Portlandia, Bridge City, the Rose City: Portland’s nicknames zoom in on the city’s most distinctive features. Keep an eye out for small moments and tiny details throughout the city that showcase its spirit. Here’s where to go to capture great images of Portland’s riverfront, parks and gardens, and rich street culture.
Portland is experiencing a golden age for street art. Walls in every neighborhood blaze with color. Murals make a vibrant subject themselves or serve as lively backdrops for portraits of interesting passersby.
Check out the recent painting of a 70-foot woman by London artist Finbarr Dac (Fin DAC). From her perch at 959 SE Division Street, the woman, with a bird on her shoulder and cascading plants for hair, looks down over the train tracks.
Some murals are in parking lots, so visiting outside of business hours is best for unobstructed ‘Grams.
Instagram tip: Try the app’s Clarendon or Lark filters to make those mural colors pop.
From the soaring spires of the St. Johns bridge to the beefy workaday trusses of the Marquam freeway bridge, Portland’s riverfront is a photographer’s delight. On a rainy day, soft-bellied clouds offer a contrast to the geometric lines of bridge cables and towers. Sunny days bring swimmers to the docks and beaches, and rowboats and dragon boats to the water.
Walk or bike the East Bank Esplanade for sweeping views of several bridges and the downtown cityscape. It’s magical at dusk, when the gleam of city lights along the skyline is silhouetted against the deepening blue of the sky.
Head to the west end of the Broadway Bridge for moody views over the railway station and the Pearl District. Use the red metal struts to frame shots of the skyline or passing skateboarders and cyclists.
The swooping cables of Tilikum Crossing, the world’s largest car-free bridge, make for a great shot. On a clear day, head east on its span for peekaboo views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. Or from the bridge’s western end, head to the nearby Portland Aerial Tram and go up, up, up for dizzying views of soaring bridges and distant peaks.
The north sidewalk at the west end of the Burnside Bridge is the optimal place to snap that iconic shot of the Portland, Oregon, sign that looms over Old Town.
Instagram tip: Play with Sutro or Ludwig filters on a gray day, Mayfair or Lo-Fi when it’s brighter. Juno will deepen the reds of the Broadway Bridge.
Portland’s parks are also a photographer’s playground. Forest Park is a green world of ferns, luminous moss, sparkling creeks and tall trees.
Or budding photogs can head to the eastern edge of Washington Park’s International Rose Test Garden for that classic Portland panorama: velvet roses in the foreground, the city spread out below and in the distance, a snowy Mt. Hood glittering in the sun.
If you have a taste for the gothic, head to Mount Tabor Park on a gray day. Reservoirs with brooding gatehouses and wrought-iron bars make for moody shots.
Instagram tip: Try Perpetua for rich green or blue tones or Sutro to play up the drama of bare trees and reservoirs in winter.
The Best of Indoors
When it rains, and it will, head indoors. You can’t leave Portland without photographic evidence of a visit to Powell’s City of Books. The Blue Room — literature and fiction — is good for snapping candid shots of lone readers dwarfed by ranks of book-filled shelves.
And in a city known for artisanal coffee roasters and distillers, you can always find a cozy space to sip a cappuccino or a cocktail. Settle in, smartphone at the ready, to watch the passing scene.
Instagram tip: Try Inkwell, Earlybird or Ashby for a cozy, vintage look.