join our mailing list

The unexpected: keeping an open mind

The unexpected: keeping an open mind

_DSC2761-Edit-Edit copy

We got our group to the old Texaco car lot in the Palouse on a bright overcast day and everyone was pretty stoked to photograph, as was I. After instructing everyone on the lay of the land, everyone scattered, taking their images. I went to get a few grab shots, took a camera and a fisheye lens, hoping to get something a bit different. The lead image was the first image taken. After checking the image on the camera, I immediately saw that I grabbed the “wrong” camera: my D800 infrared camera. After the initial shock of seeing an unexpected image, I took a step towards the car to change cameras. Just one step. It immediately hit me that, if I wanted something different, this was certainly one way to get it. So, I proceeded to shoot only infrared on the cars. After seeing myriad images of this place in color, light painted, using iPhone, using lens baby, HDR’d to death, I got excited about this happy accident.

This must have been meant to be an infrared trip, in general, as I repeated this happy “mistake” several times during our workshop.

Just a reminder to go with the flow of an unexpected turn of events. You never know where it will lead.

Our Palouse June 4-8, 2017 Spring workshop is on the books and we are now accepting registrations. Please email Susan for more info and to register. A 2017 Palouse harvest workshop is in the works.

We off to Bandon Beach, OR for a week of R&R and to scout for a future workshop.

Next workshop is on Whidbey Island, WA, Aug 24-28…..we have a space available…

That’s about it for now!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online,


Palouse epilogue and a personal note

Palouse epilogue and a personal note

_DSC1856 copy

We have just concluded our Palouse Harvest 2016 workshop and we had a tremendous and flexible group of photographers. And were very lucky to have great light the entire week. 

An image blog post will follow in a few days, as we are packing go to San Francisco in a couple of hours, but this is the first year (after 20) that I’ve left the Palouse in a slightly down mood.

The incidents of “photographer” ignorance, inconsideration, and sense of entitlement have exploded, and many farmers are unhappy with photographer and workshop leader conduct.

At least one classic scene has been restricted because of rude behavior by photographers and camera owners, and there is disgruntlement among the locals. People speed  through the idyllic dirt roads in search of “the shot.” Families live on these roads, kids and pets are going through their lives in a carefree (as it should be) way, and then some chucklehead comes flying down the road. For what? Most of these “great” shots never get beyond social media.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but here’s what it’s not worth:

  1. It’s not worth trespassing.
  2. It’s not worth making kids playing on their dirt road a life threatening experience
  3. It’s not worth disturbing families 
  4. It’s not worth forcing farmers to close off photo ops due to aggressive, offensive and rude behavior.
  5. It’s not worth walking all over crops, costing the farmers money.
  6. It’s not worth driving around like crazy people.
  7. It’s not worth offending people.

I was asked to take down a post of a lesser known structure by a local photographer, even though I didn’t say where it was, because it would cause leaders and others to drive around like maniacs trying to find it, and then would most likely trespass to get their composition. I agreed and took it down immediately.

So, it appears that responsible photographers, who have made pictures here for many years, and lead workshops and tours, are in a position to help smooth things out a bit, by leading by example.

Here’s what we do:

  1. Whenever we pass a farm on a dirt/gravel road, we slow to 10 mph.
  2. We always stay off of private property, even plowed fields, even stubble fields.
  3. We never shoot close to where there is work going on.
  4. We ALWAYS ask permission to photograph on private property.
  5. We ALWAYS ask permission to photograph on private property.
  6. We are always polite and deferential to the residents.
  7. We drive slowly on dirt roads.
  8. We park as far off of the road as possible to allow for passing farm equipment.
  9. We always work in stealth mode, being quiet when working around where people live.
  10. Whenever possible, we get addresses and send a picture to the farmer.

Just because there is not a “No Trespassing” sign does not entitle you to walk on to their property. Aside from public paved and dirt/gravel roads, every piece of land in the Palouse is owned by someone, i.e. private property

We are here at the pleasure of the farmers who keep many of these structures viable for us to photograph. We are not entitled to photograph on their property without permission.

Considerate photographers and tour leaders are on the cusp of losing the support of the farmers, who make this such a wonderful place to photograph.

Please forward this to all of the photographers you know.


Tony Sweet

The Palouse abstract landscape

The Palouse abstract landscape


The Palouse is one of the great American landscapes, often referred to America’s Tuscany.  A search of “Palouse images” will yield myriad red barns, old cars, rolling green hills, crop lines, dramatic skies, and unbelievable dawn and dusk light skimming across the rolling hills.

From atop Steptoe Butte State Park one sees rolling hills spotted with farms and grain elevators for as far as the eye can see. One’s first inclination is to use a wide angle lens to show the grandeur of the scene, which is, of course, one way to photograph endless landscapes like this, however, there is another way.

