After the raging pandemic and turmoil of 2020, 2021 was supposed to be the year when things returned to some semblance of normal. It didn’t work out that way. The year began with a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Meanwhile, even with the vaccines, COVID-19 continued to take its toll. When we asked photographers from the DMV to share their best photos of 2021, COVID and the insurrection were on the minds of many. Others focused on the sights of our city, which remain beautiful in spite of everything. Still others captured the return of Brood X cicadas.
(Flickr; Clif’s website)
One of the great things about DC is that sometimes the best shots are found just a few blocks from home. These both were taken while walking the best pup in DC, who deserves credit on both shots for holding still while I set them up. Both are within two blocks of my front door.
(IG: setlistthief; Flickr)
[Editor’s note: Mark shared photos from his November trip to Mahale Mountains National Park, Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania.] At 51, Nkombo is one of M group’s (several dozen individuals who have been habituated to human presence) oldest females and one of its dominant matriarchs despite having no offspring of her own. Nkombo was one of the first chimps we met after hiking about an hour into the forest. The memory of making eye contact with her, a member of a species that’s our closest genetic relative, still brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
One of the many lovely and majestic creatures of Africa, we were told this female was at least 60 years old (notice the chipped left tusk). The lifespan of an African elephant can reach up to 70, but the harsh conditions of Ruaha’s environment make reaching old age extremely unlikely and prompts one to ponder what this old soul has seen over her many years.
Maria Helena Carey
(IG: themadamemeow; Website)
This photo was taken from Columbus Circle looking south toward the Capitol. A fence protecting the Capitol and surrounding areas had gone up on January 7, 2021 and extended into most of the Architect of the Capitol properties, as well as Constitution and Independence Avenues. The original perimeter cut off the Capitol Hill community and disrupted life for its inhabitants for over three months. The outer perimeter came down on March 14, 2021.
This photo was taken at a friend’s house in Potomac, Maryland, where cicadas were even more plentiful than they were around the District. The insects would fly around the pool and fall in it, and I was delighted to fish them out and help save them, only to see them fall right back in the water. In between rescues, I saw this cicada spreading its wings and thought it was incredibly beautiful.
The cherry blossom festival along the Tidal Basin is a big event for me, and the magnolias are just as spectacular and sometimes get overlooked. I love this picture because the framing of the magnolias brings out the Washington Monument in all its glory!
Autumn brings beautiful colors of yellow, orange and brown but not too many reds. I’m always on the hunt for beautiful hues of red and this tree perfectly frames the majestic Washington National Cathedral.
Rodney D. Cunningham
I liked taking this picture because, even with the absence of movement, there’s quite a bit going on.
I took this picture towards the end of 2021, when Omicron was starting to overwhelm the DC area and the country. For some reason, this helicopter made me think of those who get to leave their environments and those who are left behind.
(IG: smallcraft; Facebook)
Woof. What a year. It looks like we’re in for another doozy of discord, dissembling, and dystopia. I tried to treat 2021 with the absurdity it deserved. Both pictures come from a brief escape to Florida, a state known for its perspicacity. The first shot, of the Florida jungle, is a trip through the looking glass, where I edited the photo to look like a lithograph, then sent it through an AI colorization.
The second photo is of the unsettlingly large American white pelican, an enormous bird that oddly befits our standing in the world these days.
#36 of the 52 Hike Challenge (completed the last hike on New Years Eve 2021). Getting outside and exploring in nature, aka Forest-Bathing, was a necessity for me this year, and I imagine will continue to be.
Thanks to my partner in crime, Chris M (pictured below), I rediscovered my first love: old-school film photography.
I wanted to get some night shots on Dupont Circle of young people riding bikes or motorcycles or ATVs, and got dudeling.
The rays of the sun drew my attention; it was beautiful.
I asked this US Capitol Police Officer seen in this picture if he was inside the Capitol during the January 6th insurrection as he was moving the rail. He said he was. I could only imagine what he endured that day. I thanked him for what he did to defend our democracy and snapped this photo as he walked away this summer day after just weeks after the fencing went down.
In America Flags, each flag on the grounds of the National Mall representing a life lost to Covid. That number grew by 2,000 while I was there and was over 700,000 before this three-week exhibit ended.
Last summer, the House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation transported a 25-foot totem pole from Washington State to Washington DC, stopping for ceremony and live-streamed events with communities leading efforts to protect sacred places under threat from resource extraction and industrial development.
Sadly this photo has given me such joy this year. It’s petty and unproductive but to be in the right place at the right time with the right poster and set up is frankly….priceless. Plus it’s an evergreen statement: it will likely never be not true.
