Flashback to January 2021 in Washington DC. At the time, I had no idea things would change so much around the city. The new year started off quiet but there was a buzz around the city with the upcoming inauguration. What was it going to be like with COVID? We had already watched the Inauguration flags and setup starting months prior, were people going to be allowed to attend? How would they regulate the crowd?
However, on January 6th protestors stormed the US Capitol in an event as we had never seen before. My eyes were glued to the television screen and my jaw on the floor as to how this could all have happened. It left a feeling of uncertainty, disbelief, and overall tension in the city. I was planning on going downtown later that evening to work on a photo project, but with the storming of the Capitol, that would not have been possible. So I made the plan to head down first thing the next morning. After I was done taking pictures for the project, I could not help but to drive around the US Capitol to see what it looked like.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours at this location photographing the sunrise, sunset, lighting strikes, past inaugurations, attended photo walks, and created some great memories on the grounds. I just could not believe how different it looked after one day. As I was driving around, I remember seeing trucks transporting the fencing to the US Capitol. This was going to be the last time I see the US Capitol so open and without fencing in a long time.
Monday, January 18th I found myself taking a little walk around in the same place. Just two days before the Presidential Inauguration, this was definitely not the US Capitol I was used to. I remember parking my car and sitting there for a while, very hesitant to get out. I was scared to see what it looked like and to feel the energy.
Helicopters flying by almost every minute
Thousands of National Guards
The fencing was up and National Guard was everywhere. It blocked off so many streets that I was looking at maps to see exactly where was I was relative to the Capitol Building. It was the eeriest feeling I’ve ever had taking pictures around Washington DC.
In November 2020, I was out trying to photograph the full moon and unfortunately, clouds had a different idea. The moon was completely covered and I was just standing in the cold with my camera and 70-200mm on a tripod. I could have gone the next night when the sky would have been clear but I just was feeling so discouraged that I didn’t want to. This had been my 3rd month in a row where I wasn’t able to capture the moon. So I wanted to do something that would keep me motivated to go out and shoot.
Right then and there I came up with an idea that I should rent the biggest lens I can find. LOL.
So after discussing this idea with a few friends, I finally decided that I’d rent a 200-600mm lens. This would bring a whole new view to the city that I couldn’t even imagine. I rented it from lensrentals.com and I could not have been more excited that it actually came 3 days earlier than I had expected. So I had 10 days with the lens and I was pumped!
Images my friend, Albert captured me with the 200-600mm
My first real test came on an afternoon at the Washington Monument. It is actually the same exact place where I came up with the idea to rent the lens so it’s funny that this was the first place that I want to go to test it out.
I was blown away!
600mm ISO 250 F6.3 1/2500 on a tripod
324mm ISO 250 F6.3 1/2500 on a tripod
The compression on the lens is CRAZY. These people were at least 20 feet away from me. The US Capitol is about a mile away from the Washington Monument. But if you asked me, it seriously looks like you could just reach out and touch the people.
This is probably the most minimalist image I’ve ever taken at the United States Capitol. But I love it.
I captured it this past Sunday while we were walking from the west to the east side. I saw the wispy clouds that were forming next to the Capitol so I quickly changed from my zoom to my wide-angle lens to try to capture it all. I could have very easily looked a little more to the right to try to capture this image of just clouds, but I love how the American flag is there just poking out of the corner. It’s very subtle but it is so patriotic. LOL.
One of my favorite things to do before the New Year is to go back and look through all my images from the past year. It’s fun to reminisce on all the memories and it’s a great way to see how much I’ve grown as a person and photographer. It’s funny how looking back at some of these images can bring back so many memories. In general, I feel like I share a lot when I’m posting a new image every single weekday on this blog so there’s bound to be some images that I connect with more than others. So without any social media influence or outside judgment, here are my personal favorite images I created in 2019.
