Convertible in the Hills

“All things are transient,” said my scientific collaborator, with just a hint of irony. From up in the hills at Berkeley Lab, where we study the way that light and matter interact, he meant it in three senses:

  • We use “transient absorption spectroscopy” to study the changes in a material after it is exposed to light. The new states we create are transient.
  • The gentle blue-hour conditions of this picture are transient; the light was completely different ten minutes later.
  • Berkeley Lab sits atop the Hayward Fault; a large earthquake could topple the lab at any time.

In the face of all of that transience… Might as well go for a drive.

Convertible in the Hills

Leafy Window to Oakland

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.

Leafy Window to Oakland


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.


Campanile Bars

Beyond Sather Tower’s bars and columns is Telegraph Ave. and the city of Oakland. I never forget that view, but I do somehow always forget the red tiles at the top of the campanile. I guess my brain abstracts away the details, even when they’re a major part of the scene.

Campanile Bars

San Francisco Is Alien

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.

San Francisco Is Alien

Campus, Bay, and City

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?

Campus, Bay, and City

Span Aside

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.

Span Aside