We always look forward to returning to the Palouse, in eastern WA state, and this was the first spring in a few years. We were lucky with weather with billowing and wind blown clouds and some rain, which darkened the fields for great graphics from Steptoe Butte.

We had a couple of storms and the edges of the storms gave us some dramatic light, but my favorite and most illusive quality of light happened our first night out. 

People tend to like the hard sidelight as it creates dramatic shadows, which can be quite striking. However, there is a very different quality of light when there is a lot of moisture in the air to diffuse the sun, and the sun breaks through a low and short window. 

When I look at the hills from Steptoe Butte, as the light begins to strike the tops of the hills the air gets silent. It’s as if the hills begin to glow from within. The color is barely visible as it softly and very gradually illuminates the hills, the color slowly progresses through various stages of cool to warm tones. The light skims across the tops of the hills creating a natural painterly look. You will see a series near the end of the video.

Sue and I drove 1600 miles over a few days to find fresh and interesting locations, aside from areas that we have marked from previous visits.

Sadly, we have continued to see and have heard from many responsible friends/ workshop leaders of continued photographer ignorance, rudeness, shameless trespassing, and just general bad behavior.

•  I saw on a camera owners FB page images of spinning steel wool in areas with trees, wooden bridge, on the edge of a small pond. The sparks flying off of the spinning, burning steel wool is a fire hazard. One of the barns from a great abandoned farm complex and a very photogenic old green barn burned down. These are examples of what could be a result of spinning burning steel wool.

•  A workshop group led by a professional photographer went to a area of old trucks, in someone’s front yard at 0600 without permission and without even talking to the owners. Of course, the owner came out and demanded that they leave, followed by signs being posted reading, “No Photos.”

•  Another workshop group parallel parked, bumper to bumper, at an overlook on Steptoe Butte, effectively severely limiting parking at the overlook. 

•  A professional photographer was confronted by a farmer with a gun, and told to get out of his barn!

Camera owners who feel the need to behave like this are penny wise and dollar foolish. Sure, you got your shot (maybe), but all of us will find more and more restrictions, torn down barns by farmers (rather than dealing with litigation from people who trespass), and hostility from locals and responsible photographers. I find myself apologizing more and more every year for the actions of other workshop leaders and camera owners.

With the exception of one image, a pano shot from the inside of the old chicken coop, all images in the short video are shot from the road. Wanna get close? Get a longer lens.

Come on, folks! We need to police ourselves. If you see something, say something.


Tony Sweet

Here’s a 4:11 minute video of color and a few BW images. Since I shot as much color as infrared, there will be an infrared video coming soon.