The US Capitol at dusk
Ever since I was a child, the U.S. Capitol has been my favorite building in the world. Long before I knew its history or function, as a little girl growing up in the Washington metropolitan area, I saw it as a pretty symbol of home.
By day home to a flurry of congressional activity, the Capitol takes on a more serene facade at night. In the images below, I follow the grand structure from sunset through nightfall.
ELEMENTS: Shadow, rule of thirds, sense of place
EXPOSURE: 1/160 sec; f/7.1; ISO 100; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 18 mm
THE STORY: You can tell the sun is setting in this extreme wide shot of the Capitol, as my elongated shadow stretches across the lawn. Capitol Hill is such a busy place, but this photo gives the impression I’m the only one there.
ELEMENTS: Framing, rule of thirds, decisive moment, repetition
EXPOSURE: 1/400 sec; f/6.3; ISO 400; lens: 70-300 mm f/4.5-6.3; focal length: 300 mm
THE STORY: This was my first time experimenting with a 70-300 mm lens and I was excited by the details of the railing I could capture from so far away. I caught the officer on the left in a decisive moment, just as he passed between the bars that frame him.
ELEMENTS: Decisive moment, color, movement, emotion
EXPOSURE: 1/640 sec; f/6; ISO 1600; lens: 70-300 mm f/4.5-6.3; focal length: 260 mm
THE STORY: I was snapping photos of the Capitol’s West Front when I heard the unmistakable, happy shriek of a child behind me. I turned and saw this boy running and jumping across the lawn, his yellow-green hat and jacket standing out against the colorless winter grass. He was speedy and it took more than two dozen attempts to catch him just as he was taking off for another run — with a smile on his face.
ELEMENTS: Mood, rule of thirds
EXPOSURE: 1/250 sec; f/4; ISO 800; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 18 mm
THE STORY: The mood of this wide shot is a peculiar one. I find the bare tree in the left third of the frame harsh, even menacing. But night hasn’t completely set in yet, and the warm light coming from the Capitol’s Southern windows makes the building appear peaceful.
ELEMENTS: Repetition, linear perspective, rule of thirds
EXPOSURE: 1/320 sec; f/5.3; ISO 1600; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 48 mm
THE STORY: As the sun set, the lights and lanterns peppering the Capitol grounds flickered to life. I love the sky’s shade of twilight blue here, made more prominent by the lights’ glow. This angle also hints at other lights continuing along the East Front.
ELEMENTS: Reflection, linear perspective, rule of thirds, repetition, texture
EXPOSURE: 1/320 sec; f/4.2; ISO 6400; lens 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 30 mm
THE STORY: I love that this image combines so many photographic elements, making the hallway feel like it stretches beyond the golden elevator at the far end. The elaborate artwork filling every nook and cranny also gives warmth to a corridor whose towering ceilings may otherwise feel cold.
ELEMENTS: Rule of thirds, shadow, negative space
EXPOSURE: 1/250 sec; f/4.5; ISO 3200; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 34 mm
THE STORY: Fairfanks’ bust was not the only one in this second-floor hallway, but something about it drew my attention — perhaps his commanding mustache. The negative space at left draws the eye immediately to the effigy of the former vice president. When viewed from this angle, it appears Fairbanks is looking at something, which makes the image more powerful than if it had featured the bust head-on. The shadow adds spooky depth.
ELEMENTS: Silhouette, mood
EXPOSURE: 1/250 sec; f/3.5; ISO 12800; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 18 mm
THE STORY: As I roamed the corridors of Capitol’s second floor, I came upon an elaborate staircase that led back down to the first floor. At first I was struck by its fanged snake that coiled beneath a deer. Then, I spotted the cherubs that bookended a large eagle. For this tight shot, I crouched in the middle of the staircase, which was so dimly lit even a high ISO rendered this silhouette. I feel the resulting orange glow makes the eagle look both eerie and majestic.
ELEMENTS: Leading lines, graphic/abstract, rule of thirds
EXPOSURE: 1/250 sec; f/3.5; ISO 6400; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 18 mm
THE STORY: In case your eyes don’t naturally follow the literal leading lines of pipes and wires along the basement ceiling, I love that the old-fashioned graphic in a sense commands you to do so. The neon blue light in the left third of the frame — from a row of vending machines — also gives a fun pop of color.
ELEMENTS: Linear perspective, movement, framing, leading lines, reflection, shadow
EXPOSURE: 1/250 sec; f/4.5; ISO 6400; lens: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6; focal length: 35 mm
THE STORY: This snap captures two of the Capitol’s three subway systems. The train on the left is heading toward the Russell Senate Office Building, while the train on the far right is speeding to the Senate office buildings of Dirksen and Hart.