The Complete Guide to Photographing the
Palouse region of Eastern Washington
All Text and Photos Jack Graham www.jackgrahamphoto.com www.jackgrahamsblog.com
The rolling hills of wheat, barley, lentils and canola with the addition of spring wildflowers and country roads punctuated with 100+ year old barns lends itself to a photographers paradise. The subject matter is endless.
The Palouse area is located in Southeastern Washington and is accessed by flying into Spokane ( 1 hrs. north) or driving a few hours from Seattle, WA or Portland Oregon. The major towns are Pullman, home of Washington State University and Moscow Idaho, home of the University of Idaho. The Palouse is fairly remote. It's not a tourist destination, but during the spring and summer there are usually many photographers.
A few interesting facts about the Palouse
This area averages 100-200 bushels of wheat per year The Palouse is the largest producer of lentils in the world Because of the geography, the crops of the Palouse region require no irrigation The Palouse covers over 4000 sq. miles The name "Palouse" is thought to have originated by French Canadian fur traders, based on the
indigenous people living in the area called Palus.
Each season brings different photographic opportunities. Most photographers visit the Palouse from mid-May through September. In the springtime, endless, rolling fields of different shades of green abound. Early to late June the patterns of the green fields along with the red barns make for a truly remarkable photographic experience. By August the harvest is in full force. This is the best time to capture the clouds of dust, created by the combines in the field in the late afternoon. The setting sun provides warm glows over the vastness of the fields of the Palouse. The clouds over the Palouse can be amazing in any season. Billowing white clouds appear to indicate summer thunderstorms. Sunsets and sunrises can be spectacular during these times. By fall the many of the fields are different shades of brown dirt with patterns inscribed by the tractors during and after the harvest.
The Palouse is a great area to work on photographic skills. One must take light and patterns into consideration more than anywhere else. Images that portray depth, surprise and drama, while using leading lines, foregrounds and other graphic elements will produce some great images. I will warn you, photography I this area isnt as easy as you may think.
The Palouse is an area that the most people have never been to. Most areas in the Palouse are unrecognizable to most people unless they have visited the region previously. Therefore stressing vision and creativity during your time in the Palouse is primary. Almost without exception, each location you visit will be different from the prior location.
To say that the Palouse is spacious is an understatement. Unlike nowhere else in the United States other than perhaps Death Valley, does this become as intimidating as here. In addition, texture and patterns create so many photographic opportunities, one must be very selective.
1) I always try to find a foreground-mainly because of the vastness.
2) I am always looking for depth in an image using a wide angel lens. WE will work on hyper focal length, which is absolutely necessary to get the depth of field you want. You have to get low to the ground lots of times to get the correct depth and angle you need for a dramatic image.
3) PRSI always look for patterns, repetition and simplicity
4) Again because of the expanse, you need to pay attention to your backgrounds and make sure they do not take away from the scene.
5) Here in the Palouse the use of colors can be rewarding. Red barns, in green fields are a great use of complimentary color.
5) Exposures can be tricky in because of the dramatic, ever changing and sometimes contrasting light. The light always seems to move over the Palouse region and changes constantly. Learning to meter using your spot meter is very important. Using graduated Neutral Density filters can compensate for quite common lighting difficulties. (See Filters under Equipment)
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Slow Down..Unless you just get lucky to get out of out of you vehicle and hit
on some really dramatic light, take some time and bond with your surroundings. I guarantee that unless
youve been to the Palouse a few times already, you will be overwhelmed with its inert beauty. Rushing
to make photographs will result in mediocre results. Decide what strikes your eye or what is perhaps
creating dramatic detailUnderstand where we are, appreciate the inert beauty and slow
down..take all in . And I guarantee that youll come away with great images
Recommended Photographic Equipment for the Palouse
1) I carry two camera bodies, just in case.
