Urban planning

In your past did you take things apart just to see what’s inside?

LG Cosmos cellphone

This is the guts of a small cellphone, a slider version with a real keyboard.  All these electronics packed into a space about the size of a deck of cards.  Enabling near-instant communication with the world.  What will this look like in 20 years?

Is it a coincidence we build at the micro scale much as the macro scale?  Is there some most efficient form of construction that we are biased toward?  I noticed how this cellphone is laid out very similar to the industrial section of many cities.

Flying into cities and viewing the assortment of buildings and roads has always fascinated me.  Is there a plan, a pattern, a model that drives us to assemble areas in that fashion?  And do we mimic that in the tiny world of personal electronics.  I look at the image above, ignoring the obvious signs of microelectronics, and I see warehouses, roads, parking lots.

Fly into Silicon Valley and you’ll see names on the roofs of office buildings and distribution centers, proclaiming proudly the companies they house.  Surrounding them are acres of cars, surrounded by even more buildings and roadways.

Large buildings connected to smaller buildings, all in service to the people who own the cars surrounding them.  Communication paths for people and vehicles, mirrored in the infrastructure of fiber cables and wireless towers.I’m speculating in 20 years science and technology will have discovered means of creating personal electronics at an even smaller level, reducing what is seen here to the size seen in the structure of microprocessors.  I’m also speculating that will good microscopes (or the cameras of the day!) viewing these incredibly tiny creations will reveal they continue to mimic what we see around us in the urban landscape.

Idealistic planners press for more greenspace, more walking paths, less reliance on automobiles and crowded housing structures.  Yet the developers who drive urban construction continue to default with this layout.

Are we as a race so organized?  Or is there some other force prodding our thinking and planning to this end?

What would a more organic approach look like?

What you see is…what?

Speed makes all the difference

So they say seeing is believing.  But seeing what?  We want to believe the nature of reality is that it is perceiveable, that we can look out and see what is really there.  But what is really there?

The one dimension we think is unseeable is time.  The other three make themselves obvious with any three dimensional object, but time is perceived as the now, a unitary thing.  We can’t “see” the past or future, we simply see NOW.

Unless we have a camera.  Two shots above, one taken at 1/8th of a second, the other at 1/640th of a second.  Both of the same subject, within a minute of each other, both a NOW.

Which is the real fountain?  Photography enables us to “see” different versions by freezing time at a moment (or very short duration) and examine what’s happening.  I stared at this fountain for a bit and neither of these images was apparent to me – I saw something in between.  Yet here’s proof of a reality imperceptible to me.  So it must exist.

What else is going on around us that seeing doesn’t reveal?

What was is again

Much of this part of Wisconsin has been farmed in one way or another.  Only the wetlands have generally escaped being plowed and cultivated.  Doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of trees and parkland around.  As farming became more concentrated the small plots were left alone or acquired by towns.  Over time these have become places where the landscape of the Upper Midwest starts re-emerging.

As such, wander around the woods enough and you’ll spot signs the woods are a recent return to nature.  Old foundations, lingering roads, straight lines of trees or shrubbery all indicate people had a hand transforming the area in some way.  Sometimes you don’t even need an imagination – the signs are obvious.

Farm implements left in the woods – out of place and yet the right place to put equipment that once had its day on this ground but is now surrounded by returning natives.

Portraying more

Sticking to the card theme.  Here are a couple more I’ve put together.

Landscape photographers debate whether their images are intended to tell a story or simply document a scene.  I’ve seen compelling work in both genres but feel my bias is to the latter.  Maybe it comes from growing up with National Geographic magazines where photographers worked hard to simply show what’s out there to an audience that wasn’t able to travel to distant and exotic lands.

Initial my interest was to capture in my images the iconic scenes at places I was able to visit.  I think it was a comparison thing – could I make an image as good as the one that drew me to the location in the first place.  I still do that a bit but now I’m also trying to find my own perspective, a look at the scene that I find interesting.  Not as extreme as some photographers who go to great and crazy lengths to make images literally where no man has gone before, but rather a view of a scene that is not the iconic.  One that shows a sense of the place different that the postcard version (yes, ironic to turn them into cards, I know).

The Half Dome scene in Yosemite is from the valley floor; usually Half Dome is portrayed from Glacier Point high on the wall near it.  I chose this location because it shows how immense the feature is above the ground and adds a peaceful sense to the foreground compared to the wild nature of the granite wall.

The scene in the Gorge is just a typical fall color profusion.  I wanted to show the horizontal bands of color with the white trunks cutting through to reach upward.  The nice thing about fall colors is I could have stood right on this site a week before and a week after and gotten three different images.  A good example of an iconic image but not an iconic location in time or space.

Winter shape

The park nearby is around an old limestone quarry.  The pit is a lake now, available for swimming, canoes and scuba diving.  Artifacts from the days when the mining company was in full swing are still in the park to connect the past and present.  With the right light they give a nice contrast between manufactured and nature.


This is all that remains of a rock crusher situated next to the pit.  Limestone from this area was used as structural elements in buildings but most of it was crushed to become aggregate for roads and such.  Late light falling on the crusher enabled me to show the texture of the worn metal and dimensionality of its shape.  The bullet nose contrasts nicely with the chaotic tree-line on the lake’s far shore.


This small wetland bisects through the park, giving the passing waterfowl a choice between open water and hiding in the tall grass.  The shape here that looks like a mowed path is where the small stream meanders through the park.  I liked how the sun was falling on the duck nest on the right, looking across the open grass to the tree spreading various limbs over the marsh.  Again, the ordered structure of the nesting box contrasts against the fractal nature of the tree limbs as they branch smaller and smaller, ending in a fuzzy edge against the sky.