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.
Prague’s Charles Bridge is centuries-old, covered in statues, and seemly perpetually mobbed. We visited during the off-season (November) and never saw the bridge without plenty of company. Perhaps the best part of the visit, though, was staying adjacent to the bridge in the Smetana Hotel, looking out over the Vltava (and crossing the bridge on many of our adventures around the city.)
From up close, the hotel is easier to find, but small triangle park across the street from the hotel is still not visible from this angle, making the the geometry of the ground floor and the street outside escheresque.
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.
This is the picture of Prague from every postcard and stamp, and it just happened to be across the street from our hotel: the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River, with Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral rising above. The dramatic clouds made an effective backdrop for the horde of gulls winging above it all.
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.