A Great Workshop with Bill Fortney & Team

The Palouse, Mt. Rainier & The Olympic National Park, WA

(1st of 7 Posts from this Trip)


(Note:  Click on any of the images below to see an enlargement in a new window)


Shop1I’ve just returned from a photography workshop across much of the state of Washington, led by Bill Fortney, Matt Kloskowski and their team.  It was one of the most interesting and varied workshops I’ve ever taken.

I’ve known of Bill for some years from his Great American Photography Weekend workshops and as an instructor with Kelby Training.  But I had never met him nor taken one of his workshops.  Matt is well known to most every one who follows Photoshop User magazine and Kelby Training, and I’ve been a huge fan of Matt’s years.  So when a few slots in this workshop opened up (they typically fill within days after being announced), I jumped at the opportunity.

Most typical workshops are centered on one region or locale for 3 to 5 days. But one of the most intriguing parts of this ‘shop was that it covered much of Washington’s geography (and even a tad of Idaho’s).  The principal areas were the Palouse, Mt. Rainier National Park, and the Olympic National Park, all over eight days.  I’ve attended dozens of workshops and hosted photography tours, but this is likely to be one of my all-time favorites.  It not only encompassed some truly amazing scenery, but the quality of training, degree of organization and scheduling, and the camaraderie with all of the leaders and fellow attendees was truly outstanding.

There would be no way to cover the entire workshop trip in one post so I’ll keep this one fairly general.  It already shapes up to be too long, so I’ll try to focus on individual areas in later separate posts.  Stay tuned and come back soon for those (assuming I can survive plowing through thousands of frames and still have the energy to write).

Shop-2We started in the Palouse which is a loosely bounded region situated roughly between Spokane and Walla Walla, WA, and stretching eastward into western Idaho.  It is home to the second largest wheat growing region in the world (Ukraine is tops).  Its rolling hillsides and valleys set it apart from so many other agricultural regions, and the earliest growing season in June has become a favorite photography setting.  In many ways it reminds me of Tuscany.

Later in the year at harvest time, all of the green has disappeared, and the entire area truly is one of “Amber Waves of Grain.”  But at this time of year, the rich greens and characteristic farms, silos and barns make this a photographer’s dream.  Early morning and evening sun strikes the rolling hills and valleys to create ever-changing and amazing patterns, shadows and forms.  Each morning and evening, we perched atop Steptoe Butte for what can only be described as a fantastic vantage of an amazing place.  Between those times, we meandered around hundreds of miles of quiet highways and farm roads, shooting barns and the countryside for as much of each day as the reasonable light would allow.

Falls1On day three, we visited Palouse Falls State Park for a late afternoon/evening shooting session. The 186-foot fall along the Palouse River, about 75 miles west of Colfax.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

Rainier1From there, it was on west to Mt. Rainier National Park, which lies roughly midway between the Palouse and Seattle.  The park is about 400 square miles in size with its famous namesake mountain as the centerpiece.  Mt. Rainier (the mountain) would be a fantastic photographic subject all by itself, but clouds and some rain forced us to focus primarily on waterfalls while in the park for two days.

Looks like Mount Rainier NP might be one of my later 2013 trips.

1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shimThe last four days of the workshop was at the Olympic National Park, or to be more exact, in Port Angeles and one overnight in the small town of Forks on the western side.  Port Angeles has a rich history of shipping and logging and is located on the northern side of the Olympic Peninsula along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Vancouver Island in British Columbia sits just cross the strait.

The first two days in Port Angeles we concentrated on ventures up to Hurricane Ridge and the Sol Duc River and its falls.  The ridge and its setting make for fantastic morning and evening shooting, as long as weather and clouds cooperate.  The harbor in Port Angeles offers plenty of opportunities for marine and industrial landscapes alone, and could easily be a weekend’s shooting location.Hurricane1

Fern1Before finishing the ‘shop back in Port Angeles on the last day, we drove to the western coast of Washington and the famous Hoh (like “hoe”) Rain Forest.  Known for its dense growth, hanging moss, ferns and ponds, the Hoh is very different and quite striking both in large-scale and details.  Unfortunately for us, the forest’s well known rain was replaced on our day with mostly sunshine, thus making shooting at midday pretty tough.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

Beach1After pizza and a few minutes to put our feet up, we headed further west to the small coastal resort of LaPush .  Our venue here was the beach known as “2nd Beach” for sunset.  One of Matt’s instructional sessions had been on long exposure (10 – 30 seconds) for capturing the surf.  The setting was perfect for that as well as low angles of rocks and tidepools.  A few of us trailed off following Matt, pretty sure that he was bound to sniff out a great spot.  And was I glad I was one of them!


Bill allowed for a few hours of R&R during the midday lull, but most of that time was not spent napping, which should’ve been the case.  We all just couldn’t wait to download the morning session’s images and begin the process of culling and post-processing.  So, the intended downtime was pretty limited.  That’s not a complaint at all.  Just pointing out the obvious, that it’s the price to pay for being on a landscape photographer’s schedule in a opportunity-rich area, with long days and classes mixed in.

The training sessions ranged from technical to inspirational, from fun stuff to critiques.  And those were the types of critiques that really meant something.  After only a few minutes, we all realized that the “crit” sessions were not just the more typical “Oh that’s a good shot” and “Really nice color” type, but instead offered real critical suggestions from these seasoned professionals and talented attendees alike.  Great job, Bill, for inviting that type of very useful critique.

Well, this is about as short as I could make an overview of the workshop.

As if eight days of waking up at 3 AM and going to bed at 11 PM along with driving about 1,000 miles weren’t enough, I added four more days on my return to drive down the Washington and Oregon coast, making several stops at lighthouses and coastal state parks.

So I hope you’ll come back to check out some of the photos from that part of the trip as well as my other posts about specific areas along the workshop trail (Next 6 posts of this same date).


Thanks for stopping in.  Cheers.




  1. Jim,
    I wanted to thank you for your kind words about the workshops and great suggestions. I know that the entire team are in awe of your fantastic work, and we sure hope to see you again one of these days, might even call on you to help us plan a future event! It’s meeting great people like you and learning from our attendees and their great work that keeps all of us enthusiastic about continuing this journey!
    I must say again that I wish I was half the shooter you are!!!!
    Bill Fortney

    • Wow, Bill !
      I know the last sentence is just another example of what a great guy and terrific encouragement your are – but alas, I could only wish it were even partially true! Thanks for your compliments and, again, for such a great trip.

  2. Jim,
    Thanks for the comments and suggestions. One of the great peaks about being a leader on the workshop is meeting all sorts of great people and making new friends. We certainly appreciate the time it took to write up some comments and musings about what makes a workshop. It helps all of us get a better insight on what we can do better or different. We constantly try to improve our service to God, our students, ourselves and our craft. As usual, I wonder where I was standing when I look through some of your great images.
    Thanks again,
    John “Snake” Barrett

  3. Your shot of the Palouse was amazing. Loved the waterfall shots as well. What a great trip!

  4. Wow, 2nd Beach looks really beautiful!

  5. Jim, And to think I spent all those years sitting in various plazas and placas swilling espresso at noon when I, too, could have awakened at 4 and maybe have learned how to take some wonderful pictures. I never saw green wheat!!! Gorgeous!!

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