The first time I saw the Skagit Valley I was smitten. It was a dreary November day and I had never before been to the Pacific Northwest. I imagined dense evergreens and mountains. When I saw the neatly groomed fields, big skies, and surrounding waters of the Skagit Valley I was startled and captivated. I don’t believe I had ever seen any landscape quite like this. That was in November of 1997. Three years later I landed in La Conner and knew that I had found my place in the world. No place has ever felt more like home than here. The landscape, the light, the community – this is the place I love like no other and I like to share my love through imagery.
As a photographer, I am always looking around and composing images in my head. As a photographer in the Skagit Valley, I am served up a wealth of scenic beauty so bountiful it’s hard to get through a single day without shooting pictures. Although I am known for my macro flower photography, I also shoot landscapes and I have been documenting and collecting images from around the Skagit Valley for a number of years. This year I decided to create a calendar that expresses some of my favorite scenes in the valley – the scenes those of us who live here are accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. It’s no wonder this place attracts so many artists. There is much to see here.
For January, I picked a shot I took of a mass of birds feeding in a potato field. It’s the kind of scene I love to happen upon as I drive the farm roads. I parked on the side of the road and simply watched and listened for a while, then took out my camera. As I stood there shooting pictures, a farmer who lived next door came out to talk to me. It was a typical valley encounter. We chatted about how long he had been in the valley and he told me a story about driving a tractor into La Conner to get an ice cream cone when he was just 10 years old.
The February image of Mount Baker with winter blueberry fields in the foreground was a happy accident. I was giving a friend a photo tour and we were headed to the Samish flats so I could show her where to find lots of predator birds in the winter. As we crested the hill we both gasped at the scene we saw before us. As I was looking for a place to park and take a shot, I noticed a van with birders on the side of the road. I crept closer to them, figuring they had something interesting in their scopes. Just as we got out of the car with our cameras, the hawk they had been watching made his move. Suddenly, the blueberry field erupted and ducks flew everywhere.
March pays homage to our winter visitors – the intrepid snow geese – who blanket the fields of rye grass farmers plant for them. They arrive in early October, thin and hungry. By March they are fat and healthy and almost ready to head north again.
April is Tulip Festival month. I never tire of seeing the colorful fields and watching other people see them for the first time. This field was about five minutes from my house and I was waiting for a clear day to capture sunrise.
By May the tulips and tourists are mostly gone and we locals get to enjoy the subtle beauty of the Iris fields. This field was on McLean road. The night I shot this picture an out-of-towner pulled up, got out of his car and walked up to me while I was shooting. “What are these, lilies?” he said to me. I explained that they were irises and were a cover crop for tulips. He walked back to his car, shouting at his companion “They’re irises!”
Some years June is gloomy, but lately it’s been a string of gloriously long, sunny days. Boaters and vacationers flock to La Conner and I spend as much time as possible outside. This was shot from the Rainbow Bridge, looking back at town, at sunset on a summer night.
July is time for celebration. I love that people in the valley celebrate in their own ways. I picked this shot of fireworks over a barn on Fir Island because it reminds me that I was at a gathering of good friends on the fourth of July, not at some big city extravaganza.
By August the light changes dramatically. I watch the shadows of the Lombardy poplars on Best Road and it’s clear we are already headed toward darker days. I shoot a lot of pictures of these trees, which I have nicknamed “poplar row”. Every time I show them to someone, they assume the image was shot in Tuscany.
I grew up in the Deep South, so “knee high by the fourth of July” was a real thing when it came to corn. Not so here. Some years there’s not enough sun for the corn to mature. Other years it explodes. It all depends on the weather. But, there are almost always fields of corn in September. I like the neat rows and messy silks. They create a nice graphic.
By October I’m scrambling to take pictures on any clear day. The estuary around Fir Island is a reliable location to spot birds as well as backlit grasses and water.
Before I lived here, I had no idea blueberry bushes could be so colorful in the winter. I was out near Rexville Grange one November morning before sunrise and was enchanted by the pastel colors an early morning frost created on this field.
We haven’t had a really good, deep snow in a few years, so this barn photo is a few years old. I was driving along snow covered farm roads in December when I happened upon it. It reminded me of an Andrew Wyeth painting, with the snow falling around its weathered boards. It is a perpetually popular image as I have sold many prints and note cards of this image.
About Nancy Crowell
My love of photography started with my grandmother, who always had her camera handy to capture spontaneous moments such as the one above. Yes, that’s me, relishing a warm summer breeze. I still feel that way – every time I go out to shoot photos. It was Nana who taught me to appreciate the natural world, and to see the beauty in everyday things.
I have a background in cinematography as well as still photography, but I learned photography in film. Despite that analog background, I have to admit, I really love the accessibility of digital imagery. I have sold my images for commercial purposes as well as private collections. I have won awards and had successful shows, but nothing tops capturing a moment in time.
I live in a beautiful valley where I am inspired every day by the natural surroundings, the scenic farm lands and the bountiful flora.
My clients include MGM Resorts International, as well as private collectors who display my work at both home and office.