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.
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.
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.
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.
Cityscapes function best with depth: layers of structures and pathways for the eye. The Bay Area view from Grizzly Peak was one of the earliest cityscapes I experimented with photographing. In those early times, it was Berkeley and San Francisco in the distance that most interested me; after my sabbatical at Berkeley Lab, the winding roads where I rode the bus to work and the bright shapes of the Molecular Foundry and JCAP in the foreground hold my interest far more. I enjoy the way in which subsequent experiences can retroactively shift the meaning in an image.
I produce a lot of photographs every year, but there’s still a special feeling when one of those images moves a friend or acquaintance so much that they ask for a print. This particular image, fully cleaned-up and pixel-peeped to optimizing for printing (after starting life on Instagram) is one such example. I have to admit, the sinuous curves of the marine layer snaking through the Golden Gate, and the shadows beneath the clouds providing additional contrast, are a solid image.