Morning Light at the Capitol

31 01 2009
The US Capitol Dome at Sunrise

The US Capitol Dome at Sunrise

Photographers usually suggest that one should shoot at the beginning or end of daylight because the light is “best” at those times. I’ve seen many sunsets in the DC area, but have never found the right scene with the Capitol Building at sunset. Part of this might be because the East Front (the side you would shoot if you wanted the sunset behind the building) of the building has been under renovation for the time I have lived in this area. But the bigger issue is I was never able to drag myself out of bed with the time to get to the Capitol for sunrise.

Statue of Uslysses S. Grant at the Capitol

Statue of Uslysses S. Grant at the Capitol

My biggest fear of getting up to photograph sunrise is a big cloud that hides the sun and dulls the colors. But on the day after Christmas (2008), the stars aligned. I was planning to take my wife to work that day and she had to be into the city before sunrise. I took her in and was able to easily get downtown and park close (and for free) to the Capitol. There were a few scattered clouds, but only enough to add character to the sky, not hide the light. The sunrise was spectacular.

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC

The reflecting pool added to a great sunrise. It was partially frozen which provided for a unique foreground. The ice reflected the color and the water provided a perfect mirror. Everything came together for some nice photographs.

Utilizing some common photography tips allowed me to enjoy a cool crisp morning with the camera AND capture some good photographs. Among the tips I was sure to utilize were:

  • shoot at sunrise or sunset
  • use a tripod; this allowed me to capture a longer exposure and get good light
  • find a scene in a scene (to follow my advice from a previous post!)

Please feel free to visit my Washington, DC gallery.





Photography Tip: Find a Scene in a Scene

30 01 2009

When I started out with photography, my goal was to take pictures of places.

Great Falls of the Potomac

Great Falls of the Potomac

These pictures had to include enough of the surrounding context to allow the viewer to understand what he/she is looking at. The shot to the left is a good example. Anyone that has ever been to Great Falls National Park in Virginia will recognize this scene as being the falls. Time and many photos eventually led me to seek out a greater challenge than taking a nice photo of a nice place. The challenge became to show that place from a different point of view; Not the view that people always see.

Great Falls of the Potomac from a different perspective.

Great Falls of the Potomac from a different perspective.

The photo to the right, one of my favorites, is a prime example of finding a unique perspective. Most people would not recognize the location just by looking at this photograph. This image is probably an area that makes up less than 1/100 of the previous photo, but it provides a much more unique scene. How did I capture this composition? I promise that I was not in the river on a boat, though many people do enjoy kayaking this area. I allowed a telephoto lens to bring the scene closer to me. Utilizing this lens, I was able to create a photograph that provides a stronger composition, one dictated by me, not by the natural setting. Carrying a tripod with me also allowed for a longer exposure that made the water silky and the image appear far more artistic.

To capture this photo, I had to do a fair bit of extra work. This was taken from very close to the water level. I had to climb down a rocky ledge and walk over some rocks through an area that would be flooded out when the river is higher. The challenging walk was worth it both because it was a good spot to shoot some photography and a calm place to sit quietly and enjoy the river.

So to summarize this post, don’t be afraid to look for a scene within a scene when trying to create better photographs. Some helpful ways to accomplish this:

  • walk around; look around; challenge yourself
  • utilize the different length lenses you might have
  • try different exposure times especially when working with water
  • look at the work of other photographers for inspiration and ideas, but incorporate it into your own style, don’t just try to duplicate it!




Architecture Photography: Capitol Columns

28 01 2009

One of my favorite subjects to shoot is the Capitol Columns located at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. The columns were removed from the U.S. Capitol Building in 1958 during a building project and later placed at the Arboretum as part of a “newly” created landmark.

The Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

The Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

The columns are a fun subject to shoot for a few reasons. First, it is rarely crowded. The arboretum is off of the beaten path and only draws large crowds during a few parts of the year. This makes it accessible from a photography perspective. Next, the columns were included in a nice design that works with the natural lay of the land and includes a fountain and reflecting pool. No DC scene is complete without a reflecting pool! And most importantly, I enjoy the columns because of the abstract nature of them.

Holding Up the Sky

Holding Up the Sky

The shot to the left, “Holding Up the Sky”, is one of my first photos of the Capitol Columns and one of my favorite shots to this day. While I have found different perspectives that make strong photographs, I often find myself comparing shots to this one. I have yet to find a home for this shot on a wall, but hope to soon!

I still have my hopes set on photographing the columns after a newly fallen snow. But that doesn’t seem to happen much in these parts. It snowed (a whole inch!) earlier today and is currently icing, but I’m not sure that I’ll have the opportunity to chase that shot.

An Upward View

An Upward View

I would encourage anyone that has an interest in a unique photography subject or just likes to see unusual stuff to stop by the National Arboretum to check out the Capitol Columns. The arboretum also has a variety of plant, tree, and flower life (who would have thunk it?) and plenty of recreational space.





