A blog about the great outdoors, photography, and not taking yourself too seriously.

Hunting for the PNW aesthetic

When someone tags a photo with #pnw, you know what to expect. Lush forests. Waterfalls. Hipsters. Backcountry roads. Clouds. Rain. Expensive coffee. Desaturated tones and high contrast images. 

I asked myself, "you know what would be original and sharp? If I did that same thing". I wanted to see if I could emulate that characteristic look. 

"This is the only country in the world," said Wednesday, into the stillness, "that worries about what it is"


"The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are."

 Jennine showing off her guns at the bridge over Cascade Falls, in Mission. Now that I've enticed you with a hot girl, read the rest.

says Gaiman in American Gods (topical). It's very true. And some of that might be related to the fact that America (North America here, since I include Canada in this. Landscapes never worry about dumb lines on paper maps) has such a huge number of biomes in it. The Old World, where pubs have "ye" in their name and where every field was at some point a battlefield, tend to have a limited assortment of vistas.

We're lucky enough to be able to drive from the rainy Pacific Coast, through the Rockies and the Cascades, through the endless fields of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and then through the old granite of the Canadian Shield all the way to the Maritimes. That's a lot of stuff.

Me hunting. Maybe the PNW is in that tall grass, with all the Pokemon. You don't know.

When looking for the heart of a place, it therefore makes sense to break it down into smaller places, each having their own aesthetic. Their own "vibe".

I happen to live in the temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. So I went out and looked for the heart of what makes those "PNW" so recognizable.

Stave lake imposed itself as a must. The narrow, ugly roads were sure to provide fun stuff to Jeep over, and the lake itself and the hills surrounding it were tempting. Plus, it was a good excuse to go plinking.

Of course, it ended up raining the entire time. And the clouds covered the mountains. Ideal PNW weather. I captured a series of shots I'm very happy with, that I think convey what this area of the world can offer. Wilderness. Lush forests. And Freedom. With a capital F, because F you, that's why. The editing process reflected the whole look of the place; minimal, with an emphasis on desaturating bright colors and amplifying the feeling of impending storms and floods. the leitmotiv of my winter shoots is "wet". Shooting with the 35mm primarily allows to capture the northwestern landscape trifecta; foreground, forest, cloudy skies. 

The lesson: when you go hunting for the heart of something, bring an umbrella.