Washington D.C. Monuments

Washington D.C. Monuments

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Sunrise from Lincoln

by Tom Field

These monuments and memorials are among my favorite photographic subjects, despite their having been 26.3 billion* photographs made in the past. Washington's characteristic visual appeal leans heavily on its monuments, and there's always some unique approach to capturing their essence if you're willing to look. On the other hand, I rather enjoy creating yet another cliche photo of the Washington Monument -- as long as it's a quality cliche photo. <g>

* 62.8% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

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Looking up with 20mm Lens

1. The Lincoln Memorial

This magnificent monument stands at the western end of the National Mall where it anchors a graceful bend in the Potomac River. Eighty steps lead down to the Reflecting Pool which in which is cast a perfect mirror image of the Washington Monument obelisk one mile away. Architect Henry Beacon's doric temple has 36 columns inscribing the states of the union at the time of Lincoln's death (not at the time of construction 57 years later). The interior is a single grand room housing a statue of Abraham Lincoln sculpted by Daniel Chester French from 1911 to 1922. On the south wall are engraved the words from his brief Gettysburg Address, and on the north wall his second inaugural address.

The exterior is surrounded by three giant stone steps and immense columns supporting the roof. Unfortunately, this delightful area and the beautiful grounds are now closed to the public (see 9-11-01 below).

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Sunset behind Lincoln

This photo (left) is a composite of two images: one exposed for the sunset and a second exposed to bring in a hint of Lincoln's statue inside the Monument. The two exposures are blended in PhotoShop to retain detail and color in the highlights and shadows. This is a now-common technique to recreate an image the eye can easily see, but which contains too much luminance range (shades from dark to light) for film. Eventually, digital imaging may have the exposure latitude to capture any scene as the eye beholds it, or maybe even better. #101237: Canon 1Ds, 70-200/2.8 lens at 148mm, ISO 100, f/13 exposed at 1/50 and 1/13 sec (layered), no filters.

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Reflecting Puddle with Lincoln

Reflecting Puddle (right)

The lovely Reflecting Pool was reduced to a reflecting puddle during construction of the World War II Memorial (see Washington Monument page). The empty pool became a foot-commuter shortcut, but also afforded rare opportunities for photo angles - without getting wet, or arrested for wading in the pool (wasn't me). (My "Reflecting Puddle" images are definitely intended to be comical, a pun on the normally stunning Reflecting Pool.) The area is more fun now that the Pool is filled. #10177: Canon 1Ds, 70-200/2.8 lens at 70mm, ISO 100, f/8 for 0.6 sec

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September 11, 2001 dawned peacefully

9-11-01 and Consequences

I happened to be shooting sunrise on September 11, 2001 at the Lincoln Memorial (left, top, and below). What started out as a beautiful morning quickly turned into a nightmare for our nation. Everyone knows the big story, but here's a sidebar. All of the monuments were closed by mid-morning for fear they'd be attacked by the evil enemy. The plane shown in the photo below was one of the last to depart Reagan National Airport, which remained closed for weeks. Parts of some monuments still have not re-opened to the public, and may never. Temporary wooden and metal barricades gradually became concrete Jersey barriers. Private vehicles are now directed to satelite parking lots, some at considerable distance from the points of interest.

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September 11, 2001 (with plane)

The Lincoln, like many other prominent memorials, has suffered the consequences of 9-11-01, or rather its visitors suffer them. Its grounds and most of the building exterior are fenced and barricaded: off limits to the public. The structure bristles with remote-control surveillance cameras and is patrolled around the clock by armed guards (these are a beneficial consequence - zero crime!). All marble areas inside and out are off limits to photo tripods - you are not allowed to even carry a folded tripod unless the legs are fully collapsed - for fear you will, um... well, I'm sure why a terrorist would want to unfold his tripod but for now he won't get the chance. So the dimly lit interior calls for fast film or flash.

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Across the Potomac River

At least the protective measures have succeeded: Lincoln still sits, aparently unfazed. But some of the images on this page cannot be seen or photographed again by the public. Should I be pleased that I've made images that won't likely be repeated? No, I'd rather everyone could enjoy all of the views and the magesty of this wonderful monument to a great man and a great American.

Updated 11-aug-11   Contents copyright © 2001 - 2011 PhotoCentric.Net, All Rights Reserved