Something that I found interesting is that the images that are my favorite from this past year aren’t your stereotypical Washington DC monument images. Yes, they may have some of the monuments and landmarks included in the image, but I love how unique and creative these images are. So I’m pretty sure you should expect to see even more of these types of images in 2020!
P.S. You can click on each image to read the original blog post but I’ll try to add some additional light on these images now that I’ve sat on them for a while. So in no particular order except chronological, here are my favorite Washington DC images of 2019.
Ok, the first image on the list and I’ve already cheated. LOL. This image was actually taken in 2018, but I didn’t get a chance to post it until 2019. Regardless, I love this image. It’s just so simple but my favorite part is the Washington Monument reflection down the middle. It’s not super obvious, but this was taken just after the sun had risen a bit and it was hitting the Monument at the right spot to make it glow orange in the US Capitol Reflecting Pool. I just love how subtle reflection is. The water also kind of reminds me of a Mary Cassatt painting. Just an impression of water with tiny brush strokes.
Besides the cherry blossoms, I always look forward to the magnolias trees in the Washington DC area. My favorite of the bunch can be found behind the Smithsonian Castle in the Smithsonian Gardens on the National Mall. On this particular morning, I was with my friend, Birch while out shooting and I remember telling her about my upcoming road trip to Austin. She had been there before so she was giving me advice on what to do there. See, isn’t that crazy? I remember all those details from just this one single image? HAHA.
I’ve never captured an image like this, but I’m in love. I think this may be my favorite cherry blossom image I captured all season. It’s the one that always comes to mind whenever I think of this spring and I just think it’s so unique. It’s also the fact that when the cherry blossoms flowers start falling off the trees, they fall so delicately and so beautifully that it’s actually pretty hard to capture. Especially when you’re doing it organically as opposed to staging a photo. But this image is of cherry blossom petals falling times 100. LOL. I didn’t pose this image but I did have some assistance. National Park Service was actually cleaning up all the fallen petals from the ground near the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial by using a leaf blower. So as they were trying to gather all of the petals in a pile, I was ready with my camera to capture them as they were flying in the air.
On one of the last days of the cherry blossoms, we had rain. Rain or wind are usually the two deadliest elements for cherry blossoms so I knew this would probably be the end of them for the year. As I was walking around the Tidal Basin, I was noticing some petals that had already fallen onto the ground and in the water. So I captured this image almost by accident. I had left my camera settings the same as the previous image, but looking down onto the water was a little darker than it was photographing them in the trees. So by accident, this was sort of like a long exposure. Whatever the case, I love the way it turned out. The motion in this image is so interesting to me and I love how you can still make out the shape of the flower petals. SWOOSH.
I’m starting to notice a flower theme I’ve got going on here. HAHA. But this is an image that I did not expect to find. I woke up early one summer morning so I could catch the sunrise at the US Capitol. I love just walking around with my earphones in, listening to music and watching the sunrise however the sunrise itself didn’t end up being that spectacular. So I decided to just take advantage of the early morning hour and empty Capitol grounds with my camera and walked around. I’ve noticed these rose bushes bloom every year and I’ve always tried to come up with a creative composition with them before but never really found one that I really liked until this one. I love how they are engulfing the Capitol building and all that is left is the dome in the middle of the image. I feel like this looks like a greeting card for Washington DC. LOL.
This technically was not photographed in the city of Washington DC, but I added it to the list anyways. This was taken in Potomac, Maryland, a little less than an hour away from Washington DC but it’s one of my favorite places to be in the summer because of all the sunflower fields! It was captured during an Instagram meet up with IGDC. My friend, Birch and I decided to go in the middle of the sunflower field to see if we could find something interesting. With a step ladder, we took turns climbing to see if there was a unique point of view but while I was on the ground, I found this framing. I just love how the top flower petals look larger than life. Or larger than a Birch! HAHA.
