The Washington Monument - A Photographers Guide

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Built to honor our nations first president, the Washington Monument is easily the most iconic and recognizable monuments in Washington DC, as well as probably one of the most photographed.  At 555 feet tall, it is the second tallest structure in our nations capitol after the National Cathedral.  And since the Washington Monument sits in the middle of the national mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol, you can't miss it.

If you are like most people (myself included) you have in your photo albums a general picture of the monument like the one I posted above, with the monument front and center.  In this post I want to show you different ways to photograph the monument, from up close and far away incorporating other DC landmarks.

A Little History

After a complicated planning process which began even before George Washington became president, construction of the monument began in 1848.  A box containing things such as a portrait of George Washington, coins, newspapers, and copy of the Constitution was embedded in the cornerstone during a ceremony attended by thousands of spectators, including Abraham Lincoln.  In 1854 construction came to a halt as funds ran out.  In 1879 construction began again with the authorization of President Grant, and was finally finished in 1884.  The monument opened to the public in 1888.


Photographing the Monument Up Close

The monument sits in the middle of a large open space of grass, so there is always ample opportunity to photograph it from different angles with nothing large getting in the way, besides people.



The base of the monument is encircled by 50 flags, which I always enjoy photographing.  You may even see an interesting sight now and again!


I also like to a get an up-close photograph of one of the flags and the monument up close.  It makes for an interesting perspective.


During cherry blossom season I like walking around the base and photographing it peeking above the pink blossoms.



While I get great shots of the monument any time of day I am in DC, photographing the monument just  before sunset is a beautiful as the sun casts a glow on it.



In this picture you can see where they had to use different materials after construction continued on the monument.  In fact, the marble used to build the monument came from three different suppliers.




As you can see, photographing at different times of day gives the monument a different look and feeling to your photographs.

Photographing the Monument from Afar

Lucky for you, the monuments height makes it visible from many places around the mall, giving you many different perspectives to take photographs of it from a distance.  Three of my favorite places are from across the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and from the World War II Memorial.

The view from the west end of the reflecting pool is actually one of the shots of the Washington Memorial that you really shouldn't leave DC without getting.  



The top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial gives you another great vantage point...


...where you can also do those cheesy touristy photographs like this:



You can also get interesting compositions from the World War 2 Memorial.


The monument is especially beautiful to photograph from across the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season.  I like to walk around the basin from the Martin Luther King Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial and look for interesting compositions.




The next time you are in DC for a day, or even a few hours, I encourage you to look around and photograph the monument from a different perspective, whether it's up close, from far away, before sunrise, or even after sunset.  Go ahead and experiment and share your photos with me!



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