Charley Gurche can sense autumn’s approach even with his eyes closed.
“You feel it in the air before you see it, especially in Spokane,” says one of the Northwest’s more successful nature photographers.
“It’s not just the difference in temperature. I think the acoustics actually change,” he says. “Even the sound of an airplane flying over is different in the fall than in the summer.”
Autumn is Gurche’s favorite season to capture nature’s textures and colors with his 4x5 Linhof camera. “The crowds are gone, the bugs are gone,” he explains. “You have the campgrounds to yourself.”
Coincidentally, those are the same attributes - along with lower room rates, easier tee times and luscious fall colors - that help make autumn the perfect time to explore the Northwest.
Gurche won’t book you a resort room, but he can suggest ways to capture autumn on film. And you don’t have drive to New England to do it.
“You can find a lot of great fall shots along the area’s rivers: the Spokane, the Pend Oreille, the Kettle River,” he says. “Sherman Pass has plenty of aspen and tamarack. And bright red huckleberry leaves create some great foregrounds on Mount Spokane.
“But I get a lot of my best stuff in Manito Park and Finch Arboretum right here in Spokane,” says Gurche, whose 1997 calendars and books include scenes of Washington wildflowers and reflections, Mount Rainier and the San Juan Islands. (He also has books and calendars featuring Missouri and Virginia.)
The key to success, Gurche says, is becoming familiar with favorite trees, flowers or landscapes, and anticipating how changing temperatures and light will affect them.
“For instance, when you get a really hard freeze, leaves drop off quickly and start turning brown the same day,” he says. But for a few precious moments, the ground is covered with a blanket of brilliant autumn color.
“By late October and early November, I’m racing around trying to stay ahead of the (Spokane) park maintenance crews. Some of my favorite shots were taken just an hour ahead of the rakers and blowers.”
Tips for photographing autumn scenes
“Most people try to include too much in the picture,” says Gurche. “The trick is to keep it simple.”
The best way to learn about photography is to study the best work being published. Look closely at Audubon or Sierra Club calendars. Analyze how each shot is composed. Think about where light is coming from, the time of day, and how shadows and color affect the image.
Once in the field, get to know a place well. “Anticipate how a scene will look at dawn or dusk,” says Gurche. “And be prepared to photograph it when conditions are ideal.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo