Visiting and Photographing the National Mall in Washington D.C.
On a recent business trip to Washington DC, I left a day early to do some photography of the landmarks and monuments in the area. There were two main areas that I wanted to photograph on this trip: Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall. In this blog, I will focus on the National Mall. On the same trip, I also photographed and wrote a blog on Arlington National Cemetery.
I woke up early the morning after arrival to try and beat the crowds to the National Mall. I skipped breakfast and left the hotel by 6:30 am.
Use The Metro
The Metro is one of the best ways to get around in Washington D.C. You may want to purchase the Metro SmarTrip card online before you leave if you are planning to use the Metro a lot. When I was there (Aug 2012), they were charging an extra dollar for riders who were not using the SmarTrip card. Here is the link to more information on the SmarTrip Card.
Exiting the Metro at the Smithsonian stop on the blue line, will put you right in the middle of the National Mall by the Smithsonian Castle. From there, you can walk to the many attractions at the National Mall.
The Smithsonian Castle
Arrive Early to Avoid the Crowds
I arrived at the National Mall by 7am. I was able to photograph the Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam War Veterans Memorial without too many people in my photographs. This is especially important at the Lincoln Memorial where people can easily block your photos of the statue of President Abraham Lincoln. When I arrived at the Lincoln Memorial about 7:30am, there were several joggers running up the stairs and another photography already at the memorial.
By the time I got to the Korean War Memorial (about 9:00 am) some tour busses started to arrive. I found the Korean War Memorial interesting and spent quite a bit of time working on compositions of the platoon of soldiers. The memorial wall of the soldier’s faces is also fascinating.
Platoon of Soldiers at the Korean War Memorial
Plenty to See and Photograph
Some of the other attractions to visit at the National Mall are the Smithsonian Castle, Air and Space Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, U.S. Capitol, Grant Memorial, and the National Archives. They have a nice lunch menu at the Mitsitam Cafe at the Museum of the American Indian that features a nice selection of Native American Cuisine such as rabbit and bison. There are many other places to visit and photograph at the National Mall. I’ve just mentioned a few of my favorites.
The U.S. Capitol
The equipment that I used for photographing the attractions at the National Mall was the Canon 5d Mark III and Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. For outside photographs, I also used a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter to help prevent blowing out the sky. For a bright sunny day, you may want to use a darker graduated ND filter and/or circular polarizer.
Useful iOS Apps
I also found two iOS applications to be very helpful when navigating the city and the National Mall: iTrans DC and NPS National Mall.
ITrans DC is an app for the Washington DC Metro. The app helps to find the closest Metro station, provides directions, contains a map of the metro lines, and gives a fairly accurate train schedule. Best of all, it’s free!
NPS National Mall is a free app that provides information on the attractions in and around the National Mall. The app also has a map with your location and the location of attractions that help you to navigate the national mall. As you zoom in on the map, more locations become visible.
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A Photographer’s Visit to the Arlington National Cemetery
Photographing the Mansfield Reformatory
Visit my photo destinations page for more great photography locations