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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.

 

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The Washington Monument glows orange on a winter sunset evening.

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Happy Veterans day! Living in the Washington DC area and photographing the monuments in the National Mall has definietly taught me to appreciate all the service and sacrifice veterans go through every single day. I could not be more thankful for my beautiful life right now and a large part has to do with them. Whether it’s from talking one-on-one with veterans, seeing all the trinkets left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during Memorial Day, or just seeing them ride at Rolling Thunder, I have a special place in my heart to all the men and women who have done so much for me and our country. I feel like the best way that I could possible honor them is by going through my images and collecting some of my favorite images of the war memorials. It’s my way of honoring such the brave men and women of our country.

The image above was taken in December 2012. I was lucky enough to have all the elements lined up: fog, holiday wreaths, amazing sunrise. I’m so honored that this image has been shared over 100,000 times and the reaction and messages I have received from it has been nothing short but amazing. Thank you so, so much.

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In the beginning of 2012, I created this image on a cold winter morning in January. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the colors were in the sky and I’m so grateful to have been at the right place at the right time.

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A unique look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I honestly think that it’s one of my favorites. I love the reflection of the sky and Washington Monument. My favorite is that little peak-a-boo elements of the trees in the background.

 

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I’m sure you can tell by now that my favorite time to photograph the monuments is at sunrise. It’s just so quiet and peaceful. I’m usually the only one there and it allows me the time to really appreciate the monuments for all that they are. I love how the sun is peeking out over the WWII memorial.

Thank you today and everyday, Veterans. This is a small token of my forever appreciate to you.

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It seems like everyday this summer has either been super hot and humid or super rainy, right? There hasn’t really been an in between in a while. This image was actually taken on one of those rainy days. It rained the night before and it rained right after this image was captured so I was really surprised when color actually came through the clouds during this sunrise. And as a side note super lucky that I left the Reflecting Pool right before it started pouring. The whole morning was really dark so I love the way the pink and purple hues brought out the contrast.

Now that I have my 70-200mm, I’ve been challenging myself to keep the lens on my camera without switching to one of my defaults.  It’s actually a lot harder than it sounds but I think it’s really interesting how subjects that I photograph all the time seem so different. I’ve always talked about getting really low or getting high could help make things look different. Well, getting a new lens can do the exact same thing. I captured this image at focal length 112mm.

Besides the color and the reflection, my favorite part about this image are the ducks. I always get so happy to see them, especially in the summer time. There seems to be new baby ducks all the time. Of course they could be the same ducks that I’m seeing over and over again, but they’re just so tiny that I can’t even imagine being more than a few weeks old.

My camera settings for this image is F4 at 1/60th of a second and ISO 1600 with my Sony A7II and 70-200mm. The reason the ISO is up so high is because this image was captured handheld.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

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Day 3 of reflections. Check out day 1 and day 2.

Obviously an image of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool had to be a part of the week long series of reflections. I took this one a couple weeks ago with my friend, Chris. We met up for sunrise and it was forecasted to be a clear day but the predawn colors in the sky were amazing. Usually I hope for clouds for any sunrise image but I feel like the orange color was so vibrant all on their own that it didn’t even need them.

And as I arrived at the reflecting pool I was excited to see that I had got there early enough for them to still have the US Capitol lights on. About 10 minutes later, they were all turned off and it was a lot harder to see it back there. Anyone know what the light schedule to the monuments are like? Next time I’d like to plan for it instead of guessing.

But this same composition has a special place in my heart. It always reminds me of when I first started waking up for sunrise to take pictures. I would make Andrew go with me at first just because I didn’t know what the situation was going to be like. Being a female with expensive camera equipment could be a potentially dangerous situation. But as time went on, I decided that I didn’t need him to go with me anymore. I got comfortable waking up and doing what I needed to do all by myself. So the first time I went by myself to DC, I shot this same exact image and felt super proud of myself.

Now look at me. Sometimes I’ll even wake up before I need to just because I’m so excited to go out to shoot.

The settings for this image is F5.6 for 10 seconds at ISO 200 with my Sony A7II and 16-35mm wide angle lens.

 

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Looks like an almighty sword glowing in the sky, doesn’t it? This is my favorite part of always watching your back. The sunset action was happening in front of me at the Lincoln Memorial but a quick glance over my shoulder to the World War II memorial and I saw this! The sun was setting just at the right angle to change the white monument into gold. You can even see a little bit of the National Museum of African American History and Culture getting a bit of the sun sparkle too 🙂 It makes me smile to see the reflection in the reflecting pool water catch some of the sun’s glow.

My camera settings for this image is f5.6 at 8 seconds ISO 200. I really wanted a long exposure to blur out the fast moving clouds but also bring out the glow colors even more. To do this, I used my neutral density Ice Filter. I think I should be sponsored by them because I’m always talking about these filters and how amazing they are. *shoutout to Ice* Shooting with neutral density filters can be a little difficult if you’ve never used it before. My biggest tip would be to set your camera on manual focus, focus on your subject, and then put on the filter. Make sure you have the composition you want because once you put the filter on, it will be very difficult to see what you’re looking at. It gets super dark. If you leave your camera on auto focus, it will just keep on trying to focus on something and won’t allow you to take the picture. So remember just to keep your camera on manual and it will be all good. The neutral density filter also helped on making the edges super dark and contrasty which also helped in making the Washington Monument really pop out.

 

 

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Shout out to my friend, Zack who had been texting me to meet up for sunset on this day. Although we were on two very different sides of the national mall shooting (I was by the reflecting pool and he was at the US Capitol), I would of never have gone out on this day if it weren’t for him. It’s funny because we were texting each other pictures of what we were seeing in the sky the entire time. Once the color actually broke through the clouds, it was dead silent between the both of us until it was all over. LOL.

So I was sitting by the reflecting pool, mostly concentrating on the sky. But it was awesome because these little kids came up next to me with crackers and were feeding the ducks. *note to self, always bring crackers when taking pictures* So my attention went from the sky to getting the ducks in the foreground of the reflecting pool and Lincoln Memorial. I got some pretty cool shots which I’ll post later. Next, I’m not sure what happened but I turned around to see that the sky behind had really blown up. I mean you usually see the sunset colors behind the Lincoln Memorial, but all the action was behind the Washington Monument right at the WWII Memorial. Luckily, I had some time to set up a shot. But it didn’t last long. I’m glad I was able to capture what I did.

Camera settings for this shot was F5 with a 15 second exposure at ISO500. I was using my Ice neutral density filter for this one so I was able to capture the saturated colors and any people who were in my way were blurred out. The only people you see were the ones who were standing there for longer than 15seconds.