When the alarm went off at 5:20 A.M., I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
The weather forecast said clear skies, and the sun would be up a little before six. This all seemed brilliant the night before. Now, being confronted with the early hour, I wasn’t sure.
Since I started my 365 photo project, I’ve been trying to get creative and take pictures of new and different things. What better new and different thing than to shoot pictures in the National Mall at sunrise?
And this morning I was going to be a real photographer. I was going to work in the Golden Hour. I was going to stalk a photo the way hunters stalk prey. The way fraternity boys stalk sorority girls. Or something like that.
I had one shot I wanted above all others. I wanted to shoot the memorial marker of where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The day before, I shot I that spot, looking down the mall at the Washington Monument. I wasn’t totally thrilled with the results. It was fine. I imagined looking east into the morning light, the shot would be spectacular.
It would be a 50 minute hike from my hotel at 11th and L. I considered a taxi, but wasn’t sure what I might miss on the journey.
Also, I was pretty sure a real photographer would not cab it down to the Lincoln Memorial.
At 5:30 in the morning, I practically had DC to myself. There were lots of runners and many birds chirping. I passed a small park that was lined with park benches, and each one had a homeless person sleeping on it. I briefly flirted with the idea of snapping some shots, but decided against it in case I might offend someone. Not the actions of a real photographer. I still have lessons to learn.
My first stop was the south side of the White House. The past two times I’ve been to the White House, it’s been packed with people. At just before six, it was just me and the security guard.
I looked at the sky, and could see the sun was coming up. I checked my Mr. Sun app to find out when it would be up. I began to get disappointed because the light wasn’t doing the amazing things I had hoped. This was sunrise? Where the hell was the gorgeous light I had promised myself would be there? Had I missed the best light? The sun was up. Wasn’t this now the Golden Hour?
I crossed to the other side of the White House. The Washington Monument was now bathed in a warm glow from the sun. I had to hurry.
I walked onto the Mall trying to get a good position and perhaps get a good shot of the Washington. By the time I was in a good position, the light had changed. This was going to be work being a real photographer.
I turned toward the World War II memorial, thinking that morning light would look great on the dancing waters. By the time I got there, the sun got above the low clouds and was looking great. There was a boot camp fitness class doing calisthenics right at the WWII memorial. Pushups, jogs around the grounds, sit ups. I though what a great location for a group work out. It was much better than the dome in Anchorage. I snapped a few shots, but felt like I was wasting time.
From the WWII memorial, I spotted my prey–the Lincoln Memorial.
I’m not sure what it is about those columns and marble. A friend of mine after seeing my many Facebook posts about being there texted and asked me if i had moved in.
There is something so stirring, moving about being there. I’ve been there three times, and each time has been different. The first time, it was full of people, and no one spoke it was so quiet and reverent. I’ve now seen it at midday, at night, and now in the morning. I can’t explain it. It touches a part of my spirit that knows amazing things can happen by the will of a single person.
At this point, I began to wonder if I would get the shot I wanted. Already the memorial was glowing at the far end of the empty reflecting pool. How much longer would it look like that?
I walked to the north side of the mall, only to find workers blocking the most direct path to the memorial. I detoured toward Constitution Pond. It was full of ducks tipping up in the now beautiful morning light. Runners were passing me going down the mall. I was impressed with these men and women, and envied them their morning runs through the spectacular scenery of Washington DC.
As I neared the end of the Mall. I saw the ebony gash of the Vietnam Memorial. I toyed with taking a few shots, but I still wanted to get to the Lincoln. Through the sense tree tops, I began to see the glowing form of the Memorial.
It really was spectacular in the morning sun. And it was quiet. This was the first time I got to be here on my own. Runners made their circuits up and down the stairs. Most would pause briefly at the top and take a moment to pay a quiet homage to the seated figure looking east.
I found the spot where MLK stood as he gave his most famous speech. In the glorious light, I imagined the mall filled with crowds. It was on that spot right in front of me. I became a little emotional.
When i got my shot, I sat in a tired, emotional, and energized silence on the steps.
This was what it felt like to be a real photographer.
The sun was going to give me another treat. As it headed skyward, it was slowly coming around and going to shine between two of the massive columns right on the seated statue of Lincoln. It would be an amazing shot.
I waited patiently-like a real photographer would.
Then the sun went into some clouds. The light diffused and eventually the stark light vanished. I was thwarted for that shot.
But I got the shot I wanted.
I did see what I thought was a real photographer. He had a big lens and an enormous tripod. I wanted to talk to him and see what he was shooting. I didn’t. We each had our reasons for being there, our prey. I got my shot.
I hope he got his.
The shot below was done with my iPhone. Since I’m traveling, I can’t upload from my DSLR very easily.