Topic: Wheat (15 posts) Page 2 of 3

Out in Wheat

As I write this I am in Moscow, Idaho on a project to photograph wheat fields. Although I call this wheat fields much else is grown here besides wheat: garbanzo beans, alfalfa, lentils, safflower, etc. It is late October so this isn't a time of flowing golden wheat with a hot sun blazing down from above. The fields are stubble, turned under or lying fallow this time of year.

Why be here now? Because this is a time where the land itself has no covering to soften its contour. This is the much photographed area called the Palouse, where workshops meet, where vans criss cross the terrain filled with photographers looking for that iconic " shot", the one that's a keeper, the one that ends up over a mantle to wow the house guests at the party.  And yes, in July or August at harvest time this is an exquisite place, but in late October? Not so much. 

That's why I am here, to make essential photographs.

I've only been here a few days but working here now is proving challenging. "Dodging rain drops" is how I would describe it, although the fog at dawn this morning was something new.  

I will make good pictures here, for the 18 or so times I've been here have me well prepared, perhaps better than anyone.  I also will not be repetitive. The late time of year helps to insure that, of course, but also I am seeking to do some things here differently than before. 

I am sure you have found this too but to be someplace familiar where you've made pictures before and to think through a different approach, to try something else, to challenge past assumptions seems key to me. Much has been written about how we always make the same pictures, over and over. This is all too easy, to be in front of something with similar light, similar content, and a similar frame of mind to something you photographed in the past with some success and then to repeat that same image. I am trying not to do that while here. 

It would be rewarding sometime to assemble some of the pictures I have made while here that are not of the fields specifically, the outtakes, if you will (hint hint you curators out there). Honestly, how can you not make a picture of an oil tanker sized hay stack three times your height stranded in the middle of nowhere?

So stay with me for the next few posts as I take you through my trip out here in late October 2016. Next up? I flew yesterday with brilliant blue skies and bright sun at 10 am. The first day since getting here that it has been so. We used a Cessna 206, a four seater airplane, with the door removed. I was harnessed and strapped in, sitting in the seat right next to the large opening. It was 45 degrees. Totally worth it. This is me, still strapped in, after we landed.

How did I do, up there at 1000 feet skidding along at 90 knots, pointing down at this amazing landscape? 

Stay tuned.

Topics: Color,Wheat,Digital,Northwest,Aerial

Permalink | Posted October 29, 2016

Skate Park Take 2

Okay, I can hear you now:  "Enough already with the skate parks!" but I really do have to add something to the one already posted, the Healdsburg Skate Park.

I found another one, this one a much more typical skate park. A more typical one combines all those wonderful concrete curves, hills and valley, dips and things to jump over, with, you guessed it: graffiti.

In this case young artistic expression run amok. Total chaos in an orgiastic display of colors and design by spray cans used without restraint. So cool.

What I loved most about this place, besides its sheer exuberance, was how the paint totally subverted the form lying underneath. In some of the pictures, you can't really tell what the underlying shape is.

As I worked around the park and the afternoon wore on I could see that back light was going to play a role:

like the broad back of some sea monster lying in the sun:

I can hear it coming, you saying a few months from now: "Yeah, Rantoul lost it that winter he went out to California and started shooting skate parks. He got so into it, it was all he was talking about. And the pictures? Totally whacked. You know, no one's heard from him since? I bet he's still out there shooting those parks. Poor guy."

When I posted the Healdsburg blog (Skate Park) a friend wrote back and said "Wheat Fields!"meaning that the way I was seeing these was very much the way in which I photograph the wheat fields in Washington (Wheat 2011). I have used form to make content, used shape to denote space, used pattern for emphasis, used tonality and color to convey emotion, used light to deepen and used repetition of forms to deny and reinforce spatial relationships for a very long time and do not plan on stopping any time soon. 

Do you think I'm finished with these, think we can now move on? Not bloody likely as I'm on a roll and having way too much fun.  BTW: this one is in a park in Santa Rosa on Fulton Street right across from the high school.


Topics: Skate Park,Wheat,Northwest,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted March 2, 2014

Photo Workshop

Fellow photographer and friend Michael Hintlian and I are offering a photography workshop in the wheat field country of Washington in September. Most of my trips  to the Palouse have been solo ones, but a few times over the years photo friends and colleagues have joined me for a few days. They were blown away. The region is simply phenomenal, the kind of place where, when you come over a hill on a dirt farm road, you never know what amazing arrangement of rolling hills and golden wheat you will see. September is a wonderful time to be there. Days will still be warm but not as hot, with cool nights, great light and the fields will be gold and yellow. We'll be staying in Colfax, which is in the heart of the Palouse. Please note that there are other workshops being taught in the Palouse, many actually. But ours will be the best. Why? Because of my years photographing there, because of our integrity as picture makers and because we will have more fun. I sincerely hope you can join us. This is an experience not to be missed.

Spread the word and sign yourself up.This one will fill fast.


Join us for a landscape workshop in the Palouse, its now scheduled and open, the details are:

The Itinerary. The workshop begins in Colfax, Washington with dinner on Sunday evening September 22 and ends with dinner on Friday evening September 27.

The what. This is an intensive 5-day landscape photography workshop where you will be fully immersed in the breathtaking landscape of the Palouse located in Southeast Washington State; it is an amazing opportunity for image making.

