Photograph the Palouse (or anywhere really): Tips from the pros

Red barn in the Palouse

Driving through the Palouse can be inspirational, as we’ve written in a previous post (Spring comes to the Palouse).  But photographing it can be overwhelming.  As we drove through the lush, rolling hills, Kodak moments popped up at every turn — a green field here, red barn over there; buttes, harvesters, canola, lentils — everywhere! Sometimes pulling over isn’t even an option — no highway shoulder or even gravel farm road offering a stopping place can be found for miles.  And you can imagine what holding a camera outside a window while someone careens around rich farmland would be like — a soft blur of green tempered with streaks of cumulus overhead.

Pastoral setting on the Palouse

Pastoral setting on the Palouse

So, it was with delight that we picked up a brochure from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce in Pullman, Washington, entitled Photographing the Palouse. ( See it online here.) Four photographers — noted for their love of the Palouse and their unique styles — contributed tips for maximizing anyone’s photographic adventure.  Many of the tips, however, can be adapted for use in other situations where landscape is the subject matter. (Note: Verifying websites listed in the brochure proved unsuccessful.  Only the one listed for Alison Meyer is still available.)

Here are some of our favorite “best ideas” from Photographing the Palouse.

Photography Tips:

1.  From Alan Caddey: teacher, workshop presenter, judge, and internationally renown photographer

Keep the horizon line in the upper or lower one-third of the photograph.  If the line is in the middle, your photo will look chopped in half.  So, either go with two-thirds sky or two-thirds land.

2.  From Kevin Nibur:  photojournalist with Moscow-Pullman Daily News and The Spokesman-Review; transplant from California

Although May and June may be the months with the most dramatic light, the weather can be problematic, especially if you’re on a tight photographic schedule.  Best seasons at the Palouse:  late spring and early summer.  But winter after fields are powdered with snow can also provide a prime opportunity for picture-taking.

Early morning light -- Palouse

Early morning light casts shadows on the Palouse in Moscow, Idaho

3. From Alison Meyer: professional photographer in North Idaho with prints displayed in public and private collections around the world.

Consider taking several pictures of the same landscape but change the camera’s lens and/or perspective.  In one picture, you can focus on a close-up shot with the landscape in the background.  In another, a long lens of 100 mm or more can offer a more “painterly, abstract” image from a greater distance. (Great example from her website here.)

Barn with white fence -- Palouse

A barn with white fencing in foreground invites interesting angles and lens changes

4.  From Alan Caddey:

Minimize the number of main subjects.  By decluttering the picture, you allow the eye to focus.  Also, think in terms of “odd” numbers — 1, 3, 5 rather than “even” numbers, especially of subjects that are similar in size and shape causing the eye to struggle to “find a place to rest.”

5.  Capture the magic light.  Almost all favored early morning or late afternoon times to take advantage of the best light.  Recommended:  half an hour before sunrise or sunset and up to one hour after sunrise/sunset.

Location tip:

A location tip from Doug Davidson (award-winning photographer from Moscow, Idaho, whose photos have been published in calendars, magazines, and visitor’s guides) led us on a search that merited the sweetest barn picture we took:

A Palouse excursion I always enjoy is taking Highway 95 south about 5 miles from Moscow, ID and turning left onto Eid Road.  In less than a minute, you’ll experience picturesque rolling hills with a classic salt barn in a little draw.

Red salt barn outside Moscow

A red salt barn just outside Moscow, Idaho

A Google search (photograph the Palouse) will turn up other sources.  We like the websites of Jack Graham and Gary Hamburg who offer tips, excursions, and photography for sale.  We purchased several photos by Alison Meyer at Artisans at the Barn in Uniontown, Washington.

May your photographs always remind you of the best wherever you travel!

For more information:

Alison Meyer Photography

Graham, Jack. “The complete guide to photographing the Palouse region of Eastern Washington.” Retrieved from

“Photographing the Palouse”  Brochure by the Pullman Chamber of Commerce.

The Palouse Guy: Photography by Gary Hamburg:

To see all the posts from the Inland Northwest, be sure to click the page entitled Inland Northwest at the top of this blog.

9 thoughts on “Photograph the Palouse (or anywhere really): Tips from the pros

    1. Rusha Sams

      Some of the tips are common sense, but I still need reminding. I’m getting better but have a long way to go. It’s fun trying, though! Thanks for reading!

    1. Rusha Sams

      The tips helped us, too. We immediately started thinking in terms of thirds. Most photographers know to do this. We’re just now making progress on that tip! Appreciate the comment!

  1. Rusha Sams

    Thanks for the compliment. I’m still doing a lot of things the pros say you shouldn’t: filming in broad daylight, not taking enough time to get it right, etc. But when you travel on a limited time frame, you do what you can whenever you get to where you see something to shoot. Travel/blogging/photography is just fun for us. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Rusha Sams

      You are so right! This place is mesmerizing. You can’t imagine being in the middle of fields just driving along for miles — so peaceful and beautiful! Thanks for commenting!

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