2) TRIPOD: in the words of my dear friend Bill Fortney "There are two kinds of tripods, ones that are easy to carry, and good ones" ... Bill Fortney, Nikon USA
It can get very windy on the bluffs. A sturdy tripod and head are a necessary addition to your arsenal
3) LENSES. I use lenses from 17mm to 300mm. A 300 comes in handy when shooting the sand dunes. A teleconverter can come in handy as well,
4) FILTERS. I recommend a Polarizer as well as graduated ND filters. I use GRADUATED ND filters made by Singh- Ray. They are the ones most pros use. Unlike some of the other competitors, Singh-Ray filters have no color shift. Youll need a filter holder for them (Singh Ray, as well as most camera stored sell holders made by Cokin. I recommend buying the X-Pro size (larger). If you dont have these filters and want to buy them, call Singh Ray at 800-486-5501 or 863-993-4100, during business hours, 9am to 5pm Eastern US time, Monday-Friday.
5) Cable release & lens hoods
6) DUST: Dust on the many unpaved roads in The Palouse can be a real problem. Ill give you some tips for keeping dust to a minimum when we are together. A hand held blower is useful; I also use a good VERY soft cloth to keep my lenses dry. I do not use micro-fiber cloths---they tend to only move water around, not absorb it. I use these cloths made by 3M (they are made for auto detailing, but are really amazing. You can wash them (no soap) and they stay like new..
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP. ---Clean your windshields. Pack some windshield washer, or cleaner and paper towels. Youll need them to remove dust and buds from your windshield. This will help you see as you drive.
NOTE: Youll notice in the links above, they link to www.outdoorphotogear.com. These are great folks to buy accessories etc. from. They have it all under one roof (prices are as good as anywhere). There are so many great products listed here, that there is no way that any camera store can carry all of them!.
I would plan on at least 4 or 5 days in the area. The best time for photography, like in many other areas I n during the golden hour at sunrise and sunset. In June, sunset is early. You need to be at your location, ready to shoot at least 40 minutes or earlier that sunset. The very best light is usually 30 minutes before sunrise and 30-45 minutes after sunset. You can check the angle of the sun by using the Photographers Ephemeris . During the daytime I would review your images, or wander some of the small towns like Ridgefield, Garfield and Palouse in search of some neglected photographs. Perhaps use this time to scout locations for sunrise and sunset photography. Summer days are long ones. Be sure to get plenty of rest.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP Think in Monochrome..Though the Palouse is very colorful in the spring and summer sometime thinking in monochrome can produce some interesting images with very different feelings. Consider making some monochrome images while here.
Getting around in the Palouse
Get a good map. Highways 26 and 12 are the major east-West roads. Highways 27 & 195 are the major North South Roads with many off shoots on each, containing lots of subject matter to photograph.
There are four kinds of roads in the Palouse.
1) The paved roads. Though easier to drive, most of the really good locations are on the unpaved roads.
2) Gravel Roads 3) Primitive Roads. These are marked as such. Be very careful when wet. I would stay off these
when wet. The mud is as slippery as ice and sinking into the mud is common. 4) Summer Roads. The same as Primitive roads but worse.
I have found Colfax, WA to be a good centrally located town to stay in. There are a few hotels in town ( I stay at the Siesta Inngood rates, clean, and friendly509-6397-341). The towns of Steptoe, Palouse, Pullman, Oakesdale and Ridgefield are only a short drive. There are lots to photograph within a 45-minute radius of Colfax.
This article is not a location-based article. There are too many locations that I have photographed at to list here. I share these: secret locations and some of the iconic locations on my workshops that I conduct every year at the Palouse. However, you can read about a few of the more interesting locations by subscribing to the PHOTOGRAPH AMERICA NEWSLETTER . Issue # 54 is about the Palouse..
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP SUBJECT MATTER.
Obviously the grand landscape with the old barns is the most common images made in the Palouse. However there are many other things to consider. The Palouse offers some little towns that may make you think its still 1950 or so. These are offering photographers some great subject matter. The countryside is dotted with old barns, disheveled homes and many old rusting cars and farm machinery. This is all great subject matter. Be careful on private property. I suggest asking before you trespass.
Text and Photos , Copyright Jack Graham. Contents cannot be used in anyway without written permission from Jack Graham Photography. All Rights reserved http://www.photographamerica.com/