Where is the Palouse you might ask? Fair question. The short answer is that it is a scenic area in the northwest United States. The long answer is that the Palouse is an important agricultural area that produces wheat, lentils, canola, barley, garbanzos, and other crops. It is located in the southeastern portion of Washington state. I believe there are also some areas of the Palouse in Idaho and Oregon, but the boundaries of the area are not clearly delineated. The heart of the Palouse is Whitman County at the southeast corner of Washington, bounded to the south by the Snake River and to the east by Idaho.
If you’re a photographer, the chances are good that you’ve heard of the Palouse. Regardless of whether or not you’re a photographer, the chances are good that you have eaten something grown in the Palouse. Of course, photography is what has brought me here on this trip. I’m here on another adventure to help John Barclay on a photography workshop. This is my second adventure with John, the first being our trip to Charleston earlier this spring. Charleston was a blast and I’m sure the Palouse will be also. The workshop starts tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to it!
I think most photographers would characterize the Palouse as miles and miles of rolling hills covered with infinite textures due to the crops and the land. Throw in some light and shadows and you have all the elements needed for amazing photographic opportunities. But for me, the Palouse is much more that photography. Being here brings back intense memories from my days growing up in rural Central Illinois. To be sure, Illinois lacks the rolling hills of the Palouse, but agriculture dominates both areas. I look back on my days driving tractors and plowing fields and I’m amazed that anyone trusted me the teenager with that much power. It was a defining time for me. So, secretly, my favorite things about the Palouse are the modern tractors and combines. It is amazing how much technology has changed agriculture since I was a kid. Modern farm machinery today is the size of a house! I would love to drive one of those babies!
As I’ve driven around the area, the changes over the decades are also apparent in the buildings. I love the old barns, grain elevators, and farm equipment. Over and over, the story of the consolidation of farming is written in the rolling hills of the Palouse. I can only image the stories hidden within the fallen barns, rusted tractors, and abandoned houses. It all reminds me that beauty and meaning come in many forms!
I’ve included a couple of images here. One is a view that gives you an idea of the overall landscape of the Palouse and the other that gives you an idea of the abstract artistic possibilities available here. I’ll share more images later that hopefully chronicle more elements of the amazing land of the Palouse.