Picture This: Personal Historians in Washington, DC

If my husband, Ed, is out early in the morning or late at night I’m not too surprised because I know he is looking for a special photo opportunity in downtown Washington, DC. Catching the Jefferson Memorial in a ring of car lights or the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial as the sun rises is a goal worth losing sleep over.

“I call Washington the City of Lights,” says Ed Pien. “The golden hour is the first or last sunlight of the day.  But he notes that hobbyists and professional photographers alike can find a treasure trove at any time of day or night.

Members of the Association of Personal Historians who are visiting DC for the annual conference, Capital Reflections (November 8–12, 2013) will want to bring their cameras, as photo ops abound.

The National Mall is a feast for photographers, featuring our most famous monuments together in an expansive public space—a dramatic shift from the 19th century concept where heroic status are featured individually in traffic circles and parks.  And even if you’ve been to Washington, DC, before, there’s always a new memorial to see.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is the newest, just dedicated in 2011. You can get a unique view of the Jefferson Memorial though the space between the “Stone of Hope” and the “Mountain of Despair.”

The Pentagon Memorial, in remembrance of the events of 9/11, was dedicated in 2008.

The World War II Memorial, dedicated in 2004, is an emotional site as aging World War II Veterans visit before time runs out.



Even at memorials that have been around for some time, you can always find a new perspective. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, you can capture photos of visitors carefully touching the names of loved ones on the wall and their reflections in the shiny granite.

Experience the Lincoln Memorial the way Martin Luther King did during the March on Washington, which  celebrated its 50th anniversary in August. As he gave what is known as his “I have a Dream” speech, he looked out over the reflecting pool towards the Capitol.  At the expansive FDR memorial, you can join the five Depression-era men featured in the “Breadline” statue for a photo op.

The National Cathedral, open since 1912, is a “must see,” says Pien.  “Even though the cathedral is undergoing renovation from the 2011 earthquake, you can still capture the gargoyles and spires.  And the observation deck offers sweeping views of the city.”  In fact, you can see 112 gargoyles and 231 stained glass windows as well as a moon rock in the “Space Window” and a sculpture of Darth Vader on top of the Cathedral’s west tower.

Arlington National Cemetery, established during the Civil War, is the final resting place for 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. This is a very emotional place to take photographs, with horse-drawn caissons carrying flag-draped caskets a common site, rows of tombstones and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is the resting place for many well-known figures, including President John F. Kennedy and his brothers Robert and Edward. Adjacent to the cemetery is the Marine Corps War Memorial, the iconic statue of soldiers raising the flag over Iwo Jima during World War II.

If you have more time, these sites also make great photos:

  • The colors and architecture of the row houses in Georgetown
  • The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
  • The pandas at The National Zoo
  • The National Gallery Sculpture Garden

Need a rest from being behind the lens? The National Geographic Museum features the work of famous wildlife photographers. Also check out the Pulitzer-prize winning images at the Newseum, which features five centuries of news history, and offers the added bonus of a top-level terrace with a stunning vista of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall.

~APH: Life, Stories, People~

About today’s contributor: Dani Schor is a rare Washington, DC native. She looks forward to welcoming her colleagues to her city for Capital Reflections, the annual international conference of the Association of Personal Historians, November 8-12, 2013. Dani’s personal history business is Personal Story Keeper. She has more than twenty-five years of writing and public affairs experience. 

Photos by Edward H. Pien – EHPIEN on Flickr. Used with permission.

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5 Responses to Picture This: Personal Historians in Washington, DC

  1. Pat McNees says:

    Ed himself is also a treat. Will he be on display, Dani?

  2. Fran Morley says:

    I would love to go on a photo walk with Ed, Dani. He has a remarkable eye. Will he be doing anything like this for attendees at the conference? It’s always fun to take photos in a new area with someone who knows where all the great angles can be found! :)

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