For a unique view of the US Capitol, consider visiting Union Station. The top level of the parking garage is usually pretty quiet, especially if you’re there early in the morning. I don’t know why, but I’m usually just standing by the ledge you see in this image. When you look down you can get a cool shot of taxis and pedestrians walking to the train station, but this day I decided to take a step back. Not sure what compelled me to do it. I think I was just looking for a different view, but then I saw how all these light posts lined up and thought it looked very interesting. This parking garage is so quiet that I actually had to wait a bit for someone to walk by. But when he did, I was ready for him.
One of the best things to happen in 2019 was in September when the Washington Monument had finally reopened. After 3 long years, visitors can finally go to the top and see the city from a whole new point of view. I could have added a whole bunch of images you would see from the windows of the Monument, but I really liked how this one turned out. Just a moment of silence and contemplation as a couple as they look out on the view. If I remember correctly, they were facing north towards the White House at sunset.
Like I always say, “More Rooftops, More Better”. And the Smithsonian National Museum of American History listened. Soon after the Washington Monument reopening, the American History museum followed by opening its doors to the rooftop. Unfortunately, it not opened to the public, just for private events, but based on where it’s located on the National Mall, this rooftop will provide some amazing views of the city. I mean, could you imagine getting married with a view like this? This image is of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I just love the rigid lines of the architecture with the curves on the sidewalk. It’s such a contrast that I think really works for this image. Plus that sunset glow makes it even better. So if you’re planning on hosting an event here, I’d love the opportunity to go back here again! *hint, hint*
And last but not least, this image I posted last week on the blog. LOL. I still find it hard to believe that I didn’t know I captured this but not really all at the same time. When I’m out photographing lightning, I’m usually shooting off my images so fast that I don’t really get the chance to review them in between shots. So there could be many more lightning images that I’ve missed. I’ll have to go through my archives more carefully. Not only do I love the way the lightning strike turned out, I think the clouds behind the Capitol look so powerful. It looks like a storm that I should have stayed indoors for but glad I didn’t.
So there it is! My favorite images from 2019. I can’t believe that actually ended up being 10 images. I didn’t plan for it to be that way but it’s pretty cool that it did. I had a lot of fun creating these images and this list. It makes me excited to get back out there and photograph even more in 2020. Let me know what you think of this list and if you have any favorites. I’d love to see them.
And if you live in the Washington DC area or find yourself traveling to the capital city, check out my book, Snap DC, Your Guide to Taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond… It was created for any level of photographer from mobile to DSLR, who wants to cut down the research time and spend their time out doing what they love- shooting.
Going through some images I took earlier in the year, I found this gem. I had no idea I captured the lightning because the exposure was actually pretty dark. I thought maybe a lightning strike hit behind the clouds or something but it was the bright light on the left-hand corner that caught my eye where I thought it could be something. So in Lightroom, I brought up the exposure and found the lightning strike! It was so exciting. Probably almost as exciting as capturing it, even though I didn’t know I had captured it at all.
It brought back all these memories of that evening. Obviously, I knew I captured this one and waiting out the rain on the west side of the Capitol was awesome because we didn’t actually get wet. But it’s always a good time storm chasing with friends. It makes the time go by so much faster.
My camera settings for this image are F4 at 1/5th sec and ISO 2000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm.
Since I’ve been out photographing the sunset and night so much, I found myself craving a morning in Washington DC. There’s something about the early mornings where it’s so quiet and peaceful, you really get to appreciate the city that you live in. Or at least, that’s how I feel.
So one morning I found myself by the US Capitol and in an effort to photograph something different, I spent a lot of time around the Library of Congress. I’ve mentioned many times before how the Library is my favorite interior in the entire city, but the exterior is beautiful all on its own. This particular composition struck me because of all the layers. I love how the staircases divide the image but I also love the little splashes of green. Everything is just lined up so nicely in this image. The best part is that the city is such a healthy city, that it doesn’t take a long time to wait for a runner to run by your shot 🙂
PS I love how if you peek through the windows on top of this image, you can kinda see what it looks like on the inside. LOL Can you tell I was proud of myself when I captured this? HAHA
My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/200th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm.