The Palouse region of southeastern Washington State is a true un-destination, as well as being a photographer’s dream. Reminiscent of a gentler time, it is a unique and solitary landscape where zephyr winds scatter clouds across the blue sky, causing shadows to dance and play amongst the hills. The vast rolling hills of wheat & legume fields take on a special magic during harvest when they are covered in abstract patterns and intersecting lines and shapes all in glorious shades of amber. The
landscape of the Palouse region was formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt called “loess” which settled out into the rolling hills you see today.
To show scale in this immense landscape, I occasionally include trucks and harvesting equipment which appear like tiny toys when seen from the top of the butte. One can only image how difficult it would be to try to drive a harvester or combine up and down these amazing hills. In the late 1880’s, harvesting was very labor intensive requiring an organized harvesting/threshing team of 120 men and 320 horses and mules! In the 1920’s the combine was invented; however, it required a crew of 40 horses and six men to operate on level ground, which doesn’t really exist here. Invention of a smaller version of the combine and harvester in the 1930’s solved the issue.
The sinuous patterns left behind by harvesters and combines are evocative of the rhythms and repetitions found in music of all genres, hence the “lyrical” in the series title. Classical, jazz, and blues come to mind whenever I am enjoying the view. When these images were taken, recent wild fires to the west had left the sky hazy, creating a lovely soft-box effect, which is preferable to the sometimes harsh light of August. Early mornings and evenings are ideal for photography when the low slanting light creates shadows and richly defines the shapes of the hills and valleys. Beautiful sunsets and sunrises can also add color to the Palouse landscape but, as you can see, I rarely add any sky to my images. It’s either all land or all sky for me.
In June the Palouse is covered in a thousand shades of green which is beautiful in its own way. I have photographed both; however, the golden patterns and lines created by the harvest are my favorite Palouse subjects.
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