Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rebar, Iowa City

Piles of rebar, waiting to be used at a construction site in Iowa City.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sunset at Roseacre Farm, Maine

The sun going down over Roseacre Farm through an elegant and complex veil of clouds on my cousin's wedding day last summer.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Roseacre Farm, Maine

A lovely old barn, carefully refurbished by my cousin and her husband into an ideal space for their wedding.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Daisychain coop, Belfast, Maine

Chickens enjoying the mobile coop my sister-in-law has provided for them at Daisychain Farm.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Accumulating pumpkin piles, Iowa Children's Museum

As the post-Halloween Jack Splat event at the Iowa Children's Museum goes on, great piles of broken and rotting gourds accumulate, shoved together with garbage-bag mops by the pumpkin pit crew. It's a joyful, odorous mess, and the crowd cheers especially loudly when an especially liquidy one goes splat.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Plummeting Pumpkin Pit Crew, Iowa Children's Museum

A few days after Halloween each year, the Iowa Children's Museum hosts a wonderful event called "Jack Splat," in which children bring their rotting nasty pumpkins in and the staff hurls them off a balcony. Bringing up the fruits in ones, twos, and threes, the costumed MCs of the event read off each child's name, which method of execution they have requested ("straight down", "backflip" or "up in the air"), comment on the state of the pumpkin, and SPLAT!  Down below, a crowd of children and adults of all ages cheers, and the pumpkin pit crew makes sure they stand behind the (semi-effective) splatter shields and shove the pumpkin remains off of the landing site into rough piles.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ceiling hats, Iowa Children's Museum

I don't know why these collections of hats lurk behind plexiglass on the second floor ceiling of the Iowa Children's Museum, but I suspect it just comes down to "we had a bunch of hats" and "this looks pretty neat."  I like it too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ghostly Painter

Another from my photo group's night shoot. We were shooting out at the old farm of one of the members, and somebody had the idea of "painting" the side of one of the old barns with a flashlight. These shots are 6-second exposures.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cage of lights

The photo club that I attend had a night shoot last fall, and one of the members brought a fun toy to play with: two powerful white LED lights on the end of a pole, which he slowly spun around to trace out these spherical cages of light. Both of these shots are 13-second exposures on a tripod.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Deep cloud sunset, Johnson County, Iowa

A perfectly solid grey evening abruptly cleared into deep purple and orange layers of cloud.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Iowa City Public Library

Another view of the decorative gratings above the windows on the Iowa city Public Library.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Iowa City Public Library

Decorative gratings on the outside of the Iowa City Public Library.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cicada shells on the lilac, Iowa City


Last summer, my daughter and I discovered quite a number of these amazing "monsters" hanging underneath the leaves of the lilac bush in our front yard. They turn out to be the discarded exoskeletons of cicada larva: these insects live underground near the roots of trees and bushes, drinking their sap as they grow, before crawling up and shedding their skin to become the source of the extremely loud buzzing noises of late summer.  Why they chose only the lilac and not any of the other trees, not even the bush that shares canopy space with it, I have no idea and gardening sites don't seem to be helping me either.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mantis Bench, Iowa City

Every year, all the benches in downtown Iowa City get repainted by local artists, each guided by their own peculiar desires and designs. It produces some pretty awesome odd things, like this one here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Off-season water park, Chicago

This water park lies still fallow in the spring, waiting for another month or so until Memorial Day brings the hordes of summer to embrace its curving play spaces.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Copart auto auction lot, Elgin IL

Another mark of Chicago's titanic commerce and its stretch out into the empty spaces of the farmlands at its borders: here we are looking down onto a fraction of a gigantic auction lot for cars. I don't know why they have decided to part them diagonally, but I particularly like the pattern that is making here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chicago Trailer Pool Corporation, Elgin IL

Chicago began life and prospered as a transportation hub, and so it still remains today. All around the edges of the city, you find marks of this sooty core of the city economy, like the tight-packed truck trailers of this company's lot.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pentagonal ballfields, Elgin, IL

