Seeing DC by Photo Safari


You don’t have to go to Subsaharan Africa to take a photo safari, as amateur photographers at all levels are discovering. They can stay State-side and join a Washington Photo Safari to see the sights and learn to take better photos at the same time.


David Luria demonstrates correct way to hold a camera.

I recently joined photography teacher extraordinaire David Luria and his Cherry Blossoms class and recommend it highly – for learning in a fun, hands-on way, for meeting some of DC’s most interesting visitors, and of course for seeing one of DC’s most beautiful and iconic places – the Tidal Basin when the cherry trees are in bloom.

Safari destinations include several more photogenic garden spots, like these that attract photographers long after the cherry blossoms have fallen: Monuments and MemorialsHillwood Museum and Gardens, Mount VernonNational Mall by Circulator Bus, the National Zoo, the FDR Memorial, as well as outdoor classes focused on F-stops, composition, portraiture, filters,DSLRs, and Instagram/smart phone photography.

Here are just some lessons I learned from David on his Cherry Blossom Safari.


When photographing a group, arrange them like this – feet turned to the center, not straight ahead.


Even large, heavy cameras can be held steady if the proper stance is used.

Park Service3

David told us that the biggest difference between amateur and professional photographers is that amateurs are too far away from the subject. The photo left isn’t nearly as effective as the one on the right, which could be an even tighter shot.

One trick to make photos more interesting is to include people in them especially the ones with bold-colored clothing, like the red stripes on this class member. If you don’t have their permission, it’s best to not show their faces, though. (David confessed to having stalked people wearing orange shirts for some great shots.)


David chose this gnarled cherry tree to pose a class member and instructed the class to come in close – closer than this, even. Also, shoot from below the subject’s eyes.


The photographer on the left is getting a nice close shot.

In addition to these and many more compositional tips, David taught us F-stop tips, how to blur or stop action, when to use fill flash and polarizing filters, and more. He was familiar with everyone’s cameras and customized his tips accordingly.

I’d taken photography classes before but never in the field in such a hands-on way, and I’d never learned as much. With this kind of class, members could immediately try things that David suggested and get his immediate feedback on our results, thanks to the viewing capabilities of digital cameras. He spotted the incorrect setting on my camera’s function wheel and fixed it immediately, with an explanation. Thank you, David!

Posted by Susan Harris for DC Gardens.