Cherry Blossom Sunrise / by Jonathan Gardner

DJI Mavic Air | f/2.8 | 4.5 mm | 1/200 | 5 image bracketed merge

DJI Mavic Air | f/2.8 | 4.5 mm | 1/200 | 5 image bracketed merge

This weekend was predicted to be the peak bloom for the Cherry Blossom or Sakura in Seattle. There may be no better place to see and photograph them than on the University of Washington Campus. I am lucky that this is only about 3 miles from my house so on Saturday morning I got up at 6 am, packed my camera gear, and headed out. In this post, I’ll talk about how I captured this photograph.


Weeks before walking out the door, I began planning for the shoot. As a landscape photographer, planning comes with the territory. I have yet to talk about how I approach preparing for a shoot on this blog so now is as good a time as any. I approached this shoot with a three-pronged approach; environment, timing, and tribal knowledge.

"Knowing is half the battle" - G.I. Joe


Landscape photographers are also amateur meteorologists. I different have apps on my phone that forecast the weather, cloud cover, wind, and tides. I check these regularly. In contrast to photojournalists who use "f8 and be there", landscape photographers know that partly cloudy, high-level clouds at sunrise or sunset give us the best images.

In this case, the forecast called for a cloudless sky, so I knew that right at sunrise we would have a beautiful gradient of orange to blue as the sun comes out.


Showing up at the right time for something like a flower bloom is difficult. The complexity increases if reaching the shoot destination includes travel arrangements. In the case of this image, the University of Washington publishes the data for peak bloom. The tweet below can help you get close. Published data will not be available for most locations, so the final planning tool I use is Tribal Knowledge

Tribal Knowledge

Tribal knowledge probably could have gone before the Timing section as the tweet about peak bloom predictions came from my friends at the Wayfare Collective. The members of this creative collective were discussing the shoot and posted the information. But it illustrates a strong message. Being part of a community can be wildly helpful. While I have not been a member long, I have met some incredibly talented creatives that have not only pushed me to be a better photographer, and they are fun to be around. I would encourage you to look for a photo club or community to join. Just talking about your vision can lead to better images.

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome

Helmuth von Moltke wrote, "The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle."

This quote distilled into the message drilled home at military schools worldwide:

"No plan survives first contact with the enemy."

Sony a7RIII | 24-70 GM | f/8 | 70mm | 1/2 sec

When I first arrived on the Quad, I certainly didn't have the place to myself. Even before sunrise, there were at least thirty other photographers. This number would grow exponentially as the morning progressed. Compositions that I thought I would like would not be possible without people in the shot. The moon was in a great spot to photograph, and I had not expected that. All of these things changed what I was going to shoot. In the end, it was getting the drone up in the air and elevating the perspective that allowed me to get a shot I liked.

With this blog post, I am releasing this print in 11 “x 17” signed and numbered. This release will be limited to 25 editions so make sure to get one before they are gone.