While the Palouse Region is most known for its colorful, rolling wheat fields, there is life begging to be captured beyond what is growing in the ground.  I was very fortunate to be with a fantastic landscape photographer (and all-around great person!), Justin Reznick, who knew exactly where to find the area's best hidden treasures - beautiful trees, bright red barns, and abandoned old homesteads.

While it would have been great to have sunny blue skies with puffy white clouds in our scenes, much like a background you might see as a wallpaper option on Windows or Mac OS, sometimes the gray clouds we inevitably encountered worked to our advantage when we wanted to emphasize the moodiness of the composition or to bring out a particular color - like the greens of the fields or the red of the barn.

My favorite shooting location for the weekend was an abandoned house and storage shed that had ample opportunities to expand my experience with HDR, or high dynamic range, photography techniques.  HDR is where you improve the luminosity of a photograph by bracketing 3 or more shots - taking one shot at the correct aperture and shutter speed for the scene based on the histogram,  then taking the same scene at shutter speeds several stops lower and higher (or multiples of the shutter speed gap in the case of bracketing additional photos).  This way you will get greater highlights and lowlights that can be emphisized to better replicate the scene you are seeing through your eyes, which have a more sophisticated dynamic range impossible to replicate with a DSLR camera.  Keeping the same aperture and using a tripod with a wired shutter release is key to getting the same shot that can easily be merged later during processing without losing too much sharpness.  HDR is great for scenes where you have a very bright subject and a very dark subject, like looking out a window or open door.

The yellow chair photo is my favorite photo, HDR or normal, from the weekend because I find the scene is telling me a story, with the chair perfectly placed in a way so that you can imagine the person sitting there, looking out the window and thinking as she (yes, I think it's a she) ponders life or waits for a visitor to come down the drive.

This shot of the old walled railroad bridge is a bracketed combination of 9 shots that surprisingly worked out really well.  This bridge is only 10 minutes outside of Colfax, and it was a location suggested by a local.  What wasn't captured in this photo is the giant snake that I saw in the grass next to where we were standing, which we later may have identified as a gopher snake.  Whatever it was, it was probably 3 feet long and not a pretty sight!!

I'll be honest, my least favorite location of the weekend was without a doubt the Palouse Falls for sunset.  It's quite a drive from Colfax, then the actual spot where we were to set up our tripods was on the edge of a cliff.  Literally, two legs of my tripod were over the edge and balanced on two rock pieces jutting out from the side of the rock wall.  I needed a lot of help because I am afraid of heights in situations like these, so Justin generously set everything up for me and let me crawl over to where I needed to sit, holding the back leg of my tripod in one hand and my shutter release in the other.  Since I was panicked about the location, I could barely move let alone play with the settings on my camera, so unfortunately I had to manage with what shots I got and hope they were in focus and I could improve upon it during processing.  The end result, to me, is just ok considering the amount of stress I had to endure to take the shot.  Mother Nature could have at least delivered a magnificent sunset, but instead we got a "meh" blue with pale pink cloud effect.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time out in Palouse, and highly encourage anyone who has an interest in photography to make the trip out there!  Even if you're only taking photos with your iPhone, you would be hard pressed to not be amazed by the natural scenery the region presents.  If your goal is to take really good photos, definitely go with someone who knows where to go to make your time there the most efficient!  He's in high demand, but if you can get a spot on one of his tours, I can't recommend Justin Reznick enough!   

And now, I have to go figure out what photos I want to print for my wall, so I will leave you with your new Windows background...