SIMPLY DIGITAL - Down time can pay off as chance for preparation


It was raining and as I walked into the classroom at Walla Walla Community College the students seemed to be disheartened knowing our vineyard field trip would be canceled.

I knew I had to quickly change the agenda to recapture the students' attention. It seemed this would be a good time to preview our field trip for next week and do their homework in class. (The students are required to visit the Web site for each vineyard we visit in advance to visualize the camera settings and equipment they may need).

As I focused the digital projector on the classroom screen I thought this would be the time to reinforce the thinking process a photographer should be aware of when researching for an assignment i.e., to "showcase a vineyard."

The timing was perfect as next week the class would be visiting a vineyard that would offer them many challenges with rolling hills, wonderful shadows, window reflections, multicolored stones, two staircases, wine stained barrels, and wonderful vineyard panorama.

Windrow Vineyard in Milton-Freewater is about a 20-minute drive from the college. This vineyard, which is owned by Jan and Doug Roskelley, has a wonderful entry sign: "Paradise Begins."

Our first stop and major photo challenge would be to capture the entry sign and try to keep the telephone line behind it out of the picture. A ladder is helpful and the students should consider a 35-70mm lens setting the shutter at 125 and aperture f16 for good depth of field.

Upon entering the 33-acre vineyard a long gravel road leads the viewer's eye to the winery complex. This would be photo stop and a challenge to the students to compose the road, the winery, a stream and large tree in a horizontal picture. (One of the objectives I have set for the class is to capture the best image in the camera, and strive to minimize the Adobe Photoshop computer time).

Showing the entry to the winery on the screen I pointed out the importance of capturing the warm wood grain tones in the door, which was made by the owner of the vineyard.

Entering the barrel room the students would be able to photograph winemakers Doug Roskelley (Tero Estate wines) and Ashley Trout (Flying Trout Wines), and then follow them into the vineyard to photograph the second-oldest Cabernet Sauvignon wine plants in the Walla Walla Valley. A 12-24mm wide-angle lens is ideal to capture the sheer size of these vines.

Just before the sun sets on the horizon the class will return to the winery and be able to photograph a long wooden staircase with wonderful electric candle lamps that illuminate the stairwell, and then proceed up a black metal spiral staircase to the roof for some 'dream vineyard landscape' pictures. The rooftop even has a wide ledge to brace the students' elbows and keep the camera perfectly still while taking their panorama pictures.

As I was finishing the classroom digital briefing for next week's vineyard field trip one of the students commented that the rain had stopped and we still had about an hour left in the class. So I asked if the students would like to conclude the class at Pioneer Park.

The students jumped at the opportunity to use their cameras. Setting their cameras on Macro they began photographing the tulips and wildflowers, which are wonderfully grouped in this carefully manicured park. A tripod is a must when photographing flowers.

The students were noticeably disappointed when today's class started, but they were pleased to go home with some dramatic flower scenes and were prepared for next week's vineyard adventure.

Don Fleming can be reached at


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