So my favorite view from the Washington Monument was definitely facing west with views of the World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial. It may have been because we were there around sunset and obviously you want to be facing west, but it was the Reflecting Pool that kept on catching my eye. I couldn’t believe how still and peaceful the water looked. It literally looked like glass from above.
But out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an airplane flying by in the sky and you could see it in the reflecting pool. It was the coolest thing ever. Luckily, at that time of the night, there’s pretty much an airplane that flys by ever ten minutes. So I just waited a bit for another one to come and tried my best to capture it in the reflection.
I also love seeing all the traffic around the memorial and into Arlington, Virginia. GAH I love these elevated views. Can’t wait to go up in the Washington Monument again to capture some more!
If you have any questions about getting tickets or what it’s like up there, please feel free to let me know. I’m currently writing a guide that will explain the process.
My camera settings for this image are F4.5 at 1/30th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.
If you’re looking for the best spots to watch and photograph the sun setting in Washington DC, you’ve come to the right place.
The National Mall can get crowded, overwhelming and confusing. I’m here to help you navigate the park so you can get your best shots quickly and efficiently.
I’ve lived in the area my whole life and been photographing the National Mall for over 8 years. I’ve pretty much been to every one of these places at least 20 times. So here’s my complete list of the best to watch the sunset in Washington DC:
But First, Here’s What You Need to Get Ready for Your Sunset Shoot
Because of the number of people that visit the National Mall every day, sunset is a little more difficult to navigate than sunrise. There are far more people, we’re talking busloads of people, so be prepared. That means if this is your first time in Washington DC, I’d highly suggest public transportation either by metro, Lyft or even an electric scooter! All are very convenient ways to get you around the Nation’s Capital.
Also with the number of people, I’d even say try to get to your sunset location earlier than you think you should. Who knows what kind of hang-ups you could possibly run into. If it were a cold winter day, I say you could get by with going 30 minutes early. On a beautiful summer day, I’d go as far as saying an hour before sunset would not be a bad idea.
And my number one most asked question, are tripods allowed? For the most part, yes, but you may run into some complications. If you’re in a densely crowded area like World War II Memorial or Lincoln Memorial, you will probably be asked to take it down immediately by Park Police. They can be a walking hazard and just get in the way of people. But if you’re in a more spread out area like the Washington Monument grounds or even the Tidal Basin, there is a little more elbow room so you could get away with it.
The United States Capitol is unique because it’s technically not a part of the National Mall. The last time I spoke to Capitol police they said tripods are allowed. Since then, other photographer friends have told me that the Capitol police asked them to take down their tripods. So I’m still pretty if-y if they are actually allowed. I tend to just bring my tripod to the Capitol and if I’m asked to put it away, I do so politely.
Now on to The Top 5 Sunset Locations in Washington DC:
The Washington Monument is Always a Good Idea
The Washington Monument is so iconically Washington DC and the tallest structure in the city. So because of that, there is no best time to photograph it. It can be seen from so many different vantage points around the city that the possibilities are endless. However, if you catch it at the right time, it can glow orange. It’s absolutely amazing if you see it.
In order to capture the glow, I’d recommend getting to your sunset location early and face east towards the Monument. I would suggest standing either in front of the World War II memorial or along the grassy area in front of the west side of the monument and maybe 30-40 minutes ahead of sunset will work. I think the closer you are to the monument the better the imagery. But the key is to be patient. The way that the sun reflects off of clouds and on to the monument to glow doesn’t happen every day but if you see it, it will make your travel images very unique.
Flew in last night from my trip out west. Since I preschedule these blog posts, I can’t tell what happened yet because I don’t actually know. I do know that I had a very good time though.
But if you’re reading this, it means I survived. Actually, that may be a bit early. If you see a blog post from me tomorrow, that means I survived because on this trip, I went camping for the very first time ever in life. Leading up to the event, I was nervous. I do consider myself an adventurous/try anything at least once type of person, but camping was something that has not been very high on my priority list. I mean, sleeping outside with bugs does not sound like my idea of a good time. But we camped in Lake Tahoe! And based on the images that I’ve seen, Lake Tahoe is amazingly beautiful. So I’ll let you know how it went soon. Hopefully.
