“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.
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.)
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.
My past couple of posts have been images of San Francisco, foregrounded by nature and suburbs—the style I like to call a “civilization gradient”. This image similarly presents downtown Oakland, California, past the hilltop homes and Cal fields of Strawberry Canyon and through the invasive alien leaves of Berkeley Lab’s eucalyptus trees. The HDR processing techniques that Brendan and I use are perfect for settings like this, with an array of light intensities across a broad landscape.
If this week on Decaseconds has had a theme, it has been structures suspended over water at sunset. It has also been a week of long-exposure shots that live up to the site’s title. Hoards of gulls riding on the waves are reduced to weird ghost-blurs in the foreground of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Yerba Buena, and the Port of Oakland.
Beyond Sather Tower’s bars and columns is Telegraph Ave. and the city of Oakland. I never forget that view, but I do somehow always forget the red tiles at the top of the campanile. I guess my brain abstracts away the details, even when they’re a major part of the scene.
The view from atop Berkeley’s Campanile is a nostalgic one, with San Francisco and Oakland popping up in the distance above the sprawl. Walking along those broad, slightly cracked, and sun-baked pathways of Berkeley’s campus never quite felt natural, though. Can a place magnified beyond human scale feel that way?