Lara Swimmer Makes Gorgeous Photographs of a High Prairie Retreat in Washington

Lara Swimmer Makes Gorgeous Photographs of a High Prairie Retreat in Washington

Project of the Week

“This project was all about the landscape and creating a retreat home for an Olympia, WA couple to get lost in the land with their dogs and with birding, which is one of their passions” recounts architectural photographer Lara Swimmer as she shares the story behind her time photographing High Prairie House by EB Architects.

“The design intent was to create a shed roof small house that would embrace the surrounding land and views,” she goes on. “I was impressed by the scale of the vast property in relation to the diminutive house, and how it almost disappears from many approaches. My goal was to capture the intent of the client, both mine and the architect’s, in capturing a structure that melded if not often dissolved into its context.”

Lara’s photographs carry a quiet reflective quality that perfectly suits this home that sits unobtrusively in its 120-acre swath of land.

She does a wonderful job of showing this home nestled into its context. She places us in the scene. We feel the shade of the trees, and the heat of the summer sunlight as we look out across the home’s expansive view. It’s easy to see why they call this place High Prairie House.

A beautiful project like this doesn’t come without its challenges though. Lara ran into some unforeseen issues with wildfire smoke, sharing “The house was located in Lyle, in south-central WA, which is a 4-hour drive from my base in Seattle. As the route takes you across the Snoqualmie Pass, weather conditions can shift dramatically from one side of the state to the other.

The day started out brilliantly, but as is often the case now in our region, smokey haze started to appear on the east side of the pass on my descent down to the gorge. The skies went progressively brownish yellow, as the particulates from nearby wildfires began to completely obscure the great summer weather. Very stressful! I was halfway there, and through conversations with Erik the architect, we decided to go for it anyway, not wanting to miss another summer opportunity.”

Inside High Prairie House, we are met by an abundance of textures and well-timed, gorgeous sunlight streaming into each room. The interplay of highlights and shadows creates new sets of leading lines, as well as adding life and visual interest to this scene.

Dappled light dancing across the cast concrete walls creates a sense of movement in this vignette. It also radiates a sense of time. We are able to understand that it’s late afternoon, and this helps place us in the room.

Lara shares a bit about her process explaining “First and foremost, I work with the daylight and sun angle, which in this particular case was a challenge, as the late summer West Coast wildfire onslaught had been ongoing, the area was shrouded by a thick layer of smokey haze and particulate.

Beyond that, I arrive first and try to scout out my project, taking note of where I’ll need to be at what times in the day, based on daylight and time of year. I sometimes take snapshots on my phone as I understand the lay of the land. Sometimes I just work from memory and feel. There are no real set rules of how a shoot will play out, as every single project is unique and comes with unique conditions.”

Here Lara allows us to note how different rooms in the house connect and flow into one another. We get a good look at the massive banks of windows and the way the indoor living area can open right on up to High Prairie’s surroundings. I love the lived-in quality of the styling of this scene. The chair pulled out adds a nice shape to the scene and creates an inviting air. Plus, I just love a picture with a dog!

Lara’s images all have such a quiet, emotive quality to them. They feel warm and serene. There are always little splashes of life or a small element that shows the functionality of the architecture. Here, a cracked window creates more linear shapes, while again connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces of this property.

She tells, “My favorite views were definitely the lower light shots, that actually worked to incorporate the smoky skies, and made for a pretty awesome sunset over Mt. Adams. Plus the golden retriever!”

I too, love this next shot. The view is just out of this world, and with the lit candles and lounging pup, she makes High Prairie House feel like home to anyone viewing the photographs.

With the roofline stretching over us, the window subtly popped open in the foreground, and the inviting seat to watch the sunset, this single scene allows us to note everything wonderful about High Prairie House and its design. What an awesome project!

Lara closes things out with a bit of advice for her fellow photographers: “I would say, best to know your client and his or her intent, understand the project’s context, materials, and then go with your gut, letting the light and emotions guide you!”

A million thank you’s to Lara for sharing her photographs and stories from photographing High Prairie House with us here at APALMANAC.

See more of Lara’s emotive work on her website swimmerphoto.com as well as on Instagram @laraswimmer.

If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.

About Lexi Taciak
Howdy! I'm Lexi, a photographer, graphic designer, and writer.
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