Five Minute Film School

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Five Fun Things To Do in Portland, Oregon

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The Volcano Bowl at Hale Pele

I recently went on a quick girlfriend getaway to Portland, Oregon. Only three hours away from Seattle by car, the Rose City is one of my favorite Pacific Northwest destinations. Here are five fun things to do the next time you get to the town known as Beervana.

1) Explore the Alberta Arts District

Portland is all about the different vibes of various neighborhood. It’s fun to explore them. We asked PDX natives for their favorite spots in the city. Both our uber driver and a local photographer suggested we check out Alberta Street. We loved it!

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Rose mural being painted by Pablo’s Murals

On the shopping front, Digs Inside & Out  was a standout for its excellent edit of home and garden items. The air plant section was hella impressive.

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Funky bunny street art

The 26 blocks of Alberta Street are known as the Alberta Arts District. They are a great place to see street art, shop in local boutiques, and check out some of the local food carts.

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Meh flag and artsy pillows for sale on Alberta Street

Alberta Arts District

The neighborhood centers on Alberta Street, a thoroughfare stretching through the North and Northeast sections of the city and crossing Interstate 5.

2) Take a Trip to a Tiki Bar

Since the Pacific Northwest’s weather is notoriously moody, you can take an instant tropical getaway by going to one of Portland’s tiki bars. Kitschy, retro and totally fun, Portland has a few notable tiki bars. This time we headed to Hale Pele.

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Zan says “if you aren’t doing this on way out of a Tiki Bar, you are Tiki Barring wrong”

Hale Pele had an excellent staff and a high theatrical factor. We ordered the Volcano Bowl for the table.

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Tiki Bar kitsch on 11 at Hale Pele

Based on recipe from the 1970s from Don the Beachcomber, the Volcano Bowl was made with grapefruit, lime, aged rums, allspice, and set on fire!

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Who needs beer? Behold: The Hale Pele Volcano Bowl

We had already had dinner, but the menu looked pretty tasty and we had a fried dough dessert that was good enough to make us want to come back to sample a selection of Pu-Pus.

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Instagram worthy cocktails at Hale Pele Tiki Bar

Hale Pele proves Portland is about way more than beer.

Hale Pele Tiki Bar

Address: 2733 NE Broadway St, Portland, OR 97232, United States
Phone: +1 503-662-8454

3. Stop and Smell the Roses

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Tending Roses is serious business

One of the many reasons Portland is known as “Rose City” is because it’s climate is ideal for growing the flowers. You can see and smell these floral beauties by visiting the International Rose Test Garden, which is free to visitors.There are well labeled sections for Gold Medal Roses as well as Miniature Rose Test Garden.

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Award winning roses at the International Rose Test Garden

All the roses are clearly named. I did not know there was a Neil Diamond Hybrid Tea Rose until we wandered through this peaceful and beautiful place.

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Busy Bees in the rose garden

Address: 400 SW Rose Park Rd, Portland, OR 97205, United States
Phone: +1 503-823-3636

4. Sample Portland’s Foodie Scene

The Pacific Northwest has one of the most dynamic and exciting food scenes in the country. Chef Andy Ricker has won many awards for his unique Thai Street food served at his restaurants. We ate dinner at Pok Pok‘s original location.

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Pok Pok’s exterior brings back memories of Thailand

We went for Kai Yaang ($14), half of a locally sourced, charcoal roasted, air-cooled chicken, seasoned with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro.

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Pok Pok’s Kai Yaang chicken and roasted corn.

The bird was served with dipping sauces and sticky rice. It’s served family style. There is even a cool bar in the back of the restaurant.

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Drinking vinegars at Pok Pok

Address: 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202, United States
Phone: 1 503-232-1387

5. Explore the World’s Largest Independent Book Store

Head to the Pearl District to explore Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s has a few locations but the flagship store on Burnside is not to be missed.

