Washington DC

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Attending a professional sports game is thrilling. There’s nothing like rooting on the home team along with good drinks, tasty snacks, and being in a crowd of hundreds cheering on your favorite team. And one of my favorite parts is being able to photograph the entire event.

Here are a few things I do to make sure I come home with some great sports photography shots: 

First things first, when attending a professional sporting event, make sure to check the rules: Is professional camera equipment allowed? How will you carry it? Are backpacks allowed? 

Research the venue or ask people you know who have been to games before. Ive been to several arenas where they are very strict on backpacks or professional cameras are totally not allowed. If that is the case, then a good old mobile photography will have to do. However, if they are only strict about backpacks, I just have my camera around my neck and a little sling bag to carry one extra lens and additional accessories I may need. Keep it light and minimal to prevent any problems.

Camera Equipment

If there are no lens restrictions, I recommend bringing at least a 200mm lens.  My 70-200mm is usually on my camera the entire time. Especially when you’re up in the stands, a 200mm will bring you in nice and tight into the action. I also love a good wide-angle. The wide-angle shots are great for some context and give your viewer a sense of where you are and how big the event is. The 16-35mm wide-angle is usually in my sling bag and brought out only a few times.

Go Early and Get a Feel for the Environment 

If possible, I like to go at least 30 minutes to an hour before the start of a game. That way I have time to wander the venue and check things out. Sometimes if you go that early, you can even go to different sections than your tickets and check out the vantage point from different spots. There can also be some possible backdrops for photos you may have never noticed. Taking your time is key to photography.

When I went to the CitiOpen in Rock Creek Park, Washington DC, I didn’t anticipate being able to watch players practice prior to their actual match. Otherwise, I would have not have been able to get such close-up shots of Rafael Nadal which was very exciting to capture.

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Happy 4th of July! This was the first year I watched the show from Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, VA, rented a lens for the event, and the weather conditions worked perfectly in our favor. I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to celebrate Independence Day.

The fireworks prep started a few weeks prior to the 4th. I wanted to do something special this year since I missed out on photographing the fireworks last year. So I decided that I would rent the 200-600mm lens again from lensrentals.com.  I like renting from them because they are a small business and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. They have a selection of gear and prices that are comparable to other gear rental companies I’ve seen so why not.

iPhone 11 plus PAN-orama of Netherlands Carillon waiting for fireworks

I set the delivery date for July 2nd, figuring I could spend the weekend with the lens and then return it after the holiday. I should have thought about the fact that it was a holiday and shipping things may be delayed. I kept on checking my tracking and the final update said that it wasn’t going to be delivered until July 5th. I was really bummed out and sent an email to lensrentals.com and they were super accommodating with options that would work for both of us.

But that still left me wanting a lens for the 4th. Then I remembered my friend, Larry owns the lens. Fortunately, he had no plans of using it over the weekend and let me borrow it.

On the actual day of the fourth, I met up with my friends Michael and Virginia at Netherlands Carillon. Netherlands Carillon is just an iconic place to go in Arlington, Virginia that will give you amazing views of the top three landmarks of Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol. The show was going to start at 9:09 but we had all planned to be there around 6 pm. Luckily we were early enough to find a great spot. At that time, there were a few spots available but if we got there any later, it probably would have been a lot more difficult. The good photo spots were filling up fast.

Not only did Larry let me borrow the 200-600mm lens, but he also lent me his 1.4 teleconverter. All I had to do was mount the teleconverter in between my camera and lens and I was able to zoom from 600mm to 840mm at F8. It was incredible how much more detail it allowed.

At first, the lens had image stabilization off, even using a remote and a tripod, it got a little shake in the images. I assumed it was the teleconverter so I took it off but I was still getting it. I think the 200-600mm lens is just so heavy that no matter what, there was going to be a little shake, especially considering it doesn’t mount directly onto the tripod. It has to be mounted with the lens foot. So I turned my image stabilization back on and all the images turned out super sharp. Luckily there were a few small neighborhood fireworks that were going off before the show that I could practice a little bit to make sure everything was how I needed it to be.

I did not use the teleconverter for the actual show because I thought that would have been too much zoom. The 200-600mm was perfect for some really compressed, tight shots of the monuments. It helped me create a variety of images that I would have not otherwise been able to capture.

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In this guide, I will show you all the best places to photograph the July 4th fireworks in Washington DC.

Plus if you have never photographed fireworks before, I’ll give you some of my top tips to make sure you get your best shot.

So, let’s get crackin’… (pun intended)…

Independence Day

Independence day is the perfect excuse to enjoy the outdoors, eat some barbeque, and show off your patriotism. Or stay home all day in the air conditioning and watch the 1996 movie, Independence Day with Will Smith. LOL Either way you wish to celebrate, it’s my favorite summer holiday because I LOVE photographing the fireworks. They are always so beautiful and exciting to watch.

Since July is approaching quickly, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about where to shoot the fireworks around the National Mall and surrounding areas.

The fireworks usually launch from the edge of the Reflecting Pool near the WWII Memorial. With that in mind, there are multiple great locations to photograph them from. So here are the best places to shoot the fireworks in Washington DC with views of the memorials:

Views of the Washington Monument

Sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial is a location I discovered in 2018. I figured with the massive firework attendance that it would be difficult to find a good spot in such a limited space between the Lincoln Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, but to my surprise, it didn’t turn out to be too bad. It helped that I was by myself shooting so I was able to squeeze into the second row along the edge of the reflecting pool. I was right in the center of the reflecting pool so it felt like the fireworks were taking off right in front of my face. I even felt shrapnel fall on me the entire time. It was so fun! LOL.

I 100% recommended this location as my number 1 pick of best places to photograph the Washington DC fireworks. However, if you’re going with a group of people, I’d recommend going as early as possible to get a good spot.

