Washington, DC—August Scouting Report

Breaking News:  Local readers, photographers or not, should take into account that this coming Monday to Wednesday (August 4-6) could be somewhat chaotic in downtown Washington as the leaders of 40- 50 African nations will be here for a summit meeting.

OK, back to our normal programming:

Yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to zip down to the city and check out the status of possible shooting locations.  The weather was cloudy and it looked like we might get a shower or two, so the prospects for actually stopping and doing some serious photography seemed remote.  I almost didn’t take my camera, but a Little Voice said: “You might be sorry.”

As it turned out, the Little Voice was right.  My first stop was Union Station which is still undergoing a massive interior renovation started months ago.  The first sight when you walk in the front entrance is a mass of scaffolding, huge tarpaulins, and netting to protect pedestrians from falling debris.  (See image below)

Union Station 2801

 Union Station Washington, DC Under Renovation

But then I turned left and I was already glad that I had brought the camera. The west wing of the Waiting Area was free of construction and the station’s famous centurions were on duty and alert.  Be aware, however, that there is a strict prohibition on tripods at Union Station, so one needs a high ISO and a wide aperture, especially on a cloudy day. (Technical Data: hand held Nikon D800E with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 45mm; Exposure 1/125th sec @f2.8, EV= -0.67, ISO 800).  Three images, photomerged.

Union Station D-14-08-02-2768_71 PAN

 The Centurions of Union Station

Over at the Supreme Court, a new repair project has just begun.  The Capitol Police officer on duty told me that this set of scaffolding had just gone up this week.

US Supreme Court 2622

 Yet Another Renovation at the Supreme Court

Next stop: The U.S. Capitol Building.  The long awaited and much-needed repair of the Capitol Dome is now underway and the scaffolding is being erected now.  On the positive side, Congress is on recess and the shallow reflecting pools on the eastern plaza have been repaired and the water is running again (See image below).

US CApitol 2836

 US Capitol, East Plaza

 Photographers that want to include the dome will have to accept the presence of scaffolding for perhaps the next two years.  (See the list of the end of this post for details on the situation around the Capitol.)  But there is a positive side: it makes one think about different approaches as exemplified by the image below.

US Capitol D-14-08-02-2807_08 PAN

The US Capitol, View from South Side

 And down the hill on the western side of the Capitol, the flowers around the base of the James Garfield statue are looking great.  I couldn’t resist this image, even with the scaffolding in full view.

US Capitol D-14-08-02-2860_61 and 65 PAN

James A. Garfield Statue and US Capitol

 The following summarizes my observations on the drive:

Good news:

  • A lot of the fountains are running, including those in front of the American History Museum, the Library of Congress (Court of Neptune), Senate Garage Fountains, Supreme Court fountains, the Bartholdi Park fountain, the Haupt Fountains on Constitution Avenue across from the German Friendship Garden and most of those at the World War II Memorial (But see the Bad News Below).
  • Almost all of the scaffolding has been removed from the renovation project at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. (But see the Bad News below)
  • The eastern plaza of the US Capitol Building is no longer a parking lot (as it was on Thursday) for Congressional VIPS as they have departed for the August recess. The reflection pools surrounding the two main skylights for the underground visitor center are back up and running and there must have been a bump up in the gardening budget because the flowers around the Capitol are looking better than I have seen in a long time.
  • The National Park Service Tulip Library, located near the Tidal Basin at Independence Avenue and Maine Avenue, is well past the tulip season. But the annuals that were planted after the tulip bulbs were removed are looking good.  And it appears that an ugly wooden fence right across the street (ruining any possibility of combining these flowers with the Washington Monument) is in the process of being removed.  I have been hating this fence since I first saw it 7 years ago.

Bad news:

  • The work on the western wall (Freedom Wall) of the World War II Memorial is still not completed.
  • Although the renovation of the Arts and Industries Building is complete, there are no plans to open it due to a lack of funds. So there may be some minor gates and barriers to prevent people from entering the space.
  • The US Capitol dome project includes a large construction support zone on the northwest sector of the grounds and a lot of netting inside the dome. Tours are still ongoing.
  • The Supreme Court front entrance now has scaffolding for a new project.
  • The impressively tall fountain (name unknown to me) at the intersection of 20th and C St. NW is not running.
  • And, not surprisingly, the Columbus Fountain at Union Station continues its 10-year-plus streak of neglect, despite a recent renovation of the entire plaza surrounding it.

12 thoughts on “Washington, DC—August Scouting Report

  1. Great batch of photographs. I’ve been learning that I should take my lens with me, even on a mundane day! And a great post, makes me wish I was living in Washington so I could take advantage of all this advice.

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    • Thanks so much for the comments. And maybe you will visit Washington someday so you never know. But I think you’re right about trying to always have a camera with you. I have to work on that.

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  2. Great post ~ I enjoyed reading about all the updates. I’ve heard the warnings about traffic and possible road closures due to the African Leaders Summit ~ I was hoping to avoid it but unfortunately I have to be at American U. on Wednesday. Would take the metro BUT I’ve got to transport heavy items.

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  3. Wow, Robin, you did a lot of research for this post. As usual, lots of construction in the capital, and political gatherings! I am wondering if it’s possible to do some re-construction of some of our politician’s brains? It’s not just the buildings that need rehab, if you ask me 🙂

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  4. Robin, I love the symmetry in your capture from Union Station, and how the summer blooms brighten up the grey canvas behind the US Capitol shots. Your work from DC reminds me that a return there is in order – what a wealth of photo opportunities you have!

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    • Thanks so much, Tricia. There is always something going on here, and i hope you’ll be able to return for a visit sometime soon. Weather-wise, early to mid-October is probably second only to the spring blooming season.

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  5. Wonderful information and photos, Robin! Thanks for amassing and sharing it. I was down at the Capitol last weekend and saw the scaffolding for the first time. I tried taking a few pictures masking it, but none turned out at all. Sometimes that happens…

    As for the fountain at Union Station? Actually, what the bad news is is that despite the reconstruction of the traffic lanes, drop-off and pick-up issues have not changed one iota. It’s still a mess to get through there 😦

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