Book Review: Oregon: Portrait Of A State

Oregon:  Portrait Of A State, by Rick Schafer

Being somewhat familiar with books like this one [1], I have to say that there are quite a few things about this book that are immensely worthwhile.  For one, it is of a large enough size to make a good coffee table book and filled with immensely beautiful photographs about Oregon that have a minimum of sermonizing.  In reading this book, I was struck by how many of the gorgeous scenes in the book I have seen in the course of my own travels through Oregon [2].  Reading this book as a person who enjoys traveling through Oregon is a double pleasure–there are beautiful photos and there is a feeling of gratification that one has good taste in places to visit.  That is the sort of pleasure I like to get from books, the enjoyment of beauty as well as the gratification of my own good taste in books as well as travel destinations.  Any book that is beautiful enough to encourage local tourism is a book that deserves considerable appreciation from people in the area, and it would be little surprise to me if this book was an immensely popular one.

In terms of its structure, there is not much to say about this book, given that it begins with a detailed map of Oregon and then has about a hundred pages of beautiful pictures of Oregon.  One gets a feel for what the photographer most enjoys to photograph, and that includes a lot of mountains, quite a few rivers and falls, and more mountains.  Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the gorgeous and somewhat remote Wallowa Mountains, South Sister, and numerous other peaks have their picture taken in glorious shading.  The photographer shows a keen grasp of focus, light and shadow, and vivid contrasts in shade and color.  All of this makes for an immensely enjoyable read, and the sort of book that will impress guests who want to take a turn at its pages while the book sits on a coffee table.  I was impressed enough when I visited the library that I figured I had to take a look at it and it was definitely a worthwhile book, one that demonstrates a keen eye for composition as well as a love of the sights of Oregon that ought to inspire more than a few trips to somewhat remote areas.

The photos and their captions occasionally provoke more serious feelings than that of enjoyment and pleasure, such as when the photographer takes a picture of an abandoned schoolhouse in a field of grain, a reminder of abandonment and loss that strikes this reader at least as a rather poignant reminder of loss.  And though most of the photographs are of natural scenes, quite a few of them show human influence through farming and viniculture, as well as the gorgeous Mount Angel Abbey, a covered bridge, and some ski lifts, showing the way that Oregon’s beauty has been enjoyed and enhanced by some beautiful buildings, including Portland’s lovely skyline.  And, it should be noted, even those shots that are of relatively unspoiled nature show the influence of mankind, namely the photographer whose taste for beauty has the sort of gaze that would be a bit uncomfortable if it were from an eye rather than from a camera, and if it was directed at people instead of gorgeous landscapes.  Such is the way that appreciation of beauty goes in that it is acceptable in some contexts and not others.  Here, it simply works beautifully.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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