Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Portland in the Winter: Oregon Greys and Photography Blues

Things always slow down here on LemonBasil in the winter. That used to be due to most of the Portland farmers' markets being on hiatus until the spring, and the plethora of rather unphotogenic brown and greenish-brown things I eat during the colder months. While those things certainly still hold true, the biggest reason I haven't been posting much is that, I'm realizing, much of my photography relies on sunshine. This week I was compiling some of my favorite shots of Portland, her food and drink scene, places I've traveled, and the expressions people I've captured for my new photography website (check it out, let me know what you think!). At the risk of stating the obvious, the vast majority of my top picks were chosen because they show my life at its sunniest - literally. There's just something missing - dynamically - on a cloudy day, and it shows in my photography. So often I'm drawn to colors and strong lines in the shots that I make, and blue skies and dramatic clouds are consistently great sources of both.

In Costa Rica last November, we arrived at the transition from the rainy season to the dry season, and got a few more rainy days than bright. I could feel a marked change in my emotions on a sunny day, but not because I don't love the rain. In fact, sitting in the hot tub during an intense downpour was one of my favorite moments of the trip, and I will always love curling up with a book - or seven - with rain outside the window. That being said, when the skies cleared for a few hours, it was like my mind and motivation cleared up with them, and I was ready to be on the road, hanging out the window of the SUV like a dog, with my camera wrapped several times around my wrists and my eyes scanning the horizon. Increasingly, I thrive on the shots I take. They are my journal, my communication, my profession, my connection with the world.

As you no doubt have heard, Portland doesn't exactly pour on the sunshine this time of year; hence, less motivation to go out and take photos. If it were snowing, I wouldn't mind as much. This time last year I was in Montreal, a city full of brilliant street art, and all the white of the snow and ice set off the colors of the paint beautifully.

I was asking a few friends how they manage to get through Portland winter's grey curtain, and the best answer I got was that we, as a community, adopt a certain "We're all in this together" attitude. Everyone is here, shuffling through the greyest of days and blooming like daffodils at the brief showings of the sun. Winter binds us together. It gives us our official pastime - complaining about the rain - and it makes us Portlanders. Anyone can see the staggering glory of this city in the summer. It takes a warrior to love this place, year after year, through the Januaries and Februaries. And I do. Oh, I still do. It just doesn't make for very good photos.

Your turn to weigh in. Portlanders: How do YOU get through the grey winters? Photographers: Do you find your personal photography lags in the winter? How do you combat the greys that dull a photo?


  1. Google Maps. Seriously. I love "walking around" via Google maps, as most of the photos around Portland were taken on a sunny, gorgeous spring day. And really, we've been relatively lucky with the sunny days so far this winter. I am yearning for spring...

  2. go up to mt. hoody & photograph in B&W!
    even better, make it a snowy picnic. with pabst. that's pretty portland, right?

  3. I love the idea of walking around Portland via google maps - it turns out my house was shot on the most glorious summer day imaginable. Aw, summer! Leaves on trees!

    We'll make it... Promise.