Washington at Night

Happy New Year!

It’s a new year, time to say good bye to 2016 (thankfully) and hello to 2017. I can’t say that I enter this new year without a strong bit of trepidation. The country is more divided than at any time in my past memory. Perhaps I am deluding myself, all times are hard or joyous depending on your outlook. What strikes me worst of all, perhaps, is the seeming reality that we have forgotten our original National Motto, E pluribus unum (out of many, one).

Originally about the colonies and the formation of the Union, in more modern times it speaks too of our diversity. Out of many cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, we are The United States of America. Our amalgamation makes us indelibly stronger. In the past few years, I have been all over the world and I have seen other peoples and cultures, how they differ from and are the same as us. I have seen beauty and horror, joy and sorrow, felt frightened and lifted up. I don’t know where we are headed in 2017, but it must be towards the causes of human dignity, toward the rights of all people, towards the preservation of inalienable right.

I heard a story recently about asking what made a true Frenchmen. It was explained, a TRUE Frenchmen is one who was born in France and who’s forebears were also Frenchmen, for generations back that lineage could be traced. I adore France! Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but in my country an American is anyone naturalized in the last second. That is a powerful difference, and one worth fighting to preserve.

Photo Technical Info

  • Aperture: ƒ/8
  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Taken: 27 May, 2012
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 13s
  • Title: Washington at Night

Monument to the People’s Heroes


My first night in Shanghai was spent wandering The Bund’s promenade with tons of other people. It’s a wonderful space to walk and take in a spectacular view of Pudong (where I was staying). You see the subject of today’s photo walking up and down the length of The Bund. It sits on a point which aids in its visibility. I had no idea at the time what it was for, but I got the idea walking around. The circular wall surrounding the tower is sunk below the Earth and its quite a wonderful experience because the sounds of Shanghai fade abruptly away. I really loved Shanghai…for many reasons, it wasn’t at all what I expected which is one of the things I love most about travel.

Overlooking Congress


I was looking back through photos this weekend and came across this one. I have a collection in Lightroom called “Needs More Work” and this photo from the Lincoln Memorial has been sitting there for some time. I have always been unhappy with the color in the original image. It was always a bit lifeless, but I immediately knew what needed to happen this week. I think it has been waiting patiently, but the shutdown finally made it clear to me.

I don’t often talk about the why of my images…I will be vague here, but here are some thoughts. This photo is shot from the side of the Lincoln Memorial. The reflecting pool is drained and work is being done to repair it from a freak earthquake. Lincoln has a wonderful view and looks to the statue of another man who had to fight to keep his country. Both overlook the Congress of the United States. which is slightly out of focus.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Abraham Lincoln
1st Inaugural Address
March 4, 1861

Dusk Falls on Lincoln

Ghosts of Tourists Past

There a a HUGE number of tourists at the Lincoln Memorial. I waited around for a long time hoping they would eventually disperse, but I think perhaps if you want unencumbered shots of the monument, it may be advisable to come in the early hours of dawn. The sun would be behind you, but that would be a great shot as well. I attempted to use long exposures on this shot to blur as much of the activity as possible. It gives the shot a milky soup of action sort of feel. Enjoy!

Two Pyramids


I went crazy photographing at the Louvre courtyard…I just couldn’t seem to get enough photos of those I.M. Pei pyramids. Most of the french consider them to be a blight on the beauty of the Louvre Palace, and to tell you the truth I have never understood what a modern sculpture is doing on precipice of an old art museum. It seems like these would be better suited for Centre Pompidou, but what do I know.


This is a three shot bracket (-2, 0, +2) combined in Photomatix. All other adjustments were done in Lightroom 4.

The Washington Monument


The Washington Monument is the worlds tallest obelisk at 555 feet 5 1/8 inches. I am certain Dan Brown can tell you the significant of that height in one or more of his books, but I have nothing but speculation to offer. I took this shot in the early afternoon on a very warm day in D.C. I was honestly very happy to be standing in the shadow of the memorial as it was much cooler and I was sweating through my clothes. This is also the ill fated trip where I got tons of great photos, but utterly destroyed my feet with blisters in the process of obtaining said photos. I enjoyed putting the sun in my shots while I was in D.C. and taking 9 stops worth of brackets. In this particular instance, I only felt like I needed 3…which in the end saves quite a bit of hard drive space.


This was a three shot bracket (-2, 0, +2) processed in photomatix, extensive work was done to remove tourists in Photoshop, Nik software was used for tonal contrast, sharping, finish work was done in Lightroom 4.

