When family visits, we like to find something different to do. Having access to Washington D. C., there are lots of activities and attractions that they have not yet done. The list is always expanding. Maybe we will get to the National Postal Museum some day. With our niece having an interest in photography, and having joined the D.C. Photo Safari tour for Cherry Blossom Festival a few months ago, we contacted Mr. Luria and signed up for his Monuments and Memorials tour. As it turned out, she and I were his tour, so we had a private lesson! Mr. Luria tailored it to our interest and was gracious enough to spend half a day with us (how many tours would cancel unless they had a minimum number of participants).
Mr. Luria enjoys educating photographers about their equipment with the idea that photographers take good pictures, not cameras. He quickly figured out our knowledge and skills levels, to provide us with information. As the lesson progressed, he moved on from shutter speeds, F-stops, and composition suggestions to white balance and other tricks that digital cameras allow you to do.
We started in Lafayette Square Park, across from the White House. Our first assignment was to take a picture of a statue. I flunked for not listening, thereby taking pictures of all sorts of other things, in addition to the statue. First lesson of composition: know why you are taking the picture.
We moved on to adding foreground interest and framing pictures of the White House. I was listening better by this time.
We then drove a few blocks to the area near the Lincoln Memorial. If you have been to D.C. you know that these blocks host a cluster of individual and war memorials. Outside the National Academy of Sciences is the Einstein Memorial. This is one you usually glance at just after driving by it on Constitution Avenue, and wonder why is there some big statue over there? By moving to different angles you have a chance to try to frame the statue differently. Children are often climbing into his lap, which may or may not fit your photography interest.
Around the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam War Memorial and statues of three soldiers exiting from the jungle (there are also statues of military women a short distance away, but we did not pass that direction). Black and white settings capture a different image of these statues, in contrast to the tour groups surrounding it.
The Lincoln Memorial is iconic in our culture, both the temple like building at the reflecting pool that stretches toward the Washington Monument and now the World War II Memorial. When photographing rectangular structures, the angle at which you hold the camera affects the vertical lines of the building in relationship to the edges of the picture (right picture is “wrong” because I tilted the camera up, the left is “correct” because I kept the camera level). Our eyes and brains straighten these out, but the camera sees what you pointed it at. Wide angle vs telephoto lens can accentuate this affect too.
Of course, our brains often “see” what we are focused on, rather than what is actually in the composition. When I quickly took this photo of the mounted patrol, I did not “see” the woman in the blue dress sticking out from the horse’s head. My niece took the photo from a slightly different angle, reducing the effect of the blue dress behind the horse.
The Korean War Memorial presents a cluster of soldiers trudging through the cold fields, weary but alert for danger. These provide opportunities to experiment with composing groups of statues, using depth a field, cropping down for details, and finding reflections along the wall the boarders one side of the memorial. Sometimes unplanned elements await you, such as the dragon-fly that landed on one of the sculptures.
The reflective, black wall provided a good neutral background for close up portrait images too.
We then drove to Union Station near the Capitol Building. This provided opportunities to practice indoor photography and explore white balance settings. Unfortunately, the Mineral Virginia earthquake a year ago destabilized some of the ceiling decorations, so safety netting has been put up during repairs. This limited photographing the coffered ceiling and statutes the line the main hall. Having traveled many times from NYC to D.C. during my courting days, this hall has many memories.
We shall be practicing our photography techniques as the visit progresses.