My hope for the New Year is more opportunities to travel to places like Prague and capture views like these.
The stones of Petřín were supposedly dug up and used to make the buildings of Prague. Looking at Prague from that hill, the it’s impressive to imagine the relocation efforts over centuries.
Legend says the rocks of Petřín were extracted to make the buildings of Prague beneath it, and the result is a park covering almost the entire hill.
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…)
Houses stacked onto the hillsides of Berkeley, California have a weird tiered geometry and features like picture windows at the corners of rooms. Living there long enough, they become everyday and ordinary… But they’re a bit surprising when first encountered.
On this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, the coastal roads through the Marin Headlands were completely packed with people searching for the perfect view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate.
Another image from the flooded Bonneville Salt Flats.
So flat are the Bonneville Salt Flats that, during the winter months, the region will be covered uniformly by only about one inch of water. This layer is so thin that it can’t support large waves and surface disturbances, resulting in almost perfect reflection of the far-off hills and clouds.
Look at this big hill and tiny fence. Though not its original purpose, I like to imagine that fence as an attempt to hold back the advance of the hill.
The Bay Area features a surprisingly large number of preserved open spaces. The lone figure on the hillside, looking from the relative emptiness of the Marin Headlands across to the grid of San Francisco residences, emphasizes the point well.
Across the frozen expanse of Wyoming in December, signs of life and industry have the strange look of an off-world colony. If not for the tiny building in the foreground, the image would be totally devoid of reasonable features at human scale.
Even on this bright afternoon before a winter blizzard clamped down on central Wyoming, the cold and isolation of the state is astonishing. Each homestead seems mostly isolated, and the rolling hills give the illusion that the curvature of the Earth has been flipped inside-out. First settlers on a ringworld?
In the Bay Area, the refineries of Richmond and the homes of Albany may not share space in the mind. One set houses petrochemicals, the other houses people, but seeing their simple, repeating geometric structures on adjacent hillsides makes for a profound comparison between the two.
Even the small local farms of the North Country can seem overwhelmingly huge, and viewing them from a quadcopter’s vantage point doesn’t mitigate the effect.
Of all the plant phyla, I’ve always felt a particular affinity for the conifers. Those spiny softwood survivors have a diverse yet particular set of aromatic compounds that accompany them; I can chart a lot of happy memories to pine or cypress groves and their applied organic chemistry. Starting on the east coast, through the midwest, and finding myself in grad school on the west coast meant contact with a lot of different species. These ocean-wind-sculpted examples from Pacifica, California are particularly dramatic.