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.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sunset highlights over Chicago

Arms of darkness rimmed with color, extending into a layered sky as we descended into Chicago.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sunset engine

Airplane engine gleaming orange as we fly West into the sunset.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lake Michigan regatta

As I was landing into Chicago O'Hare Airport one day, I saw a regatta out on Lake Michigan, just off the city's inland coast, their sails shining orange-white in the drooping beginnings of a summer evening sunset.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Deer by Iowa River

Deer peering through the woods at me with a mix of curiosity and caution, off the walking trail below the Coralville Dam, just North of Iowa City. We have a vast number of deer here in Iowa, and between habitat fragmentation and the interpenetration of urban and rural life, it's always up in the top five states for deer-car collisions---every year I live here, the odds say I've got a better than 1% chance of smashing into one. They savage gardens, too, but I still like having them these big fuzzy things around.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Scissor pattern

While my daughter was playing at a crafting table, I joined in myself and made a different sort of pattern by tracing the finger-holes of a pair of safety scissors.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Unusual study space, Iowa City

In the high heat last summer, I noticed this man, almost certainly a University of Iowa student, who had flexed his climbing skills to create a cool place in the shade suspended far out over the river beneath the pedestrian bridge. He was smilingly happy to consent to a picture.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cornfields McMansion, Iowa

Somebody has quite the incongruous McMansion out in the middle of the cornfields. The colonnade of trees and lights and the ornamental gateway on the driveway bespeak a desire for stately elegance that is unfortunately not supported in the least by the uninspired blandness of the house's architecture, the nearly featureless back yard that fades directly into cornfields, and the chain-link fence that circles half the property.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Arlington, VA skyscraper

A converging grating of windows on the side of an Arlington skyscraper.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Arlington, VA skyscrapers

Skyscrapers in Arlington, Virginia, one of the places where Washington DC puts its tall buildings, reflected in the slightly warped glass face of another skyscraper.