LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES FOR PORTLAND COUPLE
The symbol of Portland's biggest celebration is a part of everyday life for Rich and Charold Baer.
Their Southwest Portland backyard is full of rose bushes. About 80,000 photographs of roses Rich Baer has taken — a mere 10 percent of the roses he actually shot — are on film and digital files. And besides a long career at Oregon Health & Science University, Charold Baer's résumé shows years of involvement with the Rose Festival and Portland Rose Society.
The importance of the flower, central to the annual Rose Festival, which begins this weekend, can't be overstated in the Baers' world.
From May to October, roses bloom in the couple's backyard, and it's utopia.
"It changes my outlook on life when I'm out in the garden," Rich says. "It's a happy experience when I'm around that beauty."
Charold, a Rose Festival director from 1998-2011 and Rose Society president since 2011, says being around the flower makes her life more delightful.
"I got into them because nursing and teaching future nurses are stressful things," she says. "You need a hobby. They call it the queen of flowers for a reason."
The Baers will be riding in each of the Rose Festival parades, as heads of the Rose Society. Charold succeeded Rich as president. And Rich made news this year when one of his images of the Peace Rose was selected by the U.S. Postal Service for use on a Forever Stamp. So far, he reports that post offices haven't purchased very many of them to provide to customers, except the USPS outlet in Garden Home frequented by Charold, who has purchased thousands for use with Rose Society business.
It's Rich's first USPS stamp. Upon being honored by the postal service, he said, "it's always been my desire since I began photographing roses exclusively in 1991 to attempt to capture the beauty that I see in my roses so that I can share that with as many people as possible. Having one of my pictures being selected for use on a U.S. postage stamp means that I'll get to share that one bloom ... and perhaps I can move some people by the beauty of this rose."
Rich's images have long been used by the Rose Festival in its promotions. "When it comes to quality photos of roses, we only look to one person," says Rich Jarvis, Rose Festival public relations manager. It was a deserving honor, Charold says, for the USPS to use her husband's image.
Capturing the perfect image is not easy when shooting photos of roses. You wait until "the perfect point," Charold says. Rich has been at the perfect point many times.
"It's the perfection," she says, of his photos. "Rich doesn't just take pictures of any rose; you can get those anywhere. You never take a rose just because you've seen it. You wait until absolutely the perfect point. I can pick his photo out of any others.
"We know what good roses should look like."
It takes several shots to get perfection and a good backdrop to complement the roses. Charold says she has stood on a ladder holding up a lamé (background) cloth many times, so they achieve the right light. "It's a team effort," she says.
And one time Charold took one for the team, bending over in black pants to provide a black backdrop for a rose shot. "I am one of the few people with my back end on a calendar," she says.
That was for the LeAnn Rimes Hybrid Tea Rose. Rich has other favorites. When he was knighted by the Royal Rosarians in 1999, Rich had to pick a rose. He chose Silver Lining. The most beautiful rose to him is the Pristine Rose.
"People say they don't like it, because it lasts only two days," he says, of Pristine. "The beauty at that moment is all you can expect — white with pink edges.
"But I can go out in the garden and pick out 25 beautiful roses. It's like a child. Parents might have their favorite child, but they know you have to love all of them."
Baer, who like his wife is in his 70s, has taken photos of flowers for as long as he can remember. "I used to spend days out in the woods finding images to take, just to entertain my friends with them," he says. He has shot roses exclusively for almost 30 years, for commerical and teaching purposes. "I literally have hundreds of PowerPoints on roses," he says.
Rich has enjoyed the luxury of practicing photography and volunteering throughout his married life because of his wife's status in both the OHSU nursing department and school of nursing. She's now retired.
And Rich maintains the family's garden.
"Gardening has always been very important to us," Rich says. "We have an acre in Southwest Portland, and it keeps me very busy. With 1,000 roses, they do take some upkeep."