09.09.18: Flowers and capitol

Orange flowers mark the way to the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. 


Technical information

Sept. 27, 2006,
5:10 p.m.

38°53'27.349" N 77°0'45.209" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 28-135 (28mm)


1/125th second


Every time I walk the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., I seem to find something I’ve never noticed before.

The Capitol grounds create an almost 60-acre park setting around the Capitol building, providing a relaxing and picturesque counterpoint to the often stressful, sometimes controversial and frequently divisive activities that take place inside the building.

The grounds are home to thousands of flowers in seasonal displays, providing an ever-changing color scheme to the Capitol panorama. More than 100 varieties of trees and bushes are on the grounds. Many of the trees serve a historical purpose, planted to commemorate significant events, members of Congress or other noted individuals. Some are official state trees provided as gifts by various U.S. states. And nearly all the trees have markers that identify the species and, if applicable, the historic significance. It makes for interesting reading during a leisurely walk. 

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 red flowers in the foreground with deep pink flowers on the trees that framed the Capitol. And this shot had orange flowers along a curve in the road, leading the viewer’s eye into the scene.

And I’ve used all the shots for different purposes.

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.