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Exploring Powell’s City of Books (photo by Whitney in Portland for Flytographer)

I love a well organized brick and mortar bookstore and it’s hard to beat Powell’s. We explored it during our Flytographer session which you can read about here.

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How did I not write this book?  (photo by whitney in Portland for Flytographer)

Address: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, United States
 Phone: 1-503-228-4651

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Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: a Photo Essay Using the Boomerang App

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Shaka symbol shadow puppets on the Big Island

I just got back from  a girls trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I decided to document our trip using the Boomerang App from Instagram on my iPhone 6s (Boomerang is also available for Android users). The Boomerang app creates short videos from bursts of still photos. Below are some of my favorite Boomerangs from the trip to the Aloha state.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 21, 2016 at 5:56pm PDT


 
Sunset Zen on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii excels at sunsets. I took this Boomerang on the beach at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel on the Kohala Coast.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:54pm PDT


 

Hang Loose Shadow Puppets

The Hulihee Palace in Kona was once a vacation home used by the Hawaiian royal family. Built in 1838, it is now a cool Victorian era museum with a great collection of Hawaiian artifacts and pictures. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace, so I made this boomerang of the “hang loose” shaka symbol. The shaka symbol is used as greeting in Hawaiian culture.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 22, 2016 at 5:42am PDT


 
Rush Hour on the Kona-Kohala Coast

The waters off the beach at the Fairmont Orchid are perfect for swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s a great snorkeling spot as well. The local fish and giant turtles (known as honu) happily share this portion of paradise.

 

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:27am PDT


Hula Dancing on Hilo Bay

My friend, Zan Aufderheide, learned a few hula dancing basics during a tour of the Big Island. Here she is showing her mad hula skills on Hilo Bay.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:08pm PDT


 
Yummy Tuna Crudo

The Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at the Four Seasons Hualalai is one of best spots on the Kailua-Kona Coast to take in the sunset and enjoy a meal with a view. The tuna crudo (ahi sashimi) with spicy aioli was both satisfying and light and paired perfectly with the tropical cocktails. I recommend trying The Green Flash made with Patrol Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, cream of coconut, Genovese basil, and fresh jalapeno.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:24pm PDT

 

Yellow Flags at the Fairmont Orchid

I stayed at the Fairmont Orchid. The hotel has a lovely beach and bay which is a great place to snorkel with the giant turtles, known locally as Honu. These yellow flags amongst the palm trees gave a real sense of being on vacation.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:02pm PDT

 

Handsome Furry Local

Much of the Big Island of Hawaii used for ranching, complete with cattle and cowboys. I met this furry local, a dog known for guarding cattle up in Waimea. If you’re in the area, try one of the locally sourced burgers at Village Burger. Located in an laid back strip mall, locals and visitors flock to Village Burger for their cooked to order Hawaii Big Island Beef Burger. I wasn’t even hungry and I could not resist the delicious smell wafting in the Hawaiian breeze.

For best results, Boomerangs are best viewed using the Instagram app. If you’re not yet following my Instagram, here’s a link.

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Night Photography in Stockholm and Finnish Lapland (and Photo Tips)

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Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in Finnish Lapland, as photographed on my Canon 5D MK III

One of the reasons I chose to go with Photo Enrichment Adventures to Lapland and Stockholm was for another chance to photograph the Aurora Borealis. After aurora hunting in Iceland in October, I got hooked on the phenomenon and know I’ll be seeking out more opportunities to see the Northern Lights.

Photo Enrichment specializes in small group cultural tours with an emphasis on photography. I enjoy night photography but it’s definitely not my forte, and welcomed the chance up up my night photography game. Shooting after dark involves long shutter speeds and that means a tripod is required.

I brought tripod set-ups for both my DSLR, a Canon 5D MK III as well as a far more compact version for my iPhone 6s.

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Stockholm’s Parliament building illuminated at night 

Situated between the head of Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is hella windy at night and the night I spent shooting after dark in Stockholm was by far the coldest.

