Washington Monument

For what is really just a big, stone tower you'd expect the Washington Monument to be a boring thing to take photos of. But this isn't just any old tower and happens to be near some of the world's great landmarks, making for a bunch of ways and vantage points to get some interesting shots.
Washington Monument Reflected on the Tidal Basin Predawn
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The Washington Monument opened for business again on September 19, 2019, after several years of major repairs.

For what is really just a big, stone tower you’d expect the Washington Monument to be a boring thing to take photos of. But this isn’t just any old tower and happens to be near some of the world’s great landmarks, making for a bunch of ways and vantage points to get some interesting shots.

The Washington Monument is a lot taller than anything else for miles around and anchors Washington DC’s National Mall. It stands on a slight hill at the intersection of lines running east-west from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial and north-south from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial.

It was built in honor of George Washington, the nation’s first president, and dedicated in early 1885, completing a construction process that had taken 36 years, although for half of that time construction had been halted because the funding ran out. It stands 555 feet tall and is built as a classical Egyptian obelisk. It remains the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure.

Its exterior is currently in good shape, having just recently gone through some renovations, and it’s possible to catch the elevator to the top for some great views in all directions from 500 feet up. [See below for details.] On the elevator ride down you’ll pass 195 memorial stones that are embedded on the inside walls.

Photos of the Washington Monument

Washington Monument and ring of American flags

Washington DC Monuments in golden setting sun

Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool at Sunrise

Reflecting Pool in Late Afternoon with Ducks

Washington Monument Before Dawn Reflected on the Tidal Basin

Washington Monument at dusk against golden glow of sunset

Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, & US Capitol Building at dusk

Washington Monument and American flags

Washington Monument Before Dawn Reflected on the Tidal Basin

Washington Cherry Blossoms Jefferson Memorial

View from the Washington Monument

Washington Monument Before Dawn Reflected on the Tidal Basin

Washington Monument Reflected on the Tidal Basin

Washington Monument with fall leaves

Washington Monument Reflected on Tidal Basin

Washington Monument in Winter

Tourists Look Out from the Top of the Washington Monument

American Flags at the Washington Monument

Fisheye View fo the Washington Monument

Cranes and Washington Monument Silhouette

Washington Monument Silhouetted by Early Morning Sun

Washington Monument Scaffolding

Washington Monument Predawn Glow

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument at night

Yellow Tulips with Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol Dome in the Spring

USA flags at Washington Monument

American flags US Capitol Dome

Washington Monument with a clear blue sky.

Sunrise Silhouette of US Capitol and Washington Monument

Washington Monument and World War II Memorial

View West from the Top of the Washington Monument

Washington Monument After a Snow Storm

Washington Monument

Washington Monument in the Snow

Washington Monument Silhouette Walkers Shadows

American Flags at the Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Washington Monument at night with reflection on the Reflecting Pool

Washington Monument at night with reflection on the Reflecting Pool

Washington Monument at night with reflection on the Reflecting Pool

Washington Monument at night

Washington Monument against a clear blue sky.

Washington Monument with pink cherry blossoms blooming in the foreground against a clear blue sky.

Washington Monument

Getting Here

The easiest metro stop is the Smithsonian stop (Orange and Blue lines; 0.5 miles), but Federal Triangle (Orange and Blue lines; 0.6 miles) is also nearby. Metro has a handy Trip Planner and here’s a map of the Metro lines.

There’s no parking right near the monument, although depending on the time of day there might be spots available along Constitution Avenue. Be sure to check the signs carefully, though, so as not to get towed. There’s often free parking along Hains Point / West Potomac Park, but that’s first-come-first-served, and you might end up with a long walk back to your car during the busy tourist season.

Washington Monument Tours and Tickets

Now that the repairs are done (as of September 19, 2019), the Washington Monument is again open to public tours.

The tickets themselves are free but if you reserve online there’s a small service charge as well as a postage and handling charge if you decide to have them delivered by post (you can also do will call). Tickets are for a specific day and time. Information and links for making a reservation online are here. In summer, tickets disappear quickly, often months in advance, although even through the rest of the year it’s well worth booking the tickets well ahead of your visit.

Yes, there’s an elevator–you’re not expected to trudge up narrow, winding stairs like at some other world attractions. At the same time, although rare, it’s not unheard-of for tour groups to have to walk down the 896 steps if there’s an issue with the elevator.

You’ll pass through a security checkpoint with baggage check at the bottom. You can take your camera to the top but not large backpacks. There aren’t any storage facilities on site.

Official Website

http://www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm

Taking Photos of and at the Washington Monument

You can see the Washington Monument up to 30 miles away, so there’s no problem finding a vantage point. Its exterior is accessible 24 hours a day year round and the structure is illuminated by heavy-duty floodlights at night. There are no restrictions on using a flash, but tripods are not allowed within the ring of flags at the monument’s base.

Unless you’re shooting from some distance, a wide-angle lens will serve you well. But if you have a big telephoto with you, you can get some good shots of the flags with the US Capitol Dome in the background.

To get the Washington Monument reflected on water, head down to the Lincoln Memorial end of the Reflecting Pool or over near the FDR Memorial, across the Tidal Basin. There are also good framing opportunities from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and National World War II Memorial. And if you want to frame it with both the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol Dome, head across the river to the Netherlands Carillon next to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington.

If you’re shooting from the top of the monument when you do a tour, you’ll be shooting through relatively small viewing windows of thick glass. The glass isn’t as clean and clear as it could be. Putting your camera up close to the glass while using a large aperture (smaller aperture number) and focusing to infinity can help reduce the effect the scratches will have on your photos. Although the tour entries are scheduled, once you’re up there you can take your time. No-one will chase you out, but it can also get cramped as new visitors arrive on the elevator. If you’re taking photos of the interior of the monument–there are exhibits, exposed structural elements, and historic tribute stones–you can use a flash but not a tripod.

Commercial photo shoots and filming require a permit.

More Photos of the Washington Monument

You can find more of my photos of the Washington Monument here.

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