Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 7: Headed Home

This is the final post, and final leg, of my trip to the Palouse. It was a great trip, taught me some things about my photography and offered some wonderful photo ops. I'll definitely be back again.

This first photo is the trestle over Lawyer's Canyon. This panorama is a stitch of 11 images. 

Near Lawyer's Canyon is another trestle spanning Old Highway 95. I really like the small cloud in the middle of the frame.

I know this bridge has been photographed thousands of times, probably tens of thousands (or more?), but I've never photographed it. The sky this day was a wonderful mixture of fluffy clouds and brilliant blue.

This neat little pond is below White Bird Pass. There's a house/ranch really close to this so I bet there's been some swimming on hot summer days.


As a final note, let me clarify something I said in an earlier post. I stated that next time I come to the Palouse, I won't go back to Steptoe Butte. I didn't say why, and two people asked about that. The top of Steptoe Butte is pretty small, and I explored the entire 360°. I feel like I've seen all there is to see from there. I looked for details, had great light, and got the images I wanted. Plus, there is so much unexplored area around the Palouse - countless back roads that I didn't explore. Next time, I'll concentrate on ground level areas.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 6: North to Badger Lake

When I left Colfax, I headed north to Badger Lake, which is just south of Cheney, Washington, which is just south of Spokane. I've never been a GPS kind of guy. I'm pretty good at looking at a map in the morning, remembering my route, and getting to where I was going.

Years ago, when I was a volunteer for the Idaho Golf Association, I traveled with them to workshops on the Rules of Golf, in places none of us had ever been before. At the airport, they would hand me the keys to the rental car because I was the one who could get us to where we needed to go.

I took my dad's GPS on this trip to help me navigate the back roads around the Palouse area, which was really helpful. Before leaving Colfax, I used google maps to find my route, so I knew where I was going. Still, I used the GPS as a backup. That was a mistake. First, Garmin couldn't find Badger Lake, no matter what I entered. I tried cities, recreation, points of interest - nothing worked. So I scrolled through the map to find the lake. I told Garmin exactly where I wanted to go.

When I got to the first turnoff, Garmin didn't even flinch. She wanted me to keep going straight. I said, aloud, "No, I'm turning here." When I got to the next intersection, she told me to turn right. "No, I'm turning left here." Same thing at the next intersection. Badger Lake must be in a warp of some sort and invisible to GPS. Even so, I got there.

Along the way, some sites caught my attention. Since I had no time frame, and no agenda other than getting to Badger Lake, I stopped frequently along the way.

This abandoned house was almost completely obscured by the plants around it.

A barn detail, with the rolling hills behind.

I can't say why, but I love trees in the middle of a field.

You may be asking why I went to Badger Lake: I have family there. Uncle Terry and Aunt Wanda, Pete and Teri Jo, and their kids run Badger Lake Estates, a beautiful community right on the lake. Pete and Teri Jo live on the bluff above the lake, and the have a watch-rooster. He's mean, but only if you turn your back on him. Maybe I was just lucky, but Fuego was nice to me.

He's probably just protective of his girls. Isn't she pretty?

Teri Jo gets to collect eggs daily (or every other day). Some are white, some are brown, and this day, at least one was blue.

Pete is an air traffic controller in Spokane. We got a tour of the tower and facilities. The people who work there were so welcoming and so professional. After seeing what they do, and hearing what they do, I have a new respect for controllers. They have a really difficult, high stress job, but a beautiful setting in which to work.

Tomorrow: the trip home.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 5: Back to the Butte

My second night in Colfax, I decided to return to Steptoe Butte. Although the first night's storms created some interesting clouds and rainbows, I wanted to see the classic lighting, and the setting sun creating ever-changing patterns across the landscape.

The skies were brilliant blue with white fluffy clouds. But as I drove to the top of the butte, the skies were not my focus. Looking up from one of the lower roads, I noticed a flutter of orange. "I wonder what that is?" When I reached the lower parking lot, I discovered a paraglider had just taken off.

He maintained a consistent altitude, slowly moving back and forth for probably 20 minutes or more, just above the parking lot.


As he descended, the perspective changed. Instead of a blue background, he was floating in front of the soft, green landscape.


Once he landed, I was able to focus my attention (and camera) on the surrounding hills, looking for details here and there. I wanted to find sections of area that were changing with the light.


I came back to this area often - the contrast of the straight fence lines and the curvy hills is so beautiful.

I think this is the town of Steptoe. Such a setting for life!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 4: Palouse Falls

Although it was 90 minutes from Colfax, I needed to make a trip out to Palouse Falls, which isn't named for the area but for the river. I'm glad I went, but like I heard another photographer say, it's a one-and-done trip. Now that I've been, I probably won't be back. It'd be great to get some pics from the bottom of the falls, but there's no way I could make the hike down. And if I actually did make it down, I'd never make it back up.

I think this rock formation is the most interesting part of the park. Yes, I shot the water fall too, but like I said, I'm a sucker for details and this detail is gorgeous.

One of the benefits of being there during the middle of the day: rainbows.


I don't know what they're called in Washington, but here in Idaho we call them rock chucks. This one was just curious enough to pose for a portrait.



I like this perspective of my favorite rock detail because it turns the whole scene into a 2-D painting. Yes, photography is by nature turning a 3-D scene into a 2-D image, but the distance and the focal length of the lens compress these elements, making it look flat. The canyon wall is several hundred feet behind the rock outcropping.

Here's a final panorama of the area.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Palouse Trip: Part 3: Backroads

The first morning in Colfax, I decided to tour around the country, using the many back roads. I discovered one unfortunate thing: Kamiak Butte County Park is closed until 7:00am. I wanted to capture some sunrise vistas, but those would have been long gone by 7. I should have checked first; Live and learn. But that gave me some extra time to wander.

I experimented with some panoramas. There's not much to this first scene and at first glance it doesn't seem suitable for a panorama. I sometimes look at it and think, "This isn't anything. What were you looking at?" But I really like the scene. I like the open space, the sparse trees and decaying buildings.

There was no fence here, so I could have walked down into the property. But I don't trust my arthritic knees and ankles to walk through a field of knee-deep grass.

I like details, small scenes hidden in the larger context.

And I like reflections.

Hidden elements are fun too. Look closely for the two surprises than I didn't notice when I first saw this building.



I got too close.

Lines and tones. Abstract elements appeal to my eye.

Serendipity in the form of a crop duster.


This is what Steptoe Butte looks like from the lowland.

When I saw this field detail, I pulled over as quickly as I could, which was quite the trick because I was being closely followed by a large farm vehicle. He wasn't happy I stopped in the middle of the road.

Barns - everywhere there are barns, and I love them all.

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.