Capital cities like Washington DC are a total playground for photographers like me. In most cases, the buildings in a county’s capital are the most ornate, well preserved and well funded. I guess it makes sense in the way that a capital city is in some ways supposed to be representative of the entire nation. This is rarely the case though and Washington DC is no exception.
Today in the US, as in most western countries the capital city is in many ways looked upon internally as a centre for corrupt politicians and lobbyists who do little to improve the welfare of the citizens of the nation — and rightfully so.
“Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.”
“Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly and for the same reason.”
On the other hand… The positive sides to capital cities is the vey cool architecture, monuments, statues, and other eye candy that I just love to photograph. I’ll leave the politics to the politicians and concentrate on taking photos of all the fun stuff that I come across in Places like Washington DC.
I’m a much bigger fan of shooting in cites after dark than during the day. As a rule it is quieter and less crowded, there is no need to worry about changing lighting conditions, and the colour temperature of the types of artificial lights make each location look unique. I was in DC, just before Christmas when I took these images and it was cold and windy; perfect conditions for making people stay home and out of my photos. It also meant getting a shot of the Capitol with the multi coloured Christmas tree! :D
It had snowed quite heavily that morning and I ended up visiting the Air & Space museums to shoot everything from the Spirit of St. Louis, to the space shuttle Enterprise. To me it’s the best part of Washington DC — being able to hop from museum to museum all day long. Some of the very best museums in the world are situated in DC and I would love to get back there just to spend a few days exploring all the amazing art, science, and history exhibits. There is even a Newseum — a 250,000-square-foot museum of news!
Most of the museums are free, which is my favourite price for just about anything.
All the Smithsonian museums are free, as is the zoo in Washington DC, how cool is that?
- African American History and
- African Art Museum
- Air and Space Museum
- Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center
- American Art Museum
- American History Museum
- American Indian Museum
- American Indian Museum Heye Center
- Anacostia Community Museum
- Arts and Industries Building
- Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
- Freer Gallery of Art
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- National Zoo
- Natural History Museum
- Portrait Gallery
- Postal Museum
- Renwick Gallery
- Sackler Gallery
- Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle
Plan Your Visit to the Smithsonian
“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”
I most certainly did not have enough time while I was in town, to photograph everything I wanted to. The snow slowed me down, but yet it also added a rather magical element to many of the photos I was able to get. While I’m not a fan of snow in the city, I do think it looks great in more natural settings. The exception to this rule for me is when I’m able to photograph a location as soon as it stops snowing. Within a few hours, that magical white blanket will quickly turn into greyish sludge and that never looks good in pictures, or in real life for that matter.
My hotel was located within walking distance to the National Cathedral and since I have had some luck with photographing cathedrals at night in the past, I now make damn sure that I photograph them wherever and whenever I get the chance… Hey, you never know!
When I visited the cathedral the next day and be welcomed with open arms by Andy Bittner who is a volunteer Docent there. He leads personal tours and was a fountain of knowledge about the history of this beautiful building. I’ll have a full blog post about the Washington National Cathedral in the future; the interior is absolutely stunning! If you’re planning a visit, do yourself a favour and ask for Andy to give you the tour when you’re there. Even better, book him ahead of time for group tours, you’ll be happy you did, trust me.
Washington National Cathedral : Group Visits
The photo of the Washington Monument was the last one that I took that night. I kind of regret not staying out later to get some more cool night photos, but I had a big day ahead of me the next day. I keep rather crazy hours while I’m on the road, often sleeping 5 hours and working pretty much the rest of the time. This means that I usually get back with a mountain of images to work on and have to work rather crazy hours here too just to keep up with the editing. With upcoming trips to Italy and Iceland, that mountain of images will get even bigger. Even when trips get cancelled or postponed, it seems that within days I get another opportunity to visit an alternative place. That mountain is gonna be huge in no time, since the trips keep piling up.
New things are around the corner…
To add even more work to my already insane schedule, I’ll be adding a few new sections to the blog later this year. Since I’m having a blast with my iPhone camera these days, I’ll be reviewing some cool iPhoneography gear and apps.
