early morning

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If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for cute, cuddly things. So obviously, I had to spend some time at La Jolla Cove while I was out in San Diego. This image was captured early morning while I was out shooting sunrise with Andrew and Frankie. As soon as I saw the seals, I squealed and yelled out that I had to get closer. Andrew, who is always looking out for me, told me that I can’t get too close but I didn’t listen. I pretty much hopped the wall and walked over to seals as fast as I could. Obviously I didn’t want to disturb them so I threw on my 70-200mm lens and got as close as I could without them noticing.

I love that little guy in the middle. Doesn’t it look like he’s smiling? It’s like a dog pile that I wish I were a part of. There were other seals all along the rocks but this group really made me happy. You know what though, one of my friends told me that there are times when there aren’t any seals here? Is that true? I’m grateful that I’ve never witnessed that. I always look forward to the seals whenever I’m in the area.

One last thing, this Thursday I’ll be a part of a travel writing panel at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. If you’re free, I’d love for you to attend. I’ll be there with my friends, Katie Bianco, author of 100 Things to do in Washington, DC Before you Die and Jennifer Barger who has worked with National Geographic, Traveler, etc as we discuss our experiences about writing and photographing the District. I will be talking about Snap DC.

Click here for the details.

My camera settings for the seal image is F7.1 at 1/200th sec and ISO 1000 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm.

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Home from California and it honestly feels a little different being back.

Why? Because I was so used to the beautiful California weather and as soon as I stepped off the plane, all I saw was snow. So sad to have missed the first real snow we got in the Washington DC area but not sad because I had a blast on our trip.

Even though a majority of our time was spent in San Diego and we had a trip similar to this around the same time last year, it was still like our first time there. It was a different experience because this time we went with our cousins and we stayed directly on the beach. Living that beach life was so great. Sometimes instead of driving the rental car, we would just take scooters to get around. We took Frankie on walks on the beach which he loved because he had so much open space to run around and overall just looking outside the windows of our airbnb at sunset was a view that stopped you in your tracks. I loved it.

It also allowed me to spend more time practicing and capturing the city from above with my drone. By the end of the trip, I tended to reach for my drone more times than my actual camera. I love just standing on the beach and seeing different points of view with just a slight movement of my finger. It made taking pictures a little more relaxing.

This image was taken just a few steps away from our airbnb in Mission Beach one morning just after sunrise. It was cool because our view was of the ocean but right behind us was Mission Bay. It was so nice to be surrounded by water.

My camera settings for this image is F2.2 at 1/280th sec at ISO 100 with my DJI Mavic Pro

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One morning I found myself walking around the US Capitol with my 70-200mm in hand. It was right before Christmas and other than capturing the capitol Christmas tree, I wanted to get some images that weren’t just of the holidays.

So here’s a little secret, one of my favorite places to be is on the west side of the Capitol facing east at sunrise. It sounds counterintuitive but once the sun comes up a little bit, I love how it shines bright onto the building’s facade. With the beautiful architecture, columns, and everything else, the sun can create some interesting shadows and make the lines really pop.

I loved the way these columns looked from a distant angle. At first I was standing a little further back when I noticed the patterns they were creating. There was no way I was able to capture it without some blue sky so I kept walking a little bit closer and closer until I could finally fill the entire frame with it. With the warm sunlight shining bright on top and the dark shadows in the tunnels underneath, I thought it was a really interesting composition.

A few moments after I captured this image, a Capitol Police officer came out from the columns and it was an almost perfect focal point to capture. I was so excited and snapped a few images but then my camera battery died and the officer went back into the columns 🙁 I think I’ll be back sometime soon to try to recreate this and hopefully have some warm sunlight shining as well. Either way though, I really love the way it turned out. It makes me feel all warm and happy inside.

My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/8000th sec at ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.

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It’s pretty well known by now that I’m an early bird. Even if I don’t go out to take sunrise pictures, I still like to get an early jump on the day. I hate being late to meetings and I hate feeling like I’m rushed. I’m a very go with the flow type person and would rather not worry about looking at the clock all the time.

But to be honest if I’m not out taking pictures early in the morning and it’s one of those lazy days where I don’t have much going on, I’m usually just taking my time eating breakfast with a face mask on. The last thing on my mind is exercising. LOL. But props to everyone who do wake up early in the morning to work out. It’s very unusual to be at the National Mall and not see a runner or someone on a bike. Even in below freezing weather you’ll see people! Good for them.

