Thursday, June 12, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 2: Steptoe Butte

My goal the first day was to get to Steptoe Butte. It's the iconic photo op in the area, and I needed to be the tourist and make sure I spent some time there. I'm not sure I'll ever go back to the summit, but I'll talk more about that in a future post.

I found myself conflicted as I was driving around. There is so much gorgeous landscape, so many picture-perfect spots, I could have stopped every 1/2 mile. Of course then I wouldn't have made it very far. So I had to pick and choose my spots.

This spot caught my attention because it was the first field full of yellow. In photography we talk about the principle of thirds. I like this image because it's naturally divided into thirds: the yellow field, the blue sky, and the landscape between. And that middle area is divided in half, and extra detail I enjoy.

This is typical of the local scenes that kept catching my attention. There are so many elements that work together. Like the above image, this one is divided into three parts: the flat ground, the hill and the sky. And each area has a different texture, adding interest to the scene.

The middle element is full of triangles. There's the center hill, with it's peak in the middle of the scene, and that shape is repeated in the two clusters of trees behind it. I like triangles because they're energetic shapes.

I also like that the rolling curves of the center is contrasted with the straight lines of the flat ground.

This next image is one of my favorite from the trip. It's simple, minimalistic, straight-forward and in my mind it captures the essence of the Palouse: rolling green hills, blue skies, light fluffy clouds.

After a much-needed nap, I made my way to the top of Steptoe Butte. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on one's perspective) we were surrounded by storms. This image captured a brief moment when the sun broke through the stormy skies. The upper left corner is a passing rain shower, and the bottom is hidden in the dark shadows. This is why people flock to the butte. It offers a unique perspective on the rolling hills, with all it's highlights and shadows.

Sometimes the sky, the clouds, the light, the rain, all work together to create drama in the heavens.


The Palouse is so pastoral, and it feels like being in the middle of a painting. So of course I had to convert one to a painting. I photographed this particular element many times. The gently winding curve draws me into the scene and back through the hills.


This is a perspective that would never been seen from ground level. The height of the butte is the only way to capture this play between highlight and shadow, raking across the texture of growing fields.

There is a benefit of being surrounded by storms: rainbows. This one was gorgeous and lasted quite a long time. I especially like this one because the shadow of the butte is visible under the rainbow. As the son went down, the triangular shadow got longer and longer.


Typically I sharpen images, looking for tack-sharp details and lines. This image was not focused very well. I'm not sure why, other than operator error. But in this circumstance, I think the softness works well. This scene is not about sharp details and hard lines. It's about the soft lines and shapes, colors and textures of the fertile land.
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