Hidden Gem #2

For a variety of reasons, I cannot get out this week to photograph, so I will contrive a virtual trip that could have been. This is the week I should be going back to one of my favorite places, the Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial.  The memorial is an elegant sculpture cast in aluminum and located on the Virginia side of the Potomac just north of the 14th Street Bridge.    It’s another one of those hidden gems, despite the fact that it is less than 100 feet away and in plain sight of thousands of commuters driving by each day.

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Afternoon Light, Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial, 2012

Until a few years ago, I was like those commuters driving by the memorial, seeing it but not really… seeing it.  Then, when I opened my new copy of James W. Goode’s “Washington Sculpture,” the first photograph in the book was a wonderful composition of the memorial’s foaming waves and flying seagulls. (I should note that Goode’s book is the ultimate go-to reference source for information about outdoor sculpture in DC.)  I knew immediately that I would be going there with my camera.

The past few days have been classic April in Washington—crystal blue skies and cool temperatures—and  I imagine that this virtual journey would start with a sunrise shot.  That means we have to be there before 6:15 AM and if all goes well, the scene will look like the image below.

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Sunrise, Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial, 2010

The memorial shows seven seagulls over a breaking wave to honor American military personnel and civilians of the Merchant Marine who died at sea in World War I.  It was originally designed in 1922 by Ernesto Begni del Piatta and dedicated in 1934.  (James Goode, p.700)  The image above was photographed with a Nikon D700 on tripod with a 24-50mm f/3.3-5.6 lens set at 35mm.  Exposure: 1/40th sec @ f/25, ISO 200.  Adjustments in Camera Raw and Photoshop corrected the underexposed tulips.

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Morning Light, Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial, 2010

By midmorning, the light provides new opportunities such as a close-up of portions of the sculpture. The image above was photographed handheld with a Nikon D700 with a 24-50mm f/3.3-5.6 lens set at 24mm.  Four Exposures: 1/250th sec @ f/8, ISO 400.  Final image created with photomerge process in Photoshop. 

 The memorial is on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, but it is actually within the boundaries of Washington, DC.  It is located on Columbia Island which is separated from Virginia by a narrow boundary channel.  The easiest way to get there is to drive south on the George Washington Parkway, turn right into the parking for the Columbia Marina and park at the south end of the lot.  There is a paved pathway that will take you under the Humpback Bridge and to the base of the memorial. 

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Late Afternoon, Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial, 2012

If everything goes perfectly, some dramatic clouds will appear in the afternoon, making it possible to produce a more interesting image of the entire scene.  The image above was captured in the late afternoon, suggesting the possibility of an approaching storm.  The image above was photographed with a Nikon D700 on tripod with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens set at 27mm.  Four Exposures: 1/40th sec @ f/8, ISO 400.  Final image created with photomerge process in Photoshop. 

 

The dedication plaque (shown in the photo below) seems to include a wider range of individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice, not necessarily restricted to armed conflicts:

TO
THE STRONG SOULS AND READY VALOR
OF THOSE MEN OF
THE UNITED STATES
WHO IN THE NAVY THE MERCHANT MARINE
AND OTHER PATHS OF ACTIVITY
UPON THE WATERS OF THE WORLD
HAVE GIVEN LIFE OR STILL OFFER IT
IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HEROIC DEEDS
THIS MONUMENT IS DEDICATED
BY A GRATEFUL PEOPLE

I recall the day when the Space Shuttle Discovery was flown over Washington on the back of its 747 transport jet enroute to the National Air and Space Museum Building at Dulles Airport.  I thought the best place for a photo of the event would be here and so I went down in the hopes of getting lucky.  In its third and final pass over the city, it happened exactly as I had hoped.

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Space Shuttle Discovery, April 17, 2012

The Navy and Merchant Marine Memorial looks like it would also be a good subject for nighttime photography. But that will be the subject of a future post.

9 thoughts on “Hidden Gem #2

  1. Your photos of this sculpture were all jaw-droppingly beautiful, Robin, but the final one that included the Space Shuttle floored me. Your planning and preparation put you in a class of one.

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  2. These photos are lovely as always, I especially love the 2nd photo capturing the total scene in a wide shot (I think that’s the right term).

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  3. Robin, thanks for bringing this sculpture to life for me. I have spent two decades driving up and down the GW, passing this countless times. Now I see what I’ve been missing. Your shots are wonderful – I especially like the sunrise scene (the orange/yellow of the sky is a lovely counterpoint to the tulips) and the color and drama of the wide angle shot. I’m looking forward to your nighttime post!

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  4. Hi, Stacy: Thanks for the comments. It’s an easy thing to miss, I know from experience. And before they renovated the humpback bridge and added the pedestrian underpass, it was extremely difficult to get to it. You could park at Columbia Marina and risk a dash across the parkway which involved negotiating the guardrail in the median strip or taking a several mile walk or bike ride on the Mount Vernon Trail or driving into DC, parking near the 14th Street bridge not far from the Jefferson Memorial and walking across the 14th street bridge. Now it’s really easy.

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