Portland

Testing my new tool, the Panasonic Lumix DC ZS70

(Click on each photograph to see a picture on a separate picture page.)

For many years, most of the pictures I have taken were with my point-and-shoot camera, a Canon. After nearly 10 years with my current point-and-shoot, it was time to retire it. I researched the market and settled on a Panasonic Lumix DC ZS70. It got good grades from online reviewers. The price range worked for me. It also features a Leica lens.

So far, I like it. I thought the panning feature wasn’t tack-sharp, at least without a tripod. The close-ups seem sharp. I thought the 4K video was surprisingly crisp, even on the maximum zoom setting of 720mm (the lens is a 24–720 mm equivalent). The zoom shots, which I do not expect to have great quality, turned out more detailed than I was expecting in my first tests. I plan to use this on my day trips surfing on the Oregon Coast, where I can’t afford to leave expensive gear alone in the car or risk break-ins.

One downside is the raw format file feature isn’t readable with my older version of Lightroom. I’m not going to upgrade my operating system just yet to fix this.

At this point in my life taking pictures, I gravitate more toward visual storytelling than image perfection. You can tell a good story with medium and even low-quality equipment. What matters is your talent, less so having the most expensive glass and brand on the market.

For the record, my favorite camera equipment I use is a Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and a 24mm Leica lens. (Here is a sample of how my images look with it.)

These test shots were all taken on Nov. 17, 2017, near my home in Southeast Portland.

Advertisements

Foxgloves finally arrive

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

We have had a wetter and cooler spring this year. That means the beautiful foxglove flower arrived late. I passed by this same spot last year, in May, when it was blooming last year. I repeated the shot. It is such an amazing plant. I love seeing them on roadsides and in scrubby, rocky soil. They are tough hombres as flowering plants go. They have toxins, but also pharmaceutical properties that have been harvested by the for-profit pharma sector. Nature is generous with beauty and medicinal plants. So I give thanks to the foxglove and nature.

Sellwood is the place to be, if you can afford it

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I live in the tony neighborhood of Sellwood, in southeast Portland. It is one of the whitest and most upper-middle-class areas I have ever lived in. Overall, I really like it here because of the many amenities I can stroll to by foot.

It is a safe place with an amazing walkability score, if you are into real-estate speculation. I love the local eateries, the nearby public library outlet, the pubs, the winery, the bakery, the New Seasons food store, the Wednesday farmers market, and access to the Springwater bike corridor that connects with north and east Portland.

So why the heck wouldn’t everyone want to live here, if they could afford homes at $750,000 or more? Why wouldn’t developers consider tearing down existing homes and rebuilding massive mega-houses, condos, and new apartments given the logic of real-estate development and the construction industry?

According to the website of the local neighborhood association, the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League, or SMILE, there are more than 30 projects underway in the Sellwood and Moreland neighborhoods.

In the past month it startled me how quickly a house can be torn down, trees cut, and land leveled for some medium and higher density projects. In some cases there are just McMansions that are testaments to the pure gluttony of excessive wealth, and we have those in this area. More are surely coming.

A lot of commercial building activity is taking place, in areas zoned for that. But the demolishing of a home is always jarring. The promotion of higher density development in the inner urban areas of Portland like Sellwood have also spurred a housing and rental crisis that saw Portland’s rent rise at the fastest rate in the country in 2016.

Density not Entirely Welcomed

There is an active, homeowner-driven backlash against higher density, often pitting middle- and upper-middle class homeowners against each other in some areas near me, notably the upscale Eastmoreland neighborhood, while other areas like my neighborhood are seeing the impacts of higher density during the past three years.

I overall support higher density, but I am deeply worried very little affordable rental housing stock is being built, further limiting the ability of lower-income and middle-income renters to enjoy what may soon be off-limits to many.

In the November 2016 election, city voters by a strong margin approved a $258 million bond to build more affordable housing, but it is not clear how those dollars will be spent long-term.

Just this week, Oregonian reported, “Renters, stretched financially and pushed geographically toward Portland’s outskirts and suburbs, loudly demanded solutions—joined in some cases by powerful business interests who saw the issue as a threat to the city’s otherwise growing economy.”

The paper said a typical two-bedroom apartment is now out of reach for most residents. Those are people very similar to me. The paper further noted, “The city’s concentration of struggling renters has only grown. Rents have climbed 30 percent since 2012.”

Meanwhile the bulldozers are clearing a few lots, and I can bet that most of the coming replacement units are not meant for those in my income bracket.

