Washington wakes up to Winter Solstice
Night turns to day as the sun rises over Washington on the shortest day of the calendar year - the winter solstice. (Dec. 22) (Evelio Contreras / The Washington Post)
When Dave Beard, the Post’s sitewide engagement editor, told me about a project he was working on about the Winter’s Solstice I was eager to see what I could contribute. The Post sent out its photographers to capture what it was like to see the shortest day of the calendar year and we also gathered photos from readers and viewers.
I talked to one of my editors, Jonathan Forysthe about a good place to shoot the sunrise. He suggested Gravelly Point on the George Washington Parkway. It’s got a great view of the National Mall and the Capitol across the Potomac. The park is also next to Reagan National Airport.
I showed up before dawn to set up a Canon 60D and a Canon 5D Mark II focusing on the Washington Monument and the Potomac River to produce two separate time lapses.
One of the cool things about sunrise shots is the sky turns to light before the sun actually shows up. So, in essence, you are shooting for two moments. I knew the sun would rise to my right and to my left I saw the Washington Monument and chose that to show the sky turn from black to light.
In between, I used another camera to shoot a lot of detail shots like autumn leaves and the reflection of the monument in the rippling water while I was filming the sky change to show the mood of the place.
Every few minutes or so, I noticed a plane would take off from Reagan. There were also birds flying in the sky. I wanted to show how flight could be seen as a transition point for folks like the winter solstice can be for the seasons. It became my “character” in this short visual piece.
Before I left the parkway, I noticed a pair of fisherman on one of the riverbanks set up fishing poles. I thought this was a nice way to end the piece to highlight the calm feeling I had shooting the Winter’s Solstice.
For me, shooting the sunrise felt like a smooth, simple transition, like the solstice, one that would have happened without little notice if you didn’t wake up to see it. I like moments like that, one where the light patterns – and the mood – had shifted.
—Evelio Contreras /The Washington Post