washington Monument. I miss watching the photographers, pros and amateur alike, all desperately trying to capture that one perfect flower.

Personally I like to shoot with a set of macro lenses when photographing the cherry blossoms. True — the slightest breeze can make your head spin with frustration, but for the way I like to shoot these really are the best way to get close. The way I like to shoot incidentally is without a tripod. I know. I know. This is pure sacrilege to some, but even when doing scenic photography I seldom shoot with a tripod. I prefer the freedom I have become accustomed to by the nature of photojournalism to the formal, restrictive, and slow work that goes along with tripod-use.

While doing an internet search for possible photo ideas for the paper I began seeing flyers and advance notice about cherry blossom festivals here in Montana. As I have been missing the blossoms that caught my attention easily. Out in the middle of nowhere Montana you are not going to see the classic white marble contrasted against the delicate pink blossoms. Here they grow cherry trees for the fruit, not the flowers. But the fact that they grow here was enough to have me excited. So, I contacted one of the local growers and got permission to visit The Orchard of the Flathead Lake in Yellow Bay.

The Orchard sits high on a hill overlooking the huge expanse of water that is the Flathead. The owner agreed to meet me there at 11:30. My heart sank a little at the time she mentioned because all photographers love the low light of dawn and dusk, but I'm desperate so I'll take what I can get. At 11:30 it is incredibly bright. And the blossoms on this particular farm are white. The bees are buzzing around, the skies are rich and blue and fortunately the trees are mostly protected from the wind. I spent an hour there photographing the blossoms for the paper. And happy as I was with the images I really wanted to be there for the better light.

Once, when I was young, in my first year as a professional photographer, I took a chance on dream assignment. I asked for something I had no right to. I asked and shock and amazement I was told yes. I got so much more than I had hoped for. Having that kind of moment changed the way I do photography ever after. And to this day, when I want something I simply tell myself, "Ask. The worst they can do is say no."

With that in mind I asked for permission to return that evening and photograph the blossoms at sunset. And she said yes. Those photos are coming later today, but for now, these are the pix I shot in the brightest light that ran in the Daily Inter Lake. One of the things I have enjoyed the most about my job at the DIL is that we do more scenic stuff here. I get more opportunities to combine my work photography with the kind of things I would photograph strictly for my own soul. I really am loving life out here in Montana. And I'm already plotting for how I shall cover the blossoms next year.