The Road to Portland: A Photobook

I want to share a little book that I created as an Anniversary present for Kei (well, it was actually for both of us). We celebrate 13 years of marriage this week and, because I’ll be in NY and was too excited to wait any longer, I gave it to him a little early.

The photos in this book were taken during our year-long journey from Hawaii to Portland almost 10 years ago. During that crazy 12 months we spent 7 months in Honolulu and five on the road. We walked over volcanic lava, saw the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, looked out over the Grand Canyon, toured Graceland, got wet at Niagra Falls, watched the Cubs win at Wrigley Field, ran bases on the field of dreams, took in the beauty of Yellowstone, saw some giant Presidents at Mt Rushmore and so much more. It was an amazing trip and I am so glad I was finally able to pull everything together into one book.

Thankfully, we took this trip in the early days of digital photography so I was spared the chore of scanning in the photos. And I was surprised at the quality of the photos that we got from such an old point and shoot camera (Samuel’s now using it). While the images weren’t big enough for full page spreads, they printed beautifully.

This was also my first time using the Lightroom book module for Blurb and it was fantastic. While it took a little time for me to get used to customizing the layout for text, etc., once I got the hang of it the book came together very quickly. I love that there was no need to export my files to a third party program and that I could easily add additional photos without having to click back into another program.

To begin, I decided on one big wrap around photo of the Waimea Canyon in Kauai for the cover. I like the simplicity of just one photo with a little bit of text.

The first inside page includes one of my favourite pictures of the two of us in Hawaii and a brief intro to the book. What strikes me is how relaxed and happy we look. Ahhh, life before children…

I also kept it simple inside the book with mostly plain white backgrounds and just a caption with the location every now and then. I also included a few section title pages to distinguish between our time in Hawaii, the cruise around the islands and our time on the road.

The rest of the book consists of a variety of multi and single photo pages with a few double-page spreads thrown in where the photo was big enough to span two pages. I put a maximum of four photos on a page to keep it simple and ensure none of the photos were hidden.

I repeated the cover image inside the book. This is one of the few photos that were large enough to fill a double page spread. While most of the pages were plain white, I placed a few with a dark grey background every now and then to make some of the images pop and add a little interest.

I had a vision for the “Road Trip” section title page for a long time. When I showed it to one of my friends at work she said that the Google map put the entire trip in perspective. For this image, I simply created a “my places” map on Google, added location pins for every step on the journey, made it as big as possible on my computer screen and then took a screenshot. Then, in Photoshop, I “drew” lines connecting the dots. I love how this page turned out.

I had to do a few Google searches to work out exactly where we were in some of the photographs – although Kei was very proud of the fact that he made us pose for a photo at the entry to every National Park. I have to admit that it was a huge help while I was pulling the book together to have a big sign spelling out the location.

We went to the actual Field of Dreams. It’s in middle-of-nowhere-Iowa and was well worth the detour.

I organized the book chronologically, except for the last few pages. A couple of months after we arrived in Portland we had to drive to San Francisco to return the rental car. I wanted to include our trip to San Francisco in the book but I also wanted to end the book with the Welcome to Oregon sign, even though we passed it a few months before our trip to San Francisco.

I cheated a little but I think it works better for the story. I love a good ending.

This project has inspired me to get more photos off of the computer and into books. The entire family loves looking through them and there’s really no better way to look at a photo than in print.

So, I’m on a quest to update our annual photo album library and create a few little mini books documenting our trips to Australia and Japan. Although I religiously create a photobook each year for the grandparents, the last one I did for our own bookcase was back in 2009. I best get started…


  1. Beautiful photos, Nicole. I’ll look forward to seeing it when we visit next year. What a great trip! XXX

  2. This looks amazing. I continually struggle with the question of what to do with my photos. Digital photo books seem to be the answer, but though they’ve improved, the design platforms I’ve used up to now (mostly through Flickr partners) are still a bit too cumbersome when it comes to large projects. Can I ask how long it took you to create this book? And how much it cost in the end?

    I would love to be able to do this kind of thing with all of my photos one day.What a lovely way to remember what looks like a fantastic trip.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. This was actually one of the easier photo books I’ve done – mainly because there were fewer photos for me to choose from. That seems to be the hardest and most time-consuming part. I think the entire process took about 10-15 hours from choosing the photos to layout and I spread that time out over many months, which is easy to do when using Lightroom. This was a big book (170 pages!) so it cost just over $70. I’ve found that focusing on events (eg. specific trips) or on a specified period of time is a much easier and less daunting way to get your photo into a book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s