So we have just wrapped up a visit to Seattle and the Palouse region of Washington state and enroute to the airport we were reflecting on the weekend and how we would rate the area from a photography perspective.

Perhaps you are familiar with the AAA diamond ratings for lodging and restaurants? Or if you are a photographer you may be familiar with a series of photography guide books that are written by Laurent Martres.  Since we began using these guidebooks a few years ago for Arizona and Utah, we have found them very useful.  We now conclude each trip by comparing our notes and personal ratings to the guidebook.

To give you an example of the 1-5 diamond scale for photography, the Grand Canyon is a 5 diamond.  “The Wave” in northern Arizona is also a 5 diamond. In Bryce Canyon, Sunrise and Sunset points are also a 5 diamond. In contrast, favorites in Zion such as the “Court of the Patriachs” and the Emerald Pools rate only a 2 diamond. The 5 diamond rating is reserved for a “world class photographic location” or a “photographer’s dream”.


The region interested us (and many other photographers) because of its amazing soft rolling hills of green and yellow, often contrasted with unique old barns.

Our research of the area implied a photo around every bend and a cool barn to be discovered on every remote road.


Popular barn for photography which includes an old orange truck.


View on a back country road.



Yes, the green hills are beautiful, but the “green” is not as manicured as portrayed in other photos. Many fields are resting or just planted so they were dirt brown or faded dirty gold. The rolling hills are only apparent very early in the morning or very late in the day when the shadows help define them.  So even green rolling hill shots had to be “found”.

As for cool barns, I never found any that I had seen in pictures. They were a few old barns with character, but even these were few and far between. And those that we discovered, were often next to someone’s house and amidst other farm buildings… thus, it was not a real photographic opportunity.

Yes, we took some nice photos during our 3 days of combing the back roads of Palouse….


Old barn on country road.


Palouse hills, a late afternoon shot from Steptoe Butte


Palouse hills, another a late afternoon shot from Steptoe Butte

So how would we rate Palouse?

How many rolling hill shots can you take of an area? How many hours exploring for one shot?

Then there are the other factors that we rate….

For us, a photography outing consists mostly of the scenery, but the photo process environment (i.e., the hotel) and the subsistence options (i.e., the restaurants) also play a key role. In Colfax, a central location for the Palouse region, the only two hotel options are a tired Best Western (which was fully booked – 4 weeks out) and the Siesta Motel (a low grade version of a Motel 8, renamed to Motel 0).  We stayed at the Siesta Motel. The in-room refrigerator and microwave sustained us (when the fuze did not blow) and earned it a 1 diamond.

Food options? Well, no options for gluten free eating. Jeff was a sport and ate with me what we could put together from the local grocery store (gluten free chili from a can, and prepackaged deli meats).  On the last night, desperate for something substantial, Jeff tried the hotel recommended, “Eddy’s,” a Chinese American restaurant for an eggroll fix. Deep fried past perfection and gooey on the inside, it didn’t even achieve a 1 diamond.

Overall ratings:

Food: N/A, not ratable as we can’t say that there was real food

Lodging: 1 diamond

Photography: 3 diamonds (versus the book’s 5)

Based on our rating scale and photos would you agree with our photography rating?