Wine and Photography in Walla Walla, Washington
Posted on September 28, 2014
This weekend, I fled Los Angeles, work, and all my responsibilities and jumped on a jet plane to Walla Walla, Washington. I have never been to Walla Walla — or really ever heard about the place — but my family, who do enjoy wine tastings, raved about the town that is five hours outside of Seattle and closer to the Oregon border than you might expect. Honestly, I needed to get away. I’ve been anxious, trying to find the balance between my professional and creative life, and I thought spending time in a town where the only thing to do was farm or drink wine would provide the cure. So I went there with the idea that I would eat, drink, and take photographs. You’ll see some shots below.
We stayed at a winery called Abeja, and we had the most fantastic rooms and the most incredible breakfast. I remember the last breakfast most distinctly. They brought over a baked egg seasoned with a bit of thyme, parmesan cheese, sea salt, and some light cream. Then they brought out bacon with sourdough waffles covered in fresh apples with a dollop of whipped cream. We drank their wine, too, which was good, but I have to be honest with you: I don’t know anything about wine. I wish that I did, but when I taste four or five different wines it’s really hard for me to tell the difference. I’m trying to learn and respect the craft, but one thing that I have learned from my family and friends is that all you have to do is say something descriptive like “minerality,” “apricot,” or any other floral or fruit taste, and people might actually think you know what you’re talking about. The people I was with knew wine, and it was fun to learn, but I was more interested in the sights in Walla Walla. And of course, the company.
What I loved most about Walla Walla was that everywhere I looked there was a different landscape photo opportunity. It was close to the high plains desert, and every piece of land was used to grow crops. It reminded me of a place Jack Kerouac would have loved to wander through, and he would have written about the people who worked the land. Because it was farmlands and they were growing different crops, the colors of the Earth altered as much as the contours of the landscape.
Behind the bed and breakfast, there was a river, and the photo above is what is directly on top of the river. The river cuts through the trees, and the water is clear and cold. The river runs next to a red covered bridge, and it is peaceful. I sat on a wooden chair for much of the afternoon, and I took my shoes off to feel it against the grass. It was nice to be so far away from a city. I had forgotten what it was like to only hear a river running and no other sound. I grew up near rivers and wide-open spaces, and I found myself missing the countryside. I found myself thinking about Wordsworth and his suggestion to take a scene in nature, almost chisel it into your mind, and recall that scene again during a moment of tranquility. Over the next couple weeks while I’m still here in L.A., I’m going to recall that river.
The trip also afforded me an opportunity to work on my photography. I haven’t taken as many photos over the last two weeks, choosing instead to work on Illustrator, but now that I have figured out how to use Adobe Bridge, it’s really helping with my photography work flow. I love this photo above, which I took right outside of our bed and breakfast, because I was able to experiment a bit with shutter speed. I love motion. I’m fascinated by the way my camera interprets motion. I love the long exposure. I love the sense that you can play with time.
Below you’ll see a photo of the open road. I don’t remember the last time I saw a road that was this empty. I even set the camera down directly on the asphalt. It was nice to be away from all the traffic in Southern California even for a moment.
I also started experimenting with taking photos into direct sunlight. I’ve always been pretty scared to shoot right at the sun, but I was walking down the road during sunset one night, and I just started taking some shots. You’ll see a few that I’m most proud of below.
And then here is a black and white.
Finally, I met some interesting people while I was in Walla Walla. The town had some incredibly hip restaurants and people, and I swear they were hipster farmers. Who knew they existed? But as we were leaving today, we went hiking in a park by a dam. There was an old man sitting on a bench, admiring the scenery, resting his head on a walking stick. I asked him if I could take his picture, and he said of course. What I like about this picture is that he’s left a lot of room on the bench, as if someone used to sit there with him.
Finally, you must have a surprise — something you didn’t expect to see in a million years — when you travel to Walla Walla, Washington. For me that was the museum of unnatural history. We were walking in the center of town, somewhere close to Main Street, when we saw the sign, promising Dada and other weird and offensive art. Of course, I wanted to go inside. That’s where I met Gerald Matthews, a former New York City comedian who moved to Walla Walla before all the vinters. He was on television and tried to survive in show business, but he got tired of the racket and opened up a small museum — which he called Dada because that meant, for him, he could do whatever he wanted — and he was funny. The art was strange, and I can imagine he scares a lot of people away. But I enjoyed his museum, and he would make a fantastic story. Perhaps I’ll write it one day.
Well, that’s my blog post for the week. Feel free to leave a comment. I’m gearing up for a reading at Litquake in San Francisco with Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, and more. I need to finish the essay I’m going to write.