The Leica M10 – Chasing The Colors of the Palouse with the Seattle Leica User Group
By Ashwin Rao – He Started the Leica M10 Facebook Group HERE
Dear friends and photographers, today I wanted to share a story of coming together as a photographic community. Further, I wish to share a story of a magical place over the hills and far away, a tucked away magical corner of North America that is well worth a visit for photographers looking for visual adventures. While I do intend to discuss my favorite camera, the Leica M10, this is not a review or commentary of the camera. Rather, this article is meant to inspire you, the photographer, to pursue your own horizon in search of the next great image. I hope at that this article pushes you to find like-minded photographers to share in your adventures. There’s so much to see out there, so much to capture with your camera. Here is one of such journeys, taken this past summer to The Palouse.
Some of you may never have heard of the Palouse. Long time followers of Steve’s site will recognize the name and imagery from a prior road trip and photo workshop that Steve and I organized in 2013. The Palouse lies in a tucked away corner of southeastern Washington State and Northwest Idaho. It an agricultural region tasked with the production of wheat, canola, and other legumes. But that description does not do the region justice.
For those of you who have not been there, the Palouse is a magical place. The rolling undulations of the region, upon while grain and other crops are planted and later harvested, were carves so long ago by glaciers coursing over the landscape. The effect that time, wind, and water (and of course human intervention) impart upon the region that feels otherworldly. The region is dotted by tiny towns, each with its own charm, many frozen in time, yet functioning in today’s world. It is a land of cotton ball clouds, Northern Lights, and a place that many have escaped to get away from it all.
As must be appropriate, the origins of the name “Palouse” are unclear. Some attribute its etymology to the Palus Native American Tribe, while others trace the name to the French term “pelouse”, purportedly ascribed to the region as “the land with short and thick grass”. The land is shrouded in lore, and upon arriving, you will appreciate this. The region has its own mythical “Bigfoot”, and for those mystics out there, there are other secrets to be found. Upon arriving, heading to Steptoe Butte, the region’s foremost peak, will give you perspective of the entire region. Regardless of your inclinations, one finds possibilities for creativity that stretch to seemingly endless horizons in every direction.
This past June, a group of intrepid 16 photographers, including myself, journeyed to the Palouse to discover the region again. While I organized the trip, which consisted mainly of members of the Seattle Leica User’s Group, the true expert upon whom we relied was a local photographer and friend Ryan McGinty. I have known Ryan in the real world for 5 years but our time knowing each other dates back over 10 years. I actually know Ryan through Steve’s site and from forms where we mutually shared images many years ago. Ryan’s photos have always inspired me, and when I first journeyed to the Palouse, it was Ryan whom I sought out to guide a small group of friends. Over the years, Ryan has been a regular visitor to Seattle to attend our Seattle Leica User Group Meetings. He’s also been gracious with his time and efforts in coordinating my visits to the Palouse, either with small groups, with workshops, or with the large group that we brought this year.
I have mentioned the Seattle Leica User Group, but let me explain a bit more. 6 years ago, Steve Huff came to Seattle to host a Street photography workshop, which was well attended by photographers from the city and through the country. What came out of this workshop a realization that Seattle was filled with passionate, like-minded photographers who enjoyed similar creative impulses, using Leica cameras to capture the world around them. On the heals of this workshop, a local photographer, Al Tanabe, began to gather these individuals together for photo critique and sharing over food and wine. This humble assembly became known as the Seattle Leica Users Group, or “SLUG”.
I was an original member of the group, and I assumed organization of SLUG upon Al’s departure from the region several years ago, and in the intervening time, the SLUG group has grown to over 80 members. Our group meets regularly, and we continue to share prints of our work, while discussing our recent adventures, camera acquisitions, and friendship. It’s a wonderful creation and I have been thrilled to be the local ringleader.
Upon setting up the informal road trip with fellow SLUG members, the word of a journey to the Palouse spread fast. Within weeks, we were to be joined by friends from areas as far away as New York City and Kuwait. Despite so many backgrounds, being from so many areas, this group of intrepid photographers shared a common passion: finding that magical image that we all hope to discover.
Many of the group had Leica M10’s in hand, while a few brought along Hasselblad and Leica Medium format rigs. Sony E series cameras were in tow, with 20 FPS to capture the world in millisecond detail. Even one Nikonian was amongst us. A few Monochrom cameras were bandied about to capture the splendor of the Palouse in black and white.
The images you see here are my interpretation of what I saw. While I organized the trip with Ryan McGinty’s guidance, the trip was really a shared experience for all whom attended. The group was eager to find images, be it before sunrise, or as the gentle pastels of the Palouse sunset cascaded upon the region. Each of us certainly found our muse, our inspiration, and of course, our images.
As you read this and see the images, both of this far away landscape, but also of the friendships forged and strengthened through photography, I encourage you to find your own photographic partners in your communities. They certainly reside, just around the corner, just down the block, or in the neighborhood adjacent to yours. SLUG meetings have continued on under my watch, and many talented local photographers have become close friends and companions in photography. We share prints, we meet up for coffee and photos, we share and even trade prints, we photograph the world around us, and we each bring our own creative impulses together to inspire one another. Such individuals surely live in your own community. You may not know that they are there, but if you spend time at your local camera store, you may see a future friend, staring at the same camera and lenses that you are looking at, a similar camera strapped to their side, that same excited glint in their eyes. I’d challenge you to walk up to them, introduce yourself, and talk a little gear. Hey, who knows, maybe you’ll find your own SLUG group, in your own city, with your own future photographic citizenship to follow.
Thanks for reading the article as always. I will leave you with a series of images of many of the members of our Palouse Workshop. My lenses for the trip with the following: WATE 16-18-21, 35 FLE, 50 APO Summicron, and 90 APO Summicron. This was a great group, with whom I hope to share more photo adventures in the years to come! Maybe you’ll join us soon?
Until then, farewell, and happy photographic trails!