Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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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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Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Focus on the Story International Photo Festival for an AMAZING festival. I felt so inspired and grateful the entire weekend. I got to see so many amazing images, watched so many great presentations and best of all hugged so many wonderful photographers. I could not be more thrilled.

Obviously my favorite part of the entire weekend was the photowalk. I am still shocked and so honored that about 70 people showed up on a Saturday morning at 5am to walk around the National Mall. Thank you so much to everyone who came out. I hope you had as much fun as I did.

And I can’t help but smile while I scroll through the #FOTSwalk18 hashtag on instagram. The weather called for partly cloudy skies and we even got a little bit of fog rolling through, it was perfect! There were so many great images and I wish I could post them all! But here are a few:

Special shout out to @chantale1 for the group shot at the beginning of our walk.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BjzsHXAA13Z/?tagged=fotswalk18

Lovely long exposure, @rodb_pics

Bennett stole the show, @eugeneksoh! Great portrait, @wvugee

I loveeee this! Thank you so much for capturing this action shot, @geoffliving

Beautiful image of @julwriter, @metroamir. I love the reflection!

Keeping watch. #FOTSwalk18 #nofilterneeded

A post shared by Crystal Borde (@cborde) on

Love the mood you captured here, @cborde

I love me me some bird shots too #herons #FOTSwalk18

A post shared by Marlise Soria (@bellasoria) on

Another photowalk, Another blue heron. I’m noticing a pattern. Thanks so much for these amazing captures, @bellasoria.

Beautifully framed #fotswalk18

A post shared by Marlise Soria (@bellasoria) on

GORGEOUS frame, @bellasoria. Wow

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj0YblWHrkR/?tagged=fotswalk18

Love all repetition in this one, @heatheronthego

Thanks again to everyone who came out. I’m so grateful to have so many talented photographer friends. Be sure to check out the #FOTSwalk18 hashtag to see more images from the walk. And thanks again to Focus on the Story for putting on such an amazing photo festival! I can’t wait for the next one 🙂

 

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On Monday night before I went to bed, I checked the weather like I always do. It called for fog in the morning so I set my alarm to wake up for sunrise. I didn’t have any real plans of where I was going to go, I just knew I wanted to go somewhere near water. So I figured the reflecting pool would be cool.

I walked around and nothing really was catching my attention so I made my way over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I figured with all the Memorial day festivities that it may be cool. I was wrong. It was freakin’ amazinggggg. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before.

There were so many flowers, notes, and just little tokens of appreciation to our veterans. I even saw cans of beer. It was one of the most touching displays of affection that I have seen in a very long time. I took the time out to read some of the notes that were left there and I just can’t even imagine what friends and family had to go through during this period of time. I can’t even imagine what the men and women who severed our country had to go through during this time either. I am so grateful for all of their sacrifices. If not for you, I would not have the beautiful life I have today. I have so much respect and gratitude to you, veterans. Veterans of then and veterans now. Thank you.

At the end of the wall were just a whole bunch of American flags. I loved the repetition and how they were reflecting in the memorial. I think the fog really helped to capture the mood too.

My camera settings for this image is F5.0 at 1/200th of a second and ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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This image is very different for me in two different ways.

  1. It broke my instagram silence. Which I was not planning on doing for a while but it was such a good sunrise on Saturday that I couldn’t help myself.
  2. Because its of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A place I haven’t photographed in YEARSSSS.

Let me explain. I think most of you found me because of my Vietnam Veterans images that went viral a couple years back. If you don’t know what I mean, you can see one here and the other one here. When that happened it was probably one of the most surreal moments in my life. I had no idea those images would be shared or even liked as much as it did. And I’m forever grateful for it. Those images really changed my photography career in the best ways possible.

And for a long time I had this fear in my head that I could never go back and take a better image than I had in 2012. 6 years later and I’m still not over it and I walk past the memorial almost on a weekly basis. Its kind of nuts the kind of tricks your brain can play on you.

So I finally did. I went down the the Vietnam Veterans memorial and tried to capture the sunrise as best as I could. It started off with me taking the same exact images I had before but then I started getting creative. I started thinking about all the things that I’ve learned about composition and my new favorite techniques to capture an unique cityscape. And I felt as excited and inspired as I ever have about photographing this beautiful memorial. I learned that I can’t let fear of not being good enough hold me down from doing what I love.

My camera settings for this image is F4.0 at 1/160th of a second at ISO 800 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens handheld.

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You know, I photograph Washington DC a lot. LOL. A lot of the time it’s at sunrise. And lately there hasn’t been a real sunrise that has gotten me excited to shoot, except for this day! I woke up a little earlier than usual and made my way down to the National Mall. Driving in I knew it was going to be a real good one. It’s really hard to say how, but I can just tell by looking at the clouds. Needless to say, I was super hyped.

I knew right away that it was going to be a great photo day. I wanted to make sure that my feet kept on moving as I walked through the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I try my best to experiment with different compositions at the places I go to the most. I really don’t like going home with a SD card full of the same exact images. So the only way to prevent that from happening is to keep on moving. But something was calling me back to the Reflecting Pool. I knew it was going to be THE place to capture this amazing sky.

As soon as I turned the corner from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I stood in awe. It was AMAZING. My favorite is seeing the perfect cloud reflections in the water. In order to capture it all, I had to get real low. No tripod, just balanced my camera on the ground and hoping my winter shivers didn’t move the camera too much. It literally looked like the sky was on fire. Couldn’t have asked for a better morning!

The settings for this image is F8 at 1/20th of a second and ISO 250 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

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Honored to have been at the right place at the right time to make this image. Humbled by all the emails and messages I’ve gotten from vets and their families telling me their stories and trusting me with their emotions. Happy Veterans day today and everyday. ✌