The most important gear in addition to a tripod is the right gloves. My hands tend to get extremely cold and I’ve been shooting with mittens over texting gloves, trying to find the correct pair or combo since I visited Iceland last fall.

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iPhone 6s Slow Shutter Shot of Stockholm at night

Since I know I will be doing more night photography in cold conditions, I’ve now purchased a pair of heated gloves. After a lot of research I figured out that the gloves for hunters and snipers have the same features photographers need, including a free trigger finger. The Heat 3 Smart Gloves came highly rated but with a steep price tag, so I opted for the slightly less expensive Swany Arctic Toaster Mittens.

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Stockholm at night, a Canon 5 D MK III shot

The Aurora Borealis only showed up one night during my stay in Finnish Lapland, and earlier than expected, so I only photographed them using my Canon DSLR setup.

The other nights I tried shooting with both my Canon and my iPhone 6s, using the Slow Shutter app, and overall I was impressed with the resulting images from my iPhone. The photos from Stockholm blew out some of the details in the highlights that my Canon was able to capture, but I am still happy with the images.

The Slow Shutter app also has an intervalometer feature built in so you can set exposure times and shutter speeds. Slow Shutter’s intervalometer was more intuitive than the stand alone remote timer I used from Canon.

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Cabins in Kukkolankoski, Finland (iPhone image above)

Slow Shutter produced images that were a bit noisy, but editing them and blending together a few of my favorite edits using the Image Blender app makes the noise less noticeable. They don’t have the same sharpness as the shots from my Canon DSLR but they certainly captured the mood!

I plan on doing more night photography in the coming months so that my comfort level and skill improves.

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Cabins in Kukkolankoski photographed with my Canon 5D MK III

The other piece of gear which is so essential for cold weather shooting is extremely low tech: large Ziploc storage bags. After shooting in extremely cold conditions, you take out your battery and SD and CF cards and place your DSLR and lenses in these to prevent condensation when they warm up to room temperature. Very useful!

For more tips on photographing in extreme conditions, check out Dan Carr’s excellent post on Cold Weather Photography and Extreme Conditions.

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Londolozi: The Best Destination for a Photographic Safari in South Africa

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Thirsty leopard drinking at Londolozi

If you are a planning photographic safari and want a luxury experience, Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa might be the destination for you.

I rented this Canon is 100-400 mm IS lens at Londolozi

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10 Photography Tips for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park

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Head scratcher in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

If you are planning a gorilla trekking safari to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you are going to want to document your experience with a camera or three.

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There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world today

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your gorilla trekking safari photography.

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I took some of my favorite images on my iPhone 6s plus

Weather conditions for my treks ranged from rainy (think Gorillas in the Mist) to very contrasty when it was sunny. The contrasty day was the most difficult to photograph.

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This mountain gorilla walked right by me

Tip #1 Hire a Porter

Porters are available (tip them US $10 per day) to help carry your gear/backpack and help you through steep and difficult parts of your trek. I would highly recommend using one. Not only are you supporting the local community, but there are a few times when it’s helpful to have someone spot you when you are climbing on a step rocks.

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A juvenile gorilla swinging in the bamboo

Tip #2 Make Sure You have Pockets

The protocol for gorilla trekking safaris requires you to leave your daypack, backpack or camera bag about 100 meters from the group of gorillas you will be interacting with that day. This means that any gear you intend on using during the one hour you get to spend with the gorillas needs to be on you. Make sure your pants (most likely rain pants) have pockets for any accessories or spare batteries you might need.

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Mother gorilla and baby (image shot and edited on my iPhone 6s plus)

Tip #3- Bring Your iPhone or Mobile Phone

Some of the best photos I shot during my gorilla treks were taken using my iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus. Mobile phones are great for wide angle photography, and you will be getting up close with the mountain gorillas. iPhones (and most mobile phones) are best at shooting wide angle images and are easy to carry. This makes them an an excellent choice for photographing your gorillas trekking experience.

