I was standing in front of the White House gates just after sunset staring at an angry looking Secret Service officer, holding an automatic weapon.
It was a week after a major terrorism event that was all over national news and the security was extremely high in front of the President's home.
Machine Gun carrying guards and all. I wanted to take a picture of the White House, but without the looming wrought-iron gate blocking my view.
I had arrived late on the scene, having gotten stuck in traffic on my way to DC.
I was working for the summer in a small city about 30 minutes out of Washington – Annapolis, Maryland. I worked 80 hours a week with no days off, so getting off work at 7 on a sunday was a big deal.
I hopped into an old beaten up car that I'd just bought, for adventures like these.
I had it all planned out, I would get to the White House 20 minutes before the sunset and capture the beautiful summer sunset that the East Coast of the US does so well on a clear day.
It didn't end up working out the way I wanted, I got stuck in bad traffic on the freeway to DC, and didn't to my destination until 10 minutes after sunset. I had witnessed a spectacular sunset on my way, kicking myself that I was so late, and would probably miss it because I was stuck in traffic.
I arrived in the midst of what I later started calling the "Blue Hour". Everyone's heard of the Golden Hour, that time around sunset and sunrise where the light is soft, warm and magical. But the blue period is something else entirely, and severely underrated in my opinion.
It follows quickly after the golden hour, about 5-10 minutes after the sun has actually set (or 5-10 minutes before the sun has risen). The sky is a deep, rich blue but with the right camera settings, retains its detail, unlike the pitch black sky when the sun has fully gone down.
So I stood there, still panting and sweating from the half mile run from my car, as I had had to park it a good distance from the White House to avoid getting towed away. The air was still very warm and I was carrying a heavy camera bag and tripod.
I knew I had missed the sunset but observed the curious rich blue color in the sky and knew there was still a potential photo in play. I also knew that it was already much too dark to shoot handheld and would need a tripod and shoot a "long-exposure".
*quick geeky explanation, skip if you're not interested.
A "long-exposure" is where you leave the lens open for much longer than a normal photograph, in order to still get a shot, in low light. eg. a typical photo is taken in 1/100th of a second. You can do this hand-held and it will come out fine without any blurriness. When there is a low light scenario, you can put the camera on a tripod and take photos that last 1/10th of a second, 1/2 second, 5 seconds, 30 seconds or even as long as six minutes!
When you get into times longer than 1/50th of a second, you need to start using a tripod or the photo gets blurry.
Now back to the machine-gun-carrying guards. They patrolled outside the black wrought-iron gates and generally looked menacing. I knew that if I wanted to leave here with an iconic photo, I was going to have to place the camera in between the bars in the fence. I also knew I would need a tripod, and the math in my head told me I needed about a 4 second exposure to get a picture of proper brightness and color.
I noticed there were 2 groups of tourists taking pictures outside the gates, one set on the close sidewalk, all shooting handheld.
The second group was across the street on the far sidewalk shooting on tripods with fancy pro cameras. I knew both groups would be getting 80% of their picture covered up by the fence! I also saw the sign that tripods weren't allowed on the close sidewalk, but that was the only way I was getting my shot.
I figured I had about a 5-10 second window to make my move to get the shot. I manually dialed all the setting into my camera, sneakily slipped my camera onto the tripod, extended the tripod legs and ran up to a slit in the fence.
I placed the camera in the hole, aimed the absolute best I could all things considered and hit the 4 second timer to start.
1 second. My heart pounded in my chest. 2 seconds. The machine gun carrying guard noticed me and frowned. 3 seconds. He quickly descended on me. 4 seconds. He barked that tripods weren't allowed on the close sidewalk.
I quickly apologized, withdrew from my position in the fence and walked away. As soon as I was a safe distance away from the guard, I looked down at my camera to review the one image I was able to capture with improvised settings off the top of my head, and I fortunately I'd gotten it!
Production and Shipping Time:
Glossy Photo Paper: 5 days for printing, 5 days for shipping.
Ready-to-Hang Canvas: 5 days for printing, 5 days for shipping.
There are 3 ways to print these images.
1) Premium Glossy Photo Paper are high quality, professional paper-prints.
Sharp, Vivid and rich Color sets this apart from a casual photo print.
You'll feel like you're there.
Premium Glossy Photo Paper will last a long time.
This option is available in 8x10 inches, 11x14 inches or 16x20 inches.
They are designed to be placed in a glass frame, which can be purchased separately (starting at a few dollars at your local Target or online).
2) Ready to Hang Canvas are ready to hang right out of the box with zero assembly required. Ultimate convenience.
Gorgeous finished look. It comes out of the shipping box finished and ready to hang with a simple nail in the wall.
Canvas Prints are a well-known, high-end way of displaying photographs.
1.5 inch thick wooden stretcher-bars that give it shape, in the same way an oil painting is traditionally assembled. There are no staples or ugly lines visible on the sides (very important).
Estimated delivery time for printing, assembling, packing and shipping is around 10 days.
3) Ready to Hang Canvas (split into 3 panels)
This is for larger pieces, and the photograph is split into 3 even panels, 3 separate canvas panels which put together make a single large image.
This gives a modern look, and allows spectacularly large sizes on your wall!