The Palouse, the now so world famous part of south-eastern Washington and eastern Idaho, is a treasure-trove of landscapes for the artist. I could spend a month there at once and not get bored…if I could take a month to do it!
Here are a couple from a trip that’s part of our history book. In the first one I was attracted to the character of the tree among the fields. The flowers added a bit of spice and I didn’t even mind the human element of the distant telephone pole.
Lone tree among the Palouse hills | Washington
With the next one, it was all about a simple landscape. I’m also seeing this as an interesting conversion to black and white.
Two lazy clouds floating above the Palouse | Washington
As the day progressed the heavens were becoming more adorned with cumulus clouds. I had a lot of fun with this scene as I watched the rapidly metamorphosing clouds. And I’m quite pleased with the way the “coffee” toning worked on this.
Cumulus clouds dwarfing the Palouse landscape | Washington
We were traveling east of Washington’s Cascade Range when we made the decision to go near the Canadian border and check out some roads we have never set foot on. It was fantastic, felt desolate and beautiful. The day was warm, enough so that snakes were coming out of their holes to sun themselves on the pavement. The air was filled with intoxicating aromas of spring sage, the sky was graced with floating cumulus clouds and plenty of crisp blueness. The whole place was just breathing with life and we had big smiles on our faces.
I really loved the gentle folds in this sage covered hillside and of course the lone ponderosa pine. But what really was the icing on the cake was the light. As the clouds moved across the face of the glowing sun the landscape changed by the second. I had my Sony a900 camera on the tripod with the fantastic Minolta 200mm 2.8 APO lens and made several composition as the light played on the hillside. This one is one of the favorites.
Lone ponderosa pine thriving in a sage landscape of north-central Washington
As we slowly meandered and enjoyed the landscapes we were just filled with awe and inspiration. So much majesty and splendor. Yes, we would love to travel parts of the world, like Africa and Iceland and Australia and New Zealand, but it is just awesome to be moved by landscapes near home. It doesn’t matter if they are grand or just below one’s feet. We just need to open our eyes and breathe in the splendor.
If I was told that I could only photograph Mt. Rainier, I don’t think I’d ever run out of compositions…as long as I remained inspired. The mountain is so gorgeous and so very different from each side. The glaciers that have chiseled it for thousands of years are in themselves weathered and full of character, like aged and beautiful faces.
During this excursion we were poking around the Sunrise side of the mountain (north-eastern section of the park) when I became aware of the dappled light on the massive glaciers created by slowly floating clouds. Look at the furrowed crevasses, how much character they add. I can just get lost in the details.
There wasn’t much color in this scene, just a little blue here and there, so I made the decision to make it into black and white. I thought that it would make the image’s complexities simpler, allowing the viewer to focus on the rawness of this ancient landscape.
Glacial fields on Mt. Rainier | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
This was quite a morning. We arrived around midnight, enjoyed the mountain for a spell under millions of stars of the Milky Way before we crawled in the back of the truck and slept a few hours until the alarm rang around 5 am. Looking out I was a bit disappointed that the whole landscape was in thick fog, and I thought that there was little chance of any dramatic light happening. Nevertheless, I decided to look for an interesting foreground, just in case. It was warm, very quiet, and the aroma of the tiny lupine was simply deliciously intoxicating.
As soon as I set up, the fog lifted and exposed this magnificent landscape…enough time to make one composition. Just as quickly as it dissolved, the fog returned and once again the landscape was plunged into silence.
Soon after the silence was broken by a spectacular and chilling song of a pack of coyotes that must have been roaming within a couple hundred feet. I felt extremely blessed. It is one of those memories that I will always cherish.
Mount St. Helens rising from morning fog | Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA
After a couple more hours of sleep, a beautiful warm blue sky day greeted us. We cooked up breakfast with this glorious view of the mountain and later descended a bit south into the forests to roam about Lewis River. But that’s another story….
It is no secret that western Washington is not lacking in grandeur and it is also no secret that the skies are often gray. I love light, glorious and dramatic light! Throughout the years I have been photographing, cloudy skies have been great for many of the scenes I focus on but when a stunning light show takes place in the heavens it is much reason to celebrate.
One particular December, a few days before the new year, we made an excursion to San Juan Island for an extended weekend. For the first couple days we were blessed with tremendous weather…cold, dramatic skies and fantastic light…sunlight. And in December seeing the sun is sort of like winning the lottery around here.
Here, a magnificent sunset lights the Strait of Juan de Fuca with distant Olympic Mountains gracing the horizon.
Strait of Juan de Fuca Sunset | San Juan Island, WA
We stood in amazement watching the light, a bit chilled, but nevertheless in awe. The next day we were once again graced with beautiful light and that was definitely more than we had hoped for! My words just can’t describe it well enough.
“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 11:7 (ESV)
Gorgeous sunset as viewed from Lime Kiln Point | San Juan Island, WA
The last day returned to wind and downpours and grayness but we were living by grand memories. Perfect to stay in and relax by the fireplace….
We were returning from a great few days in Idaho via the Palouse lands, looking for compositions. I wasn’t optimistic for much photographic work on the return journey due to temperatures hovering around 100F and the sky being completely clear. If there were gorgeous cumulous or cirrus clouds gracing the sky it would have been a different story.
As we crossed the Columbia River, with about two hours till sunset, it was time to stretch our legs, feed Stan, and just enjoy some views in the cooler temperatures (94F)! And I wanted to also wait a bit for the sun to get lower so I could have a look at an ancient basalt landscape I photographed many years earlier on my Pentax 67 film camera. With no diffusion of the sun from particulates or thin clouds I figured having direct sunlight would be too harsh.
After enjoying our quiet break we piled back into the car and took off to look for this spot. Memory and time shrink distances and it turned out the place was a bit farther than we remembered. But there it was and I was happy to see it again. I didn’t know if I would see anything new to photograph but I was just excited to glimpse the place again. As soon as we found the location I immediately saw it completely differently than years ago. The composition formed in my mind and I was very pleased.
In the past I saw the huge columns, an impressive 6-8 feet in diameter, and focused on them. Today was about a more relaxed landscape, giving a glimpse of the surrounding environment. It was a blessing indeed to see the place in new light.
As the crickets and birds chirped I mounted the camera on the tripod and put on a wide-angle lens and with joy of a kid got to work. I made three variations of the scene and this one, the last, moved me the most. I would like to return here again…there is another idea I have but it will depend on the light. As we left, the sense of quiet joy was overwhelming….