These blobby clusters of baseball fields on the edge of Chicagoland make me think of moon jellies, floating around and pulsating with their cluster of circular gonads at the center.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Horse farm airplane, Rutland Township, IL

This one was really hard to track down, and I still can't actually explain what we are seeing. Looking down on my way in toward Chicago, I noticed this curious half of a jet airplane next to a complex that I took for a factory, guessing that it something related to aerospace must be manufactured here. Looking at it more carefully later, I realized that the buildings are clearly not factories but barns, and the loops and pens made me guess that this a farm. With some careful Google sleuthing based on other nearby photos and estimates of flight path and air speed, I was able to track it down and determine that it is, in fact, a stable. Nothing that I have found online, however, appears to explain the presence of the airplane.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Leaning Tower of Niles, IL

Niles, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago, is apparently a sister city of Pisa, Italy, and has a half-scale model of the leaning tower of Pisa carefully set to the same angle but probably on much firmer ground. Curiously, however, the order of events is not as one might guess: the Leaning Tower of Niles was constructed nearly sixty years before the two cities began their relationship and likely stimulated that connection rather than the other way around.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Looping cul-de-sacs, Chicago

Another lovely pattern of suburban sigils carved onto the earth.  Sometimes, when I look down at neighborhood patterns like this, I imaging what it would look like without the houses, just the symbolic traceries of the roads themselves and nothing more. Below is an adjustment of the image to see if I can catch a little of that vision.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cul-de-splits, Chicago

This rather unusual cul-de-sac design splits the common center "dot" of grass and/or trees with a couple of parking spaces, elongating the loops into ovals with sort of a colon in the middle.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thunderhead near Chicago

Thunderhead at a slightly greater distance, showing its tipping tower shape rising through reddish-white tones from shadow below to the top swept ahead by faster winds at higher altitudes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dodging around thunderheads, Chicago area

Another shot revealing the height and texture of a thunder cloud, illuminated from the side by the setting sun.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dodging around thunderheads, Chicago area

A shot from the end of a rather bumpy flight, dodging around thunderheads to try to make our way in to landing at Chicago O'Hare airport. In a moment like this, the size and three-dimensionality of thunder clouds really comes home to me.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Upstate New York forest

I have always loved the texture of pine forests from above: it reminds me of a thick shag carpet.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Field and forest, Syracuse NY

Farmland patterns of a very different ecosystem, in upstate New York near Syracuse where every inch of clearing has been carved out of dense forests of mostly evergreens.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rectangles and waterways, Iowa

One of the things that I love about the Iowa landscape is the way the sharp rectilinear lines of fields and roads overlay with the fractal organic curves of its watershed: in the rich soil of the state, even the smallest folds in the land make unfarmable seams of wetland that snake rich and green through the midst of brown and yellow fields awaiting the arrival of their corn and soy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cornfields crossing, Iowa


Two roads crossing in the great agricultural grid of the Iowa cornfields, the crossing unusually supplemented by a diamond of uncultivated land, likely wetland.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fort Independence, Boston Harbor

Fort Independence was also once on its own island, long before Boston extended tentacles out into the harbor to anchor it solidly to the mainland. In one form or another, this site has been fortified for nearly 400 years, practically since the founding of Boston, though for the last fifty years it has been a historical park rather than an active military site. I was surprised to learn that one of its later duties was as a naval degaussing station: apparently, ever since World War II, degaussing has been an important part of defending ships against magnetic mines and other systems that work based on magnetic signature. Learning about this, it makes sense---these are big magnetizable steel objects that move themselves constantly through magnetic fields---but to me it's also another wonderful reminder of how apparently abstract physics reaches out and touches our lives through unexpected windows.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Head Island, Boston, MA

Head Island was once a tiny dot on its own in Boston Harbor, but now you'd never even know it was once an island, and not just an architectural apex to the pleasant walking causeway that had been constructed to connect it to land on both side.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Old piling grid near Boston

