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  • Michael Ashley Gallery

Trees of Japan: Portland Japanese Garden and the Peter Lik Tree


Proclaimed the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan, The Portland Japanese Garden is a traditional Japanese garden occupying 12 acres, located in Portland, Oregon. It is composed of five garden spaces; The Strolling Pond Garden, Natural Garden, Sand and Stone Garden, Flat Garden, and Tea Garden.


When’s the best time to go?


There really is no bad time to visit the garden. The flowers and leaves begin to bloom for Spring at the end of April and early May. At this time, the famous maple tree blooms a beautiful pink/purplish hue. Fall is my favorite time to photograph the garden, but that seems to be the case for a lot of people because it is the busiest time of year at the garden. This time is so popular because the last week of October will give you the best overcast and foggy days which aligns with the peak of fall colors.


With a yearly Photographer Membership, the Garden offers photographers early access to photograph the garden every day of the year. Purchasing this pass is a perfect way to get the shots you want without people walking through them.


If you can’t make it to the garden early, be prepared to deal with the crowds. Please be respectful with your tripods and try not to block the path of the sidewalks or cover the moss. The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the few that allows tripods into the garden during normal operating hours and as long as we (photographers) stay respectful of the garden and guest. If we abuse this luxury, we risk losing this rare privilege. Please be respectful!


What gear is Ideal for shooting the Garden?


· DSLR, Mirrorless, Medium Format Camera


· Wide angle lens (16-35mm, 24-70mm)


· Zoom lens (70-200mm)


· Polarizer Filter. I use the NISI filter and love it. This really reduces reflections and helps give the leaves a boost in color.


· Cable Release. You will most likely be using a low ISO so with long exposures, I like to eliminate camera shake with my clicker. Using your timer works too.


· Tripod. Keeping noise low will force a longer shutter speed. I love my Really Right Stuff tripod but anything sturdy will work fine. You might want to bring a table top tripod as well for shooting inside the Japanese maple trees.


· Microfiber cloth. If you have never been, it rains a lot in Portland. I always have a few in my bag at all times.