Stand closer to any painting, however, and facets once obscured by distance become apparent.
This is what OPB’s digital video and TV producers do. We crisscross the region to help audiences look closer at the stories that matter, illuminating various shades of complexities and textures of character.
As we reviewed this year’s slate of videos, we found thematic unity in our top nine favorites: They all bring to light the incredible resilience and ingenuity of the people (and creatures) who inhabit this corner of the U.S.
These are scientists, backpackers, doctors, artists, technologists, mapmakers and dreamers of all stripes — and their stories remind us all that the Pacific Northwest is worth the closer look.
The Seasons Are A-Changin’
Our picturesque natural spaces are also ground zero for extreme geologic events and global warming.
Left Coasters, however, are anything but complacent.
At the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, seismologists keep watch over the Northwest’s (several) active volcanoes — right in the backyards of cities like Portland and Seattle.
“How Dangerous Are The Northwest’s Volcanoes?” (Producer: MacGregor Campbell)
Down the Cascades and throughout the West Coast, marine algae blooms and ocean acidification continue to pose significant threats to coastal economies.
As far south as Port Orford, Oregon, fishermen are finding new ways of keeping their small town afloat when traditional catches, like Dungeness crab, prove unviable.
“Port Orford: Season Of Crab And Crisis” (Producer: Arya Surowidjojo)
Another key seafood industry is on high alert. Scientists concerned about the effects of acidification on oyster farms are exploring a possible solution: harvesting pH-raising eelgrass in the shallows.
“Eelgrass And Oysters” (Producer: Jes Burns)
Hats off, however, to the humble woodpeckers, lynxes, elks and salmons. These Northwest animals have a huge role to play in informing experts (and the public) that restoring regular wildfires can actually be a force for natural good.
“Wildfire And The Wildlife That Needs It” (Producer: Aaron Scott)
Places Of Peace, Painlessness
Beyond the roaring fires and crashing waves, poignant stories were also found in the stillness and quiet; in the landscapes of inner human experiences.
Deep in the Deschutes National Forest, city slickers find respite from urbanity through a hut system that makes a three-day, 22-mile ski trek through backcountry wilderness possible.
“Three Sisters Backcountry Huts” (Producer: Ian McCluskey)
Within city limits, the Portland Japanese Garden provides meditative pathways for close to half a million visitors each year.
It wasn’t always tranquil, however: Hate groups once descended on the garden when painful memories of World War Two were still fresh.
“Portland Japanese Garden” (Producer: Jule Gilfillan)
It’s not just physical spaces that are helping Northwesterners cope with daily life. In the midst of the national opioid abuse epidemic, health providers in Oregon are testing virtual reality as a non-opioid treatment for pain.
“Worlds Without Pain: VR” (Producer: Arya Surowidjojo)
Maps And “Unknown Worlds”
Inspiration is in no short supply in the Northwest. Throngs of people continue to revere and derive meaning from the cathedrals of nature that dot the region.
Then there are those unique individuals who allow this geography to become the very fabric of their lives — like mapmaker Dave Imus, who live and work outside of Eugene, Oregon.
“A Master Cartographer Charts A New Course” (Producer: John Rosman)
The power of abstractions such as maps and other artwork leads to the final video of this list: A profile on the Abstract Expressionism pioneer Mark Rothko, who has deep roots in Portland, Oregon.
“Rothko: Life Beyond The Abstract” (Producer: Eric Slade)
Rothko: Life Beyond The Abstract
Rothko’s circle of artists had once proclaimed that their work “is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks.”
This, to us, is a fitting maxim to borrow as we look towards a new year of brave and insightful video storytelling.