Do you want to immortalize your engagement with gorgeous photos at sunrise? Does the idea of you and your future spouse embracing beneath a sky turning to fire sound like exactly what you are looking for? If so, there are plenty of places in the DC metropolitan area that offer beautiful views of the eastern sky in the morning. (The topography of the region ensures that there are generally very few obstructions.) But what if you want that PLUS an element that gives your portraits a truly “DC” look and feel? Like, say, the city’s iconic skyline? In that case, there is only one location near the Nation’s Capital that will give you exactly that: the Netherlands Carillon. No other site can offer you as good a view of Washington’s monuments with the sun rising behind them. When it comes to portraits at dawn, nothing beats Netherlands Carillon engagement photos!
Before we get into what makes this location so great for sunrise engagement portraits, let’s introduce you to the Netherlands Carillon. (Though it is a beautiful monument, it is not among the best-known in the DC area). Actually, for starters, let’s talk about what a carillon even is (in case you are unfamiliar with the term). In short, it is a musical instrument comprising at least 23 metal cup-shaped bells that are typically housed in a tower. In the case of this monument, the structure contains 50 bells and stands 127 feet tall.
The Netherlands Carillon was a gift from the Dutch people to the U.S. after the end of World War II. It commemorates American bravery and sacrifice during the war and the friendship between our two countries since. Forty-nine of the bells inside the tower were part of the initial design of the monument. Each represents a different group within Dutch society. A joint Dutch-American renovation project added a 50th bell in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dutch liberation.
The bells are a regular part of the DC area soundscape, chiming the time at regular intervals. So chances are good that you will hear some lovely music as we are taking your Netherlands Carillon engagement pictures! If you are lucky, you might be treated to something extra, as the bells also play significant songs on special days, such as Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and Dutch Liberation Day. The National Park Service (NPS) also organizes weekly concerts during the summer months.
Obviously, what makes the Netherlands Carillon so great for sunrise engagement portraits is its location. As we mentioned above, the view of the eastern sky from there is like no other. But what is it specifically that sets this site apart from the rest?
For starters, the monument sits in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington Virginia. Why does this matter? Because the land in that part of Arlington rises quickly from the shores of the Potomac River. Though the Netherlands Carillon is only a few hundred meters from the National Mall, it is dozens of meters above the relative flatness of the District. That means an almost completely unobstructed view of the DC skyline.
Other locations in that area also offer clear looks at downtown Washington DC, of course. Both of the monument’s immediate neighbors -- the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery -- do that. But Netherlands Carillon engagement portraits are still better than what you get at those engagement photo locations. Why? Because only from that vantage point do the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol arrange themselves in a perfect, visually pleasing line.
The best reason to have a Netherlands Carillon engagement session is, as we said, the chance to get glorious engagement portraiture at sunrise. That is not, however, the only element that makes Netherlands Carillon betrothal pictures great. Here are three other things that will ensure that you get spectacular engagement photos:
Obviously, the first step is to tell us that you would like to have a Netherlands Carillon engagement photoshoot! After that, we will need to file an application for a professional photography permit. (Because the monument is NPS property, an engagement photoshoot there requires NPS approval beforehand.) Though we ask that our clients cover the costs of the associated fees, we are very familiar with the application process and are happy to submit the forms.
The image featured here can probably tell you better than we can how great engagement portraits at the Netherlands Carillon can look. (A picture and a thousand words, right?) We took it during a photo session at dawn. We got particularly lucky with the weather conditions that morning, as there were just enough clouds in the sky to make for a gorgeous sunrise.
After getting some beautiful shots of the couple with the heavens lighting up above them, we changed our approach once the sun breached the horizon. The quality of the light as the sun rose over the Nation’s Capital was absolutely fantastic. It literally put the golden in golden hour. The sunlight gave the entire area around the Netherlands Carillon in an almost ethereal yellow-orange aura. As we saw how the fiancés looked in that light, we immediately shifted the focus of our photographic efforts.
For starters, we stopped trying to get Washington’s famous landmarks in the background. The sunlight in the east was bright enough that we would have lost the aforementioned glow in our images. We also opted for more tightly focused compositions. The orange aura also tended to disappear in wider-angle shots. In closeup images, by contrast, the couple positively glowed!
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