07.02.17: Monument at sunset

The Washington Monument is silhouetted against a deep blue sky at sunset, Washington, D.C. 


Technical information

May 9, 2005,
8:35 p.m.

38°53’22” N,
77°1'23" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 (28mm) 


1/600th second


There are certain rules of composition that every photographer knows. The rule of thirds. Leading lines. Framing. Symmetry and patterns. All are important in creating eye-catching photographs.

But as a photographer gains experience he realizes these rules are simply guidelines to follow as opposed to unbreakable laws. You follow the guidelines when it benefits the composition of the scene. You ignore the guidelines when ignoring them benefits the composition of the scene.

This photo of the Washington Monument at sunset is an example of ignoring the rules of composition.

Every photographer knows it is best to not place the primary subject of a photo right smack dab in the middle of the scene. Doing so leads to a static photo. Placing the subject off center will typically create a more dynamic image.

But in this scene, placing the Washington Monument anywhere but the center of the photo didn’t look right, in my opinion. It looked lopsided, for lack of a better description. The monument needed to be in the center, anchoring the photo, standing tall against the deep blue early-evening sky and above the sunset that silhouettes the trees along the horizon.

In this case, the centered subject created a strong composition, not a static one. And the two red lights near the top of the monument provide a nice focal point within the focal point, contrasting against the blue sky and complementing the warm sunset below.

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.