Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

Luria’s Secret Tips on Photographing Washington DC

May 7, 2013 by E. David Luria

With its many landmarks, historic places AND bright sunlit streets, Washington DC is an ideal training site for people who want to improve their skills in travel photography. We hope that these tips – and the skills you learn on our photo safaris – will help make postcard-perfect pictures as you travel anyplace in the world. Capital Photography Center instructor and Washington Photo Safari director E. David Luria, an architectural photographer, has listed below some of the best places to go, stand, squat or kneel when photographing the nation’s capital!

Framing Your Photograph And Getting Close Why does an adult lie down in the wet grass in front of a bed of tulips? Why does that person tromp and slide in the mud under a tree branch? Probably because he or she is a professional photographer (or a graduate of one of David's Photo Safaris), trying to find that perfect angle for the photograph, framing the bottom of the picture with flowers and the top with arching tree branches. Good travel photography gives new meaning to the term “dirty pictures.” The pictures themselves are quite innocent, but the PHOTOGRAPHER gets dirty! With its low-lying buildings that let in light, its incredible variety of architecture, trees, bushes, and flowers, Washington DC offers photographers many a beautiful frame to decorate the sides, top and bottom of the picture. Here are a few of them:

US Capitol Building: Go to the intersection of First Street SW and Independence Avenue, right behind the US Botanic Gardens, kneel next to the colorful bushes and flowers you will find there, and photograph the West Front of the US Capitol from this southwest corner. Best done in the late afternoon sun.

Library of Congress: The Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful interior spaces in the world, is best photographed as the late afternoon sun comes through its windows, illuminating the golden ceiling and its paintings. It is located on First Street SE, just behind the US Capitol. Use fast film or a higher ISO and a mini-tripod that you can rest on the marble balustrades to get sharp interior pictures.

Jefferson Memorial: Go about one-quarter mile to the right of the paddle-boat rental boathouse on the Tidal basin, at Maine Avenue and 15th St SW, find the exact spot on the path where you can see the Jefferson statue outlined inside of the Jefferson memorial across the Tidal basin. Best done at night with a sturdy tripod and a telephoto of 100mm or longer. If there is no wind, you will capture perfect reflection of the Memorial on the waters of the Tidal basin. Use “fluorescent” white balance setting or FL-D filter on film camera.

The White House: Whether you like its occupant or not, the White House is a beautiful home. Walk right up to the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and 16th Street, poke your camera through it and get a nice clean shot of the North Portico of the White House, with its magnificent flowerbed and fountain. Best done at “civil twilight “ (25 minutes after sunset) when lights are on in the White House, use the fence to steady your camera (no tripods allowed here). For the South Portico shot at any time of day from E Street, you will need telephoto of at least 150mm.

Washington Monument: Go to the Annual Flower Library located in between the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin, just off of Maine Avenue and 16th Street SW. Lie down next to the magnificent flowerbeds, putting them in the foreground, and shoot upwards towards the Washington Monument. This can be done at any time of day. In the spring these flowerbeds are full of tulips, during the rest of the year they are adorned with a variety of colorful flowers that make a nice frame for the Washington Monument.

Lincoln Memorial: Go to the patch of trees on the path leading to the Korean War Memorial, just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial. Stand under the tree whose branch arches from right to left, using it to frame your angled view of the Lincoln Memorial in the early morning light. Go no later than an hour after sunrise, while the sun still lights up the Lincoln statue. For an awe-inspiring shot of the Lincoln statue itself, stoop behind and include the head and shoulders of a small 2-3 year old child as he looks up to Mr. Lincoln.

Korean War Memorial: In the morning sun (or even better, at night, with a tripod), get in close with your telephoto to capture the fear-filled faces of these soldiers on patrol in Korea. With the afternoon sun on their backs, capture the reflection of the 19 soldiers in the black granite wall, giving you a total of 38 soldiers who symbolize the 38th Parallel dividing North from South Korea. From the back of the Memorial, shoot over the shoulder of the soldier bringing up the rear of the squad as they make their way towards the billowing American flag.

Vietnam Women's Memorial: This is one of the most poignant and powerful memorials in Washington DC. In the morning sun, do a tight close-up of the nurse cradling a dying soldier in her arms while she tries to stop the bleeding from his wound. Shoot from a low angle and you will also get the nurse behind her who is looking to the sky for a medevac helicopter. Best done on black and white film or digital, in the rain, which brings tears to her eyes. As you can see, David is an expert on where the best shots in Washington DC are, what's better is that he’ll help you capture them all. The Monuments at Night, Memorials at Dawn, and Library of Congress are just a few of the Photo Safaris he instructs where you can photograph many of these special places. Just wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty as David might have you laying in front of a colorful flowerbed framing a monument just perfectly. Browse through our In-the-Field Shooting classes for a full list of the Photo Safaris that David teaches for Capital Photography Center. Or visit the Washington Photo Safari website for a list of his offerings.