Take the Highway West


Outside of Portland is a big state. A native might say it’s “the real Oregon”, which is all things rural or small town and in many places beautiful. But just because it’s country, does not mean it always lacks open-minded thinking or urban influence. Appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

Driving west on Sunset Highway 26 is always a pleasure, sans traffic. 26 links Portland to the Oregon coast. It’s a gorgeous drive. Along the way there are plenty of nice surprises, for the uninitiated, or delights for those familiar. One is the Banks-Vernonia trail, converted from an old railroad line that cuts through Stub Stewart State Park. I’ve been on a lot of bike rides there, and have parked many times at the trailhead in Buxton.

Each time I’ve driven through this tiny town, I’ve never stopped. There really isn’t a place to stop. But the other day I decided to pause here, look around, and find a few pictures in it. There is nothing posh or immediately dazzling in this sort of photography subject. But it’s part of our world, and should be photographed all the same.


Wandering at 85mm

photo of silo and farm near a corn field in Banks, Oregon

There are photography assignments, pet photo shoots, and student work. All of them are worthwhile and keep me plenty busy. But every once-in-awhile I have to go back to my roots in photography and just walk somewhere with a camera in hand. I don’t over think shot selection or composition. I just stand in places that intuitively seem right and get the exposure. It’s not quite random snap shooting or photojournalist style, although both can be fun, but it’s certainly photography for pure enjoyment and freedom in the moment.

Lately the autumn weather has been wonderful here in the Portland, Oregon area and so last week I decided to take an afternoon photo walk on the Banks Vernonia trail. I had recently acquired a new 85mm f/1.8 lens, and knowing its best function is for portraiture I wanted to see what else it could do. As I said above, I just shot when it felt right to shoot. Whatever could fit into an 85mm frame is what I captured.

The photo of the silo you see above is my favorite from the photo walk. I like the layering and the lens’ ability to shoot for moderate depth-of-field with a bright sun front light. I’m also a sucker for trees, especially during autumn.

photo of creek near Banks Vernonia trail

Here is another shot I like from the walk, but not for any technical reason. It’s a nice stream in a picturesque area that has a bit of mans laziness and ingenuity mixed in with the natural driftwood. The title of this photo is “Driftwood Bucket” for that reason.

It’s always nice to do a photo walk simply for the experience.  I highly recommend that you do the same on occasion.


Demolition Derby Day

Truck tug of war photo. Demolition Derby day in Banks, Oregon.
Tug of War in 55mm.

Banks is a small town in Oregon that on most days is a bit sleepy, yet polite, and a fine place to start a bicycle ride in the country. But on a hot Sunday afternoon last week the town came alive for a tractor pull competition and a combine demolition derby of all things.

Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on motor sports such as this and I don’t live in this town. What I do have is a press pass and camera, which gave me access to the infield of the track. Always looking for something off the beaten path and being a lover of the vibrant in life, this was an action photography shoot that was a lot of fun to do.

Combine Demolition Derby in Banks, Oregon
If you look closely at the nearest combine, you can see the reflection of its cab in the dust.

For many of the shots I chose a 55mm focal length because I discovered that, for one reason or another, when combined with ISO 200 in bright sun the color pops. This tends to be true whether a polarizing filter is used (it was here). And this event was delightfully saturated with color to begin with.

Adventures in new places, such as this, is why I got into photography.