Scouting the Palouse

The southeast corner of the state of Washington is covered with low, rolling hills, dotted with farms, grain elevators, corrugated metal roofs, old barns and windmills (old and new).  This area, called “The Palouse”, has no official boundary and is not part of any designated parkland.  It is the richest wheat-growing region in the US.

The best photographic time to be in the Palouse between the Spring, shortly after planting, and ate Summer, right after harvest.  Beginning in April, wildflowers appear along the roadsides, and the young, green covers the hillsides.  Harvest starts in August, eventually, followed by the fields being burned or plowed under.

On a recent Autumn drive to northern Washington for Fall Colors, I routed through the Palouse primarily to scout the area in advance of returning next Spring.  Since I was outside the ideal time for shooting, I didn’t spend too much time searching or wandering the back farm roads, which I understand to be the best way to find neat compositions.  I mainly drover and enjoyed the quiet scenic backroads from Spokane, through the nearly empty towns of Rosaila, Clarksdale, Palouse, and Colfax.

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On Not Giving Up Too Quickly

Early Snowfall in the Eastern Sierras

Two years ago, I made a Fall Color trip through California’s eastern Sierras, and was rewarded with a fantastic show.  I planned for this year’s return trip hoping for a repeat performance.  I closely watched all of the leaf-peeper reports for several weeks, and most were saying that autumn colors were building throughout the area, from Sonora Pass near Bridgeport to Bishop.

Since peak colors appear on slightly different dates, depending on local conditions and weather, there is no “perfect” date to be there.  I envy people who live nearby and who can make a quick hour’s drive on short notice.  I don’t have that option, so I picked October 20th as the target date again this year.

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Vista House Inspiration

Along the Columbia River, Oregon

I’ve mentioned before how much I gain from Brian Matiash’s weekly OnOne “Perfect Inspiration” series (  In each episode, Brian uses a shot that may not, all by itself, be jaw-dropping.  But he concentrates on adding an incredibly creative slant to the post-processing and some personal insights to achieve a really “inspirational” result.  Several episodes back, he featured a shot he’d taken of the Vista House at Crown Point along the Columbia River just east of Portland.

It just so happened that I was leaving for a 4-day trip to the Columbia Gorge the very next day after seeing the episode.   So I quickly adjusted the route since I was very taken not only by the setting and subject, but by Brian’s creative “Blending Fantasy with Reality” rendering of it.

For reference, the Vista House is located above the Columbia along the scenic, historic Columbia River Highway (GPS: 45.540067,-122.244294).  Vista House was designed by Samuel Lancaster as an observatory looking up and down the Columbia, and to make the wonders of the gorge accessible to the area’s visitors.  The opening panorama above is the view of the Columbia from the Vista House.

Brian chose his vantage from the nearby Portland Women’s Forum parking lot.  I couldn’t imagine that I’d find a better spot, so I shamelessly put my tripod legs in the same holes (although the one I used is from a slightly different vantage point in the lot).  You should watch his video ( to get the full impact of how he converted what would otherwise have been an interesting but straightforward HDR series of shots into a very cool final result.

He said that he wanted to, “…infuse [into the shot] a sense of fantasy and otherworldliness.”  If you’ve seen OnOne’s advertisements in many of the photo magazines, it will be familiar to you.  I just loved his final result and wanted to try for my own fantasy version.

So, deciding that I’d try the sincerest form of flattery, I shot a similar set of images at a slightly later sunset and used my image to learn from his tutorial.

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