Capitol, flowers


It’s Sunday, so it’s time for another photo of the week and the story behind the image.

The U.S. Capitol Building is an excellent subject for photography.

While the dome looks the same when viewed from any direction, the foreground changes significantly. Sometimes moving the camera location just a few yards to the left or right can create a much different composition with different objects framing the scene.

I have shots of the Capitol reflected in water and in glass, framed by green trees and by fall leaves, towering above a fountain and above a lawn, standing behind monuments and behind traffic, illuminated by the sun against blue skies and by artificial light against night skies.

But some of my favorite shots are of the Capitol behind the many varieties of flowers used to landscape the grounds.

I photographed this scene on a late September afternoon in 2006, during a break between meetings and dinner on a business trip to Washington. I was staying close to the Capitol so I grabbed my camera and took a walk around the perimeter of the grounds. I returned to the hotel with a number of nice, but different, shots of the Capitol, including several that featured flowers in the foreground. One location had yellow flowers in the foreground. Another had a large row of orange flowers.

But I especially liked this view, with red flowers in the foreground, deep pink flowers on the trees on each side and the Capitol dome framed by the surrounding trees.

I said earlier that the Capitol is an excellent subject for photography, but I avoided photos of the Capitol between early 2014 and early 2017 when the dome was surrounded by scaffolding. It hindered photography, but the scaffolding was part of a necessary — and long overdue — refurbishing of the Capitol dome and rotunda.

The $60 million project was the first restoration of the dome since 1960. The dome was built more than 150 years ago, using 9 million pounds of cast iron. Over the years, Washington weather and other factors caused more than 1,000 cracks in the cast iron, creating leaks that threatened the artwork in the Capitol rotunda and weakening the dome infrastructure to the point where falling objects could endanger visitors in the rotunda.

Restoration work began in 2014 and was completed before the inauguration in January 2017.

If I had been a documentary photographer, photos of the Capitol during the refurbishing would have been important additions to my collection. But I prefer more traditional, timeless shots for my travel photography. A photo of the Capitol with scaffolding would date the scene to sometime in 2014, 2015 or 2016.

It’s odd, though, that a number of TV shows used scenes with the Capitol dome in the background surrounded by scaffolding. When the shows first aired in 2014, 2015 or 2016, those scenes may have felt timely. But it definitely dates the program when seen in reruns today.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: Sept. 27, 2006, 4:43 p.m.  
Location: 38°53’28” N, 77°0'41" W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 20D
Lens: Canon EF 28-135 (28mm) 
Aperture: f/16
Shutter: 1/250th second
ISO: 800