One of the advantages of being in the Palouse is that you are surrounded by the natural wonder for thousands of acres. Yes, there are a lot of places to see in Pullman, Washington, so why not find places to photograph so you can preserve them forever.
You can write a book about how to photograph the wonderous lands here in the Inland Northwest, and they have. In fact, one of these books, Palouse Perspective, was written by acclaimed photographer Alison Meyer.
8 Factors for Photography in Pullman, Washington
Alison Meyer gives some good advice on how to take the best photos in and around the Inland Northwest, based on several factors:
Time of Year
Pullman and the Inland Northwest are full of fantastic terrain, and these hills are a wonderful shade of emerald green in the late springtime, not to mention early summer. Once it gets into late summertime, then it is harvest time, so the hills turn into gold.
Sure, the land might be great, but what about the skies? The weather can be very clear in spring and summer, and the huge white clouds can really bring a photograph to life. Hopefully, there is not going to be some kind of nasty weather or storms brewing in these clouds, but sometimes, a storm could be something great to catch on camera as well!
Time of Day
Alison Meyer recommends taking photos in the early morning or late afternoon, possibly even the early evening, because this provides “the best light needed for showing off the shapes of hills and textures of fields and barn wood”. Then, if you use some low side-lighting at these times, it creates shadows to make the hills really stand out. So yes, you will need to take the time to plan out when you want to take these shots. There are times when a sunset can be something really spectacular, particularly at Steptoe Butte.
The most obvious shot that you can take around Pullman, Washington, are the wonderful hills. However, these hills can serve as merely a backdrop for something like local flora, fauna, waterways, and even farm equipment and very dilapidated barns. Also, don’t just look for nature shots! I guarantee that you can take several shots of local events full of people like the National Lentil Festival or even a Cougar Football Game (or even a tailgate party).
This is about changing your physical relationship to the landscape to see something new. For example, you can crouch low to the ground, lay on your back or side, walk over a hill, get off the trail, or shoot in “lousy” (non-ideal) weather or even bad lighting conditions. Not only that, you don’t necessarily need the latest DSLR when the shot can be taken with a simple camera from a cellular phone. Oh, and don’t forget to use a filter, or maybe none at all.
A wide-angle lens might be the best to get the panoramic scenery of the Inland Northwest, and sometimes it might be the tight shot that is needed. For example, you can use some interesting foreground subject, such as a rock outcrop and flowers. A small aperture can bring all parts of the scene into the best focus possible.
Abstract Landscape Images
If you use a long lens, then you can capture a narrow section of the scenery. In fact, photographing from a distance with a long lens can make the hills of the Palouse seem very interestingly compressed and rippled. Even if the atmosphere isn’t clear, a haze can add a softness to the photo.
A tripod can be great for many reasons. One of them allows for slower shooting speeds without any blurs that result from camera movement. You can also use a smaller aperture (higher f-stop) for greater depth of field, the area of a scene that is in focus. Also, if you need to have something really sharp and in focus, such as beautiful sunset.
Considering that much of the lands in the Inland Northwest are owned, you should get permission from the land owner before you take a photograph. Even barns that are abandoned, deserted homesteads, and cultivated fields may or may not be public domain. So get permission to take a picture before you start posting your image everywhere.
Top Ten Places to Photograph near Pullman, Washington
In addition to the preparation for good photography in or around Pullman, Washington, you might wonder what you will want to photograph.
Palouse Falls is easily in the top-ten “must-see” places in Washington state. Palouse Falls is Washington state’s waterfall in 2014, thanks to a bill passed by state legislature. Taking a picture of the falls is a must for any photographer, and Palouse Falls is picturesque from any season, summer or winter.
Palouse Falls features a 94-acre park made for picnics and bird-watching. You can see the falls from several different views thanks to a trail that ranges from easy to difficult.
Steptoe Butte has a 3,612-foot summit, and it has a very beautiful 360 view of the Inland Northwest and its very unique landscape. Steptoe Butte is a quartzite bluff in the midst of a green area in the summertime, and the sunsets are absolutely spectacular.
Steptoe Butte has a 168-acre day-use park, and has some of the oldest rock in the Pacific Northwest. The park has a paved pathway for a relatively safe drive all the way to the top, and is good for paragliding and hang gliding.
Kamiak Butte is a recognized National Natural Landmark, with five miles of forested hiking trails. Kamiak Butte reaches an elevation of 3,641 feet, which gives a very panoramic view of both Moscow, ID and Pullman, WA. Kamiak Butte has two shelters available for reservations, as well as an amphitheater, picnic table, playground, and restrooms.
WSU Welcome Sign
When Washington State University begins its classes, and just before the classes end, you can always see people getting pictures in front of the WSU Welcome sign. It is the perfect photographic way to show that you were in Pullman or WSU, and it is located near the Elson Floyd Cultural Center, another decent place to photograph at WSU.
Lawson Gardens is a donated land created to be a beautiful formal garden complex. In the spring and summer, Lawson Gardens starts to bloom, which make it perfect for nature/flower pictures. Lawson Gardens also has a large reflecting pool as well as a gazebo, even a small trail for a brief walk, as there is enough to see.
One of the tallest buildings on Washington State University campus, it is also one of the most recognizable at WSU and Pullman, Washington. Bryan Tower is close to the historic Hello Walk on WSU Campus, and it has an hourly chime with occasional music. At night, the clock face has a crimson glow, and looks great to photograph when it is dark.
WSU Bear Center
Washington State University has a place near its campus that is devoted to research, education, and conservation of grizzly bears. There are live grizzly bears kept on a double-fenced pen, and it is possible to get good photographs of the bears at play.
Cougar Pride Statue
Located right by Gesa field, where the Washington State Cougars play football, there is a 14-foot statue of Butch the Cougar, the mascot of WSU. Like the WSU Welcome sign, it is proof positive that you visited Pullman, Washington, not to mention WSU, and a demonstration that you have Cougar Pride.
Brelsford WSU Visitor Center
Located off campus, it is a good first stop for Pullman visitors before you go visit Washington State University. Not only is it the home of the giant WSU sign (think like the “Hollywood” sign, but made of concrete), but it is the place where the Pullman Farmer’s Market happens.
Artisans at Dahmen Barn
Artisans at Dahmen Barn is a converted barn that highlights local artists of the Palouse. Not only is there art on the inside, but the outside of the Artisans of Dahmen barn is constructed of many wagon wheels.