Last week I took a 3-day trip to the Okanogan, searching for fall colors. I drove through the area in October four years ago, but had little time for photography. The trip last week was my chance to go back. Washington doesn’t have fall colors like the northeastern United States, but if you know where to look, you can still find color amongst the evergreens. Tanya and our dog, Benson, came along, and we stayed at an Airbnb house along the shore of Osoyoos Lake, near the town of Orville and just 3 miles from the Canadian border.
The Okanogan area is a great location to find Washington’s fall colors. Along the Okanogan and Similkameen Rivers, Osoyoos Lake, and many smaller lakes in the area, there are plentiful cottonwood trees which turn yellow and gold. (The featured photo above is of the Similkameen River.) Both west of the Okanogan River valley in the Cascade Mountains foothills and east of the valley in the Okanogan Highlands, there are yellow and orange aspens and tall yellow western larch trees. Sumac and other smaller shrubs provide a splash of red.
Below are several images from the trip. In case you are interested in exactly where these images where shot, I’ll be sharing the locations for some on Photohound. Or drop me an email and I can give you the locations.
I intend to get back to my series on the Grand Canyon, but I visited the Palouse last weekend and want to give a report on the conditions there. In short, the Palouse has been hit hard by the drought occurring this year in eastern Washington. Several farmers I talked to are concerned about how much harvest there will be this year, as everything is growing more slowly except for the few irrigated fields (most the fields in the Palouse, and all those on hills, are not irrigated; this is dry-land farm country, which relies on rain and snow to water the fields).
In spots, some wheat fields are starting to turn brown before the wheat heads are even formed. The plants in the lentil and chick pea fields are about half their normal size. And I fear the canola fields this year will not bloom, or at least bloom considerably late. The plants in most canola fields are only several inches tall or in drier spots of the fields, never even came up. Normally, the canola is almost full grown and getting ready to bloom at the end of May. Overall, my visit this year at the end of May had more of the appearance of the end of April in normal years. Perhaps, conditions will improve in June before the wheat turns golden brown in July.
Here are a few reports for specific spots:
Manning-Rye Covered Bridge: the bridge is totally gone. It was destroyed in a wildfire last year, which also burned down the house and barn south of the bridge that was accessed by the bridge. There is rebuilding activity on the farm, which is now apparently accessed by a new road south of the river. It’s very likely the bridge will not be rebuilt. The view of the river is nice, even with a few scorched trees, but it just isn’t the same without the bridge.
Steptoe Butte: lots of green field are visible, though not as much as in previous years, and because the chick pea fields are growing so slowly, there is less variety in the green colors than in a normal year.
Palouse Country Barn: there is an untilled, fallow field around the barn – not very photogenic
Skeen School: it’s still standing, but barely. The front left corner is almost totally collapsed. Go soon before the entire building is down.
Overall, it is still worth visiting. The hills and colors are still amazing, just a bit different than in previous years. A lot of the major photo spots are not much changed for previous years, such as the Heidenreich Dairy Barn. There is still no place else like the Palouse, even in a drought year, as I hope the featured image above (from Steptoe Butte) and those below attest. By the way, descriptions of and directions to all the above spots and may more are available on Photohound in my guide to the Palouse.
Every November and December I try to edit the photos that I took for the year in preparation of sending them in for copyright registration. This gives me a good opportunity to find a few good images that I hadn’t really looked at or worked with earlier in the year. This year, I took a solo backpacking trip to High Camp on Mount Adams in late August. After I returned, I barely looked at the images I took because I was preparing for our trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone in September. So, with the year-end editing, I finally took a good look at the images from my Mount Adams trip and thought I’d post a few.
High Camp is located on the north side of Mount Adams inside the Mount Adams Wilderness Area. It is just shy of 7,000 feet in elevation and is about as high on the mountain you can go without a climber’s permit (required above 7,000 feet). Of course, the view of Mount Adams is fantastic, but it also has good views of Mount Saint Helens to the west and Mount Rainier to the north. High Camp is located at the edge of a large alpine meadow and great wildflower fields in August. This year, I was a bit late for the wildflower show. There were wildflower present, but it was definitely past the peak.
