US capitol

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Attention! Attention! I have a new sunset spot that I need to share. It’s very similar to the view at this one, but at least this time you’ll be able to go whenever you want and won’t be trespassing on residential property. LOL.

Its at the Observation Deck at the CEB Tower in Arlington, VA. If you haven’t already you gotta go! I honestly don’t know what took me so long because it opened in the summertime and earlier this week was my first time visiting. You can walk 360 degrees all around the 31st floor of this building which gives you very interesting viewpoints of Rosslyn, VA and Washington, DC. It’s absolutely stunning! The one downside is that you’re always shooting through windows.

This image was captured right before sunset through the window. The glow on the memorials is what caught my attention to this scene and I couldn’t help but snap multiple images. My tip is to put your lens right up against the glass to reduce glare. If you have a dark black cloth that you can put over the lens, that’s even better! In order to capture this, I actually used my cell phone as a shield against the little spot that was being reflected. It was enough for the day but in case you’re there on a super sunny day, a cloth would be best.

But I haven’t told you the best part yet! The best part is that you can go up to the second floor of this observatory and go outside! You’re still shooting through glass but it’s even better with the fresh air. There are little spaces in between the glass panes that you can sort of fit your lens through but otherwise, it’s an interesting place to experiment.

My camera setting for this image is F5.6 at 1/100th sec at ISO 640 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.

Click here to read more

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Lately whenever I think of snow, I’ve been thinking cherry blossoms. Pretty awful, right? Only because the past few years when we have had snow storms, it has always been later in the season and interfered with the cherry blossom peak. So last week when we had our first “snow” in the Washington DC area, it made me want to look back to some of my spring images. You could say I’m already missing the warmer weather 🙂

Washington DC has two awesome flower trees. Obviously the cherry blossoms (captured on the left side right below the US Capitol dome) but a very close second are these pink magnolia trees. The magnolias are just as beautiful but the flowers themselves are bigger and I believe less delicate meaning they won’t fall after a huge gust of wind or rain. They can be found all around the city but my favorite ones are located on the National Mall. Although the US Capitol isn’t technically the National Mall, I feel like it’s close enough….

Seeing these pink flowers frame some of our nation’s most iconic landmarks make me so happy. It definietly gives them a more feminine and warm feel.  This particular day was a foggy spring morning. I think it works though because now the whole image is filled with pink flowers instead competing with blue skies. And yes, I did have to wait like 5 minutes to get some people walking along the path. You know, just your local, lurking photographer waiting for you to walk past 🙂 LOL. Yes, to be honest sometimes I do feel like a creeper sometimes. But it’s for the ART!

My camera settings for this image is F10 at 1/30th sec and ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 28-70mm lens.

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As you may know, I’ve been on the hunt for fall colors in the city and the US Capitol never disappoints. However sunrises can sometimes be disappointing. The night before, as I was getting ready for bed, I checked my weather apps. All signs pointed to a colorful sunrise but when I got up in the morning I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Usually when you get a colorful sunrise, you have to have clouds and there was not a cloud in the sky. So since I was up, I decided to make my way down to the Capitol anyway. I was a little discouraged because I had my hopes up and I really think that played a part of how my images turned out while I was on the east side of the Capitol. I didn’t really come out with anything that I really liked. I even stopped by Lower Senate Park but it was all closed for construction. As I was leaving, I felt like it must have been one of those days where I wasn’t going to get much. It’s ok because those days happen more often than I’d like to admit but then something magical happened.

I was on my way home and I just saw this gold glow coming from the street right ahead of me. It just happened to be this amazingly beautiful tree covered in yellow leaves and I had to pull over. Don’t tell anyone but the only spot available was for government officials only, but I was only going to be there for a second 😉 So glad I did because I love the way this turned out. Images like this is what makes me super excited for the seasonal change. So in the end, it all worked out. I really believe that if you come out with even one good image that the photo session is totally worth it.

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/1250sec and ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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Ok if you know me at all, you must be suprised. I’m surprised myself. There are SO many birds in this image and I am not the biggest fan of birds. To be more specific, birds are definietly my biggest fear. So that’s why I’m surprised I was even able to capture so many of them.

They aren’t the usual pigeons that you see on the mall either. They were these small black birds and they were all huddled up on the edge of the reflecting pool on the grass. So as people were walking by (mostly runners) they would all fly up in the air in unison, circle around the reflecting pool and then land back to where they were. The first time I witnessed it, I ducked behind my friend, Larry. After the second or third time it happened, I kinda figured out what was going on and patiently waited for it to happen again (still very close to Larry). Luckily, I already had my 70-200mm lens on so I was able to capture the moment quickly. When I looked back on the image I was so surprised that I was able to fill the entire frame with them. My favorite part is the slight glow on some of the birds wings.

Either way, I don’t think I’ll be turning into a bird photographer anytime soon 🙂 I’m lucky I was able to capture this.

And in case you missed it, I wrote a little camera review about my current camera, the A7II. I mention the lenses I use including the 70-200mm and why I love it so much. Click here if you’d like to take a look.

My camera settings for this image is F6.3 at 1/2000th sec at ISO 500 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm.