The Pearl

The Pearl District in Portland is a fun place to visit whether you prefer books, food, architecture, history, or beer.  Oh, or hippies.

It’s the kind of place where no one stares at me for walking around in hiking socks with my hiking sandals.  I guess with a North Face store and an REI in the neighborhood, it might even be considered fashionable.

There are also two breweries:  Rogue and Deschutes.  And, of course, a wide assortment of pubs and restaurants.

If you happen to be off work on a sunny afternoon in downtown Portland with great friends who have driven down from Seattle, this is the perfect place for a pub crawl.  Well, in our case it wasn’t so much a pub crawl as a stuff-yourself-silly-and-drink-a-flight-of-beer crawl.

It started when we decided we were starving for lunch.  My friend asked a mail carrier who happened to be walking by and he suggested Jake’s Grill at the Governor’s Hotel.  We ate way too much.

Then, after wandering around, we decided to check out the Deschutes brewery since it just happened to appear in front of us.  Deschutes has its own ambience with lots of high ceilings and dark woods and even elaborately carved decor.  But my favorite part of the decor was the “Restrooms Over There” sign with an arrow pointing to a large neon sign over the door to the restrooms that said “Over Here!”

But maybe that seemed funnier after we finished our flight of beer samples?

I think the blurry shots inside the pub perfectly captured the way it looked to me.

The beers were interesting.  A couple of them had an after taste that made me think someone had emptied an ash tray into the keg.  What was really interesting was that Pat tasted ashes in brews that finished smoothly for me and one of our friends.  But our friend and I tasted ashes in brews that Pat couldn’t taste it in.  Our theory is that Pat’s German taste buds are tuned differently than our more watered-down American taste buds.

Having finished our flights, the only thing left to do was to wander around some more and start to plan for dinner.  Never mind we’d eaten just 3 hours earlier.  We found an interesting seafood place we wanted to try from my iPhone. As we walked in the general direction of the restaurant, we thought maybe we would stop at another pub first just to kill some time.  But, everywhere we stopped, the bar was full.

We eventually and accidentally ended up at Jake’s Seafood, which was not the restaurant we had selected.  Giving up on the idea of having a drink at the bar, we got a table.  Once we were seated, we felt obligated to order dinner.

As it turned out Jake’s Seafood had been around for 120 years.  The food was fabulous, but my advice is don’t go there when you’re not hungry–it’s a shame to waste the experience.

Powell’s Books

Every town has a store that everyone who visits must go to.  It’s a rule.  If you’re going to build a town and people are going to come visit it, there must be at least one retail establishment that everyone wants to go to while they’re there.  I don’t know what this place is for a lot of towns I’ve been to, but I know it’s there.  In Portland, Powell Books is the must-see tourist store (although it seems to have a lyal local following too, which has to help financially).

I used to think the OSU library was enormous.  Towers and towers of books.  I don’t know if a city block of book is larger or not, but it sure feels bigger.  When you walk into Powell’s, you have to reference a map with a color-coded key that tells you where different types of books are.  I guess you don’t have to reference it, really.  But, having spent a considerable amount of time wandering around looking for something, I strongly advise it.

Once you figure out which wing of the building the book you’re looking for resides in, you still must navigate the building that corresponds to that selection to find it.  It’s one of those bookstores that makes you understand why bookstores have librarians on had to find books you’re looking for and direct you to it.

There was a time when I could spend an entire day wandering around a book store.  These days, only the Apple store could keep me occupied that long.  Instead of lingering among books that smell like they’ve been lingering far longer, I have gravitated to the electronic version of books.  Given that I carry an iPad and iPhone with me virtually everywhere I go, it seems like a better use of the products I already own to double up the value of my investment.

Besides, who wants to haul more than 1 big dusty volume from the 18th century or earlier?

We are at Powell’s Books with our friends from Seattle today.  They have never been inside before, so we suddenly feel like tour guides.  We step inside and consult the map.  We point to different sections of the store.  My friend wants one particular book.  she asks for assistance to find it.  It’s located right next to where we’re standing.  We go get in line, check out, and leave.  We walked out without remembering to take them through the entire building.  Some tour guides!

Shooting Elk

I really enjoy wildlife.  The more wild, the better (well, until I start to look like dinner).  I get a bigger thrill out of seeing a deer in the park than I do at the zoo.  I get an even bigger thrill seeing a deer in the backwoods than I do at a park.  The more remote an area, the bigger the thrill.

Elk are more exciting than deer proportional to their weight.  I think there’s probably an algorithm out there that someone has developed to calculate the level of excitement any given creature produces based on their size, elusiveness, rarity, and number of people they encounter in an average year.

Seeing an elk is more exciting both because it’s bigger and because it’s more rare.  At least for someone who’s lived East of the Mississippi for most of her life it’s more rare.  Where elk can be found in the East, they have been recently reintroduced.  They wear large tags around their necks that I suspect say things like “My name is Leroy.”

I don’t know why they look less wild than their relatives in the West, but they do.  Even though it’s more likely that you’ll run into an Elk while cruising down a highway in the Canadian Rockies than in Great Smokey National Park, when you see the Elk in Great Smokey National Park, you’ll swear it’s one of the ranger’s pets.  The “more rare = more wild” equation just doesn’t hold true in the East.

