Washington, D.C.: 5 Best Places for Photography

The Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season. Frommers.com Community
By Beth Rubin

Forget your itinerary, forget your underwear, but don't forget your camera when visiting Washington, D.C. Whether you shoot from above, below, or head on, you can't lose when it comes to these five best places to take photos in D.C.

As you make your way around the city from dawn to dusk, keep these photography tips in mind:

Time it right. The pros say the best conditions are an hour after sunrise or half an hour before sunset.

Keep your camera handy, not buried at the bottom of a stuffed-to-groaning backpack. If you have to rummage, you may miss the shot of a lifetime

Carry a small point-and-shoot in case the big gun misfires. Even a throwaway camera makes a satisfactory backup. Zip it in a jacket or cargo pants pocket for easy access.

This may not endear you to Vogue or Elle, but wear a sturdy strap bandolier-style. It distributes the camera weight and makes it nearly impossible for someone to snatch it.

Photo Caption: The Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season. The annual National Cherry Blossom festival is scheduled for March 20 to April 14, 2013. Photo by bluiz2/Frommers.com Community
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The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Frommers.com Community
Earmark two or more hours to visit and take photos of the Jefferson and FDR memorials during a stroll around the Tidal Basin (south end of 15th St. SW in West Potomac Park). If the cherry blossoms are blooming, all the better.

If you have the equipment, the Jefferson Memorial at night is heart-stopping.
For a different perspective, rent a paddle boat in the spring, summer, or fall.

Some of the best shots of the Washington Monument are from the FDR Memorial. It's a lot more comfortable than lying on your back on the monument grounds as you try to cram in the obelisk's 555 feet and 5 inches into your shot.

Info: www.tidalbasinpaddleboats.com; free to look; there's a fee for the paddle boats (open mid-March to October).

How to Get There: Metro to Smithsonian (Independence Ave. exit) then a 12-minute walk.

Photo Caption: The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Michael Kandel/Frommers.com Community
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The Lincoln Memorial at dusk. Frommers.com Community
The Daniel French sculpture of our nation's 16th president -- carved from 28 blocks of marble and four years in the making -- is awe-inspiring. When you're done capturing Lincoln and Henry Bacon's magnificent memorial, aim for the Washington Monument and a view of the U.S. Capitol. Come at sunset. If you're not subject to vertigo, take the elevator to the top for sweeping panoramas. There are timed entry tickets at peak times.

UPDATE: The Washington Monument is currently closed to visitors after an Aug. 2011 earthquake, but the iconic landmark still makes a fantastic photo op. The reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial is under construction and is expected to reopen in late Summer 2012.

Info: www.nps.gov/linc; head to the west side of the National Mall, 23rd St. NW between Constitution and Independence Avenues.

How to Get There: Metro to Foggy Bottom, then a 10-minute walk.

Photo Caption: The Lincoln Memorial at dusk. Photo by Yvonne Baur/Frommers.com Community
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The Georgetown waterfront. wallyg
The scenic promenade on the Potomac River adjacent to Sequoia restaurant, in the Washington Harbour complex at 3000 K St. NW, is primo for capturing Watergate, the Kennedy Center, and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Hungry? Reserve a window table at Sequoia (www.sequoiadc.com) and feast on the view through the glass curtain walls.

How to Get There: Metro to Foggy Bottom then the Circulator bus to 30th St. and K St. (or a 15-minute walk).

Photo Caption: The Washington Harbour complex along the Georgetown waterfront. Photo by wallyg/Flickr.com
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Dupont Circle, one of D.C.'s gathering places. elmada
If you like to photograph people, come to D.C.'s take on New York's Washington Square, where you'll encounter a diverse mix mostly devoid of dark-suited policy wonks and pols. The park attracts families, locals, musicians, eccentrics, and artistic types. Chess games are big, as are impromptu concerts.

Things don't get any more colorful than the fresh produce and flowers sold at the Dupont Circle farmers' market on Sundays year-round (1500 block of 20th St, between Mass. Ave. and Q St.).

Info: www.freshfarmmarket.org

How to Get There: Metro to Dupont Circle

Photo Caption: Dupont Circle, one of D.C.'s gathering places. Photo by elmada/Flickr.com
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National Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum. Frommers.com Community
The National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave. NE) is not the easiest place to reach, but it's well worth the taxi fare. The first time I encountered the columns, salvaged during 1959 renovations to the Capitol's east portico and transplanted here, I thought I was hallucinating. Monumental doesn't begin to describe them.

Even without the columns, the nearly 500-acre National Arboretum is nirvana for shutterbugs. In spring, the tulips and azaleas take over. Seasonal flower beds enchant from spring through fall, and the National Bonsai Collection delights year-round. Unless you're up for walking miles, hop on an open-air tram departing several times daily from the administration building.

Info: www.usna.usda.gov; free admission; fee for tram.

How to Get There: Metro to Union Station, then taxi.

Photo Caption: National Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum. Photo by jeska706/Frommers.com Community
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