Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is at its most stunning at night. It is carefully lit in a neutral bright light.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln himself is lit in cooler light, and it highlights him. That and his immensity draw people to him.

Lincoln Memorial

If you see nothing else at the National Mall, see Lincoln. He really is compelling.

Lincoln Memorial

His space is remarkable, too, especially at night. The signs all ask for visitors quiet reverence, but even when they ignore the signs the space’s stark airiness creates that reverence in you.

Lincoln Memorial

The glass ceiling tiles are the only light that isn’t neutral or cool in this space, and they stand in contrast.

Lincoln Memorial

From here it’s easy to see the Washington Monument, itself lit in the night.

Lincoln Memorial

Canon PowerShot S95

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Photography, Road Trips

The Lincoln Memorial at night

A photoessay: a series on the Lincoln Memorial at night. This is when the memorial is at its most stunning.

Road Trips

Where Lincoln first entered Illinois

I just love to find an old brick road. This one used to be US 50 as it entered Illinois after crossing the Wabash River from Vincennes, Indiana.

Brick segments of old US 50

Notice how the fellow who owns that house parks his cars on the old highway? A roadgeek’s dream!

You may have noticed that there’s no bridge in that photo. It’s been gone for probably 75 years. I found this postcard image of the bridge that led to this brick road. One part of the bridge was a steel arch truss, and another part was a wooden covered bridge!


Since 1933, a series of grand arches has linked Vincennes to Illinois. Here’s the bridge from the Vincennes side. But even this is no longer US 50; the road bypasses town to the north and crosses the Wabash over a bridge named after Red Skelton.

Wabash River bridge, Vincennes

There are lots of photos of this bridge on the Internet, but I’ve yet to see any taken from the Illinois side. I’ve corrected that problem here.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

I didn’t think much about how the 1933 bridge rose so high above the river until someone commented on one of these photos on Flickr that the area looked pretty good for having been under water so many times. The most recent flood was in June of 2008. Several square miles were under water in Illinois, including the old brick road and the house of that fellow who parked his cars on the bricks. (Suddenly, parking my car there didn’t seem so attractive anymore.) But the 1933 bridge was never under water.

This monument, which stands near the end of the bridge on the Illinois side several feet above the old brick road, wasn’t under water either. When young Abraham Lincoln crossed into Illinois, he and his family did it near this spot, and this monument commemorates it. It felt very cool to walk ground Lincoln walked.

Lincoln memorial

ReadMore Follow another Illinois road trip I took and see why it gave me such a reality check.

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Washington, DC

I hadn’t been to DC since before my children were born, and that time wasn’t even supposed to happen. I was in Maryland for training and the instructor got sick. Unexpectedly having the day to myself, I boarded a Metro train and spent the day walking the National Mall, taking in the monuments. One day wasn’t nearly enough and I’ve wanted to return ever since.

My 12-year-old son is hurtling headlong into his teenage years, but he’s not so far gone yet that I’ve become uncool. Wishing to enjoy my stature while it lasts and get in some good father-son bonding, I decided that my sons and I should make a long car trip. DC was far enough away to be an adventure, but not so far away that the drive would be a drag. So when spring break came this year, we loaded up my little car and headed east.

The DC weather could have been better. We didn’t get to see everything we wanted to because it was either raining or cold and windy. We did arrive at the height of cherry blossom season, so the city was full of blooms.

US Capitol

I find the US Capitol building to be awe inspiring, just a stunningly beautiful building. My last trip to DC was years before 9/11, so you could, and I did, walk into the Capitol and just wander around.  Today, you have to get tickets in advance for a guided tour. I arranged for the tour, on which we learned that the dome weighs nine tons!

US Capitol

There’s plenty to see inside the Capitol, but when I got home I found I had taken more photos of ceilings than of anything else. The Capitol has some wicked ceilings.

Inside the US Capitol

This is part of the dome from the inside. I thought that the line of people around the edge were some sort of carving until the tour guide explained that it was a painting. The four artists who painted it sure achieved some depth!

Inside the US Capitol

My other favorite stop in DC, two miles west at the other end of the Mall, is the Lincoln Memorial. I think I could just sit at Mr. Lincoln’s feet all day, looking up at him, studying his face.

Lincoln Memorial

We wanted to tour Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot, but the lines were so long and the winds were so strong and cold that we settled for exterior photographs and then got hot chocolate at a nearby Starbucks. The building is so big, and the street it’s on is so narrow, that even my 28 mm lens couldn’t capture it all. I took several photos in sequence and let Autostitch patch them together.

Ford's Theater

We spent a whole morning in the National Air and Space Museum. A family story is that my mother’s father, a mechanical engineer who specialized in designing brakes and airplane landing gears, was on the top-secret team to design the landing gear for the Apollo 11 lunar landing module. I was delighted that the museum had it on display.

National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

We also spent some time in the National Museum of the American Indian. I was hoping to see something about the Potawatomi there since we have some of that blood in our family, but no luck. The building’s exterior is cool, and stands in sharp contrast to the nearby Capitol.

National Museum of the Native American

We also stopped by the White House. The boys really wanted to go inside, but you have to give six months’ notice and have the recommendation of your senator or representative. We settled for taking photos from the fence.

The White House

We stayed in a hotel in College Park, Maryland, and rode the train into town each day. Our stop was right next to the Navy Memorial. My dad’s father, James W. Grey, was a navy man, as was my father, James W. Grey, Jr., making me the only James W. Grey in the family not to have served in the Navy. Since this was where we began and ended our days in DC, it seems appropriate to end with this photo.

Navy Memorial