I never tire of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

April in Portland means flowers are bursting. They always bring a smile to my face. They also bring back amazing memories of my first trip here as a senior in high school in the 1980s. I bought my own ticket with money I saved and visited a college, where I eventually applied and graduated. It was something I controlled from start to finish: the trip, choosing the school, and eventually paying for the school with my savings, earnings, and a little bit of support left to me from my long deceased grandfather. It wasn’t much, but college was affordable in the 1980s for those of lesser means who got good financial aid packages. I was a very lucky young man indeed.

That life choice is linked partially to one fateful decision I made on that trip. I wasn’t that enamored by the school, but Portland had me spellbound. During that trip I took a detour to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, in southeast Portland. I was blown away. I still am every time I visit the place in April. It is funny to think what can influence your decision at certain stages of your life.

I took these shots with a simple handheld Canon, which was about as fussy as I wanted to be. I spent most of my time smelling the aroma of spring and feeling young and on Cloud 9. There is something to be said about memory linked to the senses, olfactory and visual, and what rekindling those senses do for one’s mood. For me the place brings me back to my earlier days when I chartered the kind of life I ended up living, where I wanted to live it.

Snowstorm in the Sellwood neighborhood

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Portland, Oregon just experienced yet another winter snowstorm. This one was the most severe of the season. Anywhere from eight to 12 inches fell in the metro area on Jan. 10 and 11, 2017. I knew it would be severe when I went for a walk the night the heavy, wet snowflakes began to fall. Wind swirled in all directions. My eyes were stinging from being hit by the wet white stuff. In Alaska, I skate skied in this stuff all the time, but here it is something different. It was definitely going to be a heavy, wet snowfall that would bring the region to a crawl.

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Jan. 11 to try and get to work about nine miles away. All around me I saw fallen branches, broken by the weight of snow accumulation. There was going to be a lot of damage from this storm, and roads would soon turn to ice. I spent four hours trying to get to work that day, all before 8:30 a.m., but I failed. A train and bus connection never arrived. My consolation prize was a few photos I took on my first outing and my second, when I finally got my buses. All told, I spent six hours commuting that day from Portland’s southeast Sellwood neighborhood, to Tigard, and back again. It did make for great scenery.

What you see are the shots of businesses along 13th Avenue Southeast and one looking to the city’s west hills, above the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. It is pretty, but if you live in a place that can’t handle snow, it can be a pain. Me, I had plenty of food in the fridge, some pea soup already made, cold beer, lots of tea, a cozy apartment, and no time to worry given my commutes. You just roll with it. I’m exhausted. I need some sleep. This was my consolation prize this week.

Fleeting fall colors as the last leaves float to the ground

In Portland, Oregon, the maples were sharp as usual this fall, from yellow to red. I found some lovely displays of random leaves on my car. I also saw other lovely colors, in hues of red, orange, yellow, and a rusty brown over the past week. Here are some shots I took with my point and shoot Canon and GoPro. Enjoy the autumn, if you have that where you are.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture of a separate picture page.)

Forest Park, when the last leaves fall

I was unable to run last weekend, so I took a walk instead in my favorite place to enjoy trails: Portland’s Forest Park. Most of the seasonal color was already gone. A few remaining maples and other trees had some remaining leaves hanging, like forlorn orphans. The place looks more wide open now. You can see through the canopy. Today, when I did a run, nearly all of the leaves had fallen. It is a nice time of year and a great time to be in this park.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Reading the leaves … it must be fall

I took this shot this past weekend. It must be fall. I love it, but I will now need to start taking vitamin D supplements again, with SAD season kicking in. That is for sure. Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Scenes from bike adventures in urban Portland

Portland, Oregon has a lot of urban rides. Many will take you by jammed freeways, grain elevators, a working port, a refinery, and over and under bridges. I took these photos over the last three months. There is not grand unifying them other than the impression of what one sees when you get out of your car and on two wheels.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Crazy kaleidoscope of colors at Oaks Amusement Park

During the summer, I head down to Oaks Amusement Park, the small, privately owned play land near my house. This is probably the most diverse place in all of Portland on any given Saturday and Sunday. There are families and people from every possible background here, and likely none of them very wealthy, because rich people do not visit carnie land places. It is also a lot of fun, even if you do not get on the old-school rides.

When I come down the hill to the noisy, colorful place I often bring my GoPro camera and experiment with different shots. Here is one I like. It captures the spirit of the place. You can see more photos and read more about the amusement park on my photo essay page.

Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.