Photo Op: The District


Photography by Tasha James & Christopher Cain

One of my favorite things about being a photographer is looking for beautiful, interesting, and striking locations to shoot at.

One of my favorite things about DC is, there's no shortage of these places. You can go from gritty to gilded in about two seconds flat, and that's what I love most about living in this wonderful city.

I'm always in awe of the beautiful things this city has to offer, and as a huge fan of architecture and art, it's a feast for the eyes. Not to mention, it's such a transient place, that its influences come from everywhere, Europe, Asia, Africa, it's all here, just waiting to be photographed.



When you're driving into DC from the Arlington side, you will cross the Memorial Bridge, which gives you an amazing drive-by view of the Potomac River, and connects the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Just beside it, is the entrance to Rock Creek Parkway, and it's here that I love coming for the beautiful view of the Potomac (come at sunset), its prime people watching locale, and to see planes coming into the National Airport (DCA).

This is also a great place to see some Neoclassical art: The Arts of Peace statues are huge, and they flank both sides of the Parkway, in a glorious fashion. "Music and Harvest" is on the right, and "Aspiration and Literature" is on the left side. Both feature a Pegasus, symbolic of inspiration and poetry, and two men on either side holding items symbolic of Literature and Aspiration (a book, and a backwards bow, respectively).

They are so amazing to see in person.

After you're done with your stroll on the Parkway, you are just steps away from the Lincoln Memorial, which is another beautiful site to see.



For that complete escape from the city, come to Dumbarton Oaks.

It's an estate and series of curated gardens spanning over 50 acres, tucked just behind the hustle of Georgetown. Built in the 1920s, by Robert and Mildred Bliss and their landscaper, Beatrix Farrand, this impressive system of gardens and terraces is like being transported into a different time. Think The Great Gatsby meets Versailles. It's quite an experience—the Spring is probably the best time to see it, along with the Fall, when the leaves change.

There is a certain peacefulness that exists here, that doesn't exist anywhere else in the city. Not many people know about this place, but it's so sprawled out, that you hardly run into other people at all.

This is the perfect place to come to read, write, relax, or take photos of all the amazing beauty around you.

Note to professional photographers: this place doesn't allow pro photography/photoshoots, so don't be surprised if you get turned away if you bring a tripod, flashes, or reflectors. To get shots here, be as lowkey as possible with your equipment, and use the available light.



The first time I came to The National Cathedral, I had a religious experience—I'm not even religious, in the slightest.

I guess it was its stature, it really took my breath away—later, I learned on my tour that this building is completely funded by private donations—this is the people's cathedral—and it celebrates, and welcomes all religions through its doors. Everyone is welcome here, and I felt that from the very first moment I walked in.

Following in the footsteps of great cathedrals in Europe, Washington National Cathedral is Gothic architecture at its finest. The Higher, The Closer To God. Its height is impressive, and truly is awe-inspiring, it also includes flying buttresses, beautiful arches and vaulted ceilings, and an impressive collection of unique stained glass (a piece of the moon is here!)—the rose window (pictured on the right) is another highlight.

There are many things to do here, whether you worship or not; the Cathedral has a rich history, and so you can take tours, self-guided, or with a group (Behind the Scenes, and Gargoyle tours are my favorite). There's also the grounds to explore, which has its own café, if you need a break from walking around, and there's The Bishop's Garden, which is a small but peaceful place, to relax or reflect.

In general, I just love coming here, it's probably my hands-down favorite place in the city—it really is humbling, and relaxing to be here. 



Another gem in DC, is the Library of Congress. Its exterior is quite grandiose, with columns and decorative arches for days. My favorite spot is the fountain just at the front of the building, called The Court of Neptune. It's really special.

I wasn't able to grab any photos of the inside, because I came on a Sunday, when its closed, but during its regular hours, you can go inside—the interior is so pretty! You really have to see it for yourself. 

Not to mention, you can also visit the library itself, and get a L.O.C. Library Card (to access the Research Area)—I'm not going to lie, the day I got mine, it was simultaneously the coolest and nerdiest thing I've ever done. It's worth it though.

If you're a bookworm, this place is definitely worth a visit. If you just want to find a cool fountain to take a photo in front of, this is the one.



Okay, this last place isn't exactly a landmark, but I'm not going to have you running around the city without a recommendation for coffee. 

Dolcezza Coffee & Gelato have a few locations throughout the District, but my favorite is in City Center. It's one of their newer locations, and I love the sleek exterior, and warm, inviting interior. It has huge windows that look out onto 9th Street, and Palmer Alley, so you can shamelessly people watch, while your drink is being made.

When its warmer, you can sit outside at the cafe tables, and enjoy an Affogato (gelato + espresso shot), or if you're like me, and ice cream is a year-round thing for you, sit inside where it's warm and enjoy an Affogato.


Alright, loves! Those are my top picks for photogenic places in DC—like I said, the whole city is full of gems, but these were the places that made me feel transported to another place. You know I have a flair for the dramatic.

Let me know what your favorite places are in DC, and if you've never been, what are you looking forward to seeing?