How We Got This Week’s Cover Photo

So, about this week’s WW cover: It’s real.

The cover photo for our annual Best of Portland issue, in blue boxes across the city, has attracted us some positive attention. The accolades come with some skepticism, however: Several readers have said they love the aerial shot of Big Float revelers, but they wonder if we photoshopped the letters into the group image.

Heck no. This was a product of old-fashioned ingenuity (and a legally piloted drone). The father of the invention? Mick Hangland-Skill, WW‘s art director.

He appeared on today’s episode of the Dive podcast to divulge the secrets of the cover shoot. Here are three things he revealed to host Brianna Wheeler.

The idea came to him as he crossed the Steel Bridge.

“Don’t tell anyone, but I came up with this idea on the way to the pitch meeting,” Hangland-Skill confesses. He was riding a westbound MAX train on July 7. As the train crossed the Willamette River, he got an idea.

“I basically saw exactly what was on the cover in my head,” he says. “I wanted somebody holding two giant Ws floating in the river during the Big Float.” Another inspiration he cites: in-house promotional ads for Adult Swim that aired on the Cartoon Network, with the logo hidden somewhere in a landscape.

He bought the inflatable Ws on Amazon.

“I just thought, ‘Well, here’s a perfect time to do it. Let’s see if I can find it on Amazon.’” He could. “They are in fact Ws, not Ms.”

WW reporter Sophie Peel volunteered to board an inner tube and hold one of the Ws, along with her partner. At the July 10 river party, the inflatable letters drew some notice: One Oregonian editor thought the balloons were a prop in an engagement photo.

It is legal to operate a drone above the river.

Hangland-Skill hired a licensed drone operator to get the photo. The stretch of the Willamette between the Marquam and Hawthorne bridges is far enough from the airport to fly a drone.

“This photo was taken in accordance to FAA regulation,” Hangland-Skill confirms, “which is not something I thought I’d say about a cover ever.”

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