best gear for a weekend trip to DC?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by wilhelmreems, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. wilhelmreems macrumors member

    May 25, 2010
    My wife and I are planning a weekend trip to DC in late April. I'm wondering what's the best gear to bring seeing as how we'll be going to all the monuments, museums, capital buildings, white house, etc.

    Anyone else brought their DSLR with them? Ever run into any problems with taking photos of places or in certain places?

  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Comfortable walking shoes/socks and an umbrella will serve you best in April.

    Taking pictures of things shouldn't really be an issue if it's just the main touristy things.
  3. pna macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2005
    I live in DC and use my DSLR for pictures of monuments etc. all the time. The only restrictions you really run into are that you can't set up tripods really close to official buildings. At least, that was the line that I was given by security near the Supreme Court. I haven't tried elsewhere.

    Check the timing of the cherry blossoms, as they may coincide with your visit.

    The best advice, though, is just to get up early for the sunrise and be out and about for the sunset. The light during those hours makes the stone in the monuments and buildings really beautiful, and you can balance the artificial light projected on, say, the capitol dome, against the sunset and twilight in a way that you could never hope to do with a flash.
  4. glennp macrumors member

    Aug 7, 2006
    Washington, DC
    I go into DC a lot with my DSLR, no problems at all. A wide angle lens will be useful for many of the monuments. When traveling "light" I tend to carry my 17-55 and 70-200 along with a tripod. Tripods are generally not an issue around the monuments but you can't use them inside (e.g., around and on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial are ok but inside the rotunda is a no-no, ditto the Lincoln Memorial). Most of the places also have the rules regarding tripods on their websites -- e.g., at the Botanical Gardens tripod use is allowed during weekdays but you have to get a free permit first.

    Other than that, what Miles and Wilhelmreels said, bring comfy shoes for walking, rain gear if the weather calls for it, and get out during the golden hours (you can really get some spectacular shots at dawn along the mall with minimal crowds).
  5. tmagman macrumors 6502

    Nov 7, 2010
    Calgary AB
    I was in DC over the summer this year and functioned quite nicely with just a 15-85 (on a 7D) rather than carrying my other lenses with me. A telephoto wasn't necessary because you can get pretty close to just about every building you want to and unless you're doing pictures of the Capitol from the steps of the Lincoln memorial, its unnecessary weight. Only places that photography wasn't allowed was in the Rotunda at the National Archives for the obvious reasons of document preservation. No problems getting into any of the other museums or the capitol. If you're wanting to go into the senate or house chambers, you will have to leave your camera at the bag drop (which is secure).

    Flash photography wasn't permitted a lot of places, so a flash probably isn't necessary, but definitely bring a circular polarizer. I found that the white finish and marble on a lot of the buildings caused some glare and washing out of my pictures outside.

    On a side note, if you're looking for a good way to see a ton of washington very efficiently- check out the Segway Tours which are a blast. Very good for photography as well- Once you get the hang of the segway you can be snapping pictures left right and center. My uncle actually mounted his camera on a gorillapod on the handlebar and got some fabulous pictures.

    enjoy your trip!
  6. JDDavis macrumors 65816


    Jan 16, 2009
    I live across the river in Alexandria and can second what everyone has said. Especially the Cherry Blossom Festival advice. If you are going at that time it can be very crowded especially near the tidal basin. Also, like was said, if you want a chance at getting shots without lots of people in them then go early in the morning. To me, there still seems to be a lot of people out at sunset. In the middle of the night (with a tripod) can be pretty interesting too as the monuments and buildings are well lit. I like the WWII memorial at night. I'd say wide angle is better than a long zoom if you are only taking one lens. The only thing you might want a long zoom for is the White House. A fast lens and decent ISO performance help in places like the Library of Congress as well (don't miss going to it). Other than that just like everyone said, be prepared to walk...a lot. Oh, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian has the best cafeteria of them all.

  7. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y

    I have had terrible luck with a tripod.

    I wanted to shoot monuments at night, and was forced to take my tripod down at the following monuments/memorials

    - Lincoln (Even down at the bottom of the steps)

    - WWII memorial (For "Respect", even though tourist nimrods were blasting their P&S flash all over the place in pitch black, I guess that was ok)

    - Washington Monument (At the base)

    - White House (First tried to use it on the sidewalk, was told had to put it on the street, so I did. Then a different officer came and told me I had to be ACROSS the street)

    - Then I gave up using a tripod.


