Watching the summer sunset behind Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Marin is the perfect setting for a dinner picnic. This weekend is Memorial Day: the unofficial start of summer in much of the United States and the perfect time (i.e. time off) for picnics and barbecuing. Though this picture came from another big barbecuing holiday (Independence Day), the scene is likely to be replicated this weekend.
This panorama of the San Francisco skyline (seen from across the Golden Gate in Tiburon) is transient in two senses of the word: because the sunset light takes on this set of specular reflections for only a moment, and because civil engineering has already transformed the skyline to some new form in the time since I took this picture.
A history of design and engineering is visible from the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco beyond it. That’s visible at every hour of the day, so I must conclude that the people jamming the roads earlier on the evening of this image were mostly there for the combination effect with the sunset. As the crowds decamped for dinner elsewhere, the blue hour brought my favorite views of the city.
Grizzly Peak’s superhuman view of the Bay Area seems so inaccessible; that we could drive there (albeit on steep, winding roads) is surreal. The alignment of mundane cars along the ridge seems like a different phase of matter from the glowing roads and epic accomplishments of civil engineering below. I suspect that those mundane cars will become a lot more interesting when I look back at this picture in 30 years.
Grizzly Peak’s high vantage point means that a plethora of Bay Area landmarks can be stacked together in one image: From the faintest shadow of the Farallon Islands beyond the bridge, to the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, the Berkeley Marina, the busy travelers on University Avenue, to the Joint Center of Artificial Photosynthesis atop a hill in Berkeley Lab.
Though photographing San Francisco became an everyday occurrence during my time on sabbatical at Berkeley Lab, I knew even then that it wouldn’t last. Back in New York, the trivial has again become (practically) impossible. This is the last picture that I took, just before I left California on another transcontinental drive.