The Armistice ending World War 1 was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In the United States, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919 to commemorate. President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation in 1953 renaming it Veterans Day and extending the holiday to honor all veterans. It’s a day to thank veterans for their dedication – a day to honor all those that place their country above themselves.
The World War II Memorial and Washington Monument
“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America. Freedom is never free.” President Barack Obama
Vietnam War Display, Smithsonian American History Museum
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” President John F. Kennedy
Marine Corps Memorial, Arlington VA
“I don’t have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” … “We owe this freedom of choice and action to those men and women in uniform who have served this nation and its interests in time of need. In particular, we are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we might be free.” President Ronald Regan
Thanks to all active duty service members and veterans. And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – you go out and thank a veteran too!
Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget. So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).
The Air Force Memorial. (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.). I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens. It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.
The Potomac River at Great Falls. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom). Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.
Ceiling in the Library of Congress. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL). Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress. I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view.
The Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.). I really like the way the IR camera rendered this, especially the bronze contrasting with the foliage. There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC. You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.
Washington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec). There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial. I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view. I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry. I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess! After we left this time, we heard reports that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…).
I grew up near Washington DC, and I’ve made many trips (both business and pleasure) to the area since then. So I feel somewhat qualified to offer ideas on photo opportunities in our nation’s capital.
My most recent visit was last week. Lynn and I went to Williamsburg, VA to see Caroline (our niece & god-daughter) graduate from high school. We decided to go early so we could spend a few days as tourists in downtown DC.
“Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue” – I was very happy when I saw how the light was falling as we arrived at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus!
I probably don’t have to tell you that DC is a rich photo environment. Monuments, memorials, museums, history, art, architecture, gardens, government, and more are everywhere. But how do you get interesting photos, ones different from everyone else’s? Here are some suggestions.
Try using an Infra-Red modified camera. I really like the way mine renders buildings against foliage and the sky.
Smithsonian Castle – Infrared, Black and White
Take an evening guided tour: Lynn signed us up with the Bi-Partisan Tour Company for their “Epic Evening Tour” (thanks Lynn!), and we both really enjoyed it. They took us around to great locations and allowed us to see them in a different light (dusk, blue hour, and night). I think it added interest to my photos.
If you do take a tour, stay alert in the bus and watch for good vantage points as you ride. I spotted the Washington Monument behind the Jefferson Memorial and rushed back to make this shot when we parked while everyone else went into the building itself.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk – with the Washington Monument in the background
It’s almost always crowded. You can try going in early on a Sunday morning, but if you’re there with everyone else you’ll have to use the people in your photos or find vantage points / ways to minimize them in your photos. I don’t know how many were at the Wall when we were there – it was elbow to elbow and had to be thousands.
Crowds at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963. Ghostly figures move around the base of this long exposure photograph of the Martin Luther King Memorial at blue hour, with the Washington Monument in the background.
If you go at night, be sure to take your tripod. It can be a pain, but my night tour images wouldn’t be nearly as good if I hadn’t taken mine.
Some other hints:
Contact your senators or congress person to arrange a tour of the capital (you’ll need to start months in advance). If that doesn’t work out, there are commercial ones available that will still get you a guided tour inside.
Take wide or ultra-wide angle lenses. Building interiors don’t fit in the frame with a standard zoom.
Before you go, practice making stitched panoramas. You can use this technique in place of an ultra wide lens.
Stay in a hotel as close to the National Mall as you can. Parking is scarce and expensive. You’ll be walking or catching rides to get where you want to go. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and use your light weight photo gear.
If you’re from Florida, you’ll appreciate the price of admission. All of the museums and monuments are free. Museum hours are usually 10am – 5:30pm. Lines were typically short, but some will require reservations (check first). You can visit monuments 24/7, but rangers are only available 9:30am to 10pm.
You might have cooler weather in May or early June. It’s not as pleasant to walk around later in the summer with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can spend many days (or weeks!) exploring DC. But if you run out of things there, Photo ops abound in the surrounding area. Two that I’d highly recommend are the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just south of Dulles, and Great Falls Park about 30 minutes NW of DC.
I’m collecting Washington DC photos in this album on Flickr, and I’ll add to it as I finish processing images from this trip. Please check it out!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go to Washington DC and make some photos!
Germany and the Allied nations signed the armistice ending World War I in 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Armistice Day (later renamed Veterans Day after World War II) was commemorated for the first time on November 11, 1919.
Now every year in the United States, we pause on Veteran’s Day to honor the service and sacrifice of all men and women who answer the call of freedom. To all of our veterans and to those serving today – you have our deepest gratitude. We honor you for your service and sacrifices “in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Statues of GIs crossing a field – Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC – Black and White Infrared
That post concentrated on a single image and tried to show some detail on how I processed it. Today, I’d like to show you a few more examples of what you can expect when you try this very interesting genre of photography. I made these photos with my IR modified Olympus E-PL1 camera.
