I flew over a day early, on the Sunday, to have a full day free on the Monday. I woke at 5.45am, but didn't yet have a tripod so couldn't take advantage of the fact. I ironed my clothes (I pack them in vacuum-pack bags, which condenses them to a very thin package but leaves them in urgent need of the attentions of an iron), googled some locations and had an early breakfast.

The more civilised hours of the morning were spent sightseeing. My hotel was conveniently situated for this, four blocks from one of the better addresses in the neighbourhood.

I'm sure people carrying large objects that they stick through the railings of the White House must make the Secret Service nervous, but nobody arrested or shot me.

The Washington Mall area has more Neoclassical architecture than you can shake a stick at.

But I didn't take too many photos of the architecture, as I had plans for it later.

I wandered over to the Washington Monument.

It's an incredibly impressive structure up-close: you don't really get the scale (500 feet high) until you are within half a mile or so.

Tickets are free, but are timed, and you have to get them early-ish in the day as they are snapped-up quickly. Sunset was at 7.30pm, so I got mine for the 6.30pm entry as I wasn't sure how much queuing might be involved (once at the top, you can stay as long as you like).

For the afternoon, I'd arranged a shoot with a couple of local models, Jadee (the brunette) and Elizabeth (the blonde). We basically walked up one side of the Mall and back down the other, shooting at various locations along the way. It was a lot of walking, but a lot of fun.

We were only accosted by security guards twice, and both were content with a friendly wave and an exit in return, which I didn't think was a bad record given where we were.

Both models were great sports, enthusiastically throwing themselves into the shoot no matter how many steps I made them climb!

I'd had a mad thought about a sunrise sihouette shoot at the Reflecting Pool. Sunrise was early, so this would mean a 5.45am start! Jadee declared herself game, as did a third model, so we called it an official plan. I took a quick reference shot, just to show Jadee what I had in mind.

I needn't have worried about queues for the Washington Monument: we were admitted 20 minutes early, and a few minutes after that we were at the observation deck at the top, which left about an hour and a quarter before sunset.

It has to be said that the observation deck isn't ideal for photography. There are just eight very small windows (two per side), and only two people at a time can look through them. The glass, too, is absolutely filthy.

It does, though, give excellent views of all the main sights, and provided an opportunity for my now-traditional fake tilt-and-shift shot:

Tripods are understandably not allowed, so I wasn't expecting to get any prize-winning shots (especially through that murky glass), but the D3 does at least allow the ISO to be bumped-up for handheld shots. I had an enjoyable time watching the sun set, and chatting with other visitors. This was the best shot I could manage:

A good way to round off the day.


I was working in the morning, then took the Metro out to the Pentagon as I wanted to see the US Air Force Memorial, an amazing-looking giant metal sculpture.

Washington Metro stations are strange places: they all look identical, and they appear to be lit by a single 75w lightbulb.

I stopped off at the Pentagon Memorial, a rather beautiful commemoration of the 184 people killed in the 9/11 attack. It comprises 184 benches engraved with the names of the victims. The benches are arranged such that you stand facing the Pentagon wall hit when reading the names of those who were killed in the Pentagon, and facing out along the flightpath when reading the names of those killed on board the plane.

The US Air Force Memorial comprises three huge sweeping curves of stainless steel, the tallest of which is 270 feet. The design replicates a 'bomb-blast' flying display pattern performed by the US Air Force Thunderbird team (the USAF equivalent of the Red Arrows). It's a very, very spectacular piece of sculpture, and is a must-visit if you find yourself in Washington.

Heading back, I saw that Washington has its own equivalent of the Boris Bikes scheme. The existing scheme has just 100 bikes and 10 docking stations, but there are plans to expand this to 1000 bikes and 100 stations by the autumn.

The existing bikes look a bit crude, but are being replaced. It's amazing value for money, though: $40/year membership and no usage charges at all! I suspect the new scheme may be more expensive.

I headed down to the Lincoln Memorial shortly before sunset.

Getting a wide-angle shot inside the memorial with no people in view at 7pm on a gorgeous day requires a certain amount of patience! What the hell is it with people wanting photos of themselves stood in front of stuff?

I listened to a surprisingly interesting talk, then walked down the reflecting pool to wait for sunset. It wasn't a spectacular one, but pretty enough.

And, looking the opposite direction, the Washington Monument across the WW2 memorial:

Finally, I walked to the Capitol, which seemed a longer walk than when we did it on the model shoot!

(I would have photographed the Jefferson Memorial too, across the lake, but they are doing work there, so it's surrounded by fences and cranes.)


Only had a couple of hours to spare, so paid a quick visit to the Smithsonian. Really I could have spent the day there.

I'm not sure what the stats would be for women, but I don't think there's a man on the planet who doesn't harbour a secret astronaut fantasy. The Smithsonian has big space toys:

The business end of a Saturn rocket:

What I assumed was a full-sized mockup of Skylab you can walk through, but actually turns out to have been a fully-working version!

Medium-sized space toys:

But the small pieces of memorabilia are somehow even more impressive, perhaps because we've seen quite a lot of the big stuff either elsewhere or at least in photos.

There's of course lots of other aeronautical porn. Cockpits, from the elderly (DC-7) ...

... through the middle-aged (747) ...

... to the modern: Airbus glass cockpit, rather cleverly hooked-up to what looks like Microsoft Flight Simulator so you can watch a virtual take-off, circuit and landing at Washington National, with instruments and flight controls reflecting actual inputs and outputs.

Old and new are all side-by-side:

Along with satellites, missiles and drones.

Back past the sculpture I'd used as a setting for one of the model shots:

Since Arlington was only a couple of stops on the Metro, I paid a quick visit. I blame Lesley's influence. The scale of it is hard to comprehend and impossible to capture.

Most people seemed to be heading straight to Kennedy's grave:

Then back to the hotel for an early-ish night as I had to be up at 05:15 for a sunrise shoot ...


Yes, I really did get up at 05:15, and Jadee and I bade each other a bleary good morning at 05:45.

We were at the Lincoln Memorial by 6am, so took a few shots on the memorial itself while awaiting sunrise.

I might have had to drag myself out of bed at an ungoldly hour, but Jadee had to get up even earlier and be out in the cool morning air wearing only a leotard. I think photographers get the better side of the deal!

We said good morning to Mr Lincoln:

And then the main shoot:

It was absolutely worth it!

We grabbed a cup of coffee while waiting for breakfast places to open (not an experience I have often), then Jadee took me to a great little deli breakfast place tucked in a basement for one of the best bacon sandwiches I've had for quite some time.

And that was Washington (well, apart from the quick trip to Georgetown to replace the shirt my hotel laundry lost, but as they cheerfully paid for a replacement and the cab rides, I'll forgive them).