By William L. Spence
of the Lewiston Tribune
The website, which was created about a year ago, lets everyone from professional photographers to enthusiastic amateurs contribute images of their favorite Palouse sights.
In recent weeks, for example, photos have been posted of the Milky Way rising above an old barn, a rusty car in a field at sunset, old farm equipment dotting the landscape and combines harvesting wheat.
The Palouse “is a very special place,” said Francisco Aguilar, a digital media consultant who frequently posts pictures on the site. “You have these naturally rolling hills, the beautiful sun and clouds. You can see the fruitfulness of the landscape in every picture.”
Carol Cooper, the Pullman Chamber tourism director who launched the website, noted that several businesses offer photo tours of the Palouse, and entire bus loads of visitors can often be found at Steptoe Butte or other overlooks, clicking away with their digital cameras.
“About a third of our tourists come here to take pictures,” she said. “It’s a unique area.”
Much of the chamber’s tourism advertising budget is spent on ads in magazines like “Outdoor Photographer” or “Canadian Camera,” Cooper said. The Picture Perfect Palouse site is another venue for showcasing the area, while simultaneously giving local photographers an opportunity to display their work.
“It’s been a great tourism tool,” she said.
The value of a single photo was evident in August, when The Guardian — an English newspaper with an international online readership approaching 45 million — ran a brief story describing the Palouse as “the Tuscany of America.” It came with a photo, taken from Steptoe Butte, showing grain elevators tucked amid green hills.
“The region’s endless miles of rolling hills are a photographer’s dream,” according to the story. “Instead of vines, the hills are covered with wheat and lentils.”
More than 9,000 readers shared the story with their friends.
In addition to the Facebook site, the chamber publishes a guide to photographing the Palouse, as well as a road map of photography hot spots.
The hot spots map, which covers all of Whitman County, has little icons showing the location of everything from barns and lone trees to farm equipment and grain silos.
“These are the things photographers want to see,” Cooper said. “We recently added bird habitats to the map. I get requests for it from all over the country; really, all over the world.”
The only problem, she said, is with people who don’t respect private property rights.
“That’s been the biggest downfall with the maps,” Cooper said. “We don’t want people trespassing on someone’s land and stomping their crops.”
Copies of the photographer’s guide and hot spots map, including a reminder to “please respect the property of others,” can be downloaded from the chamber website, www.pullmanchamber.com.
Spence may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 791-9168.