High Camp is a 10-mile roundtrip hike, via the Killen Creek Trail off of Forest Road 2329, with an elevation gain of 2,300 feet. Much of the elevation gain occurs in the final two miles, where the High Camp Trail branches off the Pacific Crest Trail. Though a popular spot, there are plenty of places to camp at High Camp. I picked a spot slightly sheltered by trees that still had a view of Adams to the front and Rainier to the back. The photos I’ve included with this post give a visual journey of a evening, night, and morning at High Camp.
You can read a little more about it and see a few more photos in my spot description of High Camp on Photohound.
Rainier Moon Success
After trying for about a year, I finally captured the shot of the full moon (or almost full moon) rising over Mount Rainier. I’ve discussed my various attempts at capturing this shot in several previous posts, including this one from August 2019 and this one from earlier this year. Using the Photographers Ephemeris, I calculated what days the nearly full moon will rise behind Mount Rainier from spots near to Tacoma. This happens every year in June, July, and August.
I say almost full moon because I wanted to capture the moon just before sunset, and on day of the actual full moon, it ususally rises after sunset. The shots here were taken two days before the official full moon. My other attempts, described below, were the day before the full moon.
Last August, I went to the Fox Island Bridge along with several friends to capture the rising moon. We did see the moon rise behind Rainier, but the clouds partially obscured the moon and the light on the mountain itself was not optimal. I went again last June and had similar results. In July, I again met two friends, this time at Dune Park in Tacoma. However, the mountain and the rising moon were not visible due to clouds (though I did get some other worthwhile shots).
Finally, last month I had success, as you can see from the shot above and those below. Once again I journeyed to Dune Park, and all the necessary elements for a successful shot fell into place. I had the added bonus of seeing a dolphin frolicking off the park’s shores – the first time I’ve ever seen a dolphin there. Were the shots worth waiting and planning over an entire year? You be the judge.
Principles of Photographic Improvisation – Contribute Something and Try Something
In my last post, I mentioned how I am reading The Soul of the Camera, the Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making by David duChemin, and I described his first of four “rules” or “principles” of photographic improvisation – agreeing or to say “yes” and not “no.” Today, I look at the second and third principles – Contribute Something, and Try Something.
To contribute something, you need to make the scene your own. DuChemin explains, ” Photography is not objective… We bring our own thoughts, opinions, points of view, and interest to the scen and to every single decision, from aperture to focal length to shutter speed to composition. We chose what to include and exclude. It’s not so much about what’s there as it’s about what I see and how I see it.”
Say you travel to a famous landmark or scene and want to photograph it. Don’t worry about how others have done so, make the scene you own. Sure, take that one composition that you’ve seen before, the shot the maybe even inspired you to come in the first place, but then explore the subject scene on you own, making your own compositions. Or as DeChemin says, “Own it. Add to it. Make every photograph you create a collaboration with what’s before you.”
This, I think, directly relates to the third principle, try something. DuChemin urges his reads to “take a risk and try something. Don’t just wonder what would happen if you moved the camera over to the right. Move it! Slow the shutter, use a wide lens. Listen to the questions, but don’t let them go without a response. And if the first answer doesn’t work, try again.”
It doesn’t even have to be a famous scene, just maybe one you’ve been to or photographed many times before. Do you take the same shot again and again? Perhaps. But to improvise, you’ve got to make it new again for you. Maybe try black and white, or shoot it with your phone instead of you DSLR, or shoot only high-key images, whatever! Sometimes to make it your own you need to try something different.
For example, for the past several years, I’ve been offering walking photo tours of downtown Seattle. These tours are great for my clients, as they see Seattle through fresh eyes. But I’ve seen it and shot it all before. It’s a real challenge for me to find something new. So on a couple trips, I pulled out the fish-eye lens. Now, a lot of what I shot didn’t work so well, but some of the images aren’t so bad. In fact, they are kind of fun, and definitely something I made my own by trying something I hadn’t done before, even after shooting the same places dozens of times before – such as Pioneer Square (above and below), the ferry terminal (below), and the waterfall garden (below). That is photographic improvisation.