Lincoln Memorial

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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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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.

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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!

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!

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.

It was on!

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It’s been a while since I’ve had an update blog post. Mostly because I didn’t have much to update on. However, I was going through my catalog the other day and realized I have some images that I wanted to share!

Since coming back from New Hampshire, I tried my best to capture the fall colors around the Washington DC area. Even though Washington DC is a city, there are still some great places to go to see fall colors! All the different shades of red, yellow, and orange make me so happy. So this is a compilation of the images I’ve created from mid-October to the very end of November.

Shenandoah Sunrise

It was my friend, Larry and I’s 4th year anniversary of capturing the sunrise in Shenandoah National Park in the autumn time. I love this tradition. Mostly because it’s fun to reminisce on our friendship. Each year we go has been extremely different. But there has always been one thing in common, awesome fall colors!

This time around, we were lucky to get some fog. It was crazy because the entire time we were driving to and from Shenandoah, there was a lot of fog. So when we got to the top of the mountain, it was really cool to see it from above. They kind of look like spider webs!

Mt Vernon Trail Sunrise

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Over the summer, I worked with Events DC to create a 6-part video series of all my favorite places in DC and how to photograph them. The series is called “Capture the Capital” and there will be two episodes released every Tuesday. I’m so excited for you to watch them! 

Week 1

The first two videos are about the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. If you follow my work or visit my blog, you know that these two places feel like home to me. I go to these places so often that I feel like I can walk them with my eyes closed (I’m giggling to myself thinking about what that could look like. LOL). They are some of my favorite places to capture the sunrise and sunset, and I give all my favorite tips and angles on how to capture them.

Special shoutout to my friend, Dave who helped me film these two videos, and Francis who helped me edit them. The videos would not have been nearly as good as they are if it weren’t for their help.

Instead of just showing you the videos, I thought it would be fun to give you a little behind the scenes of what it was like to film each of these videos as they come out. So check this post each week for a little more insight behind the vids.

The Lincoln Memorial

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On June 9th in Houston, Texas, Rev Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at George Floyd’s funeral.  At that time he also announced that he would plan a demonstration in Washington to rally for criminal justice revisions. Ever since that day, I kept my eyes and ears open for the information as it developed. I knew this was going to be a huge event that I wanted to attend.

The Black Lives Matter movement in Washington has been an eye-opening experience for me. In all my years living in the area, I’ve never attended any protests or rallies like this. So when I went to my first one, I knew immediately that I wanted to keep going back with my camera. I couldn’t help but be in awe of all the passion and emotions I felt while attending these protests.

But the day before Rev Sharpton’s Commitment March on Washington, President Trump accepted his Republican nomination for  US President and had a fireworks display at the Washington Monument. Since I missed photographing on the 4th of July this past year, I figured I would go to the Reflecting Pool and practice some of my night photography. Although there were only 3 other photographers at the Reflecting Pool, there was also a news crew right next to me who was listening to President Trump’s speech. I listened to every word and as soon as he finished, the fireworks went off.

I’m glad I went because they were very different from the previous 4th of July firework displays. You could tell that they were shot off with the White House as the main spectators so all of my images were a little skewed to the right. I should have thought of that before picking my firework location. Oh well. I also noticed how the Washington Monument was the centerpiece of the show. I had never seen rings of fireworks go around it before. It was pretty cool and I had fun photographing the show from a vantage point that was only seen by a few others.

But watching the fireworks from the Reflecting Pool also allowed me to see the set up of the rally the night before. It was interesting to see how the sides of the Reflecting Pool were gated off, the chairs for people with special needs were socially distanced, and there were so many lights set up all over the memorial grounds.

A little sneak peek of the rally set up from the night before

On August 28, 2020, the 57th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev Sharpton and the National Action Network held its rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a march ending at the Martin Luther King Jr memorial.

I’m grateful to know this part of the city like the back of my hand so I was able to park my car as close as I could to the White House and walked over to the National Mall with ease. It was a hot, humid summer day and a little harder to breathe with a facemask on. With a water bottle in my backpack and my camera in hand, I was ready to go.

My game plan was to start close to the WWII memorial and walk down the Reflecting Pool to try to get as close to the Lincoln Memorial as I could. Other than that, I had no real intentions of what kind of images I wanted to photograph. I was just going to go with the flow and stay mindful of everything that was happening around me. That means I zipped my phone into my backpack and watched the people around me.

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