My past couple of posts have been images of San Francisco, foregrounded by nature and suburbs—the style I like to call a “civilization gradient”. This image similarly presents downtown Oakland, California, past the hilltop homes and Cal fields of Strawberry Canyon and through the invasive alien leaves of Berkeley Lab’s eucalyptus trees. The HDR processing techniques that Brendan and I use are perfect for settings like this, with an array of light intensities across a broad landscape.
If this week on Decaseconds has had a theme, it has been structures suspended over water at sunset. It has also been a week of long-exposure shots that live up to the site’s title. Hoards of gulls riding on the waves are reduced to weird ghost-blurs in the foreground of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena, and the Port of Oakland.
At the moment the sunset sets behind the hills, the sky above San Francisco is still gold, but the massive structures and high-tech vehicles of the city below are activating their illumination machines and preparing for night beneath the marine layer. If the Bay Area is a loose solar system of different worlds, San Francisco must be its cyberpunk crown jewel.
The view from atop Berkeley’s Campanile is a nostalgic one, with San Francisco and Oakland popping up in the distance above the sprawl. Walking along those broad, slightly cracked, and sun-baked pathways of Berkeley’s campus never quite felt natural, though. Can a place magnified beyond human scale feel that way?
This photograph is a double-case of finding interesting details by looking away from the obvious. On one hand, this subtler image was captured opposite an intense sunset over San Francisco. The color palette is heavy with pastels, but accented with a few harsh reds from Oakland in the distance. In the image itself, there’s a tiny building under the right-hand span of the bridge. Seeing something so (let’s say) adorably sized next to something so dominant and enormous makes for a charming contrast.
I sometimes sift through the RAW files I took long in the past, searching for meaning in images I captured long ago. In the case of this particular photograph, there’s more to the image than just my favorite Bay Area gradient of differing environments (e.g. Oakland and San Francisco and Alcatraz and two different enormous bridges and so on): there’s also a feeling of place and moment. The dramatic clouds and the grasses and the hint of the Golden Gate’s span are all spectacular, but the optics of a raindrop spattered across the lens add just as much to the image. You can practically smell the petrichor in the air.