Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sunrise/Sunset Northwestern Style

After living here over six years (goodness, how time flies) this is the first winter/spring time I can remember having the opportunity to enjoy sunrises and sunsets. That probably doesn't sound like a big deal because, after all, the sun has been rising and setting for some time now. However, when  you don't see it for large blocks of time you tend to feel like it's shining on every part of the U.S. except for this cloudy corner. I could be exaggerating of course. Maybe it's just that this is the first year I've had camera in hand to actually witness this time of the day. Now, taking a picture of a sunrise or sunset may sound easy, but believe me it takes some planning. For one thing there are trees here, lots and lots of them. And, as trees tend to do, they block almost everything from sight and allow only glimpses of what's behind that leafy (or pine needley) curtain, as evidenced by the photo above.

The first item on the agenda of photographing a sun event is finding a place that is above the trees and is also not blocked by an obnoxious building. The I-5 bridge that crosses the Columbia River and puts you into Vancouver, Washington is a perfect place if you want to avoid obstacles, not to mention the added bonus of the reflections in the water to add to the interest. The picture with the twin contrails was taken on a January morning when I was headed to in the Vancouver office of my firm. The picture above it was taken along a sidewalk that runs above the river. The Portland airport is off in the distance. That turned out to be a bonus because several Southwest planes came in to land as I watched. Planes weren't the only thing in the air that day.  Canadian geese also chose that moment to show off their acrobatics over the still waters.

However, driving to Vancouver is not an option before going to work so with a little observation and thought I located three places within a five to ten minute drive from my house that give some decent views of both Mt. Hood and the sun for the morning and the sun's solo performance at night.The picture on the right was taken on an early March morning. I was taking the day off from work and could have slept in, but no, the sun had to wake me up. The nerve! The pink sunrise was on the way to work, and is unusual in that I've not seen the sky that color since then.

Sunsets are another issue. The best place to get a really clear shot would, again, be Vancouver but evening traffic is a hindrance and there's nothing more frustrating than sitting in your car as the sun sets. I have decided the sun moves a lot faster as it gets close to setting, probably something to do with gravitational pull (scientist that I am).  The picture to the left and the one below it were taken from an area known as Council Crest in Southwest Portland. It was a cold, windy day but sunny so everyone was out trying to soak up some Vitamin D. 

These last two pictures were captured spur of the moment after I looked out the window and saw that even with all the clouds (or maybe because of them) the sunset was going to be very colorful even if you didn't actually see the sun. I particularly liked the bird sitting in the tree, almost like he was the designated watchbird who was to make sure the sun really did set before reporting back to the flock. Now that sunrises and sunsets are seen more rarely I appreciate them more and have learned to be grateful for the things I was taking granted before they become only summertime memories.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Life in the Slow Lane

I grew up in a small town and often have a different perspective than those who grew up in the "big city" (we talk that way sometimes in small towns, you know). Maybe that's why I carry a camera with me wherever I go. There's always a bit of "they won't believe this back home" going through  my mind whenever I see rhododendrons in full bloom or Mt. Hood peeking out behind a cloud. But at least several times a week I'm surprised by something that is not at all out of the ordinary, but yet worth taking the time to get a picture of. It can be something as simple as what appears to be three best friends taking a walk, or one of the chubbiest squirrels I have ever seen having a snack on a picnic table (talk about storing up for the winter!).
Since I tend to walk the same three or four routes on my lunch hour, I decided to start looking at things from different angles to see if I was missing something. I mean, what can be exciting about a sidewalk through the trees? Quite a lot really if you stand on one foot and hold your tongue just right. I'm kidding about the last part, but one day I did look at the path at a different angle and there it was, a very ordinary sidewalk was all of a sudden framed by brown trunks with blooming trees overhanging it in the distance. 
One of my favorite shots involved quite a bit of traffic dodging. This stretch of road is surprisingly busy even in the early afternoon. Of course, it was never busy when I was about 20 feet from where I needed to be and as soon as I got ready, here came all the cars. But over a course of three or four days I managed to get some decent pictures without hindering traffic too much. 
Probably the most unique in its unnoticeability is that crack in the sidewalk that someone should do something about. It caught my eye one day because it had turned from an ordinary raised bit of cement into a measuring rod for the amount of blossoms that had dropped from overhead (and no I don't usually take pictures of cracked sidewalks, it must have been that sermon using modern art as an analogy . . .). 
Now whenever I pass by something as ordinary as dandelions invading the well manicured lawns around town -- the nerve -- I wonder if that could be made to look interesting. I know, it's a stretch, but maybe there's an angle I haven't tried yet.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

City to Trail Hike - Portland, Oregon

Today was perfect. A blissful 80 with sunny skies and color everywhere. If every day in Oregon was like this, the whole country would live here. One of my favorite hikes begins in Portland Heights. There is a SW Portland trail (part of the Marquam Trail system) that leads you right above Highway 26, behind the zoo, and onto the Wildwood Trail system.

