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At last, my Washington Monument photo set is done…

February 20, 2014, 12:30 AM

At last, I have finished my Washington Monument photo set.  I started work on this photo set in September, finished up the photography for it in November, and now it’s February and with the scaffolding mostly gone (only a quarter or so of the height is now covered) at the time of this writing, the set finally goes out.  This was quite a project, too.

I spent most of the first day, September 5, out on the Mall, shooting photos of the monument under clear to partly cloudy skies.  I was out there from mid-to-late morning until around 5:00.  I got home around 7 PM, after having walked 6.35 miles around the Mall area.  I got off the train at Metro Center, headed to the Washington Monument, and looped around it once at fairly close range.  Then I did another loop around it from a distance, following the path around the Tidal Basin, going past the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the DC War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the World War II Memorial.  Then I headed back up to the Washington Monument, and did another loop up close before heading out.  I went over to the Old Post Office on my way out in order to get a few photos of the Washington Monument from up above, before returning to Metro Center to head home.  After I got home, I don’t think I made it to 7:30.  I was out like a light.  Walking all that distance while taking some 900 photos, I definitely earned my sleep that night, as I was both physically and mentally exhausted.

As with any time I go out, it’s always interesting to see what I encounter.  After all, when I shoot photos of something, I never end up just taking photos of the target subject.  After all, storage space is cheap, and I usually carry about 20 GB of SD card storage in my camera bag when I go out.  And this was no exception.  Of those 900-some photos, quite a few were of other things, such as…

This is the Computer Building in Wheaton, photographed from the Metro garage.  The building used to be a five-story office building off of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, but in 2013, work began to enlarge the building and completely renovate it to turn it into apartments.  I was surprised that they were using the existing building as a base, but apparently the building was worth retaining.
This is the Computer Building in Wheaton, photographed from the Metro garage.  The building used to be a five-story office building off of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, but in 2013, work began to enlarge the building and completely renovate it to turn it into apartments.  I was surprised that they were using the existing building as a base, but apparently the building was worth retaining.

State at the National Sylvan Theater, just south of the Washington Monument.  Due to the repair work on the Washington Monument, the National Sylvan Theater is de facto closed due to loss of the audience space.
State at the National Sylvan Theater, just south of the Washington Monument.  Due to the repair work on the Washington Monument, the National Sylvan Theater is de facto closed due to loss of the audience space.

This picture illustrates what's going on at the National Sylvan Theater pretty well.  The construction fence runs right up to the stage at one end, and the front access to the theater is completely blocked.  I got into this area through the back of the theater.  If you were going to have a show at the National Sylvan Theater during this construction, it would need to be very tiny.
This picture illustrates what’s going on at the National Sylvan Theater pretty well.  The construction fence runs right up to the stage at one end, and the front access to the theater is completely blocked.  I got into this area through the back of the theater.  If you were going to have a show at the National Sylvan Theater during this construction, it would need to be very tiny.

The Jefferson Memorial.
The Jefferson Memorial.

The MLK Memorial.
The MLK Memorial.

The MLK Memorial again, viewed from the side.
The MLK Memorial again, viewed from the side.

Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe's old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn't you?  Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe's old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn't you?
Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe’s old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn’t you?

My own shadow, as I was approaching the monument for the second pass close by.
My own shadow, as I was approaching the monument for the second pass close by.

DC Councilman Jim Graham's Volkswagen convertible parked in front of the John Wilson Building.  Considering our previous encounter on the road, I was tempted to leave a note on his windshield reading, "Dear Jim, drive carefully.  Love, Ben."  Considering the way he drives, I'm amazed that he's kept the car in one piece all this time.
DC Councilman Jim Graham’s Volkswagen convertible parked in front of the John Wilson Building.  Considering our previous encounter on the road, I was tempted to leave a note on his windshield reading, “Dear Jim, drive carefully.  Love, Ben.”  Considering the way he drives, I’m amazed that he’s kept the car in one piece all this time.

In the Old Post Office tower, an old laptop is doing service as a screen showing information about the bells that live in the tower.  I thought this was a clever reuse for an older laptop.
In the Old Post Office tower, an old laptop is doing service as a screen showing information about the bells that live in the tower.  I thought this was a clever reuse for an older laptop.

The most amusing moment of the day came fairly early on as I was taking photos.  I was talking with a husband and wife, and they mentioned that they were staying at a hotel in Dupont Circle.  When I inquired further, they told me that they were staying at the Washington Hilton.  You should have seen how surprised they were when I then told them that they were staying at the hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot.  I suppose that they weren’t expecting to get that kind of history lesson during their visit.

Following the success of the daytime shoot, my intent was to complete the second half of this project, the nighttime photos, on September 28.  For that, I went down to the Mall again with the tripod in tow, along with my friend Suzie and her cousin Rocio.  We had a blast, but unfortunately, I had equipment problems that made the shoot problematic.  Specifically, the tripod that I had used broke on me (I wrote about this in October).  The photos of the Washington Monument turned out to be pretty awful to the point of being unusable.  If it tells you anything, the photos that I shot with the tripod were no better than handheld shots that I took near the end of the night.  But I did get a few photos of the outing between awful shots.

Suzie (at left) and Rocio pose with the row of people waiting in a bread line at the FDR Memorial.
Suzie (at left) and Rocio pose with the row of people waiting in a bread line at the FDR Memorial.

Suzie takes a photo at the MLK Memorial.
Suzie takes a photo at the MLK Memorial.

Even though it was clear by now that the tripod was done, I still got a few decent photos, like this one of the MLK Memorial.
Even though it was clear by now that the tripod was done, I still got a few decent photos, like this one of the MLK Memorial.

