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Happy ¬†Independence day! Hope you all have a great 4th of July full of fun, family and fireworks ūüôā

This image was taken last year before the National Museum of African American History and Culture was opened. It was amazing! My friend, Jim (who I used to intern for at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum) and I were the only ones inside the fence taking pictures. So I’m pretty sure that means we’ll be the only two people¬†EVER with an image like this. With no one in the shot with 4th of July fireworks with the museum and Washington Monument standing side-by-side. Pretty awesome, huh? But I do remember how gloomy and cloudy the day was. The whole day called for rain and we got little pockets here and there. I¬†remember thinking that they may totally call off the fireworks since the clouds were so dark and heavy. Luckily, they went off as planned. But unfortunately¬†again, we weren’t able to see the ones that went really high in the sky. We could only hear them. The clouds were so dark that you couldn’t even see the color in them from the firecrackers. We could only see some of the lower hanging ones. Oh well. I still think this turned out pretty amazingly. But a cool effect that happened from all that rain that I didn’t expect were the reflections in the walkways. I purposely got down lower so I could really highlight the reflectiveness of the ground.

I’ll be out taking fireworks images again this year at the National Mall. I’m really looking forward to it. Its like 20 minutes of pure excitement. So if you need any tips on how to shoot fireworks, check out this video I created 4 years ago. All the rules still apply:

Happy shooting and be safe!

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Even though¬†The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest museum in the National Mall and Washington DC area, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. I’ve only been inside once but I’ve admired it from the outside numerous times. It’s so exciting to have this new space because there are so many new angles to explore. Like this one made possible by the enormous and beautiful reflecting windows that surround the museum.

Now that summer time is on us, I also think it’d be interesting to see what people do with the fireworks in this space. I was lucky enough to have special access to shoot the Independence Day fireworks on the grounds last year but it was sort of a bust. All day it had been rainy with super low clouds so it was sort of difficult to see the fireworks. And it was crazy because the fireworks¬†that were super high in the sky were only heard, not seen. So this year I think it’d be interesting to see if fireworks would be able to reflect off the windows or even some of the outdoor features surrounding the museum. Weather permitting of course.

The camera settings for this image was F7.1 at 1/30th of a second at ISO 400. I shot this at sunset while being smushed up against the windows. A high ISO was needed to be sure everything stayed sharp and in focus. It was only afterwards, in post processing, where I thought this image would look even cooler in black and white. I think it really brings out the the drama and makes the angles look even sharper.

Can’t wait to go inside the museum again to capture the ‘cleansing fountain’. The first time I was there, it wasn’t up and running.

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Looks like an almighty sword glowing in the sky, doesn’t it? This is my favorite part of always watching your back. The sunset action was happening in front of me at the Lincoln Memorial but a quick glance over my shoulder to the World War II memorial and I saw this! The sun was setting just at the right angle to change the white monument into gold. You can even see a little bit of the National Museum of African American History and Culture getting a bit of the sun sparkle too ūüôā¬†It makes me smile to see the reflection in the reflecting pool water catch some of the sun’s glow.

My camera settings for this image is f5.6 at 8 seconds ISO 200. I really wanted a long exposure to blur out the fast moving clouds but also bring out the glow colors even more. To do this, I used my neutral density Ice Filter. I think I should be sponsored by them because I’m always talking about these filters and how amazing they are. *shoutout to Ice* Shooting with neutral density filters can be a little difficult if you’ve never used it before. My biggest tip would be to set your camera on manual focus, focus on your subject, and then put on the filter. Make sure you have the composition you want because once you put the filter on, it will be very difficult to see what you’re looking at. It gets super dark. If you leave your camera on auto focus, it will just keep on trying to focus on something and won’t allow you to take the picture. So remember just to keep your camera on manual and it will be all good. The neutral density filter also helped on making the edges super dark and contrasty which also helped in making the Washington Monument really pop out.

 

 

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Over the weekend I had the incredible privilege of visiting the¬†National Museum of African American History and Culture¬†before it has even opened!!! It opens this weekend so if you get the chance to go, you should totally do it! Start from the very bottom¬†and go up.¬†The bottom floor is about slavery and as you work your way up, the floors move through time all the way to modern day African Americans. It’s so fascinating to see the progression¬†through various objects and stories. Believe me, you’ll love it!