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Portrait of a mountain gorilla (taken on my iPhone 6s)

Trekkers in Volcanoes National Park are supposed to stay 7 meters away (approximately 23 feet) from the gorillas. The gorillas, however, do not follow this rule. Some will walk ride by you or even touch you. You can only photograph these sorts of interactions if you camera can focus when it’s close to the subject. My iPhone 6s was great at photographing at these short distances, where the lens I had on my Canon required more distance.

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Gorilla laying on it’s back

Tip #4- Pack a few lens wipes

You’ll visit the gorillas on their turf, which is not a clear hiking path. The ground will be covered with vines and leaves and possibly mud. I tripped once each of the three days I was with gorilla trekking. While my falls weren’t painful, a few of them did leave my lens or cameras a bit dirty. Fortunately I brought a lint free lens wipe with me each day so I was able to wipe down my cameras and return to shooting promptly.

I shot this video of a mountain gorilla munching on bamboo on my iPhone 6s

Tip #5- Shoot Some Video

Your mobile phone is a great option for this. Even if you are not an experienced video shooter, this is the time to give it a try. Make sure your microphone is on so you have some of the sounds of nature. If you don’t like the sounds when you review your video later, you can always add music later.

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Tip #6- Bring a wide angle zoom lens

If you are bringing a DSLR camera, you’ll want to have a wide angle zoom lens that can focus quickly with you. I got good results with my Canon 24-70 mm lens.

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I photographed the young mountain gorillas above using my Canon 24-70 wide angle zoom

Tip #7- Bring a Shower Cap

A humble shower cap is one hotel room amenity I always take and stuff into my camera bag. Shower caps can be used to protect your camera body in rainy or damp conditions, which are very possible if Rwanda. Rwanda’s rainy season is from March- May, but I had a light rain in early December. A plastic bag can also do the trick but in Rwanda has a ban on plastic bags. So if you don’t have a clean plastic bag available, grab a shower cap from your hotel’s bathroom instead.

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Gorilla chilling out in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Tip #7- Disable Your Flash

Flash photography is not allowed around the gorillas. Be sure you know how to disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone and do so before you get to your group of gorillas.

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Baby gorilla from the Hirwa group framed in vines

Tip #8- Look for Creative Ways to Frame Your Shot

The mountain gorillas in Rwanda have some very human behaviors, but they won’t pose for you. Look for angles that will allow you to frame the animals creatively. I found the vines and bamboo helped create interesting ways to frame the animals.

Ideally you want to be able to focus on the gorilla’s eyes. It is unlikely that the lighting will always be ideal for this. Apps like Afterlight and VSCO‘s clarity and shadow save adjustment features can help enhance your gorilla photos during your editing process. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, this can also be done in the editing process if you use Lightroom or Photoshop.

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 Tip #9- Shoot a Variety of Shots (including group shots)

Much of the time you’ll be in front of one or two gorillas. Try and look for a variety of images, including group shots. These might be harder to compose due to other trekkers in your group, or lighting conditions might not be ideal. Group shots help round out your coverage and give a sense of how the gorilla family interacts. If you have a clear shot of a group of gorillas moving, try capturing it on video as well as in stills. It helps give a sense of place.

I shot the video above of the Hirwa group of gorillas on my iPhone 6s 

Tip #10- Don’t Forget to Shoot Landscapes and Details

In order to best cover your gorilla trekking experience, you’ll want to include a few landscape shots which show the area. If you have any sort of zoom capability, you’ll also want to get a few shots of details. When the largest silverback gorilla in the world did not want to show me his face, I took a photo of his vast back. If I could not see an animal’s eyes, I tried to zoom in on a detail like feet, hands, or toes.

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A landscape of the some of rural countryside in Rwanda

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This gorilla didn’t wouldn’t show me his face, so I photographed his feet

My gorilla trekking guides offered to take pictures of me each day. This is a better and safer option than taking a gorilla selfie.

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Here I am photographing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda

Yes. You get really close.

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