Photographing Palouse – behind the scenes.
In our two previous blog entries we shared with you images and observations from our trip to the spectacular Palouse. Every photography trip we take requires a lot of preparation and planning and this time was no different. Many of you asked us about this particular trip so here are some additional tips and ideas that may help.
Gear: two cameras would be ideal. We worked with the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji X100S. While we are not heavy users of telephoto zooms, for the Palouse, this is a must. The Palouse is all about composition – eliminating elements from the frame and arranging the rest so it creates a beautiful whole. Most of the patterns, fields, trees etc., are on private property so using your feet (as we usually do) is out of the question. For this reason we brought the Fujinon XF 55-200 F3.5-4.8 OIS lens. In fact the majority of our photos on this trip were taken with this super-sharp lens.
Tripod: Let me introduce a little bit controversy. In low raking light, just before sunrise or just after sunset, a tripod is a must. However, later when you have sufficient light for fast shutter speeds, I would recommend shooting from the hand. It will give you freedom to experiment and be creative. Kasia does it, and so do I. Don’t forget that the XF 55-200 has an excellent image stabilization system built in – it works really well!
Protective filters are important, as the Palouse is an agricultural region with clouds of dust. You, your car, your camera equipment and your sandwiches will get dusty. Avoid changing lenses in the open! Of course, don’t forget about cleaning cloths.
Clothing: There will be cool mornings and warm days so plan on layers. We highly recommend wearing long pants and sturdy shoes so you will have access to areas that may have rusty bolts on the floor or wire hidden in the grass.
Eating: The Palouse region is full of wonderful photographic opportunities but not a wonderful variety of restaurants (note I mentioned sandwiches above). There are family run cafés, taverns and corner grocery stores to choose from in the small towns but not much else. Plan on packing water and snacks to enjoy as you venture.
Connecting: Please note that cell service is limited once you leave Colfax. You may be able to connect at viewpoints throughout the day as you travel from one destination to another.
Speed limits: If you drive south from Spokane on 195 pay CLOSE ATTENTION to your speed. You will be ticketed for two clicks over the limit!
Stay at the Wheatland Hotel in Colfax. It’s really the only good place apart from Pullman. It fills up quickly so it’s not too soon to make a reservation. Other than that, look in Pullman, a college town with a few hotels.
Places to photograph: As we said in our last blog entry, unlike well-known parks such as Yosemite or Yellowstone which have their own mega-popular spots, the Palouse offers you the unknown. Every dirt road hides a visual gem for YOU to discover and this is what makes this place so special. It is perfect raw material for the photographer.
Wake up early: the first and last hours of the day offer stunning lighting conditions. And great lighting makes a huge difference in the Palouse. Early morning or late evening light gives hills and patterns an almost 3D look – it is completely gone at noon (unless you are lucky and you encounter some stormy conditions during the day).
One place that you might consider is the Steptoe Butte – visible for miles and often visited. Don’t follow other photographers blindly but explore the view in all directions.
The Palouse Falls may be attractive for many of you but it takes about an hour to get there. It is a popular but difficult spot to photograph and if my time is limited, I would prefer to spend it exploring small rural roads.
Most importantly, experiment and take your time. The Palouse is like a huge puzzle. It is up to you to solve it!
2014 © Olaf & Kasia Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.