Autumn in DC

27 10 2009

I was able to get out this weekend and take some pictures around the Washington, DC area. I ended up visiting Scott’s Run Nature Preserve in Fairfax County after spending some time at Great Falls National Park. My trip to the preserve resulted in one solid image.

Waterfall at Scott's Run

The waterfall at the nature preserve is less than a mile walk from the parking area off of Georgetown Pike. The first 2/3 of the walk is easy, but the end you go up and over a fairly steep hill that is covered in stone and not the easiest surface to walk on. I was lucky to come to the preserve on a nice sunday day and when the trees were in full autumn color.

Some other autumn shots can be found here.


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!