The Palouse, Washington

Imagine sand dunes rolling to the horizon in all directions.  Now replace the sand with meticulously cultivated farmland – gentle slopes of green, yellow, and brown – and you’re close to picturing the Palouse, an area of southeastern Washington State that becomes achingly beautiful in the lush glow of late spring.  It’s a Zen garden at agricultural scale.

 

Palouse Red Barn

 

I’d visited once before, but in the fall – when the colors were pale and muted.  This time I targeted late May and gave myself three full days, hoping for at least one sunrise or sunset clear enough to let direct light hit the hills.  And I got much more than that, with near-perfect weather for two days.

 

Harvested Fields from Steptoe

 

Palouse Sunrise Landscape

 

Palouse Fields Square

 

Rolling Palouse Fields

 

Palouse Sunrise Split Portrait

 

Palouse Border

 

Early Palouse Light from Steptoe

 

I stayed in Colfax but spent almost all my time at Steptoe Butte, a state park that – at 3,612-feet – rises well above the surrounding landscape and offers incredible views.  Steptoe is so popular with photographers that there were already lines of people hunched behind tripods and telephoto lenses when I arrived each morning at 5am.

 

Late Light from Steptoe Butte

 

Clouds blocked my last sunset and sunrise, but I’d already had plenty of chances to get the shots I wanted.  Grateful and happy, I drove away from the Palouse just before dawn and made it back to Marie’s place in Mountain View in time for dinner.