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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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Before leaving to Chicago, I had no idea there were so many alleyways in the city. Now that I think about it, it makes sense though. Just never really thought about alleys. So this one time when Andrew and I were on our way to a photo location (I don’t remember exactly which one but it’s safe to say it was a parking garage), google maps actually lead us through this one as the fastest way to get to our final destination. It seemed a little sketch with the smell of super greasy food, what it looked like people taking a cigarette break in the alley, and just an overall darkness hanging above us but other than all that I saw no reason not to walk through. LOL.

So we did.

Then I saw this puddle and probably spent a good 5 minutes just standing in front of it. I was trying to find a good reflection and then patiently waited for someone to walk past. I think the smell was starting to get to me and I was tempted to just ask Andrew to walk past a few times but then at the moment I was about to give up, two people actually walked past. You can see the second person a little bit closer to the wall on the right hand side.

Because I didn’t want that second person to be so visible and I thought this image would lend itself so well to it, I decided to convert it to black and white. In the end, it was just more interesting to just reduce it down to its lines and shapes and really bringing the attention to the person in the middle and the reflection. I love the way that it turned out. It actually kinda makes me want to go back to some older images and looking at them in black and white. It’s seriously a whole totally different point of view.

My camera settings for this image is F4.5 at 1/125th sec and ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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I just got back from my second trip to Chicago but my first real time visiting with a camera in my hand. I booked this trip with the intention to scout out photo locations for our upcoming photo workshop in Chicago. I wanted to get a feel for the city and the logicistics of getting around. So if you’re interested in joining me for a week in Chicago, click here.

In general, I loved visiting the city. Compared to New York City or even Washington DC, it’s a lot quieter as far as car noises and even people walking around. It’s so photogenic, meaning everywhere you turned could be a great new image. With the so many different elevated views, it was difficult to take a bad picture. I especially liked being among the skyscrapers. Even during the middle of the day, you can find some very interesting shadow play. Overall you can’t go wrong with a photo adventure in Chicago – even if it’s just for a few days.

Side note, they don’t call it the “windy city’ for nothing. Even on a nice, sunshining day, it can get really cold with the wind. I highly suggest packing at least gloves and a hat in your camera bag for those just in case moments. You don’t want to let being too cold be the reason why you don’t capture your shot. I was there at the very end of March and I wore my gloves everyday.

So we had a good 72 hours in Chicago packed full of photography. Here’s what we did:

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This image was taken at the same time as this one. It’s just a little more in focus. LOL.

So Andrew and I actually spent quite a bit of time looking for this spot. I knew there was a train station that had a pretty cool view of the Trump International Hotel and Tower but for some reason we couldn’t figure where. We walked up and down the street and thought the trains only ran parallel to it instead of appearing like it went straight for it.

So we kinda just gave up.

We spent the rest of the day taking other pictures, eating lots of food and eventually wanted to spend some time at Millennium Park. While walking over, we finally figured out the L train station and I was so excited. Since I had no plans of actually going anywhere, we figured we would just wait a little bit closer to sunset for the better light and went back to our plan of going to Millennium Park.

The park was great and all but it was sooo packed. It was difficult to comprehend what was actually going on just because there was so many people. Not my scene at all. I’m glad I got to scope it out but decided to just go back to the train station when it was around 5p when sunset was closer to 8p. I slapped on a neutral density filter to help with the long exposure and create the blur with the trains.

I think it worked out well. I captured these two trains separately and then just photoshopped them together to look like they were passing. I think it just made the one image a little more interesting.

My camera settings for this image is F5.6 at 0.5 sec and ISO 3200 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm zoom lens.

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One of my favorite parts about Chicago were all the elevated points of views around the city. For example, I mentioned before this image was taken from an L train station which was about two stories above the ground. Besides the L train, there were many views from rooftops and parking garages that made it such an easy city to photograph with so many viewpoints.

This image was taken at a parking garage. My friend, Andy wrote a city guide (which I plan on doing as soon as I go through all my images) and mentioned this one in particular. I loved the reflective surface of the building and decided this had to be one of the spots I visited. It was so great that I actually ended up visiting this spot twice in one weekend. Luckily, it was close to our hotel so it was super easy to stop by. But the funny part is that there were other photographers there both times I went.

Andrew’s not really one to be in my photos so I’m glad I was able to capture this photographer in her element. She had quickly just popped her head out, I think to check her settings and then popped right back into the garage but I am glad I was quick enough to actually capture this moment.

It was around 9a in the morning and pretty bright outside but one of my favorite parts about this image is the railing closest to my camera. I just love how it’s glittering in the light. Probably a detail only I would notice, but it just captures my eye.

Since I visited this spot on two different occasions, be prepared to see more from here.

My camera settings for this image is F8 at 1/320th sec and ISO 250 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm wide angle lens.

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When people think about Washington DC, one of the first things that come to mind is the White House. But for some reason, it’s never a real go to spot for me to go capture images. There are several reasons for this regardless of who’s residing in the house.

  1. The White House is located in a spot where it’s not great at either sunrise or sunset. The only way to get a really nice sky in the background is if you are lucky with one of those days where the color takes over the whole sky. Those days are so hard to predict that it’s just easier to be closer to one of the monuments as opposed to the White House.
  2. The security around the White House keeps getting increasingly stricter. Since I first started out in photography, you could actually get pretty close to the gate and no one would say anything. Now, you have to be a least across the street. With all the tourists all cramped up in one little sidewalk, it’s so difficult to get a great shot.
  3. If you are want to take your White House shot, try to bring the biggest zoom you can. It will be the only way you can get a close up shot without a lot of people in your image. This image was taken with my 70-200mm at 93mm.

This image also happens to be an image I took just for my book, Snap DC and had never been published before. I definietly remember the day I took this because I remember I parked my car, walked all the way to the White House, and then realized I left my camera in the car. OMG how does that even happen? I swear, only me.

So if you’re interested in more Washington DC photo tips like this, check out Snap DC on Amazon. Just remember to bring your camera with you 🙂

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/200th sec and ISO 320 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm ultra zoom.