(IG: mikijourdan; Flickr)
Considering that 2021 began with the horrifying images of insurrectionists attacking the U.S. Capitol, it was such a relief in August to attend a peaceful protest on the Capitol steps. Rep. Cori Bush and her supporters camped out on the steps to press for an extension to the eviction moratorium. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others also participated.
Joanna Hiatt Kim
(IG: johiattkim, Flickr, Etsy)
Each year, October’s full moon, known as the Hunter’s Moon, rises in great alignment with the DC monuments. It is a tricky one to capture, however, because it comes up at sunset, when the light is changing very fast, at the same time that the moon’s exposure is changing very fast as it gets brighter during its rise. I decided to try to do a “moon trail” photograph, and was very pleased that it worked out under these tricky conditions.
I have done a few Capitol Dome photos with the moon in them, but wanted to do one that showed many phases of the moon. It took a lot of planning to be able to capture each of the phases with a clear sky at night. But, the 1-day crescent moon remained elusive. It only shines in dark enough conditions maybe three times a year, for an hour or less each time — one time it was just 15 minutes! I kept encountering cloudy conditions, but finally on literally the last possible chance for the year, I had some good luck and a clear sky to capture the moon. I was so excited to have it work out.
Mourning the loss of a loved one at In America: Remember. The exhibition took place on the National Mall and featured a planted white flag for each American life lost to Covid-19. By the end of the exhibit there were 701,133 flags on the Mall.
Although I was able to start traveling a bit this year, a few of my favorite photos came from right here at home. I was able to do amazing things, like GO TO A MUSEUM and GO TO A BASEBALL GAME! The first photo was taken at the Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in April. The second one was taken at the Nats’ last home game of the season at Nationals Park in October.
I had wanted to try fair photography for a long time and I am so happy with how my photos turned out. I loved the lighting and color at the balloon dart game in particular.
Portrait of a Brood X cicada, National Arboretum.
I love everything about this photo. A family meal, a framed up poster of Kermit the Frog and a Facetime call about to happen with Bubba’s grandma. There is so much nostalgia in this snapshot that reminds me of my childhood. While we’ve switched it up from Roy Rogers to Popeyes, Royal Farm and lately, Jollibee, one thing remained constant and that’s a sit-down family fried chicken meal. The Facetime call reminds of how we’ve come along way from video conference phone sets readily found at Circuit City in the late 80’s.
One of my favorite images from the year is a view of the Capitol Building through dewy grass during sunrise. Early mornings on the National Mall are so special and never fail to impress.
This image, of a National Guard vehicle blocking a downtown intersection in the days leading up to the Inauguration, is one that I wish did not exist. Yet, it marks a pivotal and uncertain time in the city in 2021.
(IG: tompetzphoto; Website)
In a time of societal division and political and social upheaval, many forget that there is a world that we all share that can and does unite us if we allow it to. The natural world and the wonders it contains can bring perspective and unity to the mind and help people who otherwise concentrate on negativity and divisive thinking to become more centered and at peace. These things can’t be forgotten just because there are negative things occurring around us. Time must be made to encounter and enjoy these spaces and doing it together, no matter the background will be key to our future as custodians of this amazing planet on which we live. These images represent that ideology directly and I hope those that view them can take away a feeling of calm and peace that they then share with others while remembering that these places are fragile and must be preserved no matter the cost.
For me, the best part of living and photographing in D.C. is the chance to see current events up close. In this photo, Reverend Jesse Jackson leads a voting rights march, despite his fragile health and a blazingly hot August day.
It was also very special to watch the filming of the movie Rustin at the Lincoln Memorial, about the 1963 March on Washington. In this scene, the crowd is reacting to MLK’s powerful words.
(IG: jeff.vers2.0; Flickr)
I suppose these two favorites of mine are a study in contrasts. The first was taken on Key Bridge during a morning rainstorm last spring. Frustrated with an inability to keep the rain off my lens in the high winds, I decided to go ahead and shoot — spotty lens and all — before the man in the poncho completely disappeared. It may capture a little of the spirit of 2021.
The second photo was taken at the side of a Georgetown house last fall. I hope some of its brightness carries into 2022.
Elizabeth Ann Yoder
As a Hill staffer, I had the honor of helping with this past year’s Presidential Inauguration, but, due to January 6th and the need for additional event security, my walk to work turned into 80 minutes or more each way in the days leading up to the inaugural ceremony. I did a lot of thinking as I navigated my way around the maze of fencing, and this photo encapsulates my thoughts and feelings from that time.
While I really enjoy street photography, I tend to be more focused on capturing luminous images of architecture, landscapes, concerts, and iconic scenes, with minimal post processing, and the second photo is one of my favorites from the Tidal Basin.