Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Photography,  Travel

A Photographer’s Visit to the Arlington National Cemetery

One of the places you must see when visiting Washington D.C. is Arlington National Cemetery.  The cemetery also provides some terrific photo ops for photographers as well.  During my short visit, there were two main attractions that I wanted to photograph: Arlington National Cemetery and the National Mall.  In this blog, I will focus on Arlington National Cemetery.  Here is a link to my blog on Photographing the National Mall.

I arrived in Washington D.C. on a Sunday afternoon.  After arriving at Reagan National Airport and checking in my hotel, I headed out to Arlington National Cemetery.  The weather forecast called for rain but I headed out anyways.  The Arlington Cemetery stop on the blue line of the Metro lands you almost at the front gate of the cemetery.  Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes as the cemetery spans 600 acres.  There are also trams that run from several locations in the cemetery.

Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery

Stairs at Arlington National Cemetery

Equipment and Restrictions

For equipment, I used a Canon 5d Mark III, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.  This lens provides a good focal length range for photographs throughout the Cemetery.  You may also want to consider binging a longer lens 200mm or 300mm for tighter shots.   I also used a 3 stop graduated ND filter to help avoid blowing out the skies and white tombstones.  I did not bring a tripod as tripod use is not allow without permission of the Office of Public Affairs.  Here is a link to the Arlington National Cemetery Information on photography page.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

My favorite scene to photograph was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day / 365 days a year by selected members of the 3rd Infantry.  From April 1 until September 30, the changing of the guard occurs every 30 minutes.  The rest of the year it occurs every hour.  It is required that you stay quiet while visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard.  Also, you should be respectful by turning any beeps off on your camera and not shooting in continuous high mode.  I turned my Canon 5d Mark III to the Silent Single Shooting Mode.

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Photo Opportunities

Other sites to consider visiting and photographing are President John F. Kennedy’s grave site, Senator Ted Kennedy’s grave, and the Women in Military Service For America Memorial.

There are many other areas of the cemetery to visit.  Stop by the visitors center and pick up a map.  You may also want to walk the area around Lincoln, Sherman, and L’enfant roads to get an idea of the vast amount of military graves in the cemetery.  There are rows and rows of white grave stones that make for terrific photo opportunities.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

If you are a photographer, you may want to take some photos of the Arlington Memorial Bridge while you are in the area.  It’s past the Metro station on Memorial Avenue as you are leaving the Cemetery.  From the west bank of the Potomac River, you can line up a shot with the bridge, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Monument in the frame.  This is a terrific sunset shot as the late afternoon light will provide a golden glow on the buildings.  Be careful getting down to the bank of the river!  There are several roads to cross, some without cross walks.  You can still get some good shots if you stop and take photos before the no crossing area of the road.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

Arlington Memorial Bridge with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the Background

Related Posts
Photographing Vermont in the Fall – Shelburne
Visiting and Photographing the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Photographing the Mansfield Reformatory

Visit my photo destinations page for more great photography locations

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