National Capitol Columns Sunset

January 22, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

One of the less frequented but very picturesque places in Washington, DC, is the National Arboretum. I'm quite taken with the Arboretum, having visited numerous times to take landscape photographs. My favorite feature may have to be a monument called the "National Capitol Columns".

Photo by John Baggaley of a sunset with a silhouette of the National Capitol Columns in the National Arboretum, Washington, DC.Sunset with a silhouette of the National Capitol Columns The National Capitol Columns consists of 22 Corinthian columns submerged in 20 acres of open meadow, known as "Ellipse Meadow". The columns were originally built as part of the east portico of the Capitol in 1828, long before the Capitol dome as we know it today was completed in 1866. When it was completed, the dome was significantly larger than the dome the columns were designed for and it looked like the columns couldn't hold the new larger dome. In 1958, an addition to the east side of the Capitol was constructed as a remedy and the old columns were removed. In the 1980s, the old columns were transferred out of storage and placed in the National Arboretum. "National Capitol Columns." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 January 2012. Web. 18 November 2011.

The Capitol Columns in the National Arboretum, Washington, DC, at sunset.Sunset with a silhouette of the National Capitol Columns 2

I find the idea of Corinthian columns standing isolated in a large meadow quite striking. At first, I was quite surprised that I haven't seen many iconic photos of the columns. However, after trying to photograph the columns myself, I've found that it's harder than one would think. Just because something is pretty doesn't mean every photo of that thing will be pretty.

The best time to take a landscape photo is usually shortly before or after sunrise or sunset. That's when the lighting is most interesting. Taking landscape photos in the middle of the day can produce harsh shadows and bleached colors. Unfortunately, visiting hours at the Arboretum are between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., which precludes taking sunrise photos of the columns. It's only in the dead of winter than the sun sets close to 5 p.m. and that doesn't give a photographer much flexibility.

The Capitol Columns in the National Arboretum, Washington, DC, at sunset.Columns holding up the sky

I've made numerous trips to the Arboretum to shoot the columns and been quite frustrated. Besides the hours, I've run into additional difficulties. Since it's winter and we have no snow, the meadow around the columns doesn't make for a very exciting background. That means instead of filling the frame with columns and meadow, I have to fill the frame with sky and columns. However, getting the right kind of sky requires some patience. Clear skies just won't do and my schedule doesn't allow me to go out shooting whenever I want. The weather isn't something you can plan for far enough in advance to schedule time off work, so getting that perfect shot is very hard. To get these shots, I had to watch the skies and bide my time, waiting for that perfect moment when both the sky was filled with broken clouds and I had the time to spare. I think here, my patience and persistence paid off.

 

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