Standing on the fringes of a millionaire’s mansion, we looked out over the city. Mount Hood stood across from us on the horizon, acting as a counterpoint for the rising September moon.
It was the evening of the third day of the photography workshop. On this day we didn’t go so far afield. Our venue for the day was Portland, home for the classroom sessions, home for the instructor, home for me. What would our instructor feature from his stomping grounds?
Neighborhood brewpubs? This is Portland after all, known in some circles as beervana, and for its microbrewer to resident ratio. Yep, we’d been hitting those for lunch, and enjoying Portland’s foodie reputation at the same time.
(And no, I didn’t provide my classmates brew from my homebrew stash, because come September it’s depleted – I don’t brew in the summer months ’cause I can’t keep the fermenter cool enough.)
We opted to work the downtown area in the afternoon. But while we were carrying cameras, most of us were landscape photographers. We just played tourist.
We stopped into a theater – the Gerding, sometimes called The Armory. Why? That was its original use. Built in 1891, the shell remains, of ancient (by Portland standards) brick, providing an old-time flavor. But the only picture I took that seemed interesting is rather abstract. Architecture photography isn’t really my thing.
If you’re a book nerd, and I suspect many WordPress bloggers/followers are, you may have heard of the Gerding’s neighbor – our next stop. It’s Powell’s City of Books. The headquarters store claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It takes up an entire city block, including multiple floors. It has over 68,000 square feet of floor space, nine color-coded sections, and over 3,500 sub-sections.
It can be a little overwhelming.
In the interests of pretending to focus on photography we went to the photography section, but sooner or later all we various folks wandered about.
This may be the only time I’ve gone to Powell’s that I didn’t walk out with a stack of books. (Sci-Fi, usually.) I didn’t take pictures there. A picture just doesn’t do the scope of the place justice.
After the trauma of being overwhelmed by books, it was time for a snack.
If you’ve ever researched things to do in Portland, chances are the name Voodoo Donuts will come up. Travel shows have featured it, and the crazy number of donut variations you can get there. Bacon Maple anyone? Voodoo doll with a pretzel stake in its heart?
But we didn’t go there. Too touristy, too often a line. Locals looking for something more “boutique” go to Blue Star Donuts. I had the blueberry bourbon basil. Sounds weird, but tasty.
Maybe there is something to that “Portlandia” satire.
I attempted a street photography picture or two outside of Blue Star, but that’s really not my thing either, so still no pictures.
The main event, photographically, for the day was a plan to shoot a cityscape, with Mount Hood and a rising moon on the horizon. That day the moon came up as the sun went down, so it was an evening event.
Our perspective was from the grounds of the Pittock Mansion. Originally owned by the guy that started the Oregonian newspaper, the mansion is now a museum. At one end of the grounds, we found a view overlooking the city and the mountain. On a clear day it’s an impressive view. Our day was semi-clear. Not great for the mountain, but decent for city lights.
Remember the old TV show, Twin Peaks? We have our own version.
They’re part of the convention center, a place I most recently frequented for a home brewers convention last summer.
But it takes a panorama to show scale. Even this one’s had the ends clipped. Click on it (or any other shot) to see more details.
There’s a difference between serious photographers and guys like me. Serious photographers get up at god-awful early hours in the morning to depart for some potentially awesome viewpoint, so they can be there for early blue hour and sunrise. The light is softer, the colors less harsh. Blues and oranges and pinks are more common. Some guys don’t even bother shooting midday, they’ll just use that time to scout places, so they don’t stumble over their feet in the dark the next morning or night. Evening/sundown is another favored time, again for the best light.
I tend not to plan much and make do, due either to limitations of a trip I’m on, or being too lazy to get out of bed. The best light is a luxury I don’t often enjoy, not being motivated to pay the luxury tax.
But since this was a workshop, you know there had to be at least one morning we got up early for a sunrise. We scouted the spot on Portland tourist day, after lunch and before going to the theater. We’d be shooting across the Willamette River towards downtown. The next morning was the time for red-eye.
We all set up on tripods, getting squared away for panoramic sequences. As the sun came up and the light evolved we shot away, hoping for a combination where the light was good and the winds were calm, allowing for interesting reflections. I did ok, don’t ‘cha think?
Of course, I cheated. This is actually a composite of two panorama sets, an earlier one with better reflections, and a later one with better sunlight on the buildings. It’s pretty obvious if you look closely.
And no, they didn’t teach that in class. Good thing there wasn’t a grade. But ultimately, this was about creating something artistic, not a documentary or a photo contest.
After the sunrise, we met for breakfast and headed off to our last day’s excursion. But that’s a story for another post.