Camera settings for these images (L) F5.6 at 1/10th of a second ISO 160 (R) F5.6 at 1 second ISO 160. Both captured with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm lens.

It’s funny the way that the city is laid out because while you’re walking around, you may not realize that the Washington Monument is actually on top of a little hill. I didn’t think it made that big of a difference for fireworks but sitting on the lawn around the Monument gives you a much lower perspective.

I captured this image in 2013 while the Washington Monument was still under construction. I figured the scaffolding could add some interest. To snag this spot, I got there 3-4 hours before the fireworks started but I was surprised that there was still plenty of room for a later arrival.

Had I gone a little further back and to the right a bit, I think it would have been nice to capture the fireworks directly behind the Washington Monument. Maybe something to consider in the future.

Fireworks on the National Mall

Camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1 second and ISO 100

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Memorial day is a day to honor veterans and in years past I enjoyed doing that by attending Rolling Thunder. However, 2019 was the last year for the official event. I will miss hearing the hums of motorcycles throughout the area. It was a signal that summer is here! Although there are other ways of honoring veterans, I spent this year’s memorial day a little differently.

In the month of May 2021, Mayor Bowser proclaimed that May 31st will forever be a Day of Solidarity Against AAPI Hate in Washington DC. With so many recent hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander community all over the country, I began observing a movement in the immediate area.

I found out about this rally that was happening on Memorial day and immediately looked into a way I could contribute to the event. I signed up to be a volunteer on the day of Solidarity Against AAPI and brought my camera along on this momentous day.

I arrived a little early so I could get a feel of what the event was going to be like and get my barring on to what it may look like in photographs. In the end, it was an afternoon full of inspiring speeches and performances all in the name of standing up against Asian hate.

Lee Wong, a U.S. Army veteran and elected official from West Chester Township in Ohio gave a moving speech about patriotism as the audience listens and applauds.

I may be biased but one of the best performances came from my friend, Kha. She performed her song No More and it was one of the most touching and moving songs I’ve heard in a really long time. When she found out about the shootings in Atlanta, she knew she had to do something and that something was using her talents in songwriting and performing. If you haven’t already, listen to the words and watch the music video.

Earlier this year, my cousin told me about this show on Cinemax called Warriors. Andrew and I started watching it and got immediately hooked after the first episode. After two seasons, we can’t wait for the third one to come out. It’s a really good show if you haven’t seen it.

But Father Jun, Perry Yung, came to DC to be a keynote speaker. His mix of storytelling, guitar, and flute playing was not only captivating but also very interesting to listen to. I’m so glad I got to see his speech and it was very cool to meet him in person.

Overall, the rally was an uplifting and inspiring event. I am so glad I was able to be a part of it in a little way. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for this rally anymore but in case there is, I believe it will happen every year on May 31st.

For more resources for the AAPI community:

Stop AAPI Hate

Asian Women Alliance

Asian Mental Health Collective

The Asian American Foundation

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Thursday, June 10th, was a special day. I woke up early and went out to photograph the partial lunar eclipse happening at sunrise. It had been a while since I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to go take pictures so when my friends Mark and Andy invited me to go with them to the Air Force Memorial I couldn’t say no.

The first peak of the sun rising over the horizon.

The plan was to photograph the solar event as the sun was rising over the Washington DC skyline.

It was so cool to witness this particular sunrise. It was obviously very unique and just so happened to be my very first time photographing an eclipse. To be honest, I hadn’t done much research before waking up in the morning. I was just looking forward to seeing something cool.

My favorite part was seeing how bright this sun crescent got to be. It also sort of looks like cheese, or a Pacman in the sky.

partial solar eclipse, solar eclipse 2021, sunrise, washington dc, virignia, arlington

There were a handful of other photographers already at the memorial and others who were just there to watch the event. They were even prepared with solar glasses. I need to get a pair myself for next time I want to photograph an eclipse. A friend recommended these off of amazon.  Most of the time I was shooting on a tripod and through my camera’s LiveView so I didn’t have to look directly into the sun, but glancing up once in a while, I could tell that the sun was extremely powerful. A few people have asked and I did not shoot with a lens filter. I mostly exposed for the sun which made the foreground really dark and lightened everything up in Lightroom.

The eclipse was visible for about 20 minutes before it hid behind the clouds.  So we packed up our things and created a few shots of the Air Force Memorial before heading out. Overall it was a great morning out and well worth the early wake-up alarm. Can’t wait for the next one in 2024!

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It’s been a while since I’ve gone out for sunrise. No particular reason except summer makes it hard to wake up so early. So for a little extra motivation, I was looking back at some sunrises in DC this past year.

I always thought that winter has the best sunrises. There’s something about that cold air that really brings out the colors in the sky. And on this particular January morning, it did not disappoint! I met up with a small group of photographers and it was great to see some people who I hadn’t seen in more than a year.

At first, it just a cold morning. I didn’t think much would happen…

So I spent my time walking around the Lincoln Memorial, trying to find something interesting to photograph if the sky wasn’t going to do anything. To be honest, I didn’t even pull my camera out of my camera bag until I was already 3/4ths around the memorial. Then I started to notice more and more people starting to gather in the front.

The sky went from a cold grey to a warm orangey-pink. I was not expecting it at all but was so happy. Since I was there with photography friends, I knew I wanted to try to find a different angle. I figured most of them would be on the perimeter of the memorial, so I went inside. It was also a good idea because it was so cold and windy, the inside of the memorial provided some great shelter.

What first started off as an attempt to get a little warmer, ended up being a really good move. I love how the light is pouring into the memorial and seeing the silhouettes of all the early morning risers. Overall, looking back at these pictures makes me so happy and reminiscent. I hope to photograph a similar sunrise in the near future.