I usually try to avoid holiday weekends for any type of travel, however, since it had been a good week since my last landscape photography outing, I went ahead planned for a day of photography on the Saturday of this past Memorial Day Weekend.
One genre of photography that I’m drawn to is abandoned rural farm houses and barns, especially when I can include them as an element of the landscape. So about mid-week prior to my trip, with the help of Google Maps, I plotted out some potential sites to visit in the area surrounding Waterville, Washington in Douglas County.
My original plan was to get up at 3:00 AM and make the two-hour drive to Douglas County to arrive by 5:00 AM, just before the sunrise. But as Friday arrived, and after working a 48-hour shift at the fire department, I decided to head out on Friday evening in order to take advantage of both the evening and morning golden hours of daylight (and not have to get up so early).
Several weeks earlier, I figured out that with the back seat removed from my Geo Tracker, all 6 foot, 2 inches of me could stretch out rather comfortably in the back of the vehicle?at a diagonal. All I had to do was push the passenger seat all the way forward, place a stuffed duffle bag on the footwell behind the seat and lay down an inflatable camping pad and I was ready to spend the night.
After climbing up US Highway 2 from the Wenatchee area, and just before reaching Waterville, I had just about two hours of daylight to work with. So instead of venturing into town, I got to work making photographs right away. I had mapped out several potential locations that were in tight cluster.
Initially, the angle of the sun in relation to the subject matter wasn’t ideal (severe backlighting) but I made the best of what I could. As the evening went on, I was blessed with a little more filtered sunshine through the clouds over the Washington Cascades.
After photographing a few old houses and barns, I headed over to a dot on the map called Alstown. I wasn’t expecting much, however I ended up spending a good portion of time at this location photographing a couple of old abandoned houses and barns located at the old town site.
By time I was finished making images in Alstown, the sun was setting fast and I still had several locations mapped out in the vicinity. While driving down yet another dirt road to photograph a house I spotted from the main gravel road, I noticed the full moon rising on the horizon. Usually I’m quite aware of the moon cycle, but this month, I didn’t pay attention and was caught by surprise. Wanting to find a good foreground for the rising full moon, I drove back to a barn that I photographed earlier and captured the moon just above the roof of the barn.
After getting my full moon shot, it was time to find a spot to sleep for the night. Even after driving around for a few hours, I didn’t see any spot I felt comfortable to park. I remembered seeing Badger Mountain Ski Area, so I circled back through Waterville and followed the signs to the ski area. I eventually found a nice wide spot in the road where I parked for the night. I would have slept soundly if it wasn’t for the full moon shining through the windows in my face for most of the night.
The next morning, the alarm on my phone went off at 4:30 AM. It was already starting to get light, so I situated myself and my gear and headed back down towards Waterville. For my photographs first thing in the morning, I decided to head out to the locations I mapped out on the North side of US Highway 2. It wasn’t long before I found more locations than I had originally mapped out.
I could be wrong, but I think this area has one of the highest concentrations of old abandoned houses and barns of anywhere in Washington state. To reach many of them requires driving on very primitive gravel and dirt roads, and in the spring time, some of the dirt roads are very muddy, to the point that I had to engage the 4-wheel drive on my Geo Tracker to make it up one hill.
The rest of the morning was spent driving to the mapped out locations as well as a little exploring of the area. I was blessed with nice filtered sunshine most of the morning which worked out great for making landscape images.
Eventually, the clouds burned off and I lost that nice filtered light I was enjoying all morning. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit all the areas I had mapped out (a good excuse for a trip at a later date).
By 10:30, I knew it was time to start heading home. The two peanut butter sandwiches I brought with me were long gone and I was getting hungry.
For my route home, I headed East on US 2 and then turned onto the Moses Coulee Rd where it winds you through the very scenic central portion of the coulee. I’ve driven the lower portion of the coulee through Palisades, but never this section.
It was a relatively short trip for a holiday weekend adventure, however I got to see some beautiful country without the crowds of people many places receive. I’m also very happy with the rural landscape images that I captured. I’ll be back in the near future to hit the areas where I missed as well as revisiting others when the crops are growing.
All images in this post were captured with my Apple iPhone using the Pro HDR app.
You can view a select portfolio of my limited edition images from this trip at Rural Decay – Douglas County, Washington 2013.