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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.