As you know, I love to shoot events as well as landscapes and candids.  So much is happening, and even if a subject isn’t very interesting at one point in time, that state quickly changes as throngs of spectators are thrown into the mix, interacting with exhibits and fascinating art.

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The wintertime also tends to be somewhat dry in the realm of photography, even if the skies are quite wet (and mostly because the weather is so unfavorable).  Sometimes, I can escape on a nice day and scratch that photo itch.  Other times, I have to get out of the state altogether (thus Yosemite last year, and Zion/Bryce this year – look forward to photos from that trip coming really soon!).

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So when I’m given an oasis of colors and lights to shoot in the dead of winter – and when the weather also happens to cooperate for a weekend – I’m delighted to shoot for a few hours.

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I’ve shot the Portland Winter Light Festival (PDXWLF) every year it has been around (this was only it’s 3rd, so that isn’t really saying much).  The first year, I was introduced through a group outing organized by our local photo group.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised as we all found the subjects that most tickled our individual fancies.

Having enjoyed it so much the first year, I was excited to return for its second year.  Unfortunately, only the first night was even moderately dry, and I had other plans.  The second night was damp, so we passed, hoping for better conditions on their third and final night.  The rain wouldn’t let up, so we went anyway.  I shot all of the lights in the rain.  There was hardly anyone there; the smart ones just stayed home.  It was somewhat miserable, and we only stayed long enough to peruse the primary circuit.

This year, I signed up to be an official photographer for the event (I have a bad habit of doing that) for the first time, which required I show up for at least two of the three nights.  This year, it had expanded so much, it was shocking.  Now spanning four “hubs,” I had more issue with having enough time to see everything than I did getting bored looking at the same things across two nights.

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In fact, including a press preview night a day before the official festival began, I was onsite for three evenings – and I still didn’t see everything.

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The main hub – where it all began – was obviously where I spent the most time.  But I also enjoyed an evening at the secondary hub, never touching the tertiary or quaternary hubs.

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An illuminated caterpillar bike, juggling with illuminated pins, glowing hula hoops.  A fire-breathing dragon, a burning heart, a mirrored cat face, a telsa coil, decorated trains, an illuminated parade, spinning light-up signs, a crashed rocket, a robot tending a fiber optic garden.  Singing lights and mushrooms, a fiery gate, glowing boats on the river, shows, fires, lights, and everything that glows.

The entire festival is free, and artists bring their works to contribute; it’s really remarkable to see the creativity and skill all packed in such a tiny space.

I walked until my feet hurt.  I took so many pictures.

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This year was huge, and it was swarming with people.  Even with a camera and a press badge, I was just another face in the massive crowd.  It was such a stark difference from last year.  The combination of the growth and the pleasant weather brought them out in droves.  But I certainly understand the attraction.  And I’ll certainly be back next year.


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