I honestly think that’s one of the best parts about Washington. I love seeing how active people are. It’s inspiring. Plus they can make for great subjects when no one else are around 🙂

I was standing on top of the Lincoln Memorial steps when I captured this. I just happened to run into my friend, Andy while out taking pics and we had stopped at the top of the steps to catch up. I saw the bicyclist coming from a pretty good distance so I lined up my composition and just waited for him to ride by. I was surprised to have captured the runner as well. I didn’t see her at all. Glad she was there for that little extra pop of color.

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/500th sec at ISO 400 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.

 

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Speaking of fog, Saturday was really foggy. There were times that you could not even see the Washington Monument it was so foggy. But at sunrise, the fog brought this beautiful glow to the city and it was amazing.

On this particular day, I parked on Ohio Dr. so coming from that side of the National Mall, I had my first glimpse of the US Capitol at the Reflecting Pool. I love how the dome is partially covered by the mist and lights. This was the very first shot I took and probably my favorite from the entire morning. I didn’t have my tripod with me so I sort of balanced my camera along the side of the reflecting pool and for this shot it worked well. Others, not so much. Another reason why this is my favorite shot. LOL.

So I have been getting questions about foggy mornings. Just like a colorful sunrise, they’re hard to predict. This particular morning I knew it was going to be foggy because the night before had been incredibly foggy and the weather apps said it was going to last all night. However, there have been times that I have been out and knew there was going to be fog without the weather apps saying so. I’ve realized that when I listen to the radio or a weather forecast and the meteorologist says, “warm front” then there’s a good chance for fog. It’s the combination of the warm air mixing with the cold that brings the foggy mornings and I love it. Foggy mornings like this is what makes photography so much fun. You just never know what you’re going to get.

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 0.6 sec and ISO 800 with my Sony A7II with my 70-200mm ultra zoom lens.

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If you asked me my favorite time of day to photograph Washington DC, it has to be sunrise. Hands down, no questions asked, absolutely the best. Yes, the early wake up time can be a little brutal especially in the long summer months but it is so worth it. I love the alignment of where the sun rises among the monuments as opposed to where it sets from. It gives off this amazing warm glow on the memorials that’s hard to get at sunset. Plus there is this overwhelming feeling of peace and calm in a city that’s usually hustling and bustling during the day. At sunrise you’re more likely to get images with no one in them while at sunset it’s nearly impossible.

Whether you’re traveling or live within the DC Metro area, I highly recommend you try to make your way down to the National Mall early in the morning at least once. I typically try to arrive at my sunrise location about 30 minutes before the sun rises. That way you will see all the great predawn colors in the sky. Dress according to the weather and grab a coffee, you won’t regret it.

For the serious photographers out there, you may be wondering about tripods. For the most part they are not allowed. However if you’re photographing sunrise and there is no one else around, you could probably get away with it. I think the biggest concern is when the memorials are crowded and other people may trip over the legs. Out of all the times I’ve been out for sunrise (trust me it’s way more than I can count), I have been asked to put it away once while I was at the Lincoln Memorial. All other times other than sunrise at any of the memorials, it’s pretty much out of the question.

The United States Capitol is slightly different. Technically, it’s not the National Mall so the same rules don’t apply as they do at the memorials. There is way more security there and I’ve heard conflicting rules about tripods. The last time I spoke to a Capitol Policeman about it, he said they are allowed. However since then I’ve heard of photographer friends being asked to put it away. It seems like there is no right or wrong answer there so I would take your tripod if you want and just be respectful when photographing the grounds.

One last thing to note, I wrote a book all about photographing Washington DC. It’s called Snap DC: Your Guide to taking Extraordinary Photos of the National Mall and Beyond… and it is available on Amazon. So if you are interested in seeing more of Washington DC than just the sunrise, click here to check it out.  As an added bonus I created a 1, 3, and 5 day sample photo itinerary for your trip to Washington DC, click here to download my ideal schedule.

Now on to that sunrise…

The Lincoln Memorial

In my opinion, this is the ultimate sunrise location in Washington DC.  It’s the most iconic and it is the place that I tell everyone they must go if they have never been to the national mall and especially at sunrise. It’s the center of 4 great landmarks all within a central area. A one stop shop if you will.

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