All that is left of some old marine structure (a pier perhaps?) is the ragged grid of its pilings, slowly decaying into the mud flats off the South side of Boston.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Wrapped for winter, Quincy, MA

In northern winters, boats brought on shore for safety are often simply shrink-wrapped in plastic for the season. I find this look somehow hilarious, and have loved to imagine what the machines and process for wrapping such large objects might look like.  Alas, it appears that the reality is much more prosaic and intensive in human labor.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Marina Bay, Quincy, MA

A private marina stands with nearly all its dense grid empty in the middle of winter, watched over by the curving crescents of the luxury condominiums it serves.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Logan shore, Boston

Sharp lines bending into a fractal curve and underwater curls on the shore of Logan Airport.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Boston Logan Airport


Boston's Logan Airport from above, showing something that I had never noticed before: the pavement where the planes park is apparently different than the taxiways where they drive. I don't know why this is, but I like the bulging geometric form it produces.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor

Another feature of Boston's extreme landscaping program, Spectacle Island doesn't look like a pair of spectacles and more, thanks to a massive program of trash dumping that went on there for decades, expanding the land in just about the most toxic way that you might care to think of. It's been sealed and surfaced over now, however, and turned into a park with lots of picnic tables. I feel very ambiguous about this island, but always get a thrill from seeing it and thinking about its history. It also plays a major role in one of my favorite books of all time, "Zodiac" by Neal Stephenson, an eco-genetic-engineering thriller that is one of his first novels and still my favorite of all his works.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Boston Back Bay

When you look at the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, it's obvious that its history is much different than most of the rest of the city. Back Bay is nearly uniform brownstones buildings in a neat grid centered on the wide tree-filled boulevard of Commonwealth Ave. All of Back Bay was built in the late 1800s as the city turned its ecological disaster of sewage-filled tidal flats into new land. Wrapping around it are parks, Boston Common and the Public Garden below, then wrapping up along the Olmstead-designed "Emerald Necklace" of the Esplanade by the river on the right and the Fenway going from the river off to the upper left past the ball park and on out of the picture toward Jamaica Plain and the Arboretum.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tobin Bridge, Boston, MA

The Tobin Bridge is the tallest, I believe, and most elegant bridge in Boston, sweeping Route 1 high over Chelsea and down into the complexity of the Marble Shoot interchange.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Zakim Bridge, Boston

The approach from the North into the center of Boston, looking over the strung towers of the Zakim Bridge and swirls of the accompanying complex interchange, that when I was a kid we always called "the marbleshoot." Before the Big Dig made these changes and improved the traffic situation, the IMAX theater at the Science Museum next door opened with Leonard Nimoy's voice and a zooming rush down this highway to a screeching halt into the back of a traffic jam.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Alewife and Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA

Sometimes I love an image not so much for its visual content as for the new perspective on a familiar piece of my life. This is such an image: I find the composition rather bland, but down there is the center of my professional life: the big road is Alewife Brook Parkway, going from Alewife Station at the bottom, and the three rectilinear slabs of the public housing projects, up over the railroad tracks to Fresh Pond, and over to the right below Alewife is BBN, where I've worked for nearly a decade now. I love identifying things I know from the air, in a fabulous treasure hunt: on one of my most favorite flights from Chicago to Boston, the air was clear and positioning was perfect from the middle of upstate New York onward and I was able to clearly and correctly identify from memory every significant city and highway from Utica to Albany and onward all the way to Boston. Sometimes the images are beautiful too, though this one I would say is merely workmanlike.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Trailer park patterns, Cedar Rapids

Another trailer park, this one near the airport in Iowa, forming a dense and not-quite-uniform pattern that feels to me almost like an electron microscope image of some complex surface.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Endless trailer parks near Chicago

Unlike most suburbs, even modern trailer parks are generally quite unrelenting in their rigid patterns of sameness.