Post Wheat Trip 2023

I've been back from the Palouse wheat-growing region of eastern Washington for a little over a week and thought I'd post what I learned from the trip and share a few pictures I made while there.

Logistics: This was my first time flying since Covid,  so I was apprehensive. I needn't have been. Everything seemed normal. I was based at the Best Western in Colfax, a little over an hour south of Spokane. Late August is just after the second harvest so most fields were cut and a rich yellow. This meant for a limited pallet but nevertheless a magnificent one.

8 days of getting up early, driving twisting two lanes and farmer's gravel roads, pulling over, getting out, pointing a camera at a field, getting back in the car, driving on, sometimes a few feet and sometimes for miles. And then all over again, endlessly, working through until late morning, back to my motel home, downloading files, taking a look at what I just shot, biding my time, then back out again for late light starting around 3 pm.

The fields turning more orange when hit by the setting sun. Simply exquisite and mesmerizing day after day. 

I did one flight on the fifth day, with "Caleb" as my pilot, a flight instructor who couldn't have been more than 25. A first was the clouds above us and the wispy spotty clouds below us too.

I use a Kenyon Gyro Stabilizer clamped to the tripod socket of my camera. It has spinning disks inside turning at high rpm. I turn off all the stabilization in my camera and lens as the Kenyon takes over. It is heavy and cumbersome but very effective as small planes shake a lot.

(image courtesy of Kenyon Labs)

It is very heavy as well, so I ship it ahead and ship it home again. It's built like a tank and has a large battery tethered to it.  

By the 7th day, I've had it, feeling burnt out and exhausted. Tired of the same thing every day, working in a place very limited in terms of what it offers, besides wheat fields. But pleased at some seriously good work "in the can".

Now, back home, coming down off the high of a good trip with a single focus of making these wheat pictures, I am working on the first edit and starting to make prints. A long, slow process taking several months, eking out the best of what I shot.

Over the past 25 years that I've been shooting in the Palouse, the area has been discovered by all sorts of photographers. There are now photo workshops, groups of photographers being ferried around in vans to "choice spots", led by characters who know the area "better than anyone else". Well, I beg to differ. It's tempting to get defensive, feeling the Palouse is my backyard.  Ah well, here's one more, then it's back to work editing wheat.

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Topics: Wheat

Permalink | Posted September 12, 2023

A Few Things

A few thoughts as we slide along these dog days of summer in mid-August in the year 2023

I am headed out west next week, flying to Spokane to spend a week or so centered in Colfax, WA which is wheat field central. Not sure but I think this is my 22nd trip. Concerning is the report that the air is smokey from the fires in Canada. I hope this will blow out by the time I get there.

A friend asked if I will do aerials. This was my answer:

My original answer was: no. But listening to myself tell the rationale of not shooting aerials this trip sounded like bull shit as I thought more about it. I have to send the gyro ahead as it weighs too much to go with me on the flight. It goes out to my hotel tomorrow UPS. So, yes, will do at least one flight.

I need a change of scenery and I am embarrassed to admit I have not been on a plane since before Covid. It is time.

This many times, photographing the extensive wheat fields in the southeastern corner of Washington, I will practice one of Neal's favorite truths:"the same but different" meaning I hope to bring something fresh to very familiar places.

And here in no particular order, some thoughts in passing:

The life of a landscape photographer. With the wheat, it is back in some dirt and dusty farm road with not a soul around, maybe a hawk on the hunt. Hour after hour and day after day. It is a little relentless and after a week I am over it. I used to go for longer times: 12 days or 2 weeks. It is too long. I run out of steam and want nothing to do with wheat fields for a while.

And another:

I certainly know I photograph less(at this age). My pace is less frenetic. I am very critical of the pictures I make these days and I find most work of mine boring. When I make a picture that I like it is because it is simple and clean and uncontrived. “Honest” is an objective. They are few. And far between.

