When you see iconic photos of Washington state, they’re often of Mount Rainier or lush green forests. And yes, the wetter side of the state is undeniably beautiful. The east side of the state, however, is every bit as stunning. And for photographers, the drier side of the state offers endless opportunities to make beautiful images.
We recently chatted with Archana Bhat, one of the judges for Northwest Exposure, WTA’s annual photo contest. She talked about some of the things she loves most about photography in Eastern Washington, as well as some tips to help you make even better photos.
She hopes you’ll put these tips to use — and share the results in our 2022 photo contest, which opens in August.
The scale of the landscape
In Eastern Washington, the scale in your photos is often expansive, and that can make for compelling images. Archana says that to illustrate the scope of the landscape, it helps to have something in your image to provide a comparison. For instance, you could show a hiker in front of huge fields. Or you could show windmills against an enormous sky.
“The vastness can’t be understood if you don’t have anything to contrast it with,” Archana said. “Having a barn or a lone tree or a hiker lets you show that off.”
Taking great wildflower photos is, in large part, about timing. Archana pays attention to trip reports from past years to get a sense of when things might be in bloom. Then she uses up-to-date trip reports to help her know when exactly she wants to head out for a specific hike.
And if she misses out on something she’s interested in photographing one year, she makes a note so she can pay attention to timing for the following year.
Archana primarily shoots with mirrorless cameras. When she’s hiking, she always carries a macro lens, which is light and easy to include in her pack. She also always has a 16mm lens for wider angle photos. But she also carries a telephoto lens with a zoom, which she finds remarkably useful for wildflower photography. It gives her a lot more flexibility in choosing her images while still staying on the trail and avoiding damage to any sensitive vegetation.
For the best photos, it’s important to think ahead for advantageous lighting. This often means not shooting during the middle of the day, when the light is challenging. In Eastern Washington, it can be a good idea to hike early or late in the day. You’ll get better light for your photos and, during the warmer months, you’ll be more comfortable on the trail. If, however, you are out on trail during the middle of the day, you can simply be more selective about what you shoot, Archana says. Look for photos that are in the shade or use the light to its advantage in other ways. Get creative and see what works for you.
Eastern Washington offers some unique beauty that is worth a photographer’s attention. Archana particularly enjoys the fall colors in Eastern Washington, and how the trees have their own unique look against the landscape. When shooting in Eastern Washington, she thinks differently about how she takes photos of fall colors, to really highlight interesting compositions that you typically do not see on the Western side. She also appreciates that hiking in Eastern Washington can mean views of wheat fields or other crops. She’s really enamored with seeing what we grow and enjoys turning that fascination into photographs.