Colorful Night

Super-edited photo of the night sky

In English, we use the phrase, “I see,” for a wide variety of meanings. We say it not only to indicate vision, but for perspective, perception, and possibility.

Seeing is pretty complicated. Our eyes see a wide dynamic range in light and color.

When we walk outside at night, we don’t see everything, but we can distinguish color, texture, motion, and form.

Night photography can be tricky. I remember using my SLR to take long exposure shots on film when I was 18, with lovely if slightly weird results. Digital photography has produced even weirder results because of the relationship between megapixels and the size of the sensor. The photos are full of what we call noise.

But with a little twist of editing fun, it is surprising how much of the correct information is there.

This photo for example, is very blurry. It was nearly black until I used a photo-editing program to draw out the colors. It isn’t very clear, and instead of a deep bluish grey, it becomes speckled with multiple colors, like a print-maker’s color separation, it looks somewhat like what I saw from far away, but up close it is a rich fabric of colors.

Someone recently invented a camera that somehow takes a photo with a lot of different focal points all at once, so that you can change what was in focus after the fact. To me that seems a lot like the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.”


The view from the top

Being in a new place has its advantages.  You can go see something you’ve never seen before.  You can experience the wind on your skin from a new perspective.

One of the reasons I like having Sydney around, is that she is even excited about sniffing the same spots, day after day.  I love walking in the park with her and feeling the wind from the Marina in my hair.

The last couple days, we’ve been doing some exploring and some re-visiting of spots we like.  Some places never lose their novelty.  Like the End-of-the-Runway In-n-Out by LAX.  It’s a spot that is pretty awful in some ways.  I wouldn’t want to live there, but it is fun to go and visit.  Seeing the planes take off and land is pretty interesting.  They all make different noises.  Yesterday we went there after our mundane trip to Trader Joe’s, and there was a BIG plane landing, right over our heads.

The day before yesterday, we went exploring in the Santa Monica Mountains, and found a beautiful vista.  It was on a path that was probably not official, since it went straight up– dangerously steep.  It wasn’t the absolute tallest thing around, but it was pretty tall!  There was all kinds of beautiful smelling brush, probably rosemary and sage, growing wild.  H commented that he’d like to build a house there.

Some things are exciting because they are novel, some things because they are beautiful.  And novelty isn’t always different.  Sometimes novelty is just a dynamic.  Things that move too fast can be fun, but it is hard to maintain an enthusiasm for them because it is the movement rather than the structure that makes them interesting.



Flower from a mini Palm tree

California is really an amazing place.  There is such a wide variety of plants, that I’m still finding new ones, or at least seeing them in a different season, they look different.

There’s the trees that are green in summer, but that in the late winter sprout enormous red buds that stand out from the end of ham-fisted branches.  There’s the ones that look like bottle brushes in bloom, and have crazy baubles hanging when the red stamens that make up the brush fall out.  There’s the trees that have smooth fluffy bark.  There’s the wide variety of palms, succulents and yucca.

The other day on my walk with Sydney, these primeval pine-cone blooms or sprouts struck me.  They remind me of a bird about to uncoil its wings.

Seeing them, I imagine some remarkable bracelets that are stacked beads like this, giant oddly shaped peyote stitch, or just stacked and couched beads sewn down to a cloth.  I can imagine a crazy folded skirt, with pleats sewn up like this to add texture.  I can also see these used as a roller in ink, to make mono prints.

Their texture is impressive.  And the shock between the dark green leaves and the light colored stamens (or sprouts?) is quite striking as well.  It says, “Come land on me, butterflies and bees, I’m full of nectar.”

It wasn’t just one of these but about 10 planted on the corner of a corner lot.  I’d seen them without the blooms, and wasn’t impressed, but with these accents in late spring, I can understand why the owner planted them.



Light on sidewalk cast by reflection on newspaper stand

Years ago I noticed something that I dubbed “Urban Auroras.”

They are the shadows or reflections of reflective objects that cast a glow, curvy and distorted like the waves of a real aurora, by way of, and across the urban landscape.

This photo is of a small, yet vibrant example.

It was cast by a newspaper stand and in person was purple and green and pink.


If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.

In one of my classes at SAIC, we talked about how Fear and Desire play into the design process, and about how we encounter they shape our experiences, particularly in the Urban Built Environment.  The culminating project for that class was to create an object or process that would shape the interactions of people in the city using the tension between what we Desire and what we Fear.

My project was a meditation on how alienated and uncomfortable it can feel to walk around in a city, like Chicago, which doesn’t have prolific park benches because they can allow homeless people or other transients to occupy space.  The side effect is that neither can people who are walking through the city sit down and enjoy the wonders of urban living.

It was a modular garment that could serve as a jacket, an umbrella, or a geodesic-dome tent depending on how many people or pieces you had with you.  It required no carrying case, since it was itself a wearable object, but would allow the wearer to create a sacred nest in the heart of the city by encouraging interaction with other people, and allowing the wearer to build a refuge using his clothing.

In Europe, there are more benches, and there are pedestrian pathways where people picnic.  One of the projects that I considered while living in Spain was to photograph and interview people sitting on different park benches.  In the end I was both too busy and too shy, but maybe one day I’ll go back and do it.  Though at this point someone made a movie with a similar theme, so maybe it isn’t such an original idea anymore.  But putting together a book of photos and stories might have some strengths of its own that wouldn’t be the same as the cinematic version.

Meandering along, today during my morning perusal of various internet founts, I discovered a modern convenience which pushes and pulls along that interface between fear and desire.  It is a map-app called Serendipitor.  In it you ask for directions to someplace and at each turn it gives you a task to do which makes your walk more interesting by forcing you to interact with people or go off your usual beaten path to see a different street going the long way.

All of this talk about fear and desire has sprung forth from a realization I had the other day while talking about what I want and running smack into a barrier: at the moment I have a lot of real fears and not many tangible desires.  It makes decision-making very difficult.

It’s time to give what I want some more tangible form, so today I’m meditating on some concrete things to wish for.