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The Palouse

Located just south of Spokane, in Washington state, The Palouse is a rich farming area of some 3,000 square miles. It is somewhat reminiscent of Tuscany, in Italy, except instead of vineyards the main crop here is wheat and rapeseed (Canola).

The Palouse is a photographically exciting area to explore, in large measure because it is comparitively unknown. It is not a national park, and there is little in the way of guidance to this area. The only one with which I'm familiar is Robert Hitchman's Photograph America newsletter – Issue #54.

In June of 2007, along with four other photographers and friends, and Video Journal producer Chris Sanderson, I spent a week photographing in The Palouse as well as the Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens areas. This page contains photographs and anecdotes from that shoot.

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Canola Perspective – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 300mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 100

Some photographers are of the belief that landscape work is primarily wide angle. If I go through my files I find that more often than not I shoot landscape with long lenses. I like the perspective compression and also the selective viewpoint that telephoto shots provide.

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Farm – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 300mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 100

When I do landscape photography I usually avoid "the hand of man". But on this shoot, that's exactly what we were there to shoot. This is farmland. Beautiful farmland, mind you, but farmland nonetheless. By embracing what was there I found myself captivated by the unconscious beauty that the simple act of plowing and sowing fields in this unique part of the world could produce.

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Earth Curves – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 210mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 50

Geometry, subject and light. All three are needed for a successful image, be it landscape or almost anything else. Even a freshly plowed field can be evocative when it's in as geometric a locale as The Palouse.

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Grain Path – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 35mm lens and P45+ back @ ISO 50

Sometimes what a photograph is about, and what it shows, can be two different things. I'll leave you to ponder this, with this simple photograph of a field of wheat.

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Big Sky. The Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 55-110mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 50

All I could think of when I was framing this shot was – Microsoft Windows. But even that thought wasn't enough to diminish the pleasure that I had in making, or now sharing, this image.

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Vee Grass, Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 210mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 100

My photography has always been about geometry as much as it is about light. In this image I have found that rare combination of both.

One of the pleasure of shooting in The Palouse is the ability to gain some elevation, to gain perspective on the landscape. But, the inverse is also true, with small dips in the road and valleys that provide an opportunity to see things at angles other than dead-on.

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Convergence – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45+ back and 55-110mm lens @ ISO 100

I'm a firm believer in serendipity. I've also been shooting long enough to know that often the shot that one thinks will be a winner, isn't, and the one that one shoots in an off-hand manner can frequently take wings.

In this instance we had pulled onto a side road to shoot a golden wheat field framed against a lovely blue sky filled with puffy white clouds. A picture post card, but we couldn't resist. As I was turning back to the vehicle to load up my camera and tripod my friend, and Video Journal director, Chris Sanderson, pointed out the symmetry of the telephone poles, road, and traffic lines. I saw what he meant, appreciated it, placed my tripod on the ground, took a frame, and we continued on our way.

At the studio a couple of weeks later, on my third and final pass though my files in Lightroom, I saw the raw file of this shot and wondered what it would look like in B&W. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but then by leaving it in colour, and using selective desaturation (especially of the blues of the sky) all of a sudden the image sprang to life for me, capturing something of the essence of the land as we had experienced it.

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Tree Line – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45+ back and 210mm lens @ ISO 100

The Palouse is almost devoid of trees, except in some of the deep valleys near rivers. Before the time of the first settlers it was a vast grassland. This stand caught our eye, with its stark symmetry framed against a sky with wispy stratus clouds.

Both this and the photograph immediately below were "mid-day" shots, putting the lie to the photographer's myth that only "golden light" at dawn and dusk are conducive to landscape photography.

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Palouse #1 – Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with Phase One P45+ back and 300mm f/4.5 lens @ ISO 50

The most striking visual aspect of The Palouse is its rolling hills, with various crops planted in swirling patterns. Combine this with dappled sunlight (which we were fortunate enough to have during our shoot ) and the landscape almost comes alive with texture, colour and sensuous shapes.

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Western Hills – Palouse, Washington. June, 2007
Hasselblad H2 with 300mm lens and P45+ @ ISO 100

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more to come soon...

June / July / August 2007

 


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Concepts: Photography, Camera, Telephoto lens, Landscape, Washington, Cloud, Stratus cloud, Image

Entities: Tuscany, Spokane, St. Helens, Washington, Microsoft, America, Italy, Michael Reichmann, Chris Sanderson, Robert Hitchman, Rainier, Washington

Tags: Palouse, Phase One P45+, Hasselblad H2, photograph, Chris Sanderson, Video Journal, image, producer chris sanderson, rich farming area, Photograph America newsletter, striking visual aspect, lovely blue sky, wispy stratus clouds, picture post card, golden wheat field, wheat, Video Journal director, photography, Beautiful farmland, landscape work, Robert Hitchman, 55-110mm lens, national park, square miles, selective viewpoint, large measure, main crop, long lenses, unconscious beauty, rare combination, off-hand manner, vast grassland, deep valleys, wide angle, firm believer, Washington state, telephoto shots, perspective compression, different things, successful image