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Tips for Taking Photos of Monuments

Patty Hankins & Bill Lawrence

Recently, we've been taking advantage of the weather to update our photos of some of the local monuments.  The metro Washington, DC area is one of the top places for monument photography, but many places have their memorable monuments.  We thought this month we would suggest a few tips for monument photography.


Our focus tends to be on outdoor monuments, and we apply many well-known techniques from landscape photography to monuments.  Below are a few things that we have found helpful.

1) Be respectful.  Don't go tromping through the landscaping to get the ideal shot, or digging up the flowers planting your tripod.  Don't expect everyone to clear out of your way by putting your tripod up in the middle of a crowd mid-day.  Know what the local regulations are on photography, using a tripod, and where you are and aren't allowed to be.  Being obnoxious is a good way to get asked to leave by the local security, and makes people less likely to cooperate with future photographers.

2) Go early.  Take a look at some of our monument photos in the web version of this article. Many of them were taken before 6:00 AM, and some of them were taken before sunrise (this of course assumes that the monument you're visiting allows people there that early).  We've gone to monuments on the Mall at DC at 4:30 in the morning, and essentially had them to ourselves.  Sunrise is a wonderful time to catch distinctively shaped monuments in silhouette or near-silhouette, and the early morning golden light shortly after sunrise can give dramatic light and texture to stone or metal monuments.  Sunset would do equally well as sunrise from a lighting standpoint (in the opposite direction), but you may have to deal with crowds, depending on the area.  Use Ephemeris or other software, or the local weather service to find out when sunrise is.


3) Bring a tripod.  Especially if you are shooting in the dark or sunrise/sunset photos, a tripod will be helpful.  If tripods aren't allowed, consider a beanbag, or put your camera on a rock, banister, garbage can, etc. to brace it (MAKE SURE it is a secure place to put your camera - there is nothing like watching little parts of your camera rolling away as it falls off and smashes to pieces on the ground).  If necessary, use high ISO film/digital setting and brace yourself against a wall while taking the photo.  Be careful setting up a tripod in crowded settings, and know whether they are permitted (e.g. you will NOT be permitted to set up a tripod on the National Capitol grounds unless you have a permit - and the Capitol police don't seem to know where to get a permit when you ask them).


4) Try to get some unusual angles and such.  Get something other than the cliché shots.  Don't worry about getting the cliché shots (they aren't that cliché if you don't have them), but try and get some close-ups of interesting details, or an angle that strikes you as interesting.

5) Plan your visit.  Know when you can get in to the monuments.  Know where the parking spaces are (trying to find parking spaces at 4:00 AM is tough - there's no one around to ask).

6) Don't forget to have fun, and see the sights while you're there!

About The Author: You can see some of our photos of the monuments in Washington DC in the web based version of this article at http://www.hank …

Patty Hankins & Bill Lawrence are the co-owners of Hankins-Lawrence Images, LLC, a digital photography company based in Maryland. HLI Photonotes, their monthly ezine, provides information and tips for photographers. To subscribe email with subscribe in the subject or visit http://www.hank …

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