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5 great spots to photograph in the Palouse

Travel photographer and Pacific Northwest photographer, Joe Becker shares 5 great spots to photograph in the Palouse WA

Tacoma based photographer, Joe Becker, is an avid travel photographer, but is something of a specialist in in the beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. He has shared hundreds of his images on PhotoHound as well as his local knowledge and photography tips. He is also the curator of two photo guides; one to the Palouse and the second, Puget Sound. Here are 5 great spots to photograph in the Palouse taken from Joe’s PhotoHound Guide.

West Steptoe Butte Viewpoint by Joe Becker

West Steptoe Butte Viewpoint

Standing more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, Steptoe Butte offers unparalleled views of the rolling hills and fields of the Palouse. With good reason, it is the most popular photographic location in the region. Near sunrise and sunset in late spring and early summer, you will often find dozens or more other photographers sharing the view. Luckily, you will find plenty of room for everyone to set up a tripod. There is some debate about whether the views are better from the top or partway down the slopes, such as this viewpoint. It is about 550 feet lower than the top and, though usually not as crowded as the top, it is still very popular. The view is to the west and partially to the north and south.

Cottonwood Creek Barn by Joe Becker

Cottonwood Creek Barn

This spot features a classic red barn set on a hillside and surrounded by a wheat field. The broken remains of a windmill are in the background. Despite the name, the creek between the barn and the highway is barren of trees.

The red barn contrasts well with the surrounding fields and a blue sky. Take a few steps off the highway to shoot underneath the phone lines that run along the road. A normal to short telephoto lens will work well to capture the whole barn. Use a longer telephoto lens to shoot images of barn details.

In the summer, the side of the barn facing the road will be sunlit in the early morning; otherwise mid to late afternoon should provide good light.

The Empire Theater by Joe Becker

The Empire Theater

The 280-seat Empire Theater opened in 1940. It served as a movie theater until 1958. Afterwards, it was only used once each year for the City of Tekoa’s Slippery Gulch Days celebration until 2000 when it was restored and became a performing arts center.

To shoot the whole theater building, use a wide-angle to normal lens and shoot from across the street. You can capture a quick shot of the theater when passing through town on your way to other spots in the area, or consider coming back at night to capture the theater when the neon lights are lit.

L D Johnson Road Farm by Joe Becker

LD Johnson Road Farm

This spot features a farm with a large red Dutch gambrel barn, a small red gable-on-hip barn, and a matching red chicken coop.

It can be difficult to get a good composition of the large barn straight on from the road as the area in between the barn and the road is messy with old timbers and assorted discarded building materials. Instead, shoot with the small barn in the foreground, using the fence around the large barn to shield the messy barnyard area. A wide-angle to normal lens will work well for this shot. For an alternate view, try shooting the large barn from further east on LD Johnson Road, perhaps about 1,500 feet past the chicken coop, using a medium to long telephoto lens.

The barns will have good light in the mornings year-round, mid-afternoon in summer, and mid to late afternoon in winter. The surrounding fields will be green in spring and early summer. To capture the fields when golden, try late July or August. Some of the trees will turn yellow in October.

Palouse Falls by Joe Becker

Palouse Falls

In Palouse Falls State Park, the Palouse River falls about 185 feet over the edge of a basalt cliff into a deep canyon. The canyon below the falls is marked by green moss and plants along the cliffs near the falls, as well as green riverine vegetation along the river banks, making a wonderful contrast with the black basalt and surrounding hills. 

While the falls are shaded at sunrise and sunset, if the clouds to the south or east light up, excellent photo opportunities await. To capture the falls and/or canyon at sunrise or sunset, you may want to use a split-neutral density filter to help control the contrast between the sky and the dark canyon below. Similarly, you may consider using HDR.

You can shoot the falls directly from the official viewpoint near the parking lot and additional viewpoints south of the parking lot, but the down-canyon viewpoints along the canyon rim north of the parking lot provide (in my opinion) the best view. 

Banner Road Barns by Joe Becker

So there you have it – 5 great photo spots in the Palouse by talented PhotoHounder, Joe Becker. To see more of his Palouse photo spots, take a look at his PhotoHound guide and view Joe’s profile to see where else he’s travelled and photographed.