Abraham Lincoln

Four Score

The South wall of the Lincoln Memorial is inscribed with the Gettysburg Address. This is where I hung out waiting for my chance to open up my tripod in the main part of the memorial. I took the chance to watch people and became somewhat fascinated by the numbers of people stopping to read the speach. I guess I found it odd because I memorized the first few lines for some grade school project and have thus read the speech a number of times. PRO TIP: when staring up to read an important historical speech from one of our nations greatest, please close your mouth.

Throngs of People

The Lincoln Memorial is busy…REALLY busy. I stood around for what seemed an eternity, frankly surprised that the park officials didn’t run me off on account of my tripod. I stood over to the side for probably half an hour waiting for the people to dissipate to get this shot. Given the traffic that goes through the memorial I am pretty pleased with that I ended up with. What do you think?

HDR Photography
Abraham Lincoln by W. Brian Duncan

WWII and Washington Memorials at Night

What the What?

Two posts this week? What? Yep, I am having so much of a good time taking and processing photos I figured I need to step up my game. As a side note I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers where he professes the need to spend 10,000 hours to become an expert at any task. More processing and photo taking makes for a quicker path to 10,000 hours! WAHOO!

Blue Hour

I am finding that I really love blue hour. The quality of the light in the sky is just wonderful. It’s also interesting to me how quickly blue hour ends and the lights from the city overwhelm the good light. I took this photo at 8:57pm…4 minutes later I had stepped to the right to shoot the Washington Monument straight on and the sky was an awful sickly salmon color.

New Monuments

Every time a new monument gets put up on the National Mall, there is a controversy. The first time we visited DC, the WWII memorial was in the planning stages. The second time it was under construction. While my Grandfather was a veteran of WWI (Navy in the Pacific) I had mixed feeling about the placement of the memorial. Seeing the completed memorial has completely changed my mind. It really just fits there…like it should have been there all along.


This was a 3 bracket series (-2, 0, +2) processed with Photomatix. It was cleaned up in Photoshop and modified with Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (Tonal Contrast) and Sharpener Pro. The final work was done in Adobe Lightroom 4.

Behind the Lincoln Memorial

A New Kind of Travel

An interesting thing happened to me recently. I needed to take a bit of time off work else I would lose the time so I decided to take off the week of Memorial Day. I have been collecting frequent flyer miles for some time and thought to myself, why don’t go somewhere and photograph. JUST me and my camera. While I enjoy going places with my wife (and #1 best camera assistant), it was interesting to meander and linger where the photos took me. Pamela is exceptionally patient when I “artist-out” and lose myself in photographing. I can sometimes spend hours taking photos of the same darn place, but I am also conscious of her and want her vacation time to be fun as well. This trip was different, not better mind you, but different. It was more work than anything, but never felt a bit unlike passion.

Bad Shoes! BAD!

I have been to Washington D.C. three times now so I know a few things about the layout of the National Mall. For one, much of the trails are made up of tiny gravel and dirt. It gets on your shoes and I decided it would be better to wear an old pair of tennis shoes so as not to get one of my good pairs filthy. Little did I remember just how massive the National Mall really is and after the first day my feet were really sore from all the walking. By the second day I had developed five sizable blisters on my feet (mostly the left) and could barely walk. Pro-Tip…always wear good, comfortable, supportive shoes when going to a big city that requires more walking they you are used to.


This is a 9 exposure bracket (-4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4) taken on a Canon 5D Mark II (Magic Lantern Loaded) with a 16-35mm f2.8 II lens at 35mm, mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod and ball-head. The brackets were combined in Photomatix, exported to Photoshop, cleaned up, tonal contrast and sharpening applied with Nik Software. Finish work was done in Adobe Lightroom 4 (contrast, color, crop, clarity, etc). This photo is from the back side of the Lincoln Memorial about an two hours before sunset.

Abstract Arch

An Abstract Gateway

We recently took a trip to St Louis, Missouri where we visited the downtown area and Gateway Arch or as some say, The Gateway to the West. I chuckled as I straddled the mid-point stepping back and forth saying to my wife…I am in the west, no the east, no the west. I took a good deal of photos of the arch, many of them abstract. There are so many people milling around the arch at sunset that most of my full scope shots ended up feeling cluttered. It was however good to see so many photographers down there near sunset trying to get some interesting shots. I think perhaps the best shot may have been across the river, but as Chimney Man says to Jelly (see Jelly’s Last Jam):

Ever hear of East St. Louis? Piss me off again n’ you gonna be giggin’ in ole West Hell. Even the devil doesn’t go there after dark.