Loose in the Palouse: Early Impressions

The gorgeous shots you typically see from the Palouse are shot at a place called Steptoe Butte. But that’s not the only place you can find beauty.

Just getting there can be amazing. Coming from Portland, you need to drive up the Columbia Gorge, which is spectacular in its own right. I’ve done several posts on the region closer to home that are worth a look. But it ain’t too shabby on the eastern end either.

Cruising down the gorge, the landscape changes considerably. In the west, sheer, tree covered cliffs dominate. Waterfalls cascade here and there, some of which are enormous. But as you go further east, past the rain catcher called the Cascade Mountain range, things dry out. Substantial hills still exist, maybe not so perpendicular, but tall enough to take advantage of the natural wind tunnel that calls the gorge home.

(Click on any photo for a larger view. Especially as WordPress seems to want to shrink them to cell phone size…)

As we headed further east, the usual weather patterns turned on their ear. Rather than get clearer, it clouded up.

Wisps of rain thoughtfully fell on the horizon, rather than on us. Dark clouds claimed, “we’re much more interesting than boring bluebird skies!”

Even in black and white. I couldn’t decide which version I liked better.

We stopped at a highway junction to take in the drama, and a reminder that we were in farm country now.

The next day, the photography workshop began in earnest. Mornings were classroom. As all the participants were already handy with a camera, and more than a few had pro level gear, spending time on the basics was unnecessary. We all knew an F-Stop from ISO, and which end of a lens to screw onto a camera. Picture review and esoterica were the topics. In the afternoons, we cruised the countryside, looking for shots and shot opportunities. You’ve already seen some of the results of that.

It was spring – late April, early May. Some of the fields had been planted, and had early growth. Others were not yet planted, or had been so recently as to still be brown. This added contrast to the views – both in color and in black and white.

And, here and there, was evidence of past endeavors. Signs that man had been here for years, trying to eke out an existence. In good years, helping to feed the world. In bad years, struggling to feed themselves.

An old, broken down grain elevator
Spring Planting

Some farms looked as if they were doing well.

Some hills, like they had past glories as a screen saver for Windows XP. A top fashion model, in its older years. A few more bumps and bulges, the outlook a bit less clear.

And in the evenings, we usually went to Steptoe Butte. A high overlook, with 360 degree views, or view potential in any direction. Just the place to be in the warm, dappled light and shadows of late afternoon and evening.

But we’ll save that goodness for another post. For now, a teaser in black and white…


22 thoughts on “Loose in the Palouse: Early Impressions

  1. I’ve decided one reason I like landscape photos from this area is its simplicity: or at least all that land without fences, billboards, homes, and such. The only other place I’ve seen that is in the Flint Hills of Kansas, although I’m sure there are plenty of such places farther west and north.

    Those skies are fantastic. And I must say, I found as many of the black and white photos appealing as those in color. I think my favorite of the group’s the grain elevator. The vaguely sepia tones are terrific.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a little surprised, seems like you usually prefer the color side. As this is more wheat country than cattle country, fences aren’t as important. Billboards are not a major curse in the Pacific NW. Maybe South Dakota got our share. πŸ™‚

      I’m usually a fair weather photographer, so I don’t enjoy dramatic skies very much. Not to mention cloudy skies in western Oregon often run full grey overcast – ho hum.


  2. Fabulous photos, Dave! Your black and whites work well. And you had some interesting weather. Such an amazing area of the country. I’ve been once at harvest and it was a fantastic photography experience. Who led your workshop?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is an interesting area of the country, which I hadn’t really explored before the workshop. The workshop leader was Hudson Henry. He’s a Portland based pro, and has quite a bit of content on YouTube. Future workshops are on his website.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love them cloudy skies! I’ve always loved that stretch of road along the Columbia River Gorge… If I didn’t already have a stiff neck from staring at the computer screen, I’d even follow those links to your previous posts. Those turbines are pretty cool as well.

    I’ve never understood all the Ansel Adams wannabees…. B&W was all well and good back in the day, but that virga inΒ the 3rd shot gives more context to what is going on when it has the visual clues from natural color.

    I once tried a photo workshop, but never having the brain cells relating to F-Stops and ISO and all the bells and whistles, it didn’t do me a great deal of good. I tended to wander off looking for little bits of Big Sur to take home with me. 😏
    But I digress…. them clouds in “Spring Planting” made me gasp! Lovely.
    Looking forward to the dappled light and shadows….. πŸ€—πŸ’ž


  4. I’m aware of a few northwest photographers who lead workshops so was going to ask who led yours but I saw that you mention him to Jane. Not sure I wouldn’t make a mistake talking to him since our local football team, the Patriots, have a tight end named Hunter Henry.
    I enjoyed seeing your shots, in either treatment, of your trip. We don’t have very many of the wide open spaces here in New England and those that are are not as vast.
    And, of course, there is the nostalgia of the grain elevator which appeals as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Hudson’s main problem with confusion is folks getting his name back to front – he hasn’t mentioned a football player.

      I’ve never been to New England. Clearly, I’ve been missing an opportunity – even if it doesn’t have the big wide open spaces.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post, Dave. This is the heart of the country I was raised, so each shot was a feeling of home. You did get lucky with the great, contrasting dark skies and rain in the distance… so much more interesting than the dull blue skies we get most of the time. You capture the contrast of the land well ~ a slice of Americana. Take care, and I wish you more adventures in ’23.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to give you some good memories of your old stomping grounds. More to come…
      I never know what or where you’ll be posting from next, but I’m looking forward to whatever you come up with this year. πŸ™‚


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