North of Berkeley, on Grizzly Peak, mid-century modern homes block most the sunset views. I imagine great sheets of glass and tastefully appointed balconies on the other side, but the street-facing side offers mostly abbreviated driveways and garage doors. When I can peak through, though, the gardens of white flowers give way to views above the trees to Richmond and the North Bay.
The American West appears in the hills beyond Malibu, California: Small communities connected by winding roads in the shadow of Castro Crest. Visiting Balmoral Farm nearby, I compared (in my mind) with Scotland’s Balmoral Castle and was struck by the degree to which America (mostly) has titanic landscapes in place of castles. What is the attraction to tall formations of stone, and does that change when they’re human-made?
(Side note: I like that this looks like a picture from the past, but I love even more than the effect is ruined by a house with solar panels on its roof. Can you find it? Click through to the Flickr page for the 57 MP original panorama.)
“All things are transient,” said my scientific collaborator, with just a hint of irony. From up in the hills at Berkeley Lab, where we study the way that light and matter interact, he meant it in three senses:
- We use “transient absorption spectroscopy” to study the changes in a material after it is exposed to light. The new states we create are transient.
- The gentle blue-hour conditions of this picture are transient; the light was completely different ten minutes later.
- Berkeley Lab sits atop the Hayward Fault; a large earthquake could topple the lab at any time.
In the face of all of that transience… Might as well go for a drive.
Do you see the lone person, sitting on the hillside, on the right side of this image? People provide scale, but also something more in this context. In addition to watching the literal gradient of the sky at sunset, this picture is part of a set of images of the “civilization gradient” from wilderness to dense city center. I quite like the added layer of a gradient from the individual in nature to the greater mass of humanity in cities. Traveling between rural New York and the crowded Bay Area has made me more aware than ever of the contrast.
Transcontinental driving in the dead of winter is all about dodging storms—but no one’s perfect. In the emptiness of Western Nevada, with only an occasional RV/farm combo to keep us company, the edge of a major storm ran into the setting sun.
“Post-apocalyptic” was the general vibe. The landscape was so large as to be without scale; I couldn’t tell you the actual height of the hills in the distance.
The orange hue and misty hills remind me of the poster for Apocalypse Now, but this is just the northern end of San Francisco Bay. In this age of upward-climbing property values and Silicon Valley rags-to-riches stories, I’m continually amazed that there’s room for industry. If these facilities had to be started today, I can’t imagine that they’d wind up in the same position.