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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.

Other cool places to see the Washington Monument: POV Bar at the W Hotel, Rooftop Bar at the POD hotel in Chinatown (I have a thing for rooftop bars), Netherlands Carillion in Arlington VA, or along the Tidal Basin.

 

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The Washington Monument glows orange on a winter sunset evening.

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I have a huge list of things I still want to do and photograph in Washington DC. Crazy right? You would think by now that I’ve accomplished them all but this city is so lively and growing so much that I feel like the list gets longer and longer everyday. Well, a couple of Fridays ago, my friend Birch and I met up to cross one of those things off the list. It had been something I’ve been wanting to do for forever and I’m so glad Birch was awesome enough to accompany me in doing so.

We spent a beautiful hour on the tidal basin in a paddle boat!!! OMG it was so much fun. We picked the perfect day to do it too. That whole week had crazy cold wind but the day we were actually able to go, the weather was beautiful! The best part was that we went on a swan paddle boat which was battery operated so we didn’t even have to paddle at all! We just let the swan do all the work. But we did have to steer the boat. Which may or not have been the easiest thing to do… LOL We seriously spent the whole time talking, laughing and making sure we didn’t run into any of the walls. There were some photos involved too. Either way, I’m doing it again next year! Swan paddle boat or bust.

This image is not from the paddle boat though. This was on the way down to the tidal basin from our cars. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a perspective like this before and I love the way that it turned out. I was just super lucky to have been able to capture that airplane too!

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/5000th of a second and ISO 400 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.

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This is the first time I ever done this but this is an iPhone pic! Usually all my images on my blog are from my DSLR cameras but I just LOVED the way that this one turned out.

Isn’t that crazy?

I took it at Reagan airport walking through the security line on our way to Maine. You know how it goes, you have a million and one things in your hands, you want to get everything together and in it’s place before you have to put your stuff in those big grey tubs and security is staring you down extra hard. It was an early morning flight so the sunlight was pouring through the windows. Luckily I was at the right place at the right time with my phone in my back pocket. I pulled that sucker out so fast, took this shot and just kept it moving. I had all my DSLR camera equipment in my backpack but it was just easier to take a quick shot with my phone. It wasn’t until I was sitting at the gate and I looked at the image and thought, “WOW, that’s patriotic!”

From now on, I’m going to try to fly out of DCA as much as I can. The airport itself is just so beautiful. There’s so much to take pictures and you can’t beat the view at take off. 

So what do you think? Would you want to see more of my iPhone images or just keep it strictly DSLRs? To be honest, I don’t take much with my phone but in the rare occasion I do, I wouldn’t mind posting it on here.

Camera settings on this image was F2.2 at 1/125th of a second ISO 32 on my Apple iPhone 6. Weird that I was able to see that right? HAHA!

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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:

My settings for this image is 1/3200 of a second at F/8 ISO 1000 with my 16-35mm wide angle lens and Sony A7II.

 

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Studying the Lincoln Memorial architecture in the snow, I was just in time to catch the airplane flying over. The first time it flew over, I was lucky. Then I knew I could expect them to come every 10-ish minutes because the flights weren’t delayed due to snow. YAY!