What all this adds up to is an inappropriate level of excitement about seeing a bunch of elk who live about an hour from Portland.  I thought we would have the best chance of seeing the Elk at dusk, so we stopped on our way back from Astoria at the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Preserve.  Granted, the website told us that the best time to see the elk was between November and April, but since we weren’t planning to be in Oregon between November and April, we figured we’d better take our chances.  Besides, it was pretty much on the way back to my dad’s.

We did not get to see the full herd of 200 elk, but we did get to see a couple dozen elk from a distance.  I thought they would be roaming around grazing a bit more than they were–I guess they go to bed earlier on the coast.

For about the thousandth time during our trip I wished I had a lens longer than 400mm.   I shot the elk anyway, hoping the resolution of my camera would be enough to allow me to crop the heck out of the photos.  Unfortunately, the photos didn’t withstand the crop.  Between the motion of me hand-holding the camera and the motion of the elk, the images are just not sharp enough.

Regardless, I’m still glad we stopped to shoot the elk.  I’m also glad I was shooting with a camera.  🙂

Through the Glass

There is only one thing disappointing about the Astoria Megler Bridge:  there’s no place for pedestrians.  I guess it would be expensive to add a pedestrian walkway to a bridge that spans over 4 miles, but the views from the bridge stretch over the bay to the distant mountains in Washington and back to the South in Oregon.  Plus, the pelicans and gulls fly over the bridge at eye level.  It would be a great place to shoot.

I decided to try shooting through the windshield.  I have a lot of experience shooting through car windows–one of the sadder ironies in life is that wildlife tends to be more afraid of humans walking in the woods than of cars racing down a freeway, often to their own demise.  This leads to me trying to capture images of moose, elk, bears, etc through car windows more often than on foot.

On the positive side, I have learned a few tricks.  First and always applicable, get as close to the glass as possible.  This puts all the crap stuck to the glass completely out of focus so it doesn’t show up in the photos (the spots in the last image are actually birds that were flying too fast to be in focus).

Second, if you can’t roll down the windows and stick your head out, shoot through the front windshield if you’re shooting wide angle.  There is just nothing appealing about a composition that looks like this:

Third, if you’re shooting with a long lens, it’s easier to shoot out the side window, but watch for the blasted rearview mirror.  Shoot tighter, sit cross-legged to get up higher in your seat, roll down the window and prop the lens on top of the rearview mirror (not recommended in a rapidly moving vehicle).  Do something to get that mirror out of the frame.

Fourth, don’t forget about reflections.  If you have a polarizer, you might be able to get rid of them that way.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have to live with them (like in the first photo in the gallery).

Fifth, if you’re shooting though the windshield of a car going 50+ MPH down the road and you’re trying to get lots of depth of field, you can focus on whatever spot is in front of the car and then shoot, even though the spot you just focused on is gone by the time you push the button.

Finally, if you are shooting while the car is in motion (hopefully because someone else is driving it), remember that the speed your moving affects the shutter speed you want to use, depending on whether you want sharp or blurred images.  Oh! I just had a great idea for shooting the drive down the far side of the bridge (yes, I just smacked myself in the forehead since I am not planning to be back in Portland again for a year).

Little Things

We have just returned from our annual trek to Portland, Oregon to visit my dad and his wife.  We made this a relatively low-key trip.  In the past, we’ve taken longer trips to Portland to allow time to meet our friends in Seattle and do things like take a side trip to Olympic National Park in Washington or spend a week in Glacier National Park.

This time, we spent a lot of time debating if there was a way to go to Portland with Tisen.

The reality was that we would need to spend 6 days driving if we didn’t fly and there was no way I was going to load Tisen into the cargo hold of a plane.  If we were going to take 6 days to drive to Portland, I wanted to make it an adventure through Yellow Stone–a place I have yet to go.  But, neither Pat nor I could afford to take that kind of time off work.

In the end, we opted for asking our friends to watch Tisen and keeping our trip short.  Our friends from Seattle offered to come down to Portland to spend a day with us so we didn’t have to take 2 or more days to see them.  My dad didn’t plan any multi-day side trips; we would have plenty of flexibility in our schedule to visit with our friends.

So, last Monday morning, the alarm went off at 4:00AM and I hopped out of bed like that was the time I got up every day.  By 5:45AM, Tisen was fed and walked and we were packed and ready to roll.  Tisen excitedly ran for the van just sure he was going on a new adventure with us.  I had a hard time dropping him off at our friends’ house.

We made it to Portland a little early and by 2PM were sitting in my dad’s family room with full bellies (having stopped for lunch on the way from the airport) and suffering from only mild separation anxiety.

It felt good to just sit and hang out, catching up.  I, of course, got out my camera and started looking for things to shoot.

Pat sat across from me with his feet up on a foot rest.  I noticed for the first time that his shoes, which he has had for at least a couple of years, have outlines of the shoemakers on the soles.  I couldn’t resist trying to shoot the soles of his shoes.

Then, my dad was telling a story and chuckling.  I had to capture some of his facial expressions (although most of them didn’t come out so flattering).

Finally, I put my macro lens on my camera and went out to the garden.  My dad’s wife is an amazing gardener and can always be counted on to have beautiful flowers.  Although the surprisingly cool temperatures sent be back inside after only shooting a couple of flowers.