Landscape Photography: Motif #1

26 01 2009
Motif #1, a fishing shack, in Rockport, MA

Motif #1, a fishing shack, in Rockport, MA

In October 2008, I took a trip to Boston with my wife. She was going to be busy at a conference, so I started to plan a little photo hunting time for myself.  The list included the “normal” things such as everything Boston and if I was in the mood for a drive, some of the Southrn Maine lighthouses.  I decided to dig a little deeper and see what else may exist in between those two points of interest. And I was happy I did.

Motif #1 is an inspiration to many artists. This old fishing shack (restored) has been painted, photographed, drawn, doodled, and sketched. I decided to take the 45 minute drive from Boston to check this little place out. The shack is located in Rockport Harbor, in the small fishing town of Rockport, MA. The town felt like it came out of a story book or a television show. The people were pleasant, the weather was beautiful, and every building had character.

A color photo of Motif #1 with a nice reflection.

A color photo of Motif #1 with a nice reflection.

I was far from the only person using the building as a subject for art on that morning. I would suspect this is the case on most days in Rockport. But the opportunity to explore this small town and particularly this subject allowed me to see what has inspired many others. It left me satisfied with my journey to Rockport with hopes of someday returning. I would recommend this town to anyone that likes towns on the water or small locales with character.

The harbor in Rockport, MA

The harbor in Rockport, MA

The photos I was able to capture of Motif #1 are not groundbreaking. I was in Rockport on a calm, clear, and sunny day. I’m sure many people have visited with some clouds in the sky, storms approaching, or after the cover of a newly fallen snow. While I didn’t get to enjoy these potential mood (from a photographic sense) changers, I am happy with a few strong compositions to show proof of my visit. And is the case with much of my work, the journey itself is just as enjoyable as the photograph.





“[Photography] is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”

26 01 2009

The quote, Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go,” by .L. Doctorow is an accurate description of how I started in photography. One day, pretty much on a whim, I decided to buy a camera and start exploring scenic Central New York. I set off with a Canon SLR and some film.

A summer view of Skaneateles Lake

A summer view of Skaneateles Lake

The Finger Lakes of New York were a scenic subject that caught my attention. This photograph was the first photo I could remember that I thought was “good”. The clouds were perfect, but that was about all I noticed. Looking back on taking this photograph, I recall just taking a picture of the lake paying zero attention to the two people taking in the view and sharing time. I look at the image now and say the horizon is too high and the the wall that curves through the image is cut on the left.

Many rolls of film and many awful exposures filled this summer (2003). Photos lacked subjects. They lacked strong composition. I think the only thing I was able to capture were some vivid colors.  The first few months were strictly trial and error.

A waterfall in a state park near Syracuse.

A waterfall in a state park near Syracuse.

As autumn rolled around, the trees in the area lit up with colors that I still hope to revisit someday. The image to the right was taken late in the season and there were snow flurries in the air. I’m not sure how I got this exposure with a hand held shot. And I’m not sure ever thinking about the composition, though it’s one that I still enjoy to this day. This photograph made me think that I could make something (a decent hobby) of this photography idea.

Autumn lead to one other shot that kept me motivated for the new hobby. The image is blown up in my home and at first glance, many believe it is a painting. I guess that’s what happens when you enlarge to 20″x30″ with film that doesn’t want to stretch that far! It’s another shot (seen below on the left) where I don’t recall any sense of planning. There were lots of colors and I was hypnotized by them. Everything else was just a crap shoot. I didn’t even include enough of the bridge. Just more point and hope glory!

A view of the valley at Chittenango Falls near Syracuse, NY

A view of the valley at Chittenango Falls near Syracuse, NY

So to tie this back to where I started, I began with nothing more than a camera and a lack of direction. Trial and error was my first method of learning, which lasted for months. The results were “decent”; I was thrilled but the photographs were strictly amateur. It took some time, but eventually I decided to start reading some “how to” articles here on the interweb.





A Blog Begins

25 01 2009

Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” I will use that quote and other words from those more famous than myself as the basis for my blogging about photography. You are probably wondering who I am, so I should start there.

Me llamo Brad.  I am a photographer living in Bowie, MD. I have been interested in photography for about 6 years. My work focuses on trying to find unique perspectives on landscape, nature, cityscape, and architecture. Sometimes this comes with vivid color and others with the “simplicity” of black and white.

My blog will focus on a few areas of interest. First, posts will talk about my work. These posts may focus on a single image or a recent project; depends on the thought of the day. Other posts will focus on my thoughts about the work of other photographers. And finally, I will post some general thoughts about photography and my approach.

I would like to invite you to view my work. Please click on the image below to visit my website. I would be happy to hear from you via this blog or the website itself.

Brad Troy Photography

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to your continued interest.