Tag: Washington DC

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Planning a Photograph

As I have attempted to make progress as an amateur photographer the need to plan for a good photograph has often come up in books, videos and blogs. This has led me to begin using Google Earth to view potential sites. I have also begun to utilize the features in the Photographers Ephemeris, click here for more information,  http://photoephemeris.com/tpe-for-desktop , to better understand the lighting on a subject at a specific time of day in my planned location. Another change has been considering how the finished photograph should look before releasing the shutter. This had not been my pattern in the past.

This past October I put all of this planning to work for a photo of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. you can find information about the Shrine here http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.4747309/k.C5D1/History.htm. First, I wanted to capture the sunset, so the Photographer’s Ephemeris was used to check the position of the sun for October 15th. I also used Google Earth to familiarize myself with the area around the Basilica, including parking places.

As I was considering the photo, a partial silhouette of the Basilica was the shot that seemed most interesting to me. After arriving at the site, I setup my camera and tripod and looked around. The Basilica is located next door to Catholic University, so there were a lot of people walking around and some were playing soccer or frisbee on the lawn in front of me. I decided this would not be a problem as the sun went down, however, I did notice that there was some construction taking place at the Basilica. Some of these distractions could be fixed in camera by using the shadow of the Basilica and some would be fixed in post-processing.

My next decision was to setup the composition. The sidewalk would be used as a leading line, however, there was some material on the ground where I wanted to stand. Oh well, you can’t plan everything. So, I moved over a few feet to the left. I then sat down and waited for sunset and the color that I hoped would arrive! It was a warm autumn evening, so the wait was very pleasant. As the sun was setting, I took many photos and made some adjustments along the way. After returning home and transferring the photos to my computer and picking the shot that appealed to me, Adobe Lightroom was used to dodge and burn some areas and boost color in the sunset. Adobe Photoshop allowed the removal of distracting elements. I also decided to have the Basilica in semi-silhouette as mentioned earlier to reveal some details of the building. Below is the resulting picture. I hope you enjoy it.

untitled-17-Edit-2National Shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC

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Blog Posts

Library of Congress Jefferson Building

There are many spectacular public buildings in Washington, D.C. and one of the best in my opinion is the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The Library is a complex of 3 buildings in Washington, D.C. directly across the street from the U.S. Capitol. Click the link below to learn more about the United States Library of Congress.

https://loc.gov/about/history-of-the-library/

 The three buildings in this complex are the Jefferson, Adams and Madison; all are named for former presidents of the United States of America. The jewel in this collection of great architectural edifices is the Jefferson Building. Click here for more information on the Jefferson Building.

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc79.htm

 The vast majority of this building is open to the public and there are always many tourists and others taking pictures throughout the facility. The major exception is the exclusion of photography while in the Main Reading Room. This exception is lifted twice a year and the public can bring their cameras into the room and photograph as much as they want.

 October 9th was the most recent date that the Main Reading Room was open for photography. I arrived early and was greeted by a line of people waiting to enter the room! It was so very crowded that I could hardly find a place to stand to take a photograph. As it turned out, I did manage to capture a few good photos. The only one from the Main Reading Room that I am posting is my favorite because of the perspective. You cannot bring a tripod into the room, so I had to use a bean bag for stability. This worked well enough with the exception that I could not see the LCD display or look through the view finder to frame the composition. I took about 20 shots and constantly adjusted the position of the camera to reframe the photo. This is the shot of the dome and columns that resulted from this exercise.

 Main Reading Room Dome

I decided that if everyone was in the Main Reading Room, it might be a good idea to move to another area and take some photos. This worked out well and here are some photos from the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

 Great Hall Ceiling

Great Hall Ceiling

 

Great Hall 2nd Level

             2nd Floor of Great Hall

 

Great Hall 2nd Level

Great Hall Columns and Arches

Finally, here is the front of the Jefferson Building.

 Main Entrance

Jefferson Building

If you visit Washington, D.C. make sure to plan to spend several hours at the Library and in particular the Jefferson Building. You won’t be disappointed, and it’s free!

Blog Posts

Monuments in Washington, D.C.

This past summer has been a quiet photography season for me. It was a great summer filled with family activities including traveling to South Carolina to see the total eclipse. That was an incredible experience and I just concentrated on enjoying it and did not even bring my camera! I have found that photography for me is a somewhat solitary experience. I seem to enjoy it more when I can take my time and concentrate on the photograph I’m trying to take. That means when I travel with the family I concentrate on them and if I need a photography outing I usually go by myself or possibly with another photographer. How many of you reading this post feel the same about separating your photography from other activities?

