May 06, 2022  •  Leave a Comment



This week I would like to discuss the origins of a long-term photo project, which can provide the excuse you need to get out and shoot. These excuses do not even need to be aesthetic, because the joy we get out of capturing images can be combined with other desires that can be good for our bodies and souls. Most landscape photographers date the beginning of their image making to an overwhelming love of the outdoors, with the camera being mostly a means of documentation. It was only later that the chronicling of their hikes became an artistic pursuit to communicate their feelings about the landscape to others.

                                                 TILIKUM DETAIL : COLOR & B&W VERSION - I prefer the black and white


I have never been a long distance hiker, and my camping exploits ended when I rejected the idea of going places where I was not the apex predator. As an urban landscape photographer, my hikes are not as adventurous as hikes in the wilderness, but my love of the city and architecture has always propelled me to be a "walker in the city". Recently I began to try to combine this excuse for going for a walk with the actual aerobic benefits of said walks. The trouble with a "photo walk" as exercise is that this photographer needs very little excuse to stop and take multiple photographs that turn an already slow stroll into the aerobic equivalent of a chess game.


So I began a game with myself that I might recommend to other photographers. I left my house and walked at a steady pace in one direction for a half hour, no stops allowed, with the promise that on the walk back I could take out the camera and shoot to my heart's content. Thus i am getting some benefit from the walk, which usually only takes 1 1/2 hours or so, and I can see that I have been walking farther than at the beginning of the game. The trouble remained that even though I was walking down some streets in my neighborhood that I had never seen in the thirty years I have lived here, it was still the old neighborhood, which left a certain photographic motivation tepid at best. Southeast Portland can be beautiful, but it isn't the Gorge.

These two images highlight the Morrison Bridge opening up, and the place where pedestrians must stop when the span opens - you don't want to be on the wrong side of that gate!

But as my walks became longer, and society gradually opened up from our pandemic slumber, I realized recently that I could drive towards the city, park, and start my walks from wherever I felt like, knowing that there would be something new to look at in my half hour. I know that this new regime is not earth shattering, but I have begun to broaden out from my own neighborhood. I used to do most of my walking Downtown, but while Portland is not the Fox-addled nightmare of urban decay, it can be somewhat depressing. Empty storefronts and encampments don't make for delightful urban landscapes.

                                                       EASTSIDE ESPLANADE BOARDWALK BRIDGE FROM THE BURNSIDE : FINAL B&W VERSION

In the past few weeks I hit upon the idea of walking to Downtown instead, and began my jaunts about 15 blocks from the river, with the promise of getting to walk across one of our bridges as the goal/highlight of the trip. Thus I have combined aerobic exercise (at least for me) with an opportunity to take a slow look at some of Portland's icons - one of our city's nicknames has long been Bridgetown. Portland's river, the Willamette, shares the centrality and dimensions of the Seine in Paris and the Thames in London - bridging the river allowed for the city's growth while not requiring the earth shattering engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge. Portland's bridges are numerous, and for more than a century their varied and picturesque designs have enlivened our landscapes. The fact that we rarely throw anything out means that some of our bridges are now living museum pieces, which can only be repaired if we reinvent their components. Throw in the fact that about half are drawbridges, with a potentially fatal effect on traffic, and you can see why Portlanders have a pretty intimate relationship with these spans.

                            BURNSIDE BRIDGE CONTROL TOWER : I don't know which version I prefer.

These photographs come from the walks I've take in the past few weeks, along with some of my most popular images of our bridges over the years. As usual, most of my imagery is pretty specific, and a lot of people only know some of the images because they have taken the same walks as I have. I have resisted the heroic shots that my colleagues take as required, usually suffering as a businessman. Portlanders have a relationship with the St. Johns Bridge that can only be characterized as an addiction - when I finally allowed myself to take a shot of the bridge, I sold over 30 coasters in the first three weeks. These were not to tourists, since almost no tourist even knows this most outermost of our bridges even exists.

                           INTO THE WOODS, ST. JOHNS BRIDGE : FINAL B&W VERSION

I'm one of the few people who actually don't like the green of the St. Johns, so black and white it was. I avoided symmetry out of habit and a fear of the semi trucks from both directions if you stand on the center line.




                           LATE AGAIN : FINAL VERSION

Three views of the Hawthorne Bridge, one of intimate disappointment as a commuter, the other a classic blue hour shot with the city lights just coming on. Much to my surprise, I think the black and white version works as well.

ON BROADWAY                            ON BROADWAY : FINAL VERSION

A really intimate view of the Broadway Bridge, which I have sold to several city engineers involved in it's restoration. While the color is similar to the Golden Gate, it's not an exact match.

I hope you enjoy this short trip across the river, and find your own excuse to get out and walk the city. It doesn't have to be for miles if it takes you to places you really didn't know because you've never taken the time to be a pedestrian there.