Portland Cherry Blossoms

Waterfront Park and Steel Bridge
Akebono flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’) line the waterfront at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The Steel Bridge is visible to the right. Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

The cherry blossoms at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park are one of the much-anticipated spring events in the city. The Akebono flowering cherry trees (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’) lining the waterfront and the Japanese American Historical Plaza were given to the city of Portland by the Japanese Grain Importers Association of Tokyo in 1990. To beat the crowds, a handful of intrepid photographers head out there before dawn.

There’s a great view across the Willamette of the distinctive glass towers of the Oregon Convention Center in East Portland.

Willamette view
Early morning looking across the Willamette to the Oregon Convention Center. Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

Before the sun rises, the park is lit by street lamps.

Flowering cherry and street lamps
Akebono flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’). Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.
Flowering cherry and street lamps
Akebono flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’). Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

No sunrise that day, but still some good views.

Oregon Convention Center and cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms at Tom McCall Waterfront Park frame the glass towers of the Oregon Convention Center across the river. Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

My strategy for overcast days is often to overexpose and blow out the sky for a high-key look.

Flowering cherry blossoms
Akebono flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’). Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.
A branch of flowering cherry
Akebono flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’). Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

You can walk over the Steel Bridge to get a view of the whole park from the east side of the river.

Waterfront Park
A distant view across the Willamette of Waterfront Park’s cherry blossoms in full bloom. Portland, Oregon, USA, 1 April 2017.

Spring Fever

A stand of purple crocus flowers.
Spring crocuses at the Budai Arborétum, Budapest, Hungary. March 8, 2015.

I’ve been thinking lately about why nature photography is important to me, and I decided there’s good value in putting together illustrated narratives even if the individual photos aren’t all portfolio-worthy and the writing isn’t elegant. I often find I enjoy other people’s nature-documentary narratives more than I do technically and artistically stunning individual images. Context and story are import, and I’d like to be able to look back in a few years and remember what I saw.

The last few weeks, I’ve managed to take a few study breaks to enjoy spring a little—last Sunday I went to the Budai Arborétum, a botanic garden and arboretum attached to Corvinus University’s horticultural department. I had tried visiting last fall and got rained out, but last weekend the spring weather was lovely, although unfortunately only the lower part of the garden is open on weekends.

As always, I was hoping for some birds other than the great tits which have been the most entertaining common resident bird life all winter, but other than some very uncooperative crows, all I saw were some nearly as uncooperative Common Blackbirds (Turdus merula), a type of thrush not to be confused with North American blackbirds:

A common blackbird perched in a bush

Crocuses and irises were abundantly planted in many areas, and heather was in bloom as well—a very purple effect overall.

A stand of blooming purple irises

Spring is bringing the re-emergence of insects, which makes me very happy! Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus) are one of my favorites—a common but striking species, albeit extremely uncooperative photography subjects. Looking them up just now, I realized that they are also the species used in a famous (in entomological circles) accidental discovery about hormone regulation and insect life cycles.

A red and black firebug insect

Two mating firebugs

There were also a lot of small bugs swarming in the crevices of tree bark, which at first I thought were firebug nymphs, but on a closer look, they’re not similar at all. I saw a few of these last summer, but not in these quantities, and my Google skills are failing me. If anyone knows what these are, please leave a comment and let me know!

Hemiptera

On the way home, I stopped briefly at Feneketlen-tó (Bottomless Lake), a nearby artificial lake which is apparently home to all three introduced North American slider subspecies as well as (somewhat surprisingly) the one native European species of turtles. Alas, the native species is rather shy, and all the turtles taking advantage of the spring sunlight were sliders like this one, which is probably a yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta):

A turtle sunbathing by the edge of a lake

I do feel like my macro photography skills are very rusty after a long break—I need to spend some quality time rebuilding my flash diffuser and get some good practice as it warms up more!