Handheld photo of the Washington Monument, taken from relatively close by.  I consider it like adding insult to injury that a handheld photo with the camera set on automatic where I didn't try very hard in shooting it came out better than any of the photos that I actually worked on and took with the tripod.
Handheld photo of the Washington Monument, taken from relatively close by.  I consider it like adding insult to injury that a handheld photo with the camera set on automatic where I didn’t try very hard in shooting it came out better than any of the photos that I actually worked on and took with the tripod.

And then at the end of the evening, I threw the tripod away.

I was going to go back fairly soon to do the shoot again (since I had planned a second nighttime shoot anyway), but then the government shutdown happened, which closed all of the memorials and such, which cut off much of the access that I needed to do the shoot.  The shutdown not only closed a lot of the places that I wanted to shoot from, but it also closed the bathrooms.  I do like being able to stop and go to the bathroom over the course of these things, and I’m not about to use a tree on the Mall.  So those plans went out the window due to lack of access.  Then when the government reopened, I had to formulate new plans.  I ended up scheduling another photo trip with Melissa and Doreen, but after we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan and then got lost trying to find the parking lot, none of us really felt like doing a photo shoot.  So that was that.

The third shoot, on November 8, was scheduled out of necessity when I found out the date that the scaffolding would start to be taken down.  I knew that if I wanted to get the photos I wanted, then it was time to act.  November 8 fit my schedule, and so I went at it.  I knew that the regular lights were lighting it rather than the special ones, and that was fine with me.  I had trouble getting good photos with the special lights, and besides, having nighttime photos with the full scaffolding lit with the regular lights would make my photos more unique.  And then I figured that if these photos didn’t turn out, I would complete the set with just the daytime photos.  I would have made it work, and the daytime photos certainly could have stood on their own, but I really wanted nighttime photos.

Thankfully, everything went well on this nighttime shoot.  I arrived on scene around 10 PM, and was at it until 4:30 AM.  Since I was doing this by myself, I took a few extra photos to amuse myself:

Long exposure photograph of the 14th Street Bridge.  This is the westmost span, i.e. the George Mason Memorial Bridge.  I shot this partly as a warmup, and partly because I really like photographing highways at night due to the headlight streaks.  I really should go out and photograph highways some night.  Could be fun.
Long exposure photograph of the 14th Street Bridge.  This is the westmost span, i.e. the George Mason Memorial Bridge.  I shot this partly as a warmup, and partly because I really like photographing highways at night due to the headlight streaks.  I really should go out and photograph highways some night.  Could be fun.

I took a lot of "meta" photos this time around, taking a photo with my cell phone of my real camera on the tripod, ready to go.  This one was taken at the Jefferson Memorial.
I took a lot of “meta” photos this time around, taking a photo with my cell phone of my real camera on the tripod, ready to go.  This one was taken at the Jefferson Memorial.

System Sensor fire alarm strobe in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  The fact that this strobe is in a big cage in a restroom kind of surprised me.  One would think that this wouldn't be the case.  Usually you see those sorts of things in gymnasiums and such where there is a higher likelihood of such devices' being struck.  A restroom does not fit into that mold.
System Sensor fire alarm strobe in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  The fact that this strobe is in a big cage in a restroom kind of surprised me.  One would think that this wouldn’t be the case.  Usually you see those sorts of things in gymnasiums and such where there is a higher likelihood of such devices’ being struck.  A restroom does not fit into that mold.

Mirror selfie in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  This was taken at around 12:20 AM.
Mirror selfie in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  This was taken at around 12:20 AM.

Another "meta" shot, this one at the Lincoln Memorial.
Another “meta” shot, this one at the Lincoln Memorial.  The statue of Lincoln is directly behind me, as was a group of drunk GW students.  Until this evening, I had no idea that it was a “thing” at GW to get drunk on a weekend night and head down to the Lincoln Memorial.  The Park Police officer who was stationed at the Lincoln Memorial was kind of glad to see me, because I’m pretty sure that I was the only sober person there other than him.  We had a great conversation.  I also found out from the drunk GW students why they have that little sign in there that says, “QUIET – RESPECT PLEASE”.  It’s not in honor of Lincoln.  Rather, you have to realize what kind of space you are in.  You are in a giant stone box that has nothing in it to absorb any sort of sound.  Thus everything echoes in there many times over.  And those drunk college students were quite loud in there.

Another "meta" shot, as I'm getting close to the monument itself.  I have no idea if the shot that I had lined up in this photo made it into the final photo set or not.
Another “meta” shot, as I’m getting close to the monument itself.  I have no idea if the shot that I had lined up in this photo made it into the final photo set or not.

Back to the car at last.  It was 4:40 AM by the time I finally finished up.
Back to the car at last.  It was 4:40 AM by the time I finally finished up.

Then on the way home, since I was going right by, I stopped over at the Walgreens in Chinatown for a look (not bad), and to get a drink.  I think I got home around 6 AM, just as it was starting to get light out again.  I slept well after that.  But I got photos that I could use, and that’s awesome.

And this was also why big photo shoots take so long to finally release.  There is a lot of weeding out to do.  First round gets rid of the irrelevant photos (i.e. the ones that have nothing to do with the subject, like these above), then I go after the obviously bad ones (e.g. blurry, cars or people in the shot, etc.), and then I have to start making harder choices, deciding between a bunch of photos that are all similar in what they show and similar in quality, and need to remove some from consideration.  That process is not fun, and that’s why it takes so long – because there’s lots to weed out.  From the daytime shoot, I pared it down from 900-some to 61.  In other words, I used roughly one out of every fifteen shots.  For the nighttime shoot, it was a little smaller, with roughly 350 photos pared down to 31, or about one in twelve.

But in any case, I’m delighted it’s done.  Now I need to plan some photo shoots for 2014.  What do you want to see me photograph in 2014?  Leave a comment and let me know!