Locked Out at the Boundary

Padlocked Gate

Behind this gate, a path leads up a narrow access way to a railroad bridge.  Clearly people do get in there from time to time based on the trash – or maybe they just throw it over the fence from the sidewalk. Once I saw two people up on the bridge doing a photo shoot. They probably didn’t get there through here — a block south, there’s an at-grade crossing without any gates, and anyone could easily walk along next to the tracks as long as they keep alert for trains.

It got me thinking about how some boundaries are there to block access, and some are there purely for organizational purposes — consider the property line between two neighbors, defining responsibility for upkeep on each side — and while some of the obstacles we put up are intended to keep people out, sometimes they’re only meant to slow people down or send them down another path.

And then there are the boundaries like the tracks themselves: Structures that aren’t intended to separate regions, but nonetheless just by existing define a near and a far side. Railroads, highways, even natural features like rivers and mountains split communities, climate zones, ecosystems, and nations.

But people are also good at getting past obstacles. We build bridges and tunnels. We find places to ford streams. We find mountain passes, and blast them out to make them easier to cross.

And sometimes? We just go around.

On the Grid

Window Grid

On Friday afternoons I like to take a walk around the area when on break from work. This week I went looking for grids. I noticed very quickly that grids are everywhere in a modern city.

Window grids on glass-faced buildings. Paving and floor tiles. Wall tiles in the bathroom. Ceiling tiles in the office or retail stores. Storm drain grates. The patterns of bumps on the non-slip section of a wheelchair ramp.  If you zoom out, there’s the pattern of streets, all the electrical and data cables making their way around town…

…and of course the metaphorical grid that all of us are plugged into, that some of us long to get off of.

If it’s not a door, what is it?

This Is Not A Door

Yeah, I know, it’s not quite what the prompt was going for, but sometimes a photo fits the name of the prompt so perfectly that you just have to use it.

This photo inspired a lot of discussion back in the day when someone grabbed it from my website and submitted it to one of the Cheezburger sites without my permission. Sadly, it was dominated by people who were convinced the photo had to have been faked, and cited a terrible misunderstanding of how JPEGs work as their “proof.” Even after I showed up to point to the original, high-res source, they were arguing that the compression artifacts in the small version were somehow proof that it had been manipulated.

Yes, compression artifacts. In the small version. *facepalm*

From that, I learned that people are cynical, but don’t actually know how to detect real fakery.

Alas, the sign’s been painted over with plain brown, so this paradox is now a thing of the past.

Orange: Sky, Flames, Balloon…

The first thing I noticed when going through my photos for the orange challenge is that I take a lot of sunset pictures! I made a point to mix it up and narrowed it down to twelve shots, then checked out how they looked together and settled on six. Then I realized I’d forgotten to upload one, and couldn’t bear to leave it out, bringing the gallery up to seven.

Ragged clouds in a blue sky, lit up yellow-orange just like a Maxfield Parrish painting…a bird of paradise flower…a cosplayer at Comic-Con dressed in a jumpsuit, wielding a Portal gun…ocean waves reflecting another sunset, made even deeper orange than usual by smoke from a wildfire….visiting the big orange balloon at Orange County’s Great Park…torches lighting the gateway to Adventureland at night…and finally a sunset shot, silhouetting the Manhattan Beach Pier…

Sunset in the Corner

Sunset Silhouette

When I have time to compose a scenic photo, the rule of thirds is usually on my mind. Even if I’m not putting an object off-center, I’m trying to line up visual borders with the 3×3 grid — a horizon, or the top or side of a building, or a treeline. Sometimes symmetry works better, though…and sometimes I’m just trying to get a snapshot of someone or something.

In this case, I stopped by a store after work and arrived just as the sun was about to set, at the top of a hill, giving me a clear view to the west. When that happens, you don’t go inside, you stop and watch!

(What I really wanted was to catch a nearby farm-style windmill silhouetted against the sun, but unfortunately the best place for that was in the middle of a crosswalk across a busy street, and I wasn’t going to trust in my ability to stop, aim, take a few photos, and get back to the side.)

Spiraling Down into the Depths


A few years ago I visited Hearst Castle on a trip up the California coast to San Francisco. The “Castle” is actually several elaborate buildings up on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, surrounded by the Hearst Ranch. If I remember correctly, this stairway wasn’t actually part of the tour, but opened up next to our route, and I paused for a moment to take a look and a picture. No doubt it leads to a wine cellar.

Response to the “Depth” photo challenge.

Icy Hot?


It’s hard for me to really pick a photo that says “warmth.” Perspective on cold is different in Southern California, where winters approach but rarely drop below freezing, and the winter rains make December through April the greenest months of the year. So we don’t use fires much, and flowers and greenery make me think of the cool winter/spring weather instead of the hot, dry, brown summers. Even beaches make me think of late afternoon ocean breezes.

So I thought I’d pull out a shot for irony: An “Icy” warning sign somewhere in the San Gabriel Mountains, seen during the warmth of spring…when it most definitely isn’t icy!

Carpet of Yellow Flowers

Blanket of yellow flowers

There are a lot of jacaranda trees near where I work, lining the walkways through the business and hotel parks and lining the sidewalks along the street. There are also a lot of these trees, which look so similar that I assumed they were more jacarandas until the first spring I was here, when they bloomed bright yellow instead of light purple. From what I can tell, they’re Tipuana trees, also known as Pride of Bolivia trees, and despite the similarities, they aren’t closely related.

The flowers act the same, though, dropping in thick blankets as spring turns to summer.

This particular tree, sadly, is no longer there. It was ripped out this fall, as part of a massive landscaping project to convert one of the office buildings into a hotel.