Watching the Gradient

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.

Watching the Gradient

Crest in the Bay

I imagine the Bay Area like an elementary-school art project bowl, a bit lump and uneven but mostly ringed with hills. And like a proud child filling their handmade bowl with mounds of cereal and milk, there are lumps and liquid in the middle. If I strain the simile to the limit, both the bowl and the Bay are home of delicious foodstuffs. Rushing to the crest of Berkeley’s Grizzly Peak after a rich dinner, I can see the whole bowl. (And avoid the skunk sneaking up on us in the tall grass.)

Crest in the Bay

Two Views of Western Nevada

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.

Western Nevada Pastoral

“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.

Somewhere in the American West

Between Berkeley and San Francisco

I spent this week BARTing back and forth from downtown San Francisco to “downtown” Berkeley for the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting. Bouncing between the familiar and the strange, all tinged with a general sense of familiarity, gave me a sense of dislocation, like an atom in slightly the wrong place in a crystal structure. Beyond meeting scientists and seeing old friends, I can think of one exciting new discovery this week: the new seat fabric on the BART is an enormous improvement over the horrifying cloth of yesteryear.

Between Berkeley and San Francisco

Industrial “Alpine Lodge”

This physical plant building at Berkeley Lab has the broad A-frame structure and charming attic windows of an alpine lodge. It also has an evergreen-encrusted window to Berkeley and the Port of Oakland. In spite of the appearance and the surroundings, this is a highly utilitarian setting. Quite the juxtaposition.

Industrial "Alpine Lodge"

Industrial Harbor

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.

Industrial Harbor

Rather Be Sailing

Morning sun provides very stark, even lighting across the San Francisco Bay. I know rationally that gravity forces the big body of water to be (basically) flat, but the curves of the shore and the shadows of the clouds have always made the Bay itself seem to have hills and valleys. I can also confirm that the water feels pretty far from level when actually sailing it.

Rather Be Sailing