Monday, May. 11, 2009

Washington Monument

For the Washington segment of Shooting it Like a Pro, TIME asked its White House photographer Brooks Kraft to find the best in the monuments he passes every day. "Living in the capital, you take these monuments for granted, like they're a convenience store or something, but just as often you see them bathed in beautiful light."

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

"This is probably my favorite place in Washington," Kraft says. "The way it's sunk into the ground creates all kinds of great angles. And every time you come here, it looks different. It reflects the light differently every time."

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Detail

Near the wall is a book that provides more details about the men whose names are etched into the wall. "The book is very thumbed over," says Kraft.

The Capitol, Rotunda

During the middle of the day, when the sunlight is harshest, Kraft suggests a visit to the Capitol. "You can tour the building, with a guide like this one if you want, but I like to stand beneath the dome and just hang out. This crossroad is the symbolic and physical heart of the building."

The Capitol, Detail

"Thousands of people come through the Capitol each day. In the Rotunda alone, I counted six different groups. They were great subjects; they brought life to the surroundings."

The Supreme Court

Kraft took this shot through the front door of the court building. When not in session, the court is also open to the public.

The Supreme Court, Detail

"This shot was actually rather complicated," says Kraft. "I wanted the image to be perfectly symmetrical, but lying on my back did not work. I couldn't obtain the precision angle I needed. So I laid the camera on the ground and snapped off frames one at a time, until I found the perfect position." To keep the bottoms of the columns from curving, Kraft has set the camera's focal length of 16 mm, "which is about as far as you can go before the edges of the frame would not distort."

Constitution Gardens

Kraft recommends visiting the outdoor monuments in the morning and early evening, when the light is softest. This shot, of the pond beside the mall reflecting pool was taken from ground level.

Lincoln Memorial

"I wanted to capture the light from the panels on the tourists' cameras, but keep the statue in focus, so I need a long shutter speed, but I didn't have a tripod (they require a permit), so I rested the camera on my sweater and set the camera to fire on a slight delay. That way, I had a second to push the button, steady the camera, then get out of the way."