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Capturing Bartholdi Fountain

Bartholdi Fountain, 40mm, 200 ISO, f/14, 5 seconds

Each month AOC’s photography branch will break down an iconic photo of Capitol Hill and share tips and tricks for snapping beautiful images at the Capitol. This month AOC photographer Susanne Bledsoe walks us through a shot of Bartholdi Fountain in Bartholdi Park on the Capitol Grounds.

I took this photo of Bartholdi Fountain just after it returned from its recent restoration in 2011. The fountain had been off site for more than two years so this photo would help reintroduce this stunning sculpture to the world. One of the key elements of the restoration was restoring the glass lanterns atop the fountain, so I knew I wanted to photograph it at night, to show off these lights.

I set up in Bartholdi Park around dusk. It only took about 5 minutes to get my gear in place, but it took much more time to decide what angle to shoot from. I decided to compose my shot with the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory in the background, and also worked to keep other distractions (like street lights) out of the photo. In this shot I also chose to shoot facing one of the nereids (sea nymphs) of the fountain in order to show the most details.

After setting up my gear and selecting the right angle it was getting closer to dark. The color in the sky was getting more saturated which really helped the lights of the fountain pop and the rich sky and clouds provided more color and drama to the image. The time of day also allowed me to shoot with a longer shutter speed, which is how I achieved the blur in the water (at least a one second shutter speed is needed for this effect).

I used my Nikon D3 and 24-70mm lens (shot at 40mm). I set the ISO at 200, the aperture at f/14 and the shutter speed for 5 seconds. A tripod and cable release were essential for shooting at this speed, so make sure you reach out to the U.S. Botanic Garden to request a tripod permit.

Post production I did some work to color balance the color of the sky (daylight) and the lights of the fountain (tungsten). And at the end of the day I think I achieved a shot that truly showcases the beauty of Bartholdi’s Fountain of Light and Water.

View high res version of this image on Flickr.

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