There are many more details to give you but the important thing to know is once in the Palouse your basic needs - a clean and secure place to sleep, daily box lunches, and daily transportation are handled. We will include dinners on the first and last nights of the workshop otherwise breakfasts and dinners are not included and are conveniently available. All you need to concern yourself with is the day-to-day immersion in all the stunning photography opportunities available here. Each evening you will return to the hotel, enjoy dinner, back up your files and do a soft edit of your images. After dinner we will be meeting together as a group to run a crit of the day's work.

The where. In short, we will be working in the Palouse of Southeast Washington State, our base of operations will be Colfax, Washington. About the area? Neal’s description here says it all:

The when. The dates for the workshop begin with dinner on Sunday evening September 22 and ends with dinner on Friday evening September 27, 2013.

The Who. Co-leaders are Neal Rantoul and Michael Hintlian. Neal is an accomplished career fine art photographer who led the photography department at Northeastern University for 30 years. He has photographed in the Palouse region for over 17 years and knows it through a photographer’s eyes making him uniquely qualified to guide photographers in the area. Michael has photographed projects all over the globe; he heads the Department of Documentary Photography at the New England School of Photography and leads workshops globally. Both are energetic, experienced and effective coaches.

What you get. You get lodging beginning Sunday evening September 22 through Friday night September 27 (check out on Saturday morning the 28th). Each day you will be transported to any one of the amazing locations in the region to photograph and explore and brought back in the evening. Critiques are held each workshop evening following dinner for a review of the day's work - this is an important part of the whole experience.

The cost. The cost is $1395. As in the past this trip will fill quickly, a $500. deposit will hold your spot; don't delay if you want to be on this trip. This rate does not include airfare, and as always airfare will vary depending on your location.

The Addition. We have connected with a great aviation service out of the Pullman/Moscow airport; they have the right high-winged Cessna planes with space for two photographers. The rate is $175 per hour and affords photographers interested in this amazing vantage point an incredible opportunity. There may be 30 minute or 1 hour options available.

These are long and fabulously full days that will forward your work in ways you cannot imagine. Our invitation is simple...join us!

And, of course, don't hesitate reaching us if you have questions.


Neal and Michael

T: 978-815-9493

Michael's Email

Topics: workshop,Wheat

Permalink | Posted June 12, 2013

Wheat 6

We've come a long ways together, brothers and sisters. Our journey will end soon, but not before we finish up with wheat aerials. Was I saving the best for last? You decide.

I have written before about the "how" of shooting aerially. It is here

We'll look here at 2008-2012, as I photographed in the Palouse all five years and I shot aerially each year. This is a post that could be brought down by its own weight, so to speak, as I very often make 400 to 500 frames each time I go up, so I will limit this post to five pictures for each year, starting in 2008:

The last two above were chosen by Anne Tucker for the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. Anne is the curator of photography there.

On to 2009:



The last, from 2012:

That's it. 25 photographs in a blog is a new record for me. One of the real pleasures in pulling this one together was to go through five years of pictures of flights over the Palouse. Many of the images shown here haven't been seen before, by anyone. My age, background, and where I grew up places my work squarely in defining terms like: abstract expressionist, minimalist, post WW II Modernist, etc. Perhaps this partly defines this obsession with the wheat fields not so much for what they are (although that is magnifcent in its own right) but for what they can become in photographs.

Has there been change and progress through these five years of shooting aerials? Absolutely. You can see this showing itself in the 2011 and 2012 imagery which is  more abstract and sometimes not as pretty. Technically, file size has increased as I've gone to bigger sensors, allowing larger prints.

The upcoming show in April, 2013 at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA will display aerials of the wheat fields. 

So that sums up twenty years worth of making pictures in one corner of the state of Washington. I hope you have enjoyed this long posting. Let me know your thoughts on this work, please. 

Will I go back? Yes. There is more to do.

Topics: Wheat

Permalink | Posted February 19, 2013

Wheat 5 Outtakes

I have left the Wheat series of posts hanging as I headed off to San Diego and began  writing about being there. This one gets us back to the series and there is one more after this: Wheat 6.

If you've been following this blog you know I have already subjected you to four posts about my wheat pictures. This one will go off topic a little, to show you pictures never before published of things I have photographed other than wheat fields on my many trips out to the Palouse.

As someone who travels to make pictures, and to the Palouse to photograph the wheat fields, there are times when I either run across something too good to pass up or make pictures to counter the sheer repetitiveness of the subject I'm working with. Clearly "no man can survive on wheat alone", and I am no exception.

So what you'll see here are just that, pictures made as a side show to the main attraction; outtakes, in effect.

I won't go back too far but contain these to my digital days from about 2008 on up to last summer.

In this post we are starting off with 2008 and working up to last summer, 2012.

As most of my photographs in the area are made by stopping the car, getting out and making a picture I see many like this below where the road has been cut into the hill. Sometimes they are irresistible.

The first day out in 2008  I came across a circus in the middle of the fields at the State Fairgrounds outside of Colfax:

And a new miniature golf course on the outskirts of Moscow, Idaho:

From the 2009 trip on the road from Pullman, WA to Moscow, ID:

And out among the fields on the way down to the Columbia River towards Lewiston, Idaho:

 I almost always stop at the local cemeteries:


The 2010 trip produced the following outtakes:

The 2011 trip produced the following:

and, finally, the 2012 trip produced just a couple:

and this one, taking off to shoot aerials:

I hope you enjoyed these. Simple enough, but perhaps an insight into the area and how I photograph there.

A hypothetical conversation:

What's Next? 

WheatHigh Up. 

From the Air? Pointing Down?

Yes. Unbelievably Cool.

Can't Wait!

You have to. I haven't written it yet.

Oh, ok.


Topics: Wheat,outtakes

Permalink | Posted February 11, 2013