You point your camera to capture golden yellows, sleek architecture, lush, money-colored trees, eclectic revelry, fire red. All these sights are abundant in Portland, an eccentric, sustainable, genuinely aesthetically-pleasing city that dazzles the lens. Portland's natural green beauty is juxtaposed against its vibrant, urban side, with the Willamette River and numerous bridges dividing east and west. The best photo opportunities are usually on a clear day in spring or summer, with low-angle light, when rolling hills and flower blooms are most apparent. The following photo ops capture the essence of Portland's unique beauty.
Our final spot goes to a whimsical street bazaar known simply as Saturday Market. Taking place March through December, every Saturday and Sunday, is the largest open-air arts and crafts market in the U.S. Traipsing through this entertaining alternative to shopping malls, is fertile ground for an array of fancy photos. Rife with fast-talking merchants, skilled artisans, peculiar street performers, and eclectic cuisine, shoppers can purchase one-of-a-kind gifts ranging from musical instruments to metal sculptures. Don't forget to snap a shot of the kids playing near Portland's first piece of public art, Skidmore Fountain.
SW Broadway Street
Typifying Portland's ritzy, performing arts side, is the photograph of the historic 'Portland' sign located above our number nine spot, SW Broadway St. Once lined with theater houses, this sign hangs on the street's last surviving theater hall, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and was removed from an archaic movie palace. Vast with four lanes of traffic and plenty of flashing lights, the street is peppered with large hotels, expensive restaurants, and upscale shopping. If Portland's downtown had a strip comparable to Las Vegas Boulevard, this would be it.
Jumping over to northwest Portland, we come to the Pearl District. This newly-classy area of industrial warehouses-turned-brew pubs, popular art galleries, and swanky shops, riddled with expensive condominiums, is our number eight spot. Historically a place of urban decay, the Pearl is now a model for urban renewal, placing work and living spaces alongside each other in this gem of a renovated, upscale neighborhood. Shooting from NW 10th and Lovejoy, your pic will capture the 'Go By Streetcar' sign, the grays of sharp-edged architectural designs, urban chic restaurants, and maybe even the Streetcar itself, Portland's smallest version of a mixed-traffic train.
Just a few blocks west of the Waterfront, is Pioneer Square, or Portland's 'Living Room,' coming in at number seven. An outdoor venue for festivals, concerts, or a simple business lunch, this city block is a sea of reddish brown bricks decorated with unconventional art pieces such as the Mile Post and a fallen pillar whose broken pieces provide lively chess games for the public. Snap some quick shots of the fancy footwork of a hacky sack game or use a wide-angle lens to capture the many lunch dwellers on the steps of the semi-circular amphitheater. There's never a shortage of personalities in this cozy public space.
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Coming in at number six as the host of numerous festivals, including the Rose Festival, is Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Originally a road, now a park and concrete seawall along the west bank of the Willamette River, the Waterfront was built as a public space for citizens to get more acquainted with the river. A flick of the Pepto-Bismol pink cherry trees dotting the riverbank makes a vivid picture. Continue strolling to encounter boat docks-mainly used by Naval ships during June's Rose Festival-, a basketball court, or children frolicking in a gushing water fountain. This popular park serves as a runway for joggers, bikers, and walkers alike and connects with four of the city's ten-plus bridges.
Mt. Tabor Park
Moving to the southeast side of the city, we come to our number five spot, Mt. Tabor Park. With abundant flourishing cherry trees, panoramic vistas of craggy Mt. Hood and sparkling downtown, this (inactive) volcanic, woodsy setting offers quality views for the most novice, or the most experienced, photographer. Whether it's hiking trails, winding hills, huge, gray stone-made amphitheaters, or 100-year old reservoirs that you're shooting, a trip here might make it difficult to put down your Nikon.
- Hours: 5am to 12am
- Location: SE 60th and Salmon Street, Portland, OR
- Phone: 503-823-2525
- Website: www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=566
- Related Guide Links
- Mount Tabor Park on Dguides
Council Crest Park
As the highest point in the city, one can peer over landscapes galore at Council Crest Park in southwest Portland, our number four photo op. Great for a romantic stroll or a short, pristine hike, the possible snapshots from this lookout point are numerous, with a 180-degree panoramic view of Portland and surrounding areas. Looking out to the east, the towering Fremont Bridge and busy Rose Garden are visible. From atop the hill, five splendid mountains in the Cascade Range can be seen: Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Be sure to catch some shots of the verdant, moss-covered forested areas or the expanse of land against a speckled blue sky.
St. Johns Bridge
No photo album of Portland would be complete without a few flicks of the city's numerous bridges. Coming in at number three, with ornate, rustic appeal, is the St. Johns Bridge. Whether shot from the eastside in Cathedral Park, the westside on Highway 30, or the water, the gothic cathedral architecture and tree frog green color of Portland's northernmost bridge dazzle. Built in 1930, the suspension bridge is one of the most popular and visually appealing in Portland.
Another popular spot providing many possibilities for your Sony's delight, is the Portland cityscape, coming in at number two. Shot from the eastside of the Sellwood Bridge, this angle shows the Marquam Bridge separating the calm Willamette River from the full spectrum of Downtown's buildings. The Wells Fargo building and the US Bancorp Tower, the tallest buildings in the city, stand out handsomely. OMSI, with its large red tower, can be viewed on the right side of the picture. The flickering of city lights against the purplish blues of the night makes this a stunning snapshot.
International Rose Test Garden
Capturing the splendor of Mt. Hood, poised above downtown buildings with greenery hugging the lower edges of your picture, this vista from atop the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, is the number one photo op. This public, 4.5-acre garden is the oldest, regularly operated rose test garden in the U.S., founded in 1917. Its purpose is to test new rose varieties, or hybridizations. From the surrounding deciduous trees whose leaves slowly transform every fall from emerald green to warm oranges, pale yellows, and maroon reds, to the archways clad with roses of all colors, shapes, and sizes blooming in spring and summer, to the canoodling couples picnicking on a blanket during a blazing sunset, this site offers a multitude of picturesque photo opportunities.