And the last:

To be truthful this bothers me less than you might think. For I have much more work in my past than in my future and, while there is some that I cannot bear to look at there is some that I can. This August has seemed endless, days of work in the studio, curator visits to prepare for, mowing my two yards, a back yard and a front yard, biking (meaning exploring) working on the house scraping and painting and outright contentment at where I find myself. This is presumably what age can give us, days of few appointments, no meetings and few deadlines. For instance, I like to hang out with our two dogs. It isn’t that photography means less to me it is that most work I see holds little interest. Joni Mitchell sang that “the old hate the young”. I don’t particularly hate the young I am just frustrated by their lack of knowledge of history.

Wishing you all well. I will try to write here as I work in the wheat fields of the Palouse one more time.

Topics: Palouse

Permalink | Posted August 17, 2023

Crit House-Lewis Baltz

Just out is a look at the work of Lewis Baltz by myself and photographer Michael Hintlian with Jeff Larason keeping us honest. 

Worth a look:

Crit House

Permalink | Posted June 8, 2023

Shirley 4

This is the last post about the new work made in the late winter of 2023. It follows three others, the most recent is: Shirley 3

Looking at this one now, the photograph big on its sheer description of this family business makes me think of an earlier time, perhaps when these tanks and this yard were new. It's easy to build a story around a now older head of the family who started in the heating oil delivery business and it carrying down to his sons and possibly daughters. 

And the last in the series:

A study in "cobbled together", a variety of needs addressed as required over the years. For me, this is about as good as it could get. Many pictures within the overall, details revealed on looking closely. This is the house just to the right of the fuel tanks and clearly home to the family.

The full series is on the site: here.

That closes out my description of the Shirley series. Thank you for coming along.

A note about the blog itself. I've been writing the blog now for over ten years. It has mostly been a labor of love and I have no regrets. It has helped my career in no small way, by serving as a reference and a catalog of much of my work over the years. And, I like to believe it has helped you in your efforts to learn and practice photography. While at times very active with more than one or two posts a week, in more recent years I have written far less. At times, to be truthful, it has felt that perhaps it has run its course. I need to ask for your help here, as subscribers you are my core group. If you would like the blog to carry on, I  need to hear from you.

Just a quick "yes or no" will let me know if you value it. Thank you.

Topics: Series

Permalink | Posted June 6, 2023

Shirley 3

This post follows Shirley 2, about a series of photographs I made this past winter 2023.

Sometimes people criticize my series work for some of the pictures in the series not sustaining the overall tone or intensity of others in the group. I get that, but believe they are not seeing the whole picture, pun intended. Just as in musical composition, there needs to be rhythm and pacing. This picture is one of those, a breather and a setup for what is to follow. As it turns out our frontal empty house had more behind it. We can see that now on the left of the frame. With empty space in the middle, we can see where we are headed on the right, there is the hint of a fuel tank of sorts and a fenced-in propane tank too. Not a stand-alone picture but necessary to link what precedes with what is to come.

Bang! What an insult of a photograph! Very little subtlety, two trucks in your face. Nothing refined, so far from any apparent artistry. Clearly we are no longer up the street at the house Daddy made for Mama. We are in front of a family business with two oil trucks. There is nothing here that looks at all prosperous and this is born out by what comes next.

I've done this before, working to take us out of our comfort zone and into a more mundane and practical world. 

Cambridge, 1994

Hershey, PA 1996

We'll finish this post here, with only two more pictures to finish the series.  Of note again, after working on the files for a bit, starting to make some prints, wrestling with how they should look, I went back to Shirley thinking I could maybe fill the series out, that perhaps I'd find something to deepen it and extend it. Not to be found, as it turned out. Actually, it was plain wrong. I  struggled with that, wanting more but having to realize that what I'd had that first day was it and there was nothing more. My favorite quote from Kurt Vonnegut,"And so it goes."

On to Shirley 4.

Topics: black and white and color,Series

Permalink | Posted June 5, 2023