Friday, February 12, 2010

Photographing the light on the Palouse is an ever-changing experience

During his 25 years as a landscape photographer in Oregon, Dennis Frates has made many excursions to the scenic locations throughout the Pacific northwest. Many of those visits have been to the vast Palouse region in southeastern Washington. "The Palouse is not so much a location as it is an experience," says Dennis. "And it's an experience I find well worth repeating many times -- in spring, summer and fall -- for extended photo outings.

"The light is always on the move across this vast region of some 3000 square miles. I never fail to find many spectacular scenic vistas amid the rolling hills and farmland. Although its large farms produce many acres of wheat and legumes, the Palouse is fairly remote. It's not a tourist destination, but I do see other photographers there on occasion.

"The clouds over the Palouse are among the most photogenic I have ever seen. Puffy, billowy white clouds appear to signal the few heavy storms that pass through. Summer thunderstorms, however, are fairly common; and sunsets and sunrises can be spectacular during these times. The image seen above is an example. Large raindrops fell and nearby thunder clapped while I was taking this photo.

This next image illustrates how my Singh-Ray Graduated Neutral Density filters really save the day when the Palouse light is strong in one area of the photograph and darker in another. Using split neutral density filters can save me loads of image processing time, and in some cases can make the difference between an image that works or one that gets deleted. For this image, a two-stop ND Grad filter was hand held over the sky and distant sunlit hills, allowing more even light balance between the foreground and the sky.

"In addition to my ND Grads, the LB ColorCombo polarizer was used to capture all of the pictures seen here. There's a ColorCombo on every one of my lenses, and it is a rare day when I remove it for some reason. I like how it controls the reflections from leaves, water, blue sky, rocks and other elements in the outdoor scene while it's increasing color saturation at the same time. The color enhancement is subtle, but it's just enough to give images more 'pop' without losing any of their believability.

"This last image is a composite -- taking three frames and merging them together in Photoshop to form one very large file that's comparable in size to a 4x5 film image. I recently wrote an article about this technique for Outdoor Photographer Magazine. Many of my clients require enormous prints, some up to 16 feet, and this technique allows for these extreme enlargements."

You can learn more about Dennis and his latest adventures at his website, He's recently added a page dedicated to his award-winning photography, so be sure to pay a visit.

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