My heart will always ultimately lie with autumn, but there’s a special spot for spring as well. As a likewise fleeting season, it falls into a close second.
With spring, everything is fresh and new; life is just beginning. Goslings patter about the grass on Waterfront, daffodils are popping up everywhere, and the trees are awash in brilliant colors as impatient buds push toward the furtive sun. It’s an exciting time that hints at warmer weather, making restless hibernators ache for summer. Thoughts of evening walks and refreshing juices slowly replace those of snuggly movies and hot soups, and one is suddenly anxious to go camping, hiking, exploring.
This season taunts winter-weary residents with a few rays of sunshine, cleverly inviting everyone outside, just to swipe it away and unleash a spontaneous downpour once they’ve let their guard down.
I love storms. Growing up in Colorado, I got used to the daily summertime afternoon thunderstorms, and it’s one thing I miss very much in the Northwest. Springtime is when I get the best storms the area has to offer. I love the excitement of the crash of thunder, I’m fascinated by the wild winds, and I’m mesmerized by the solid wall of rain. I don’t care much to be in said storms, and they aren’t usually photo-worthy (not with my skill set, at least), but I love watching them. In fact, we make it a point each year to have a rainy weekend at the beach, where we laze about the hotel room (preferably with a jacuzzi) with a glass of wine and watch the tumultuous waves assault the shoreline.
And this is the time of year when the Waterfront lets its softer side show, blushing in every hue of pink for several city blocks along its north end.
Sakura – cherry blossoms.
A gift from Tokyo, natives and visitors alike flock to the river every year to witness their ephemeral beauty. You’ll see cameras galore, picnics abound, and parents bring their little ones out to soak up some of the first real sunshine of the year.
Unlike occasional visitors, living here makes it easy, as I can simply make my way downtown once the sakura are in bloom. I even frequently pass several of their trees on my commute. I need not worry about missing them. I try to see them every year; it’s one of my favorite things to photograph. It can be a challenge to come up with new ideas for shooting the same thing, but that’s part of the fun.
Past years gave me brighter sun (and I’m sure I could snag a lucky brighter hour or two if I’m quick), and different elements caught my eye. I particularly love the petals in the bubbler fountain.
It’s hard to overlook the iconic shot from atop the Steel Bridge, so I usually snap an obligatory frame from that vantage. This year, I was also fortunate to get a few candids (the moments for which I truly live). I loved this guy securing his picture while perched on the trash can; people get excited about shooting the blossoms.
I also came across a strange oddity (to which I seem to be naturally drawn). Someone had hung a skull decoration from one of the branches, and it just looked so strange amidst the soft blossoms.
And then, the rain. This has been the wettest winter on record. After last year, when we effectively had no winter, it really comes as no real surprise that Mother Nature would play a bit of catch-up. Add to that the fact that this February was the warmest on record, and everything is blooming far earlier than we’re used to, still well within our wet months.
I found it remarkable noting the dates when I’ve shot the cherry blossoms in the past: 4/27/2012, 3/30/2013, 3/18/2015 (I missed a year), 3/6/2016. Amazing that the peak bloom has crept up almost two months in four years.
A particularly wet season meant the ominous clouds rolled in while I was out, soaking anyone who dared defy them. Sheltered under the trees, I simply waited it out – and continued shooting, of course. On the plus side, the rain cleared away all the distracting observers. It also provided another interesting candid (that kid was being a real brat, trying to spray passersby with the fountain).
And while I was trapped beneath the boughs, I noticed this fun angle of a bubbler in front of the spires of the Convention Center (thanks for helping my composition, photo-bombing seagulls).
The rain added a unique quality to my shots this year; I had many reflective surfaces, damp petals, and puddles to play with.
I even stumbled upon this dilapidated house full of character, with beautiful blossoms adorning its yard – a fascinating contrast of broken and new.
At the end of the day, I wound up with a bit of moisture on my lens, but that actually produced an unintentionally interesting soft-focus shot.
I’ve long had a fascination with Japan, so there will always be a place in my heart for springtime and the sakura – a taste of the foreign land, right in my backyard. The cherry blossoms are a gift that can only be appreciated for such a brief time each year, but that’s what makes me treasure them all the more.