When I am on the road I tend to walk up to 25km in a day — day after day. So I’m in search of the perfect pair of travel shoes, boots, and sandals. I’ll be testing all kinds of footwear this year and sharing my thoughts about them with you in the months ahead. I’d love to hear what brands you like too. I’ll be in a lot of different climates, terrain, and environments on my upcoming trips and that will be the perfect testing grounds for all sorts of footwear. I’ll have full reviews of many different types of footwear after each of my upcoming trips.
Look for this and more as I continue in my quest to take over the world… One photo at a time.
Andy Bittner says
Great post, Ken. As a native Washingtonian, it’s a real treat to see the city through your viewfinder. The photography is, of course, exceptional and I thank you for the honorable mention.
As you know, I’m happy to give tours to anyone asking, schedule permitting, but am keeping a very light formal schedule at the Cathedral right now, at least as far as touring goes. Anyone reading this, and wishing to avail yourself of a tour with me, is best to arrange it by contacting me, as “Andy Bittner – Cathedral Docent”, on Facebook. Groups must still engage the Cathedral’s Group Visit process, but, if I know you’d like a group tour with me, I can occasionally make myself available for such occasions. As usual, I expect and will accept no monetary compensation for my efforts, but ask my visitors to assess the value of the tour received and donate that amount to the Cathedral.
Washington National Cathedral
Murray Parker says
Ken, thanks for the timely post. Since time is rapidly approaching for the Photoshop World Conference, this post has renewed my desire to take some night pictures of Washington. I was there last summer with my wife and only took pictures during the day and believe me it was very hot. Thanks again, I have enjoyed you photos on Google+ and now look forward to your blog posts.
Andrew Marston says
That first shot is really stellar. Great write up, I didn’t know those museums are free. I’m planning a trip there myself sometime this spring. Maybe for cherry blossom season.
iPhone content FTW!
Roy | The Riding Dutchman says
Wow these photos are so beautiful! I was supposed to go to Washington DC this month but have chosen for a trip to a friend in the Caribbean instead. This so keeps DC on my to-visit list :)
so lovely all lit up like that! great shots!
Nice pictures Ken. I live in the DC area (5 minutes away in VA). The nice thing about the area is theres so much you can photograph at night. Ive taken pictures of the Capitol tree back to 2004. Also have a night photo of the archives, but its with all the scaffolding in front when it was being renovated, really like that image. You’ll have to stop in again and checkout more of our sites!
Jim Denham says
Stunning images and too true text Ken! Wonderfully done!
Beautiful shots. The lighting, as you say, adds a great perspective to these well known sights.
Akira Murata says
very wonderful photos. Amzaing,Great!!
As always your shots are stunning!
Karen Johnson says
Beautiful Ken! Now I want to go to DC at night!
Leslie Joy Ickowitz says
Seduced by these D.C. night scenes.
W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian) says
This set is fantastic Ken! I have been meaning to get back up to DC…last time I went it was really before I always made a concerted effort to shoot.
Cynthia H says
Stumbled across you on Google+. Then saw your name mentioned in another blog post that listed photographers who did a great job of incorporating their portfolio into a blog site, so I checked it out. I love your skies! I like the sky naturally anyway (watching the clouds go by, stargazing, all that stuff), but I’m really mesmerized by the sky in your photos – cloudy or clear. The skies from these photos made me think an American vampire might be lurking in the details of DC’s ornate buildings. I don’t suppose you expected your photos to spark a viewer’s imagination in that direction, but it is meant as a compliment. Thank you for sharing great art, and allowing viewers to travel vicariously through it!
wow stunning pictures
Journeys and Travels says
Great Photos and narratives Ken. I just loved how you captured everything here. I am so enthralled at how beautifully you looked at the minute details of everything before each capture. I am forever glued to the photos, surreal. Love it!
Kris Koeller says
Incredible work. Great job!
I had been looking at your pics every Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday to be honest… sorry) but haven’t had the chance to read anything. I am finally getting up to date and remembering why I don’t like missing any of your posts :) Gorgeous, gorgeous, and gorgeous as always
Cony Struzyna says
Congratulaitions from Chile.
chik Mya says
Thank you for the outstanding photos.
What do you think about an “how I did this” page?
Ben Tucker says
The first shot sucked me in to opening the full post the rest just blew my mind! the colours are amazing loved them all
Really beautiful pics. Great shots!
I love the colors and play of shadow in these night time photos. I lived in DC for many years and this makes me miss it a lot!