Pacific Ocean

Ambivalence

The morning after the storms passed in late November, I took my camera to the hills near my Inner Sunset home to capture views to the north, east, and west. I was feeling grateful, for many reasons. First, the storm’s tail-end spawned fantastic cloudscapes; this photo-ready drama, common elsewhere, is relatively rare in San Francisco. Second, the storm stirred hope for a good rainy season, which we still need after years of drought. Third, the clear sharp air was the first after nearly two weeks of smoke — breath-stealing, eye-stinging, school-closing smoke — that had drifted to the Bay Area from the tragic Camp Fire hundreds of miles to the north and east.

As my camera shoot progressed, this last bit of gratitude slowly opened itself to question. Yes, the skies dazzled, and my lungs sucked in cool fresh air, and I was grateful, even exhilarated, that the smoke was vanquished. But to our north and east, the dead were still being sought and counted, and beneath these same brilliant skies the people of Paradise were slowly returning to … nothing.

So I felt a mix of sorrow and gratitude. I can’t call it survivor guilt, because I was not in the midst of the fire, and what we survived here was by comparison a mere nuisance. I don’t know how to label it, and grammar-themed websites aren’t coming up with answers. “Cognitive dissonance” feels too removed. “Ambivalence” may fit the bill, but in some ways even it seems too weak a term. All I know for certain is that, for me, the images from that morning will always carry a weight beyond their blue skies, sun-struck buildings, and billowy clouds.

 

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Marin Headlands’ Hill 88: Views

Hill 88, which includes the column I pictured in my “Kilroy Was Here” image on August 11, was the radar control station for Nike missiles once stationed throughout the Headlands. To provide a sense of location, I share today some views of, and from, Hill 88.

My first panoramic image, of morning light, was captured from the back balcony of the 400 Parnassus building on the campus of UCSF. (It’s freely accessible to the public, and an “open secret” for photographers seeking a 180 degree viewpoint that includes Golden Gate Park and a view to downtown.) The telephoto image looks out over the nearby park to the Headlands beyond. Follow the ridgeline (and pull out your magnifying glass) to find the illuminated Hill 88 buildings about a quarter of the way in from the left. They’re in a similar spot in the second picture, taken from Lands End on an overcast day when a brunch trip to Louis’ coincided with the aircraft carrier Nimitz sailing into the City. (The long row of white sticks on the carrier deck? The crew of the Nimitz.)

Hill 88 itself offers a sweeping outlook, if often sea-fogged and breezy. Even the contemplative crow likes its view south toward San Francisco.

Pictures will expand when you click on them. I’ll be continuing with images of the area’s vacated bunkers, batteries, and installations, over the next couple of weeks.

 

Headlands from SF

Marin Headlands in background, Golden Gate Park in foreground, in morning light. Seen from Parnassus Hill.

Aircraft carrier Nimitz sailing into Golden Gate Strait in 2012.

Sailing into Golden Gate Strait in 2012.

Looking toward San Francisco from Hill 88.

Looking toward San Francisco from Hill 88.

San Francisco and points south, from Hill 88.

San Francisco and points south, from Hill 88.