This image of Berkeley and San Francisco on Christmas Day 2016 is one of those shots so lovely that I’m not sure why I haven’t shared it already. All of the little details laid out in the hillsides and city streets of the Bay Area… How did I miss this one?
In the era before the Bay Bridge and BART tunnel, the ferry between the East Bay and San Francisco departed from the end of a long pier. (The pier used to be even longer—the Berkeley Marina extended into the water around it.) The ferry ended service in 1937, after the bridge opened, but remained a popular location for fishing until it deteriorated to its current unsafe state. I’m kind of fascinated to see its skeleton jutting out into the Bay, a linear form amid rolling marine layer clouds.
I remember thinking at the beginning of my “serious” return to photography in 2011 that I’d someday look back to those pictures of a particular place and time (Berkeley in the early 2010s) with a sense of nostalgia that then random street scenes didn’t necessarily offer at the time. This view of a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV parked outside the Cheese Board has now become one of those images: in 2020, the prohibition on diners in the road median is now being enforced, while the parking for the cars see here has been largely removed and replaced with additional sidewalk seating.
We’re not far from the ninth anniversary of the founding of Decaseconds, and I came upon this arresting image of Berkeley Marina, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge (never before published here) while searching for just the right anniversary shot. I’m fascinated by the way the orange emission of sodium vapor lamps lighting Berkeley (I’m sure now all swapped for white LEDs) matches the Rayleigh-scattered oranges of the winter sunset. The same wavelengths of light, coming from completely different mechanisms.
Time has transformed a random sunset shot out the window of my sabbatical apartment in Berkeley’s Normandy Village into a nostalgia-inducing pixel arrangement. Even the wood patterns in the window frames now stand out to me.
The year 2020 is here! “Cautious optimism” remains my default lens for the future, but a look back over the photography of the past decade (like this shot from the Molecular Foundry overlooking San Francisco during my sabbatical), I’m feeling a bit excited. The first major upgrade in my shooting platform is planned for 2020 (the Nikon D7000 is getting a well-deserved retirement) and I can’t imagine the improvement I’ll see when I jump an entire decade forwards in camera technology.
My favorite view of the Bay Area (and the view that first let me define the idea of the civilization gradient as an element of my photography) is layered up with loads of detail. Down in Berkeley Lab is the building where I worked on sabbatical, and across the Bay Bridge is the completed Salesforce Tower hiding in the marine layer. The differences, particularly from the last time I showed a very similar shot from the spring, are in nature: the high-altitude clouds have been replaced with empty skies and that rolling marine layer, while the green hills have shifted to a dry, highly flammable tan.
Two of my past St. Lawrence University students are working on their Ph.D.s at Berkeley and I discovered yesterday that one was giving her Graduate Research Conference (Berkeley’s version of a thesis defense, but earlier) while the other was in the audience. I’m very proud of both of them.
Understandably, this had me thinking about my experiences at Berkeley. In this picture from Grizzly Peak, the perspective folds together Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. In the foreground, look at those gnarled trees—they’re weird but they’ve grown tall. I’ll take that visual metaphor for the grad school experience. I took this picture on Christmas Day in 2016, so I guess that makes these Christmas trees, too.
The incredible architecture of Berkeley Lab, like the Molecular Foundry hanging out into the space of Strawberry Canyon, is implanted into an otherwise natural setting. In that sense, being there reminded me of a sort of real-world Jurassic Park. (The flocks of turkeys and herds of goats on the grounds were a bit less threatening than dinosaurs, thankfully. The mountain lions were a different story…)
This auditorium in Berkeley Lab’s Building 66 was the site of weekly seminars, naturally, but it’s that balcony behind the podium that often interested me the most about the room. From there, I captured some of my favorite views of Berkeley, Emeryville, and San Francisco. It was just down the hall from my office and nearly always accessible. I won’t say I took the space for granted, but I will say I enjoyed the ease of popping down the hallway for a stunning vista.