Photographing the Palouse
A few weeks ago, my husband, Ric, myself, and our friends, Geoff and Sandy Shook, traveled to the eastern part of Washington State for a photography weekend. The guys are not obsessed with photography, they were just willing enabler’s for the weekend.
The Palouse region of our state tugs at the heartstrings of my husband, for it is the area he spent 5 years of his life enjoying while in college. The rolling hills, vast farmland of wheat fields and livestock, and the slower pace of life are all things that draw the traveler in. The lack of rain that the west side of our state is plagued with is an additional lure for we “west-sider’s”.
The weekend began just trying to get out of Seattle. Once we passed over the cascade mountains and dropped down into eastern Washington, things began to feel calmer. It was very late when we arrived in St. John, where we were staying. Fortunately, some of Ric’s family have homes there and we were blessed with being able to use one of them for our weekend.
Saturday morning came with a wonderfully fulfilled desire of mine. We have a family friend who lives, of all places, in the small town of St. John. She is actually a friend of my mother, having worked with my mom many years ago when I was still in school. We had reconnected via Facebook and she is a portrait photographer in St. John, operating Leifer Photography. It was delightful to visit Janet and her husband Jim, see their beautiful farm, and catch up. It was even more delightful when they spent Sunday with us for an afternoon of photography and another enabling husband along!
My friend, Sandy, and I (yes, we share the same name, among thousands of other things in common!) wanted to go to Steptoe Butte at sunset to photograph the surrounding landscape. We meandered our way there, stopping many times along the way to photograph the varied countryside. Eastern Washington is such a beautiful place and the farmland, old barns, and remnants of the huge grain operations that take place there continually draw me in.
Arriving at Steptoe Butte with plenty of time to prepare for sunset we were greeting with extreme high winds. So high, in fact, that we couldn’t stand still enough to hold our cameras still nor could we use tripods. The view is amazing from the high vantage point you drive to although I am compelled to add that the road getting there is narrow, winding you around the butte to the top. I’m not a fan of heights and sitting on the passenger side looking down the steep hillside while my husband drove the winding road wasn’t the best part of my weekend. The wind was literally sweeping up one side of the butte, storming across the top and off to the landscape beyond. The the clouds decided to let lose of some of their moisture and we were being pelted with rain. Needless to say, we all ran back for the car and decided maybe there would be a better time to photograph it, like the next morning!
True to our desires, the next morning proved to give us the gift we’d hoped for. We were a little on the early side, seasonally speaking, to capture the green of the newly sprouted wheat fields this area is so well known for, however we still marveled at the ever changing and varied landscape. The light was AMAZING as the clouds rolled through, causing the sun and shadows to literally dance across the landscape. I’ve never witnessed anything as beautiful as watching the light move the way it did. I took many photos and still don’t know if I truly was able to capture it the way it looked to my eyes.
The Palouse region is dotted with small towns which, while not heavily populated, act as the gathering place for those who live in the surrounding farmland. We spent a bit of time wandering one of the cemeteries reading the dates and names on the headstones. You can gain a greater understanding of the history of an area by visiting some of the older cemeteries. The view of the surrounding landscape was again beautiful and, while our husbands wandered the area, Sandy and I were trying to capture the character of our surrounding.
Across the landscape, as a crow flies, or a couple hours drive from where we were, lies Palouse Falls. I had never visited this particular site in all my trips to this side of our state and it was on my bucket list of places to visit. We were again treated to a beautiful sight and, again, I tried to capture the beauty that was before my eyes.
Wrapping up our time away was bittersweet. The need to return to our everyday lives is necessary yet the desire to stay in the relaxed pace of those rare weekend retreats is strong. Our drive home took us through more farmland as we chose to avoid the main freeway and take a slower highway route. Crossing over Snoqualmie Pass brought an unexpected snowstorm and dropping into the Seattle area brought us back to the reality of life.
If you enjoy traveling I would strongly encourage you to get out and visit your own state, province, or country. It’s great to travel to those exotic locations we all dream about but what about your own backyard? What is there that awaits your discovery? If you enjoy capturing your travels via your camera, make sure you have freshly charged batteries and a willingness to watch for the light to dance across your view. Capturing it can not only give you great satisfaction; it can also transport you back to those moments in time where you were able to capture life as it happened in front of your eyes.
Enjoy watching this slideshow of more photos from the Palouse