Washington DC Day 1: A Monumental Adventure

Whereas 2016 was the year of international travel for me, I've spent 2017 exploring cities a little "closer" to home. Initially, I got the idea to spend a weekend in the nation's capital because I wanted to take advantage of Allegiant's new direct flights out of Asheville (the reason for my NYC trip in February) but I also wanted to make it a girls' weekend with my mom. As this [$87 round trip] flight would've landed us at BWI and we'd planned to stay with family in South Riding, VA, we would've had to take a 2.5 hour metro trek from the airport to their home (totally worth it to me!) but in the end we decided to simply fly out of Knoxville and pay more. So, from the outset, the trip was shaping up to be different than I'd originally planned and this was only the first of many surprises!

As I had a photo shoot planned for the evening, we decided to spend our first full day in the city sans agenda, simply taking in the sites and figuring out what we wanted to do on our other city days. Since this is generally how I begin every trip, this suited me just fine because it gave me a good feel of the city and how to capture it, particularly deciding which lens to primarily keep on my camera. To capture the breadth and scale of pretty much everything here, I've almost exclusively kept my wide angle on-camera. 

A few things that hit me immediately in comparing this area to other cities I've visited in the last few years: the streets are very clean, the traffic lights are long, the bike lanes are in the center and (at least on non-summer weekends) it's very quiet. Well, quiet save for the pervasive tunes of the ice cream trucks. All but the last of these things made for a very pleasant walk from the metro to the Capitol building, particularly as the light breeze and overcast sky kept us cool.

Because we'd spent the morning enjoying a lazy breakfast and then the trip into the city center had taken so long, we only had a few hours to explore so we went straight for the iconic buildings so I could grab a few shots. We spent probably an hour walking around the Capitol building, taking it in from all angles. While the non-peopled, non-construction photos are pretty, I spent more time watching tourists interact with the landmark. Also interesting, and this is the case with many iconic buildings, though we see photos of pristine structures in beautiful light looking serene and dignified, they're almost constantly under construction or restoration in some form and the Capitol building was no exception. Rather than blindly photographing the stately beauty, I wanted to capture the more unsightly views as commentary of the current climate.  

We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a delicious home cooked meal and planning out our two museum days before crashing early. As today is rest day at the house, I won't have any photos to share, but tomorrow's marathon day at the Newseum and National Portrait Gallery should be interesting!  

After getting our fill there, we made our way to the National Mall to eat the sandwiches we'd packed and then moseyed down the pathway towards the Washington Monument. Strangely (or not), I had Hamilton songs playing in my head the whole time. As we were running low on time and getting close to our deadline to catch the metro back, we quickly circled the monument and passed through a kickball (or something!) tournament to get to the World War II memorial. The juxtaposition of solemnity at the memorials and jubilation in the athletic competition was rather bizarre and once again made me hone in on how other people reacted to the memorial. There were certainly plenty of tears - and rightly so - but there were also a significant number of people playing around. Though I'm not exactly the most patriotic person, this gave me an odd feeling while trying to capture the essence of the scene. 

However, in constructing this memorial (and many others, it seems) the architects and builders apparently took potential raucous behavior into account as the extensive use of flowing water drowned out almost all other noise. At first, I thought this might be overwhelming, but as we circumambulated the structures, the rushing sound became meditative, drowning out all other noise and nullifying my sense of hearing, thus heightening my senses of sight and touch to better appreciate the enormity of meaning behind the memorial.

And, on a more selfish note, the water created a perfect framing mechanism to photograph the surrounding monuments!

As we made our way back towards the metro, Mom remarked that everyone there looked very "mainstream," no one stood out because of crazy hair or piercings or tattoos. Well, and then there was me. And THEN there was this gorgeous queen and I felt instantly more at home.  

The biggest surprise of all came only minutes after we'd first arrived at the house: my cousin only hours earlier had gotten engaged! Her boyfriend - who lives in the Dominican Republic - had flown here to surprise her at what she thought was a night out with her parents and immediately got down on one knee when he saw her. Though she was certainly the most surprised of all of us, I was not far behind as the session I had planned to shoot while here was exchanged for an engagement shoot! 

When we returned from our day of exploration, I repacked my camera back and set off for the Mannassas National Battlefield Park. I won't say much about the shoot now as I don't want to spoil anything for their full session post, but this was one of the most relaxed, simple and sweet sessions I've done to date, and that's saying a lot! It only made me more excited to shoot their January wedding.