To encourage myself to make photo outings to Portland more often, last month I purchased an annual membership
at the Japanese Garden.
Not only does that cover the $10 entrance fee each time I go during the next 12 months, but it also waives the $5 per visit tripod fee! Furthermore, I can enter the Garden at 8:00 a.m. — a full two hours before it opens to the public. What a deal!
The Japanese Garden also has a Photographer Membership plan, which allows entrance at 6:00 a.m. one day a month, permission to sell the photos you take, and other photo-related perks. However, seeing that it would be a pain to get to Portland that early, and that I am not planning on selling the photos I take there, and that the Photographer Membership costs nearly three times more than a regular membership, it wasn’t hard to pass on that option.
When I arrived at 8:00 on my first visit, I was tempted at first to consider the low fog an enemy, but I reminded myself that it could actually enhance some of the pictures, and that it is usually possible to find interesting shots in almost any kind of weather. So rather than bemoan the lack of sunlight, I wandered around with my photographic eyes wide open to the many possibilities.
When I set up my tripod by the multilevel waterfall and was able to take pictures for as long as I wanted, alone and uninterrupted, the value of having access to the Garden two hours before the public became apparent. That is a benefit which is definitely worth paying for! It would be almost impossible to use a tripod during the public hours in the tourist season.
I put quite a bit of time and effort into photographing the numerous koi,
with their wide range of skin patterns and colors. This turned out to be much harder than I had first imagined. Often they were swimming well below the surface, but the autofocus would target the top of the water. The constant motion of the fish made it difficult to get good results with manual focus.
Furthermore, the somewhat-poor lighting under the foggy conditions forced me to use slow shutter speeds and high ISO,
resulting in unwanted motion blur
and image noise.
After many futile and frustrating attempts, it suddenly dawned on me that I was paying too much attention to the fish while neglecting the rest of the Garden.
I completed my slow meandering through the 5.5 acre Garden by 10:00 — it was smaller than I had thought. However, by this time the fog was dispersing and the sun was illuminating many parts of the Garden. Because I was literally seeing things in a new light, I decided to make a second round of the scenery. Unfortunately, at this point the gates opened to the public, so the remainder of my time there was definitely more crowded and less peaceful.
I took 162 pictures during my morning visit, which I have whittled down to the best 49 in this album. You can see additional photos from this trip in the Portland Japanese Garden, Stereo 2015
For more pictures taken at the Garden, see the listing of all my Japanese Garden photo albums
and/or the conglomerate super-album Portland Japanese Garden (All Years).
For more information about each individual outing I made to the Garden, check out the list of related articles.