Washington, DC, is one of the most important political locations in the world. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this city is all business. There’s a treasure trove of fun to be had in this bustling city. It’s also packed to the brim with things to photograph. There’s no exaggeration to say that you could spend years in the city and still have pictures that you want to take.
Sadly, many people don’t have years to spend to explore Washington, DC. In most cases, you’ll have just a few days. To help you find some of the most photogenic places, let’s look at some of the best destinations for you to explore.
The White House
We couldn’t talk about Washington without mentioning the White House. This structure is one of the most famous buildings in the world, appearing in countless films and television shows. There are dozens of ways to photograph this building. The biggest challenge with photographing The White House is one of security. These days, barriers will stop you from getting right up to the fence. But you can still photograph it from the front, looking across the lawn showing the impressive structure.
This building has been photographed millions of times so why not try something different. You could stand a bit further back and capture the crowds walking past with slow shutter speeds. You could even capture the reactions of the people around. It might be a child in awe. An angry protestor or even a tourist taking a selfie. These sort of things will give you far more unique photos than the standard postcard shots.
Another iconic building is the Capitol, in the heart of Washington, DC. There are so many different angles and compositions here that you could spend a whole day just photographing this iconic building. It’s well worth arriving at sunrise or sunset to explore this area. For example, you can get some spectacular shots by exploring the way that the light and the Capitol building reflect in the Reflecting Pool. As the area fills up, you will find plenty of interesting people walking past the building.
Unlike The White House, you can get right up close to this building, giving you the opportunity to capture some photos of the details. The great thing about this building is that as the light moves around throughout the day, so could you. So you can capture a whole variety of different shots. Don’t forget the evening shots either when the building will be lit up beautifully. A great spot for this is from Pennsylvania Avenue where you will be able to capture light trails from passing cars.
National Portrait Gallery
One of the most visually striking buildings in Washington is the National Portrait Gallery. This structure has several beautiful art installations and paintings for you to explore and photograph. However, the show stoppers are the courtyards. Curved roofs stretch between the buildings, with diamond-shaped windows into which light flows.
If you like this building you can also visit the National Gallery of Art which also has some beautiful classical architecture for you to photograph.
U.S. Botanic Garden
If you love photographing plants and nature, the Botanic Garden is a dream come true. There are dozens of different rooms for you to explore, each with a diverse mix of greenery. Though there are hundreds of places for you to take a unique photo, the best option is the central courtyard that has a long fountain in the middle of the room. You can use this to make some creative compositions, playing with the way that the light reflects off the fountain onto the trees. If possible, you may want to time your trip around the festive season. The trees will often be decorated with colourful lights, creating a vibrant, happy mood.
Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool
Another worldwide icon is the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. This is another area that you can spend a whole day photographing so plan plenty of time for your shoot. There are dozens of places to photograph around this area. For example, there’s the green lawn, which stretches before the memorial. You can also experiment with the reflecting pool. If you get beautiful striking clouds in the sky you’ll be able to capture the reflection in the rippling water. You may also want to contrast the white of the memorial with the bright blue sky.
You can also look to capture close-ups of the Lincoln statue and even the Washington Monument. A good spot for photos of the Washington Monument is from the World War II memorial where you can compose your shot with fountains in the foreground. Alternatively, if you walk right up to the Washington Monument you can get a nice distance view of the U.S Capitol Building. Use the US flags for some creative compositions. But remember, this is a popular tourist attraction, so be here early in the day, before the area gets too crowded.
Chinatown Friendship Arch
Spanning across the street is the Chinatown Friendship Arch. This spectacular arch celebrates the friendship between the American and Chinese people. Everything about this monument is built to create a lasting impression, from the vibrant reds and greens to the decorative gold lettering that adorns the top of the structure.
You could capture this landmark is at sunrise, where the sun is peeking through the ornate roof. Or you could photograph this in the evening when the arch will be lit up and passing traffic can create light trails. There are only a couple of spots that you can photograph this arch from so try to use creative techniques such as slow exposure to make your photos unique.
Library of Congress
Another must on your shot list of Washington DC is the Library of Congress. The interior of this building is simply stunning and the great thing is that photography is allowed inside. Even though tripods are not allowed you should be able to handhold your camera by bumping up the ISO to be able to capture photos. There are also various ledges that you can rest your camera on to be able to take photos with longer shutter speeds.
The View of DC
For an unrivalled view of the skyline of the city head to the observation deck of the Central Place Plaza skyscraper. 387 feet in the air, you’ll get a stunning view of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol Building all in one shot. You’ll have to take your photos from behind glass so make sure you place your camera as close to the glass as possible (even resting your lens hood on it) to avoid reflections in your photo.
Finally, a trip to Washington DC isn’t complete until you visit Union Station. You can snap photos of busy people rushing to work or the stunning architecture. The ceiling features intricate golden arches and Roman Legionnaires that are supposed to protect the train passengers. However, as you might imagine this station can become very busy. To be sure that you capture the shot you want, arrive early in the day or later at night.
These examples are a small taste of some of the sights that Washington, DC, has to offer. From the hallways of important political buildings to the fun street culture, there’s so much for you to explore. If you have the time, you can explore the city and other sites such as the Smithsonian Museum and find dozens of other significant buildings to photograph. This list should get you started.
Photo credits: Dreamstime – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.