 

Since I live in the Washington D.C. area I decided that I would try my hand at photographing some of the many monuments and historic buildings in the district. In this post, I want to share four of the photographs from this collection. I will plan on sharing more photographs of the Washington D.C.  area later. Photographing monuments is somewhat of a challenge because of the crowds of tourists that are usually always present. This meant that at times the angle of the camera was not ideal for the photograph but it did eliminate unnecessary distractions. Photoshop also came in very handy at removing those other distractions that the camera angle could not compensate for. As I mentioned when I first started this blog, my objective was to document my progress as a photographer. This meant not only my artistic progress but also my technical progress with the camera and post-production software. I think I’ve made some progress on all counts but I have a long way to go to become a competent photographer!

 

This first photo is a sunrise over the Washington Monument and the US Capitol and it was an afterthought. I had initially come to the National Mall to photograph the Lincoln Monument at sunrise which is the next picture in the post. As I was setting up to photograph the Lincoln Monument I remembered to turn around to see what was behind me and fortunately the sunrise turned out to be very photogenic. This photo was edited in not only Lightroom but also Photoshop to enhance colors and take advantage of some dodging and burning techniques. You can probably figure out where this took place in the photo.

Monument Sunrise-2

This picture of the Lincoln Monument is the one that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There were quite a few tourists around that morning even at sunrise! I took about 25 different photographs of the monument and this is the one I was most pleased with. Hopefully, you can see the golden glow of the sun on the façade of the monument. This photo also gave me the opportunity to use Photoshop to remove more than eight tourists who were either on the steps or near the columns. Feel free to look because I’m sure a practiced eye will be able to find those edits. I also used Photoshop to accentuate the blue and gray color of the sky. This was important to me because blue and gray represented the colors of the opposing Union and Confederate forces in the U.S Civil War. President Lincoln brought the country through this crisis and allowed it to remain a United country. So, I titled this photograph United.

United-

The Thomas Jefferson Monument is one of the most visited monuments in Washington D.C. It is not on the National Mall but it is just a short distance away. This photograph was taken from a location just in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument which is the last photo in this post. Interestingly, it was a moonless evening, so I decided to put the moon in the photo for dramatic impact. It is larger than it would naturally appear; however, that is my artistic prerogative!

Thomas Jefferson Monument at dusk

The Martin Luther King Jr. Monument is the newest monument on the National Mall. It is located a short distance away from the Lincoln Monument. This is probably the most challenging of all the photographs due to the large number of tourists and the limited space for me to set up my camera. Fortunately, after taking several shots over a 20-minute period, I did manage to catch one before the tourists clambered back in front of it to take selfies. The quote is not engraved on the monument; however, it is a quote taken from the wall directly behind the monument and it seems an appropriate quote because of current events in America.

MLK-

I hope you enjoyed reading the posts and viewing the photographs. Come back to visit in the future because I hope to show some photos from an autumn trip that I’m planning to West Virginia to capture some of the fall color from the seasonal change.

 

 

Blog Posts

Missing the Super Moon

This past weekend brought the super moon to our night skies. I decided that this would be a great photo opportunity. Now the hard part began or so I thought. Where would be the best location for a super moon photo shoot?

I live in the Washington, DC area, so there is no lack of photogenic locations, from the National Mall, Capitol Dome, monuments, museums, statues, Potomac River and the list goes on and on. It seemed to me that every other photographer in the neighborhood would be using these prime locations and one more photo from me would be a big dud! What was needed was a location that was not on anyone else’s photography location meter. How many of you, hobbyist photographers, have been in a similar situation? Lots of digital film but no clear idea of what to shoot or where!

After tossing out many possibilities, I did come up with a location that was attractive and accessible. More on that later. Now the problem was to determine where the moon was going to rise and would it be in the photo frame I wanted. There is a great app, Photographers Ephemeris, that is excellent for helping figure this part of the photographic puzzle. For those of you who have not used it, you give the app a location and it gives you the astronomical information you need. It is linked to Google maps, so you can see the location with the street view function. Here is a link to the site:

http://app.photoephemeris.com/?ll=38.930974,-77.001777&center=38.9310,-77.0015&z=17&spn=0.00,0.01&dt=20161115172600-0500

I proceeded to look up my intended site and gathered the necessary information. The app displayed a graphic projection showing where the moon would be located at the time I wanted to take the photos. I used the street view function in Google maps and it looked like I had a clear view of my potential super moon shot. I felt good that I had done my homework and was ready to take some great pictures. I suspect many of you have also felt good after researching photo sites.