One can use a telephoto lens to isolate and simplify a vast area to draw the viewers attention to a small area of interest in the large landscape. Aside from the B&W lead image of the wind rows, all other images were shot from Steptoe Butte using a Nikon 200-500mm lens, many with a tc1.4x, tele-converter (700mm lens). Eliminating the horizon line, this transforms the grand landscape into a series of lines, patterns, and layers of color and texture.

Here’s a few examples made while scouting for our Palouse harvest workshop.

Here’s a few tips for long lens photography:

  1. Bear in mind that the lenses, in this case the Nikon 200-500 @ 500mm, are so physically long that the very slightest breeze can cause lens movement, resulting in soft images, even on a tripod and even using mirror lock-up.
  2. Getting as close to 1/the focal length as possible, for example, at 500mm, 1/500 would help insure sharp images handheld as well as on a tripod, except possibly in a persistent wind. If no wind, using mirror lockup with a slightly slower shutter speed could work. Always review the image at a high magnification on back of the camera with a Hood Loupe to check sharpness.
  3. Raising the ISO and shooting at a wider aperture is another way to speed up the shutter speed, if depth of field is not critical.
  4. Remember that mirror slap at lower shutter speeds (1/4 sec, 1/8 sec, 1/15 sec) can result in soft images, hence the need for faster shutter speeds and mirror lockup.

The new telephoto zooms are relatively light, sharp, and affordable, opening up a new world of interpretive landscape photography.

That’s it for now.

Have a great summer and we’ll see ya online


The Palouse – Photography Etiquette

The Palouse – Photography Etiquette

_DSF3412-Edit-Edit copy

We just arrived in Colfax to begin our Palouse harvest workshop on Sunday. On the way, after  exchanging information with a couple of local photographers who conduct workshops here, I became a little alarmed with the insensitivity exhibited by visiting photographers and even workshop leaders.

But, first, let’s take a step back. The farmers are well aware that their region is a photography mecca and has been for decades. I’ve been photographing here for over 20 years. Several of the classic structures are kept viable by the farmers by keeping them propped up for us to photograph.

With the explosion of photography workshops and tours in the Palouse, at least partly the result of images posted online, the patience of the residents and farmers is getting understandably tested. What would make this more bearable for them would be for photographers to ask permission to walk on private property, and if permission is not obtainable, then just move on, or just photograph from the road.

I’ve heard of people walking on to private property, entering old barns and houses, and even driving on to planted crop fields. Planted crop fields are how they make a living. I also heard of a workshop leader leading his group, walking through a field of rapeseed.

As a result, some farmers have considered tearing down their structures to keep people off of their property, some of them classic old houses and barns that have been great subject matter for decades.

In our case as photographers and workshop instructors, we never….that’s never walk on to private property without getting permission. Farmers know each other here. Any farmer should know who owns what land or structure and can tell you where they live. Just drive over and ask if you can photograph on their property.

There have been instances of photographers driving on to planted fields. That’s right….driving vehicles on to planted fields, ruining crops. Come on folks. If you drive on to a stubble field after harvest, your car muffler or catalytic converter may spark the stubble, causing another problem: your car catching fire or worse.

The Palouse is here for you to photograph. It’s one of the most beautiful and interesting venues for photography in the country, but it is here and is kept up at the pleasure of the farmers. Please give them the respect and consideration they deserve.  Always ask before walking on to private property and definitely don’t enter old buildings, which are owned by someone, without getting permission.

Don’t forget, it just takes a few inconsiderate people to mess it up for everyone.

Be considerate.



We’ll see ya online.


American Tuscany

Madeline Island workshop 2016 epilogue

Madeline Island 2016 epilogue

We finished our 2nd annual workshop at one of our new favorite venues, The Madeline Island School for the Arts. This year, we further explored this image rich locale, including taking the class out to the incredible sea caves on Devil’s Island (Apostle Islands National Park). We did that last year, taking both large classes from the school. This necessitated using a larger boat and although it could get quite close and back into the caves, the 2 small motor boats used this year were able to get much closer and even go into the larger caves. This was an incredible opportunity and from this year on, we will be taking smaller boats to the sea caves.

The lupin were full and perfectly in bloom and we maximized that great opportunity to photograph them using creative techniques and software interpretations.

If interested in Madeline Island, 2017 please contact Jenna at MISA (Madeline Island School for the Arts).

Here’s a few images from the week. More will be posted throughout the year until we return in 2017 (Aug or Sept, TBD).

Please check our website for openings in our remaining Visual Artistry workshops for 2016 and for our upcoming Creativity seminars.

We’re heading home tomorrow for a few days before traveling to Iceland on Thursday for our first of two workshops this year.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a line.

Have a safe and sane holiday weekend, and we’ll see ya online.



1 2 3 46
If you'd like to get email notifications of new blog entries, please subscribe here: