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When we were planning our trip to Japan, we only briefly considered the cliche cherry blossom spring season. Sure, the beauty is unparalleled, and it’s classic Japan. But it’s also what everyone does (and we all know I like to stand out whenever possible), it’s crazy crowded – with tourists and locals, alike – and we have our very own sakura right here in our own back yard.

Benches under sakura trees in the pre-dawn morning | LotsaSmiles Photography

I make a point to get out to shoot the blossoms every year. Even though I usually get the same traditional shots, I can use the comfort level to experiment with some new techniques as well.

Oregon Convention Center peeking through cherry blossom branches on a dark rainy morning | LotsaSmiles Photography

Sakura come and go

Sakura are unpredictable. Here, they can bloom as early as February or as late as May. They’re finicky little flowers, emerging only when the weather is Goldilocks-perfect, and the timing of such perfection fluctuates wildly each year.

Monochrome close-up of drenched sakura blossoms | LotsaSmiles Photography

Fortunately, we live here, and the best grove is only a slight detour from my daily commute. I can check on them periodically and be ready to pounce when they reach their peak. Other trees throughout the city have been teasing me for weeks, blooming well ahead of the others. But I waited for the main attraction.

Now, once the cherry blossoms do reach their peak, their vibrance is painfully brief. Therefore, we have to capture them then or not at all.

A small cluster of damp sakura blossoms and buds | LotsaSmiles Photography

Volatile spring

The variance with which the optimal timing hits also contends with the unpredictable spring weather. To find a day within that short period on which the weather is agreeable is quite the challenge.

A bunch of cherry blossoms, focused on one in full bloom | LotsaSmiles Photography

As it happened this year, we were not so fortunate. Even with a somewhat favorable forecast, the clouds weren’t about to catch us a break. We left the house with clouds in the sky, these bloomed into a hazy mist by the time we arrived at the Waterfront in the predawn hour, and it was full-on sprinkling with the extraction of our tripods.


But if you’ve learned anything at all about me, you know a little drizzle wouldn’t stop me.

Monochrome image between two rows of cherry blossom trees | LotsaSmiles Photography

I took shelter under the boughs and kept shooting. Down the pink corridor, through the petals, under the droplet-laden blossoms. I had to keep wiping off my lens, and I tried to cover my poor camera as much as possible, but I still got some fuzzy shots through the moisture.

Back of a camera showing the image being shot of spring cherry blossoms | LotsaSmiles Photography

I also played with some bokeh. If the humidity was going to soften my photos anyway, I’d run with it!

An hour or so later, I was pretty damp and we were quite hungry for breakfast, but I still got some shots with which I’m pleased.

Close up of a sakura branch, with the bokeh of distant lights behind | LotsaSmiles Photography

Anyone can shoot flowers in the sunshine.  But it takes some dedication to do so in the rain!  It’s worth it, though, as these little pink buds are just what I need.  On an otherwise gloomy day, the perseverance of these beautiful flowers makes me smile.

Rainy sakura are a bit different from what I’ve shot in the past, too, so I’d say mission accomplished!

Close-up of a wet cherry blossom branch, the flowers laden with water | LotsaSmiles Photography

Do you have sakura where you’re at?

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