The Palouse — the southeastern corner of Washington State — is a bucket list destination for many photographers. It’s an area of rolling hills covered in a variety of crops, with rustic barns and small towns hiding in the hills. It’s a place where you need to get off the main roads, and onto the gravel and dirt roads that crisscross the area. You never know what might be around the next corner or over the next hill.
Aside from an occasional trip to Michigan, I travel almost exclusively overseas. I told myself I’d find a destination somewhere in the USA that I could visit this year, strictly for photography. So, over Memorial Day weekend, I spent three days driving around the Palouse, taking photos as I went.
Many of the classic photos of the Palouse are taken from Steptoe Butte — a 3,600 foot high quartzite island in the middle of the hills. It’s a state park, with an access road winding all the way up to the top. The views are stunning, and it’s a hot spot for photographers at sunrise and sunset. The lower angled light at those times of day creates beautiful shadows on the hills.
This is a classic shot from Steptoe Butte. It’s the Whitman County Growers grain elevator (the Palouse is full of wheat fields). From this angle, the town is obscured and all you can see is the elevator poking out from the hills.
This shot has been taken many times by many people, so it’s not particularly special. But, it’s something I wanted to come home with. I had to used a 600mm lens to get this level of detail from such a distance, and while I didn’t like hauling that monster lens around, I think this shot made it worthwhile.
I’m gearing up for a big summer of travel — trips to Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and France all booked. I’ll be sharing more from the Palouse over the next few weeks, though. It’s a really beautiful place.