In the meantime, I love coming home and seeing this view. I used to always fly in and out of Dulles Airport which is in Virginia. But something just clicked in my head where in the past few trips I’ve taken, I made it a point to fly in and out of Regan National. I personally think the airport itself is nicer, but if you’re sitting on the correct side of the plane you get cool views like this. I’m lucky that I live pretty much in the middle of the two so while booking a trip, I can be flexible. But nothing feels more like home when you’re driving and you see the Washington Monument in the rear view mirror 🙂
My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 1/8th of a second at ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.
First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day LOVES!!!! I personally don’t think Valentine’s day is only for your significant other. I think Valentine’s day should be shared with everyone you love – family, friends, internet friends. So I wish you a day full of smiles and hugs and pizza 🙂 Who doesn’t love pizza, am I right?
But I thought it was appropriate to post about 2 of my favorite places. The airport and the National Mall. National Mall is a given but the airport is one of my favorite places to hang out. It’s the best place to people watch, theres always a huge variety of food to select from and each airport is so different from one another. Sometimes I just like going early to sit and watch. Is that weird? I dunno, I think my love of airports started from a young age visiting the Las Vegas airport. Now that’s a cool airport!! I always imagine walking through the airport with my mom and she’d always imitate her favorite noise, “cling cling cling cling” goes the sound of the slot machines. LOL.
Anyways… if you read my last blog post about flying out of Reagan National Airport, then I’m sorry, I think I gave you the wrong information. LOL. Turns out you can see the National Mall even when you’re flying south. I captured this image on our way down to Orlando. Again, I was sitting on the right hand side of the airplane and it worked! I really don’t know how the runways work for which direction you’re flying but it’s a pretty safe bet that if you’re going to see the National Mall, you’ll see it on the right hand side when flying out of DCA. Don’t get me wrong though, there are certain times when you won’t see it. I haven’t quite figured that part out yet. I’ll keep you updated!
I heard that there are no direct flights from Washington DC to San Diego. Is that true or am I making that up? I wasn’t sure if our search results were affected since we were traveling with a dog but that seems a bit odd…
Either way, it gave us a cool opportunity to check out Chicago’s O’Hare airport during our layover to the west coast. I had always seen this hallway on instagram and thought it was so cool. I’m so glad I got to see it while we were looking for the pet relief area for Frankie. LOL.
If you have never seen it for yourself, this is a super long hallway with rainbow colored lights connecting two different parts of the airport. Perfect for finding all different kinds of compositions and cool images. I even saw a group of girls taking some pretty cool portraits here. This image is the last visual I tried. We were on one of those moving walkway things and I figured I would try a long exposure to see what would come out. I balanced my camera on the hand rail which was a bit shaky but I thought the final result looked pretty cool. It kinda describes what it feels like traveling. Super cool but kinda hazy, am I right?
PS, we never found the the pet relief area. It was all good though. Frankie was such a good boy on the flight, he didn’t even seem phased. He just sat on my lap the entire time. Both ways. I would love to take him on more adventures with us now that I know he is such a good traveler.
Somehow I’m lucky enough to live right in the middle of two awesome airports, Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But for some reason, I’m always flying out of Dulles. So when the rare opportunity comes up to fly out of Reagan, I take FULL ADVANTAGE! I do my research and try to figure out where I can sit on the plane to make sure I get the birds eye view of the National Mall. If you want to do the same, read on…
I know you can see the monuments if you’re flying north of DC and about 50% sure you can see them when you’re flying west of the city. You definietly won’t see them if you’re flying south. So if you’re flying north, try to sit on the right hand side of the plane. Obviously, when you’re flying back to DC, sit on the left hand side. If you aren’t able reserve those seats, you’ll still be able to get pretty cool views of the Pentagon and Air Force Memorial on the opposite side so be on the look out for those. Either way, window seats are key! And have your camera ready right at take off or when you are descending. It’s surprising how fast the memorials will pop into your window. You’ll see them as you’re climbing your way up to the clouds or when you’re right about to touch down.
In order to take this image, I was sitting in the window seat, but I had to lean into the middle seat to capture it. My intention was to capture the light coming from the window and use it to frame the monuments. I really like this image, but I also wish I went a little closer to capture only the monuments. Oh well! There’s always next time: