Photography tips from DC’s best on trees in fall & winter


As the temperatures drop, the fall and winter tend to encourage us to keep indoors, with slippers, blankets and our preferred cups of warm concoctions – but we wanted to make sure that you take full advantage of all these seasons have to offer…even if it does require some gloves! As the ground gets tougher for planting and volunteer opportunities dwindle, shovels can just as easily be traded in for a camera to capture the awe-inspiring scenes the District’s canopy provides us around every corner, year round.

Because of the incredible sights our city provides, it’s no surprise that there are quite a few distinguished photographers based in D.C. – so we reached out to a few and asked them about their passion for photography (and how to make it shooting the District’s canopies easier for you, whether experienced or a first-timer):

Navin Sarma is a part-time landscape and nature photographer – he turned a digital SLR and a love for traveling into a full fledged passion and business. “Unknowingly, through photography, I began unlocking my hidden creative side and even more importantly, I began an introspection into myself that has been fulfilling all to itself.”

He agrees that “the Washington, D.C. area is unique in that it is both quite urban and preserved…[City planners] have keenly mixed Monuments and landscaping, with trees, grassy areas, and water to present us with beautiful vistas nearly everywhere you look.”

Angela B. Pan is a photographer from D.C. that’s been cited across a variety of platforms, who started her love for photography early – in high school. “When I took my first photo class I loved being in the dark room, I loved taking pictures, I loved going out with my camera and exploring new places and experiencing

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new things. Ever since…I’ve been hooked.”

Their best quick tips:

  • Navin: “Shooting in the autumn or winter: look for a cloudy day. A cloudy day will limit harsh shadows that are harder for your camera to capture. Additionally, a gray or blueish, cloudy background is a great juxtaposition to the red/yellow colors of foliage. On the other hand, it serves as a great compliment to a barren tree of winter. “
  • Angela: “When I go out and take these autumn pictures, I want to think: ‘where can I get the most color?…I also like to think of the trees as either foreground or background to the moments [or other elements in your frame].”

Both photographers recommend trying to shoot during sunrise or sunset, when you will not only find the most color in the sky, but you’ll also have the softest moments for lighting (which can help a first-timer just getting the hang of exposure settings and shutter speeds). They also have a lot of the same favorite places to frequent:

  • D.C.’s many monuments: “no matter what time of year, what time of day.” (Angela)
  • Arlington Cemetery: “houses trees of many kinds, as well as natural rolling hills that make it quite beautiful and reflective when seen amongst the very distinctive headstones.” (Navin)
  • Tidal Basin: “[many] usually think of the Tidal Basin as the cherry blossom season, but during the fall time all those trees change color too. It looks really nice there.” (Angela)
  • U.S. Capitol: “has many dramatic, huge trees that tower alongside it and look great, especially when viewed during a cloudy evening as their images reflect off of the Capitol reflecting pool.” (Navin)
  • Great Falls Park, VA: “rushing water and cold air can form pillars of giant icicles. Near Roosevelt Island and everywhere on the Potomac, ice can freeze over slow water and form a massive ice rink between Virginia and DC.” (Navin)

Something else to keep in mind? Totally barren trees can make for some incredible shots themselves. Though not nearly as colorful as the flowers of spring, the green of summer or the foliage of fall, the incredible architecture of a tree is fully revealed in the winter, making for some striking photos. Angela says, “if all the leaves have fallen off, that’s okay because barren trees are simple, and very linear, and very beautiful…It creates all kinds of lines that you never wouldn’t have imagined before.”

Navin advises that “it is harder to feature a barren tree as a main subject in your picture. Instead, try to use a barren tree’s branches as a frame for something else. Come up close to a set of branches and create a crisscrossing web within your frame. Then, look for a monument, or even the sun, moon, to take the stage in the background.”

Either way, take your enthusiasm and passion for trees and the District with you in your camera bag and you’ll find no end to the shots that you’ll find in the fall and winter months. Don’t let the cold slow you down – in the words of Angela, grab a good set of gloves, “take your camera out there and shoot, shoot, shoot!”

Find more of Angela’s work, her videos, and prints available on her website – and find more of Navin’s work, as well as large, fine art prints at his website or by contacting him via email.

One Response

  1. John Wingard says:

    Check out photos of Arlington’s great trees on Arl. Co. website, http://www.arlingtonva.us. On home page search “Trees”, and look for photos, esp. under Notable Tree Program (photos of last for years of approved trees) and Champion Trees (photos of Arlington’s “Big Trees.”