Living in Toronto I have had the opportunity to travel to a myriad of the northeastern US states. One of the only places I have never had the opportunity to visit was Washington, D.C. Growing up I recall people expressing how quite dangerous DC could be. Also, I never had the desire to explore a city that was highly influenced by politics. DC always created the impression of a place one would go on a middle school field trip. Someplace I thought may bore me. Don’t get me wrong, I was interested in planting my feet in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (The White House), seeing Capitol Hill and the Washington Monument to name a few.
As a photographer my interests have changed and many of the places I never had the desire to visit are places I now have a fascination to see. After visiting Miami & Tampa, Florida and making a brief stopover in Savannah, Georgia, Washington, D.C., was the next place I wanted to visit before returning to Canada. I didn’t do any research on where to go or what to see besides the obvious things. Places that are frequently shown on the news and on television. Surprisingly finding a hotel was challenging due to the National Cherry Blossom Festival. As a matter of fact, the pricing of hotels is astronomical. More than double the rates I paid in New York City a few days later.
I was so poorly schooled about DC that when someone asked me if I was going to visit The National Mall, my response was, I did enough shopping while I was in Miami. Doh! With a laugh at my expense, I immediately learned that The Mall was the area between the Lincoln Memorial and The Capital. Shameful! I will blame my lack of US knowledge on the Canadian schooling system. Along The Mall there are 10 museums including the Smithsonian and the National Building of Natural History, both of which I visited.
I was surprised by the cleanliness of the whole city and the innumerous colossal buildings. I don’t think I have been to one city that is home to so many buildings of such impressive sizes. The architecture of each building was intricate and beautiful. Very European looking as a matter of fact. There was much more to see than I anticipated. Three days definitely wasn’t going to be enough time.
My first full day there the sky was gloomy and raining off and on throughout the day. After breakfast the winds picked up and the rain was crashing down on me at such force that it was impossible to keep dry. With only a short two days planned in DC I didn’t want to waste time and headed for the White House first. It was closest on my must-see list of places to my hotel.
The rain didn’t seem to be easing up and walking around trying to protect my camera, carry my tripod while holding an umbrella came to be rather challenging with the forceful winds. The next stop was the Washington Memorial that is situated in the middle of a large park with nothing surrounding the area to block the the strong gusts of wind. Since I was so close in proximity I was determined to get the shot even with the rain, wind and grey sky. I wasn’t able to stay long due to the rain quickly penetrating my clothing, the water drops on my camera and my umbrella attempting to carry me away like a kite.
The photos I was hoping to capture weren’t going as I had planned. The only thing to do in a time like that was to hail a taxi and head to the closest bar for a glass of wine. After the rain subsided a little, the next place I wanted to visit was the Jefferson Monument. Again the size of the monument caught me by surpass. It was gargantuan. It was located across the Tidal Basin facing the Washington Monument. When I arrived there were very few people due to the rainfall throughout the day which made it perfect for capturing images at usually overcrowded places.
The sky was once again overcast and the rain began to fall. Luckily the Jefferson statue is situated under a absolutely stunning roof. I was looking forward to shooting the whole monument from the waters edge but no such luck because of the rain. I was hoping to return after dark once the rain let up.
I called Uber because I wasn’t that far from the Iwo Jima memorial and it was too far to walk in the weather conditions. The memorial is situated just across DC in Arlington, Virginia. I had been interested in seeing the statue that was made so famous by the photograph of the statue of raising the flag on Iwo Jima by photographer Joe Rosenthal. Again the statue was a lot larger than I expected.
After I captured my images the Uber driver took me to Georgetown so I could grab dinner. On the way to the main street the driver asked if I had ever seen the movie The Exoricist. I said I had and he asked if I wanted to see the stairs from the end of the movie. I eagerly concurred and he stopped right at the bottom. I got out and tried to snap a few photos but the sun had already set and the rain began to fall again so I wasn’t able to capture what I hoped to.
The next day I spend much of my day walking around The Mall and visiting some museums. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that there are no entry fees for the museums in DC. Ever! And it wasn’t even that busy to enter.
I actually wanted to visit The Capital but was convinced by someone to stop in the Natural History Museum first. If I had listened to my instincts I would have very likely been able to see the now famous Doug Hughes land his gyrocopter on the grounds. Instead I had to later watch it on television. Just my luck.
After a long day of walking around and exploring only a small chunk of The National Mall, I headed for dinner. Everything was taking a longer time to visit than I expected and my time in DC was quickly coming to a halt. I knew that if I wanted to shoot anymore I would have to do so come nightfall because once the sun rose I would have to be on my way to New York City.
The one monument I really wanted to visit that I hadn’t yet was the World War II Memorial. I made a quick stop at the Washington Monument beforehand because my first attempt was interrupted by the torrential rainfall the previous day. From early morning I noticed that all the flags were sitting at half-mast all over the city. I asked my Uber driver and the staff at the museum but to my surprise no one seemed to have any idea as to why. Later I found out it was honor the respect of former President Lincoln’s death.
From the monument it was only about a quick five minute walk to the World War II memorial. Of all the people who had told me to visit the memorial, no one did it the justice it deserved. I could have stayed to snap photos longer than I had but the weather was getting cooler and the night was getting later.
When standing at the front of the memorial if you turn your back to it you are facing both the Washington Monument and not far in the background you can see The Capital. When you turn 180 degrees the other way and you looking directly at the Lincoln Memorial.
I was tired from walking around all day and decided it was best to head back to the hotel and get a good nights sleep. Come morning I would be driving a quick four hours to New York City and I didn’t want to be tired.
I never anticipated that I would enjoy Washington, D.C., as much as I had. My time there was limited therefore, I will likely have to return sometime in the near future to continue exploring the rest of the city.
Next stop New York City!
Until next time,
*featured image taken at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.