    • Bring a UWA for neat shots of buildings

    • Bring a fast lens with IS (I had my 17-55 2.8IS luckily) to shoot at night or inside museums (No flash in them)

    • Bring comfortable shoes!

    • Bring a Gorilla pod (If you have one), as the main reason I was told to put my tripod away was "It obstructs the walking path"

    • Bring your game face, it's a hectic city. Be prepared to have to walk up the escalators if you want to blend in, get bumped into with no apologies, etc.

    However, its also an AWESOME city. Be sure to check out the Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial(Favorite), Jefferson, Vietnam, WWII, Air and Space Museum, Portrait Gallery, Modern Art Museum.

    Edit: I saw someone posted on the American Indian cafeteria, my favorite was the portrait galleries. Awesome rotunda type place to eat, and they have a bangin' salad bar.
  8. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    The only place you have to have a permit for a tripod is the grounds of the Capitol (issued by the office of the Architect of the Capitol.) You can't block sidewalks though, fortunately for most places there's plenty of non-sidewalk space to use.

    I've shot there with a tripod years ago, I'd really fight for an explanation if I wasn't blocking people. I plan on shooting there again with a ND to nuke the people, and that's going to take a tripod.

    I've shot there in the last six months at night with a tripod. I wasn't the only one there either. I shot from two sides before they turned the lights off on me, probably 20 minutes total. There was a nice Japanese gentleman next to me when I was shooting from the road side of the Memorial with a smaller/lighter tripod, no hassles from the Rangers at all...

    Next time I'm down there and there's for or snow, I'm going to shoot the Korean memorial, tripod and all. The above shot was inside the memorial at the south end.

    Not at the base, but there wasn't a good shot from there or it would have been:

    Best shot I have of the White House is from the South Lawn inside the fountain of my dad- but that was a long time ago, and I didn't bring my tripod, but could have!

    Not sure I've ever felt the need to have an NPS regulations discussion, as I've never been hassled, and I haul around a Gitzo 1548! I wonder what it is that seems to draw them to you? I've even spent time around the Jefferson Memorial with a 4x5 monorail view camera!

  9. kallisti, Jan 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2011

    kallisti macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    My advice would be: it depends on what types of images you are hoping to walk away with and how important photography will be to the overall flavor of the trip.

    If the trip is mostly about the trip and not the images, then you will want to travel light. A good point-and-shoot may be enough. The better ones have *decent* low light ability and allow some manual control without too much fussing with menus. I've taken some pleasing shots on vacation with a Canon S90. I've also missed some shots because it couldn't do what I needed it to do at the time. But I don't regret it since I wasn't willing to lug around my DSLR on those trips.

    If you will be walking around a lot, but want better image quality and shooting options than a point-and-shoot then take your DSLR. More to carry around. The weight may or may not be an issue, depending on how much walking you are doing. Lens choice will vary depending on what you have available, what you like to shoot, and how much gear you are willing to lug around. A basic zoom in the 24 to 70 range (on full frame) might suit your shooting style. This won't be too cumbersome. Realize that while it is a step up from a P&S, you are still going to miss some shots hand-holding with a DSLR.

    If the purpose of the trip is capture "stellar" images or to "be prepared for everything", then your gear requirements will go up quite a bit. Depending on what you hope to capture you will likely need a tripod. You may need ultra-wide or telephoto lenses. If shooting in low-light you may need fast lenses (if not able to use a tripod). This can easily get into the "ridiculous" category that stops being easily portable. But if the shots you want to get require the gear, then it's worth it.

    I haven't been to DC in years. I'm not sure what the specific rules are these days regarding cameras when in an indoor museum there. I doubt they will allow flash and I wouldn't count on being able to use a tripod. Some museums I've visited won't even allow you to carry a backpack inside (though no clue if that applies to where you are going in DC).

    The burning question for most travel photography is bulk/weight vs image quality/shooting options. You are the only one that can answer which will be *right* for you and your planned vacation.

    I'm reading your question as: "I'm going on vacation (which happens to be in DC) and I'm not sure what photography gear I should take." It's possible your real question was: "I'm taking my DSLR on a vacation to DC this spring, what lenses/gear should I bring to best capture the city and will I have any issues using a DSLR while visiting touristy sites in DC?". If the latter was your real question, then I am sorry I didn't specifically address it. Mea culpa.

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