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.
Though I’m pretty sure (from the pipes) that this is a solar water heater, I still felt the appropriate “Californian” vibes when my early-morning hillside exploration revealed some sun-harvesting equipment.
Against the backdrop of mostly native flora on the hillside, the palms and vines in the foreground are notable for being (1) particularly emblematic of California, in spite of being (2) transplants from elsewhere.
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.
Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry hangs in the air like a spaceship coming in for a landing in the outskirts of the Bay Area. When the clouds hang low on a spring morning, the effect is even more pronounced.
Though much of the country is enjoying crispy fall weather, the mountains and hills of the northeast have already been carpeted with the first snowfalls, and much of the bright foliage has already fallen to the forest floor.
I photographed the small clearings around homes in the hills of Park City, Utah, but that wasn’t the case for every structure. In this case, only the metal roof and chimney are visible above the pines. That’s a cozy contrast to the more populous valley in the background.
The ancient lake bed that became the Bonneville Salt Flats refloods with water each winter—but just a few inches. As a result, raising these tracks even slightly above the bed is all that’s needed to protect them.
At the edge of the Bonneville Salt Flats, rolling hills and dramatic cloud banks made for an interesting afternoon along the Interstate. Off in the distance, there might be rain rolling in—though I don’t remember any rain falling on this particular day.
The Bonneville Salt Flats end with the rise of hillsides, but this one geological formation stands far out beyond them. I wonder what processes led to its lonely position and tabletop structure?
The (distorted) ring of the Bay Area, with “impassable” hills along the edge and “empty” water in the middle, reminds me of the ring-shaped space stations of science fiction. The strangeness of the Bay only adds to the perception of visiting an alien planet.
Even from high above, the evidence of winter’s arrival show in the locked-down and cracked-apart landscape of the northeastern United States.
California summer: Blue skies (no clouds), dry grass.
California winter: Complicated skies (crazy clouds), lush grass.
Looking across the verdant hills of Berkeley Lab to San Francisco, it’s not hard to see why I prefer the winter months in California.
Back in New York, my memories of sabbatical in California have already taken on the golden nostalgia hues of the past. If not for the photographic evidence to the contrary, I might wonder if I’d dreamed the whole thing.