March 22, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

                                                                  A WALK IN THE PARK, YESTERDAY OR ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

This week I would like to take you on a short tour of Laurelhurst Park in Southeast Portland. The park is an outstanding example of the City Beautiful Movement which was part of what American Historians call the Progressive Era at the turn of the Twentieth Century. While the Progressive Movement was very complex, and included distasteful aspects like racism and concerns about dreaded socialism, it's very hard to be against parks. These were designed to give the teeming cities places to breathe, and to allow most of society to get a taste of Nature as a way of humanizing the new urban America. Laurelhurst Park was designed as the centerpiece of a new neighborhood on Portland's Eastside; imagine today's developers devoting such an oasis as a neighborhood amenity. It is a link to the most famous parks of New York, Central Park and Prospect Park, since it was designed by the successive firm of the Olmstead Brothers. Portland Parks Superintendent Emanuel Tillman Misch enlarged a spring-fed pond into a three acre lake for ducks., and added  over 250 trees to the 100 Conifers already on the site. After one hundred years the thirty acre parkis a tribute to the intelligence of city fathers who have preserved it even though they don't seem to have any chance of duplicating the energy and political will to follow thiws obvious model of urban renewal. The park is a short ten-minute drive from my house, and I take extra enjoyment on every visit since Jews were originally excluded from the neighborhood.

Now the beauty of the idea of an urban park is that while I will never be able to afford a house in Laurelhurst, I get to enjoy the park as often as I like. And since my taxes keep it in shape, I'd have to be out of mind to not take advantage of a world-class park. During the Pandemic, Laurelhurst Park was one of the few places beyond Fran's garden where we could venture out in the world. In this first week of Spring I tried to get some exercise there, while I also exercised my photographic muscles as well. These half-dozen images are about a third of my efforts yesterday. While none are award winners, and aren't even my best images of the park, they aren't half-bad, and will hopefully show you a little of the beauty of the park.

                                                                  LAURELHURST IN BLACK AND WHITE

This first image is an example of the typical experience of walking through the park. It's possible to walk multiple miles through the park on concentric paths through the artificial woods past fields, a lake, sculptures, and a century of trees. The lamp posts that light these paths are original. The dappled light allows for a play of light and shadow that works as well in black and white as in color. I find that I often find the monochrome treatment superior in mood even when Spring's colors might have originally caused me to pick up my camera.

                                                                  JUST ANOTHER BUNCH OF REALLY BIG TREES

This is another example of the kinds of huge trees that you can find in the park. The fact that Portlander's aren't even impressed by such giants is an indication how extraordinary an environment that the park simulates.

                                                                  LIGHT AND SHADOW

Black and white emphasizes detail over color and allows me to manipulate contrast to bring out the shadows and textures far beyond what would appear realistic in color.

                                                                  COLOR ACROSS THE PARK


But of course it is Spring, and sometimes that burst of color is what catches my eye across to the path beyond.

                                      I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR ZIEGFELD.

Then you come across what might be termed a specimen tree that demands attention on its own. This same tree might recede into the background within a few weeks, but right now it is the star of its neighborhood. It works just as well, if a bit differently, if we ignore the color that forced us to look.

                                       A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONTRAST

As usual, the exposure manipulation allowed in black and white allows me to bring up both the whites and the shadows to achieve more detail. You can decide for yourself if the increased contrast makes up for the loss of the original color contrast.

                                                                  BLOSSOMS AGAINST TREES

Here I tried to set off the new blossoms against the trees that surround them. You can often increase this contrast through different strategies to de-emphasize the background. Here I both de-saturated the blues of the sky and applied a pretty strong vignette that lowers the exposure of the borders of the image so that the central subject pops out even more. I'd like to think that the vertical crop relates to my love of Japanese screens that ignore most rules of Western perspective in favor of close-up details.

                                      MAGNOLIA DETAIL

One of the stars of Early Spring is the Magnolia trees, and here is a detail of the blooms on one section of a tree. In massaging a snapshot like this, I first crop to my choice of subject, then increase the blacks to allow for more detail. Lowering the overall exposure while raising the white point really brings out the colors.

                                       MAGNOLIAS BEFORE COLOR TV

Or you can again be yourself and just ignore the color all together. There are more shades of gray here than in the color version, and the background is now almost totally black. Of course most viewers will really miss the color.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief walk through Laurelhurst Park. I think that it shows how much photographic fun is available at a simple walk in the park. I might just take another stroll there this afternoon.