 Along the way, colorful dabs of Trillium can be seen above the usual ivy and ferns. Before you know it, the quiet of the trail is replaced by the roar of traffic and the highway is at your feet. It's an easy dash across to the bridge over the highway and then off to the left to pick up the trail again. 

Here the trail has almost a prairie-like feel. Tall grasses blow in the breeze and make a perfect compliment to the blue sky.

The trail moves quickly back into the towering firs. The Vietnam War Memorial is on the right and down the hill and adds to the quiet mood of this part of the hike.

Up the hill (I've been accused of always choosing the uphill part of a trail) and to the right, the Wildwood Trail continues on in a maze of connecting trails throughout Washington Park. There are views of Mt. St. Helens and, at least according to the sign, of Adams and Hood as well but they are hidden behind the trees.
The trail continues on to an archery range and picks back up again on the other side of the range. There were quite a few people out today, and I have a feeling their arrows did not have suction cups on the ends. Back on the trail, the gentle switchbacks lead you to a paved road that winds down to the front of the Japanese Gardens and across the way from the Portland International Rose Test Gardens. This time of year there's not much to see in the way of roses, but the views of Mt. Hood above the city skyline are amazing. It's scenes like this that my picture taking addiction comes to the surface. Do I really need another picture of Mt. Hood with the skyline in front of it? No, but that doesn't stop me from taking at least six. After the rose gardens, it's downhill (I promise) to Vista Avenue and the amazing views from the Vista Bridge.
Mt. St. Helens can be seen rising over the Fremont Bridge, and on a clear day Mt. Hood is a stark reminder that there is a beautiful countryside not far from downtown Portland. Now comes the hard part of the hike. Up until now it's been downhill or maybe just a few climbs here and there, but the rest of the way is a steady uphill climb. But it could be worse, you could be one of those cyclists who insists on riding up what seems to be a never-ending stretch of concrete and is too overcome with effort to enjoy the views above the tree tops. 
Something else to be on the lookout for in this part of Portland are staircases, lots of them. There is a great book called The Portland Stairs Book and it lists all the staircases in Portland, many of which are near or on this hike. The staircase on the right goes smack dab through a private garden but from the research I've done (not to mention talking with the woman whose garden is part of the trail), there is a public easement. From the prompt manner in which the woman gave directions on where the trail leads, it appears the public makes frequent use of said easement. This particular day I didn't have the energy to go traipsing up and down stairs, besides, I've been up and down most of them already. Instead, I settled for taking a picture of these beautiful tulips. I love the white stucco and brick red of the house behind the bright red of the flowers. About a mile after the Vista Bridge, turn right on Alta Vista and immediately  before you is a staircase going down. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs and follow that road (Montgomery) to Patton and turn right to follow the road back up to the park. This hike runs approximately six to seven miles, depending on how many rabbit trails you take. As with any hike, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to the people around you. And especially pay attention to the beauty of the creation all around.


When you think of tulips, you usually think of Holland or Tulipmania - and if you don't know what that is, look it up. But for one brief shining moment (that would make a great song lyric, oh wait . . .) tulips are everywhere here in the Pacific Northwest. This picture was taken at the open house of a local pottery gallery. The orange ones were especially good subjects as they seemed to capture the light in their perfectly shaped petals.

Pink Mountain Sunrise

The Northwest never ceases to amaze me. After living here six and one-half years, the winter of 2012 is the only winter I can remember enjoying a sunrise (or sunset). This was taken in January and, other than some tiny adjustments on the colors in Photoshop, is untouched. When I showed this picture to a friend, she said "the mountain never looks that way when I look at it." Which made me think, maybe you should look through a camera lens more often. It does wonders for your eyesight.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The surprising Northwest.

The Northwest is a lot of different things. Sometimes it's dreary, soggy, and raw. But then there are those other times, and that's when we say "What a great place this is to live." These pictures were taken today in Southeast Portland.