I R n Air: A river runs through the countryside in this B&W digital infra-red photo made out the window at ~30,000 feet. The IR light cuts right through the haze to show a lot of detail.
Palm Tree: IR sensitivity makes the foliage stand out against the sky in this false color image.
Calm water and birds: Bird photography is not a strength of IR, but the birds in the water and the ones flying through the frame add to this landscape.
Play time at Union Station: Buildings, architecture, and people can be good subjects.
Jefferson Memorial from across the Tidal Basin: IR adds a different look to this classic view.
I had another opportunity to fly up to Reagan Airport early last Sunday for a business trip, and spend a few hours in downtown Washington D.C. on the National Mall.
The Washington Monument in infrared
I brought my Olympus cameras, including my IR modified E-PL1. I’m really enjoying the way it lets me see things differently. So much so that I have to be careful not to over use it.
I also brought an app I discovered for my iPhone: The NPS National Mall and Memorial Parks app is very useful – I highly recommend it if you travel to Washington D.C. And it’s free! (Update, October 2020: Doesn’t seem to be available now.)
Using the app, I followed the “4 hour tour” and saw several memorials that I haven’t been to, including the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I also went by the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Vietnam War Memorials and of course – the Washington Monument.
Breadline and fall color, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Washington, DC. The inscription reads:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
I was talking about my visit with my friend Patrick and he said something that really resonated with me: These memorials are named in honor of our famous founding fathers, or events from our history. But when you visit them, one thing you notice is that at each there are words / thoughts written in the stones that make up each monument. And it’s really these ideas that we should remember. Maybe a periodic tour of the monuments along with a test on every inscription should be required for members of congress.
I was also surprised by how much color remained in the foliage – quite pretty. And I was grateful that the weather was so different from my last visit. This time it was partly cloudy and cool – very good walking weather.
And just because I can’t resist, here’s one more IR photo. This one’s a false color image of a small Japanese Pagoda located near the Roosevelt Memorial.
Japanese pagoda on the west side of the Tidal Basin, Washington, DC. Given to Washington DC city commissioner Renah Camalier by Yokohama Mayor Ryozo Hiranuma in 1957 and subsequently donated to the city. This pagoda may be from the Kamakura period (1192–1333).
I thought about going to Orlando Wetlands Park on Saturday before it closes for the winter (in mid-November), but the weather was quite bad. This morning, I wanted to get up early in search of a sunrise but instead had to deal with a migraine headache (I need to be much more careful about restaurant MSG). So anyway, no new shots to post this weekend.
Instead, let’s go over a technique that can be quite useful in certain situations. Normally I shoot in RAW format and use Lightroom to adjust color balance globally over the whole photograph. This works well in most situations, but sometimes a photograph can be improved substantially by correcting white balance selectively.
How do you do this? The way I do it is to open the photo in Photoshop, duplicate the image in a second layer, and adjust the white balance globally in each layer, but for different areas of the photo. So in layer 1 the sky may look good, but the ground may be off – while in layer two the opposite is true. Then I blend the two layers together using a layer mask, taking the best portions of each. If you don’t already use layers and layer masks in Photoshop, you should really learn about them. They provide a very useful tool in many situations and the ability to paint in (and erase) from one layer to the other gives you a great deal of flexibility and control over the results.
In this first example, I initially used a “day light” color balance and this brought out the sunset colors in the clouds, but the clear sky and terrain are a little too warm.
Neighborhood Sunset – before selective white balance adjustment
In Photoshop, I left the color balance as is in one layer, and in the second layer, I made it much more neutral. I then painted the clouds from the first into the second.
Neighborhood Sunset – after selective white balance adjustment
This second example is even more dramatic than the first. The scene included both the pre-dawn sky and artificial lights along the far shore of the river. No matter what I did with the global white balance adjustment, I couldn’t get it to look right.
The pre-dawn Potomac River – initial white balance
Again, duplicating the image into a second layer and blending with layer masks allowed me to neutralize the color balance of the lighting on the far shore and still make the sky and water more natural looking.
The pre-dawn Potomac River – after selective white balance adjustment
You owe it to yourself and your photography to try this technique. It some situations it can save a photo.
I’ve written about photography on business trips before (for instance here). If you’re willing to put up with the hassle of carrying your photo equipment (or you can travel “photo light”), and if you have an opportunity to leave early or stay late, then you may be able to enjoy some of the photo ops at your destination.
The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown, and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina: Getting up at 5:30am and leaving my warm, cozy room to walk down to the river with my tripod and camera in the cold and dark wasn’t easy. Timing the 4 – 8 second exposures between vibrations from passing cars was also a bit difficult. But I like the result.
I had a business trip to Washington DC this week and needed to be there first thing on Monday. Instead of flying in Sunday night, I made arrangements to get out on the first flight Sunday morning (whew, that was an early alarm!). This gave me few hours in DC to act like a tourist. The weather was cloudy with some rain, but that actually turned out to be an advantage for some of the things I photographed and I did manage to make some images that I like in two or three different places while I was there. Washington is a target rich environment for photo ops – where to start?
