While my normal images capturing the “civilization gradient” tend to be more focused on space (traversing from nature to dense urban areas), I sort of like the way this image reminds me of a traversal through time, from the Stone Age to the Information Age. As William Gibson says, “The future has already arrived—it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
Or perhaps it really just reminds me of the vantage point from Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog“.
Far beyond the glowing web of Bay Area streets, the verdant Berkeley Hills are curving and waving and tossing in the wind.
This image is another in a series of my re-processings of less-than-new RAW files with Photoshop’s “Super Resolution” machine learning algorithm. As in those other cases, the added impression of detail is particularly astonishing when viewed at full size after clicking through to the original image on Flickr.
Going back over some of my favorite images with “Super Resolution,” there’s no way I was going to skip a second shot at my image that first captured the “civilization gradient” from nature through suburbs to dense urbanity.
Extracting additional information from an image by “enhancing” it has long been a ridiculous trope of police procedurals; it’s with great amusement that I noticed that Photoshop’s new “Super Resolution” capability (which uses machine learning to quadruple the resolution of an image) is under an option called “Enhance”. The first subject for enhancement was this picture I took of Berkeley and San Francisco in 2011. It’s worth the click-through for the full resolution version.
(Adding to the super-resolution theme, this image also contains, in the lower-center, the Molecular Foundry and its associated center for electron microscopy.)
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.
I took this picture two years ago, during a wonderful springtime in Berkeley when a rainy winter had made the hills lush and green. The view is enormous, overwhelming: Oakland, San Francisco, Emeryville, and Berkeley all packed into one. I like the contrast of the tiny path on the green hilltop on the left side of the image providing a quiet contrast.
At the right time of day and with the right hints of weather, San Francisco looks extra futuristic. Home to the tech industry, I think the city usually merits the descriptor.
From the graffitied logs of Berkeley’s Grizzly Peak, the Bay Bridge and San Francisco make for an incredible view—when they’re visible. The dramatic high clouds of winter are replaced by an all-shrouding marine layer in the summer that often turns the peak into a cloud bank. On the lucky nights when the marine layer is delayed, the bridge and city lights have a moment to shine before the blanket falls.
I never went to summer camp as a child, but I have to imagine that the experience was a bit like sabbatical in the Bay Area: Warm days spent on rewarding activities in a beautiful place.
My time on sabbatical in Berkeley, California ends tomorrow. This has been an incredible experience (scientifically, photographically, and personally); looking out from Grizzly Peak’s incredible view, I feel like everything has aligned properly. Just as was the case last time I left, this grand view of the Bay Area is one I want to remember.
Until next time, California!
Above the city are layers on layers of different air, varying in composition, temperature, and thus density. At sunset, that makes for lots of scattering and color.
Christmas, back in the Bay Area! Up on Berkeley’s Grizzly Peak, alongside the tuners and drinkers and stoners, the clouds rolled over the hills and the whole bowl of the Bay lit up. This is a weird and special place.
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.
Grizzly Peak, in the hills above Berkeley, is a great spot to get photos of San Francisco–if the weather cooperates. Though it was a bit foggy on this particular day, it afforded a great chance to see some interesting shadows. San Francisco itself is just visible beneath the sun.
This is also a great instance of just how useful HDR can be, as a technique; sunset images without tone mapping typically require the foreground to be completely silhouetted.