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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thank you to all my readers.  I hope you and your friends and families have a great Thanksgiving.


One of the weird things I enjoy shooting is power lines.  I love to travel, my favorite way to travel (for photographic purposes) is by car (preferably my own), and one of the things I notice when I’m on a road trip is the different sizes and styles of power poles, and the way the wires are attached to the poles.

So while I was driving the back roads of eastern Washington state last September, these unique power poles caught my eye.  For one thing, they’re fluted, and the way the early morning sidelight defined the flutes was delightful.  For another, I found the way the wires are attached to the poles interesting.  Finally, the way the multiple arms at the top of the poles came out at right angles reminded me of the masts and rigging of an old sailing ship, or the trunks and branches of trees.

In this image, I really wanted to emphasize the structure of the poles, since that was what I found most intriguing.  So I decided to make this a black and white image, and I found that increasing the grain gave this photo an almost tactile quality.  Removing the color forces you to notice the compositional elements of the image.

For comparison, I included the color image below.    Notice how your eyes move differently over the color image than they did over the black & white image.  Notice how much more time you spend looking the field of grain and the sky versus the poles in the two images.

Do you prefer the black & white image, or the color one?  I’d love to hear why.  As always, there’s no right or wrong answer.


It’s raining, and for some reason when it’s the proverbial dark and stormy night, I long for warmth and cheer.  Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to orange and yellow-hued images this time of year.

I took this image in the Palouse last September.  As in yesterday’s post (“A Matter Of Perspective,” 11.19.12) it’s a simple composition of a black silhouette against an orange and yellow sunset.  In this image, even the hills are so drenched in orange light that it looks like they’re giant lumps of lava glowing from within.

As a photographer, sometimes I think that I’ve seen all the tricks that light can play, and all the magic it can do…and then I’m gloriously proved wrong yet again.

Sometimes I love being wrong!

While I’m a fan of the “sunset silhouette” shot, it doesn’t always need to be complex.  Sometimes the simplest compositions are the strongest.

I took this image in the Palouse, but it could be anywhere in rural America…or many other countries, for that matter.

I like the contrasts in this image.  The fact that it’s obviously open country and the only sign of humans is the power lines evokes loneliness, yet the warm oranges and yellows that dominate the image counter that.  The black silhouette on an orange background gives the image a two-dimensional feel, but we know that the power poles are all the same height, and therefore the shorter poles are further away than the taller ones:  that lends a sense of depth to an otherwise flat image.

Interestingly, when I took this image, I was disappointed that the only thing I could find to put in the foreground were the power lines.  And now I’m happy that when I took this image, the only thing I could find to put in the foreground were the power lines.

It’s all a matter of perspective!

The dust in the air turns the sunset a vibrant shade of orange over this farm in the Palouse.

A couple of trucks speeding down a gravel road at sunset leave a long trail of dust behind them.   The dust trail highlights how the back roads follow the contours of the hills in the Palouse region of eastern Washington state.

This is an International 1470 Axial Flow Combine at work.

As I was driving around Washington state last September, everywhere I went I saw fields that were already harvested.  Harvest in many areas of Washington begins in early August.  Being from a lower latitude, I equate harvest with Fall, not Summer.  So I didn’t have much hope of catching some “action shots” of the harvest happening, or so I thought.

After an entire week of driving around shooting hay bales (among many other non-farm subjects) I said a prayer to the Photo Gods asking to catch at least one farmer still bringing in his/her crop.  And as it turned out, I found several.

I realized I had no experience shooting harvesting machinery at work, but of course I didn’t let that stop me.  I love a challenge!  The first challenge was how to show that these things were actually moving.  Using a fast-enough shutter speed to get a sharp image, the machinery can look like it’s parked, and you can’t tell that the blades are turning.  I quickly noticed that these things throw up huge clouds of dust, so making sure to include at least part of the dust cloud was imperative.

To me, nothing says “farm” (or “ranch”) like a wood fence painted white.  So I waited patiently for the combine to get to the bottom of the hill so that I could get the fence in a few of the images.

Speaking of hills, the Palouse is defined by hills, and a key feature of the 1470 is that it can harvest fairly steep hills.  So I needed an image that showed the lay of the land, emphasizing the hills and the degree of slope that the combine needs to be able to handle.  Yikes!

The image above reminds me that the idea of shooting the harvest is to show it in progress:  part of the field harvested, and part still waiting for the combine to make its pass.  Finally, a chance to put it all together, below.  What do you think?

Here are some more round hay bales, this time from a farm a little further down the road and on the opposite side from the one I featured yesterday (“A Roll Of The Hay,” 11.12.12).  These were shot only a few minutes later than the images in yesterday’s post, but that was enough time for the sun to come out from behind the clouds and give these bales some nice morning sidelighting and long shadows, resulting in a very different look.

Compare these images to the ones from yesterday’s post.  Yesterday’s images have NO shadows, and the lighting is very soft and even throughout the images.  Which lighting do you prefer?  (There’s no right or wrong answer.)

Also, look at the two images in today’s post.  They’re a horizontal and a vertical of the same field.  Which image do you prefer?  (Again, there’s no right or wrong answer.)

While traveling through Washington state last September, I enjoyed seeing the different methods the locals used for harvesting and storing hay.  More common than the “pyramids” featured in yesterday’s post (“Hay There” 11.10.12) were these giant rolls.  They also looked surreal to me when there was a number of them scattered about a field.

In the image below, I love the contrasting patterns that the planting and harvesting machinery make in the fields!

Most of the time, the bales seem to be scattered pretty randomly.  I enjoyed the challenge of trying to make a composition that looked somewhat “organized,” like the image below.

All of these images were shot from the road, but I was still able to get some pleasing patterns without wandering out into the fields.  Of course, it helps to be shooting on dirt roads with almost no traffic…

In a region where the preferred method of baling hay seemed to be the large round bale, followed by the smaller rectangular bale, I found this one field that had these interesting tent shapes.

It was hard for me to tell without wandering into the field, which I didn’t want to do, how these were formed, and whether they were one big bale or a stack of smaller ones.

It seems like if you started with one bale on the ground, then added a row of two, then three, and then four, that you could wind up with this shape.  Sort of a bowling pin configuration, if you will.

In any case, I thought they had a slightly surreal appearance, being so perfectly geometrical in a land of rolling hills.  And being sidelit by the morning sun accentuated their shape.

If anyone knows more about this baling or stacking method, and why it’s advantageous (keeps more of the hay off the wet ground?) I’d love to hear from you.  My google searches have thus far been unsuccessful.  But I know a farmer, or someone who grew up in farming country, will know the answer to this…