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Photographing the Big 3

August 21, 2011

One of the most iconic photos of Washington, DC is actually taken from across the Potomac River in Rosslyn, VA near the Netherlands Carillon (read: large bell tower). From the grounds of the Carillon, you can see straight down the National Mall and the view is phenomenal.  Three of DC’s most recognizable landmarks fall into alignment; the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol.  I saw this view on postcards and on Flickr and didn’t know where to go and wasn’t sure what focal length lens I would need in order to get the picture.  I answer these questions and more in this video.




Supplemental Material


How to Get There

This gives you an idea of how to get to the Netherlands Carillon, where you can view the Big 3.  Just take the Blue or Orange Line Metro trains to Rosslyn Station and walk south. The Iwo Jima Memorial and the Carillon are hard to miss.  If you want to take sunrise pictures on the weekend you’ll have to drive.  Parking is available at the Iwo Jima Memorial (though technically you’re not supposed to park there until after 6 a.m. and even then only for 1 hour).

Framing Your Shot

To take great pictures of the Big 3 you’ll need a telephoto lens that can handle focal lengths between 150 and 300 mm.  As you can see in the picture above, 200 mm is optimal from this location because it allows you to include the full height of the Washington Monument and the full width of the scene.  You’ll also need a sturdy tripod.  A remote shutter release is helpful, but not necessary.


What:        The Big 3; The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol

Where:      Netherlands Carillon; Rosslyn, VA

When:       Before Sunrise, Sunset, and Night; Full Moon and 4th of July are a bonus


Lens:        Long Telephoto Lens (e.g., 150-300mm)

Tripod:     Definitely Need It

Flash:       Don’t Bring It

Filters:       A Circular Polarizer Can Help Bring Out Colors

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