At the first place, birds sang as I walked paths through the area. Looking up and searching for them, I could see trees beginning to bud out with leaves and flowers, signaling the start of Spring and triggering many thoughts about nature. As I continued, my eyes were drawn back to earth where the sight of graves triggered thoughts about sacrifice by many brave people. I also thought about predictions of the decline of the USA, and it occurred to me that these don’t take into account the power of our belief system. Our economy is large, and we are creative — but our true strength is that so many believe in our rights and freedoms and are willing to defend them with their lives.
Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery: I’d never been to Arlington before last Sunday. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me.
Arlington National Cemetery is located on a hill across the Potomac from Washington DC. It’s the former home of Robert E. Lee and was taken over by the Union when the Lee family failed to pay taxes. Arlington house (his former manor) is surrounded by grave sites of union soldiers so that if he ever tried to return, he’d have to cross that line of soldiers to enter his home. [4/16 update: Here is a good article about Arlington house: http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2011/04/arlington-house-home-robert-e-lee7966]There’s a good view of downtown DC and the country’s power base from up there. I hope that Congress glances up at Arlington occasionally before it makes decisions that may result in more grave sites. Arlington is only a few minutes from downtown Washington, and close to Reagan airport. There’s plenty of info on their web site for visitors.
After Arlington, I drove into downtown DC. Since it was Sunday and raining, there weren’t many people around and I was able to park about two blocks from the Lincoln Memorial and walk over for a few photos. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on right now – the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was drained, and this limited the compositions available.
The Lincoln Memorial and me: Last Sunday in Washington DC was cloudy with a bit of rain, so there weren’t too many people out and about in the city. I circled around to the south west side and set up my tripod for this shot. I think it’s pretty rare that you get a chance to capture an image of the Lincoln Memorial without people in the photo.
The view of the Lincoln Memorial above is a multi-shot panorama / HDR using 27 individual photos. The full resolution result is about 45 Mega-pixels in size. The power of the software we have available today always amazes me.
Take advantage of your travel opportunities. Turn them into photo ops. You might like the result.
If you click on the photos above you can see larger versions on Flickr. You can also see these photos and a few others from this trip in this set on Flickr.
On this Memorial Day, 2008, I would like to thank each veteran who has answered our call to defend our country.
I had a few hours off one afternoon during a recent business trip up to Rockville, Maryland so I grabbed my Canon G9 and took the subway into downtown Washington DC. It was just a quick stroll — my main photo hint for this is to take a lot more time and a lot more pictures.
The World War II memorial is new since I was there last (many years ago). This is a photo of the Florida section.
The Vietnam Memorial always affects me deeply each time I see it. The gifts and tokens placed at the wall by loved ones of our fallen veterans, even after so many years is profoundly moving.
The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate. In 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18 to 24 years old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
About 154,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night. One-fourth of the homeless population is veterans.
There are more homeless Vietnam veterans than the number of soldiers who were killed during that war.
It takes at least 5.5 years, on average, to resolve a benefit claim with the Veteran’s Administration.
More than 600,000 unresolved claims are backlogged with the Veteran’s Administration.
Approximately 18.5 percent of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression.
19.5 percent of these veterans report experiencing traumatic brain injury.
Roughly half of those who need treatment seek it, but only slightly more than half of those who receive treatment receive at least minimally adequate care, according to an April 2008 Rand Report.
As a citizen and a voter, I am ashamed of these numbers. Taking care of those that protect our country is a fundamental obligation of government. Each and every one of us should demand that our elected officials honor commitments we have made to veterans who have honored us with their service. Until we do so, Memorial Day seems a shallow honor at best.
If you ever travel through Dulles International, it is well worth scheduling yourself in early or out late so you can take a short side trip. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex of the National Air and Space Museum is located a few minutes south of the airport. You can take a shuttle to and from the airport, or follow Highway 28 (the first exit as you leave the airport) south until you see the sign. It only takes 10 – 15 minutes to get there from the airport. Entrance to the museum is free, but parking is $12, so take a few friends (all in one car).
The Smithsonian needed additional space to display items that they don’t have room for at the downtown Washington, D.C. location. This is very good news for traveling photographers. For a small investment of time (2 – 3 hours) you can see a lot of aviation and space history. They have Wright Brother flyers (click on the photo above for a larger version), an SR-71, a Concorde, the Space Shuttle Enterprise, The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer and much more. Some of these items are beautiful, and all are historic.
Equipment: I took my Canon G9, which did very well. You’ll mostly want a wide angle lens for the interior shots – these things are big and you can get close to most of them. The light is pretty dim, so use a fast lens and plan on at least bracing your camera for longer exposures as I did. Flash won’t be too effective due to the distance involved.