As I was driving to the location, things began to fall apart. It was Sunday evening and the traffic was really, really bad. Now I was behind schedule. It seemed my GPS was routing me directly into traffic and road construction, a constant problem in the District of Columbia! Finally, I arrived at my well researched location and parked my car. Out came the camera bag, tripod and small chair I like to use. Off I went to the location that was in my notes. Shock and horror greeted me! There were big trees all over the place blocking my view. Those Google photos were either old or I had researched the wrong spot!

This location would not work. I crossed the street and there was a parking lot that I proceeded to use to set up my equipment. I took a few photos of my target and waited for the moon rise. Now another surprise, as the moon came up it was immediately apparent that I was not in the right location! Oh well, all I could do was take some photos of my subject and enjoy the evening alone with my camera.

The next day, I rechecked the app and found the mistakes I had made in setting things up. This was a lesson that I will not forget. Next time I will do a much better job. My suggestion to you is that you practice with this app and go to the sites to check whether you have calculated the position accurately for your photo shoot before you go on the actual shoot.

The location I selected was the National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University here in Washington, DC. Here are a few of the photos from my evenings adventure. Enjoy!

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Photo taken just after sunset

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

HDR image made from 3 photos

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Photo made 20 minutes after sunset

National Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Super Moon is in the bottom right

Blog Posts

Using Lemons to make Lemonade!

Recently, I decided that I wanted to work on some new photographic themes. Living near Washington DC I decided to capture some scenes that the average tourist does not see when he or she visits. Now that I have been taking photographs for a while I decided to do some preparatory work. I took the Metrorail to the Shaw Station and then walked around the neighborhood. As I saw interesting residential buildings I took some pictures of them with my smart phone. I then used my recorder app and made notes about the location and where I thought the best position to take the photograph would be. When I finished my day and returned home I found that I had selected 10 different locations that I thought would make interesting photographs.

Bistro Before Editing

Bistro Before Editing

I then did some research on where sunrise or sunset would be relative to these locations. This helped me to decide whether to take pictures in the morning Golden hour or in the evening Golden hour. After all of this preparation I felt quite proud of myself! The only other decision I needed to make was when I would take the first set of photos. Since I was quite excited about the potential I selected this past Thursday morning as the day to start the project.

On Wednesday evening I checked weather.com and saw that Thursday would be partly cloudy, but no rain was in the forecast. So at 4:30 AM on Thursday I drove into Washington DC full of excitement and anticipation of a great photographic journey. I just knew I would have beautiful, colorful morning skies as backgrounds to my shots. As I was driving on the George Washington Parkway, I noticed that the sky was partly cloudy and now I started to get concerned along with being very sleepy! I arrived at my designated parking area, took out my camera, gadget bag and tripod and started walking to my first location. Within five minutes of leaving the car it started to drizzle and a few minutes later rain was falling profusely from the sky!

I decided that I could either go home or use this opportunity to take some different photographs. So I decided when you have lemons the best thing to do is to make some lemonade! Since the ground was wet and it was still somewhat dark and cars and buses had their headlights on along with the buildings beingwell lit; I decided to do some motion blur shots with the added benefit of reflections on the wet street. When the rain stopped I took a few pictures of some of the buildings that I originally planned to photograph, needless to say I did not have the beautiful colorful sky I originally wanted.

Bistro After Editing

Bistro After Editing

As I was looking at my photographs in AdobeLightroom V. 6 that evening, one of them caught my eye and I decided to do some additional editing on it. I noticed that the sky was bland and colorless, so I decided to add a new sky using Adobe Photoshop Elements V. 13. This was going to be a challenge as I just barely knew how to use Lightroom and I had not spent any time with Photoshop Elements! Fortunately, I had a nice sky photograph that I had taken some time before with my smart phone. I proceeded to look at several videos on YouTube that described using layers and layer masks. After multiple attempts I had a reasonably decent copy of the Bistro you see in this post. Although I made some mistakes, for first attempt I think it turned out rather well.

Lesson learned: Preparation is great and important nut you also have to be flexible and find a way to turn a problem into an opportunity to photograph! Keep shooting and come back to visit this blog again in the future or subscribe to the RSS Feed at the top left of the page.