the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Unmapped Palouse

Lone TreeSteptoe Butte is by far the most popular destination in the Palouse. When I was there on May 30th for sunset, there was at least one photo workshop/tour going on as well as eight or so other independent photographers at the spot I stopped. There were likely more further up the road. The Palouse is a world-class photography destination, and June is one of the two prime times to be there (the other being August), so even though it was not yet June (albeit by only two days), I was not surprised to see so many tripods. Luckily, if you go and find the place crawling with photographers, there is a lot of room.

But there is so much more to the Palouse than Steptoe Butte. The Palouse is a big area. According to Wikipedia, “the Palouse region was defined as the fertile hills and prairies north of the Snake River, which separated it from Walla Walla County, and north of the Clearwater River, which separated it from the Camas Prairie, extending north along the Washington and Idaho border, south of Spokane, centered on the Palouse River.” Many great shots can be made by driving around looking for scenic barns, patterns on the fields, old houses, etc. But when you only have a day or two to explore, it is helpful to have an idea of where to go.

One option is to join a guided tour or workshop. There are many to choose from, though many also fill up fast. My photographer friend Jack Graham offers Palouse workshops every year, for example. Or you can even go with a custom, personalized workshop, like that offered by Greg Vaughn.

But, if you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, another option is to use a photographer’s map of the Palouse. There are two such maps available that I know of. The first one was created by Teri Lou Dantzler and is available for $25  (who also offers workshops). The other, is free and available from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce. Why consider the $25 map when a free one is available? Because, according to Teri Lou, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce stole her map. I have purchased a map from Teri Lou and also have the one from the Pullman Chamber, and I have to tell you, I think she has a good point. The listed spots are almost identical. Both maps show locations of red barns, other barns, lone trees, viewpoints, abandoned houses, granaries or silos, abandoned farm equipment, and windmills. I will say, Teri Lou’s map does a better job with the roads. There are three types of roads in the Palouse: paved, gravel, and dirt, and if it rains, you better forget about driving on the dirt roads.  Teri Lou’s map does, for the most part, a good job differentiating between the three road types while it is less clear on the Pullman Chamber map.

While these maps are helpful, there are a few problems with them. First, some of the mapped barns, other buildings, or trees are no longer there. Others are falling down. Second, the icons used to show photo locations are too large for the scale of the maps (this might be my geologist background raising its head here, but I did find this very distracting). Third, both maps only covers part of the Palouse. They both only go as far north as Rosalia, and neither goes into Idaho. And fourth, they missed a lot. All of the shots in today’s post are from places not on the maps! While the maps are helpful, they are certainly not the ultimate guide. I used them as more suggestions, but exploring on your own may be the best way to get unique shots.

The point I’d like to leave you with is that no guide or photographer’s map about the Palouse is complete. It is a large area, and there are many wonderful photographic opportunities there. One easily could spend a week or more exploring. I’ve made three trips there in the past several years and still have much to see. As I mentioned, all of the images in this post were not on the photographer’s map or (to my knowledge) in any Palouse guide that I have seen. For example, the featured image above of the lone tree was taken northeast of Colton – a barren area on the two maps. If you have the time, do some exploring of the back roads in the Palouse. You never know what you might find.

I found this abandoned house and truck on the Washington - Idaho state line east of Colton.

I found this abandoned house and truck on the Washington – Idaho state line east of Colton.

I found this old barn in the same general region, northeast of Colton.

I found this old barn in the same general region, northeast of Colton.

These red barns are near the small town of Johnson, Washington.

These red barns are near the small town of Johnson, Washington.

This lone tree is on Bradshaw Road north of the area shown on the two photographer's maps.

This lone tree is on Bradshaw Road north of the area shown on the two photographer’s maps.

This old red barn is east of Oakesdale. Though this general portion of the Palouse is well covered by the maps, somehow they missed this one.

This old red barn is east of Oakesdale. Though this general part of the Palouse is well covered by the maps, somehow they missed this one.

Colfax is near the center of the Palouse and makes a great place to stay and base your explorations. There are many mapped features near Colfax, but this old grain tower southwest of town is not one of them. The light wasn't too good when I found it, but now I know where it is, I can come back in the late afternoon or evening sometime.

Colfax is near the center of the Palouse and makes a great place to stay and base your explorations. There are many mapped features near Colfax, but this old grain tower southwest of town is not one of them. The light wasn’t too good when I found it, but now I know where it is, I can come back in the late afternoon or evening sometime.

You never know what you might find in your explorations, like this bus in a field about half way between Tekao and Farmington.

You never know what you might find in your explorations, like this bus in a field about half way between Tekao and Farmington.

Here's another shot without good light, but I bet it looks great at sunrise. This viewpoint is is Idaho, northeast of Farmington. Steptoe Butte is in the distance.

Here’s another shot without good light, but I bet it looks great at sunrise or sunset. This viewpoint is is Idaho, northeast of Farmington. Steptoe Butte is in the distance.

I found this tractor and flowers south of Farmington.

I found this tractor and flowers south of Farmington.

And don't forget to explore some of the small towns. This is a scene in Tekoa, Washington.

And don’t forget to explore some of the small towns. This is a scene in Tekoa, Washington.

 

 

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19 responses

  1. Ces photos sont magnifiques… elles semblent avoir été prises à un autre siècle 😉 c’est comme si le temps s’était arrêté…
    La perspective, les couleurs et la lumières sont extra !
    Bon dimanche

    June 11, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    • Thank you for your kind comments.

      June 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm

  2. Hello
    Oh I would like to be there to see so beautiful contrysides (sory for my english)

    June 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    • Washington State if very different from France, and besides farmland like this, it has mountains, sea coast and rainforests. Perhaps someday you can visit us 🙂

      June 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

  3. hmunro

    My gosh. I’d never even heard of Palouse. But thanks to you now I desperately want to go there. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of this place, and especially your gorgeous images!

    June 12, 2016 at 4:12 am

    • Thank you Heather. It’s my pleasure to share knowledge and images. Hopefully you can make it to the Palouse some day.

      June 12, 2016 at 2:32 pm

  4. These are really neat compositions. Excellent work, my friend.

    June 12, 2016 at 5:23 am

  5. Totally amazing images and information Joe. Thank you very much!

    June 13, 2016 at 12:54 am

    • Thanks Ernie, I’d like to see some of your work from over there. Have you been over to the Palouse and do you have any of it posted?

      June 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

  6. Thanks for the mention, Joe! And I totally agree with you about the maps missing many places. On the other hand, I (and I suspect you), like to wander and explore and discover things ourselves. Southeast Washington is great for doing just that.

    June 13, 2016 at 7:55 am

    • So true Greg, wandering around exploring is half the fun, especially if you are trying for unique images.

      June 13, 2016 at 9:35 am

  7. Tom Guffey

    Nice job Joe !!

    June 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm

  8. So much green everywhere – delightful – but I like the one with the clouds best.

    June 15, 2016 at 4:26 am

  9. One word will suffice, Joe: YOWZA. 🙂

    June 16, 2016 at 5:48 pm

  10. I have heard a great deal about the Palouse region and your pictures gave me a wonderful view of this area. Thanks for sharing!

    June 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm

  11. I so have to get here! Really love the tractor and flowers shot!

    September 27, 2016 at 1:23 am

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