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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.

 

washington monument, national mall, washington dc, george washington, obelisk, national park service, sunset, glow, red,

The Washington Monument glows orange on a winter sunset evening.

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Sometimes I go through my “Haven’t blogged yet” folder and I can’t believe some of the images that I haven’t blogged yet! Like this one! It was one of the first I captured this season and I love it because of the unique perspective.

I just happened to be walking around the Tidal Basin by myself when I noticed a group of people taking selfies. They looked like they were having fun so I didn’t want to interrupt them by walking past and being in the background of their shot. So I stood there a little while until they were done. But that’s when I noticed that to the right of them was a straight shot of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial statue. Now that I think of it, I don’t know if they were capturing the memorial or the cherry blossoms in the background but the sun had just come up a little and the light was shining very nicely on the memorial and the trees surrounding it. It was like the beacon in the middle of cherry blossom trees and just screaming for me to capture it.

I probably spent a good 10 minutes just standing there trying to get this shot how I wanted it. It took longer because there were floating heads in some shots from people walking in front of my lens but it was totally worth it. I feel like the lighting and the framing worked so well to bring attention to the distant memorial.

I’m actually surprised because it doesn’t even look like there’s that many people in front of the memorial. Usually there are wayyyy more people during cherry blossom season.

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 1/640th sec and ISO 1600 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.

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One of the places I was looking forward to the most while visiting Joshua Tree National Park was the Cholla Cactus Garden. From the pictures, I could tell that they were like cacti that I’ve never seen before. What surprised me the most was that some of them were taller than me! Andrew is 6′ and it looked like some of them were almost as tall as him! That’s insane.

One of my favorite parts about the garden was that it was right in front of these beautiful mountains. They made for an amazingly beautiful background at sunrise. More of those images soon but while I was looking through my images, I was really drawn to this one. I really liked having the photographers in the middle capturing the scene but still being able to see the cacti in the foreground and mountains in the background. The depth of this image is really interesting and perfectly describes what it’s like being in the garden.

If you’ve never been, the garden is a little bit out there but worth the drive. Probably 15-20 minutes outside of the other trails and attractions but I liked it so much that I actually went twice on our trip. One time with just Andrew when we went out for a solo sunrise adventure. The second time was when our cousins joined us later on in the day and I wanted to show them what it was all about. The sunrise adventure was a little bit better. Andrew and I were the only ones there and I loved when the sun rose a little bit and you could see the sunlight poking through the spikes of the cacti.

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/800th sec and ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom.

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There are certain things you can almost always guarantee when you’re visiting the National Mall. 1. its stunningly beautiful 2. the monuments will always have you looking up 3. there will almost always be puddles so once in a while you should look down. For some reason, even if there has been no rain for days, this puddle will always be there. They are on the set of stairs that’s closer to the Reflecting Pool than the Lincoln Memorial but it creates these amazing reflections.

Sometimes I’ll find inspiration in this puddle, this time I thought it was really cool how that guy was looking out towards the Washington Monument and I love how I was able to catch that in the reflection as well.

If you’ve been catching up with the blog this past week, this is the 4th image in the hour that I spent at the National Mall photographing the sunrise this past month. I thought it would be real interesting to show the importance of making sure you aren’t stuck in one place and you keep walking around to find multiple compositions.

This image sort of reminds me of the first one in that there is a space in the reflection between the actual subject and where the reflection starts. I love how there is that peek a boo of trees just coming out. Everything just seems to line up real nicely in this image.

Click here if you missed the second and third image.

As far as Andrew and I? Today we’re in Geiranger, Norway. Out of our whole trip, this is the place that I’m looking most forward to staying in. We were able to get this cute cabin right along the water. I’m really looking forward to waking up and walking right out to this amazing view. Can’t WAIT!

My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 1/400th of a second at ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens handheld.

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If we are going to go in chronological order, this image would be next. The third image in the series this week of keep it movin’. Why photographers should keep walking around to find multiple compositions instead of finding one that works and stay in the same spot.

You can see the first image here and the second one here.

Now that does not mean that you can’t go back the same spot. I think certain composition work better than others depending on the light. You may be at one place but 20 minutes later see that the sun will hit it in a certain way and you’ll see something totally different. That’s fine. Just don’t get stuck!

I originally started off this photo trek at the reflecting pool. I walked from one edge of the pool to the edge but nothing was really inspiring me so that is when I decided to turn around and walk up the Lincoln Memorial steps. Once I was taking a few pictures of the Lincoln while the sun was starting to really come out and change the colors in the sky. I looked down at the reflecting pool and thought that it was the time to go back down. So I made my way back down and was able to capture this one. I love how the US Capitol is the main focus in this image. You don’t really see this point of view a lot since it’s so far away and people mostly want to photograph the Washington Monument from this angle. Funny how if you look real close, you can see other photographers on the other side of the reflecting pooll.

My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 1/800th of a second ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens handheld.

All photos available for print and licensing >

This is probably one of my favorite views ever of the National Mall. It’s right when you’ve reached the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps and turn around to see behind you. There’s just something about the columns framing the Washington Monument that makes me so happy. It was odd though, for a Sunday morning, a weekend morning, there was hardly anyone out. Usually you’ll see at least runners and small groups of people here or there. But I’m glad this lady was there. Her red shirt pops perfectly as she’s taking her own photograph.

This is the second image in the five images that I’ll be posting this week, encouraging photographers to walk around when they’re out taking pictures. You’ll never know what images you’re missing by staying in one place the whole time. The first image was right on the Lincoln steps leading up to this image. I really believe that if you keep walking around and try new compositions you’ll find new ones that you may have never seen before and probably end up really loving.

This five day series is coming because Andrew and I are in Norway! We landed in Bergen yesterday and spent the afternoon exploring the city. Today we’re headed to Flåm which marks the beginning of our road trip. Hopefully we’ll get to ride the railway system. Thank you to everyone who has suggested it. I am so looking forward to seeing more of this country. Planning the trip was so fun, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like to experience it. I’ll be adding pictures and videos to my instagram stories so definietly follow along if you’re not already.

My camera settings for this image is F7.1 at 1/80th of a second at ISO 2000 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens handheld.