I know, I know… there’s been a bit of a hiatus since I last posted, but I do have a life you know. Some of that life involved (finally) getting out of the Bay Area and taking some pictures the other weekend. More than one of those images featured my current obsession – contrails – so I thought I should pick one as my featured image this month.
So ..why am I obsessed by contrails? First, even as someone who studied science, there is still something counter-intuitive, even absurd, about the fact that several hundred people can ride through the air inside a large metal can. This sense of visceral disbelief contradicted by my knowledge of the basic physics has always made planes an object of fascination for me. (Mind you, this is coming from someone who can’t understand why every cyclist in the world doesn’t just topple over!).
From inside the plane, looking down on the landscape, I know there are people on the ground, even though I can’t see them. Perhaps they don’t speak my language, or may be shocked by my culture or values – but I’m right there over their heads, invisible to them – just seconds away if the plane were to suddenly drop from the sky – but yet separated by an infinite chasm of distance and impossibilities.
From the ground we rarely notice those high flying crowds of people from many lands, or even spare a thought that someone may be up there, right now, looking down on us. It’s only when conditions are just right, and the stratospheric air is moist but still sub-zero, that jet exhaust provides the nuclei for ice crystals to form and the plane leaves a white trail in the sky … that long thin cloud of frost we call a contrail.
When I see those contrails I am always reminded of the divide between “them up there”, and “us down here”, which - depending an where you’re looking from – may juxtapose anything from pristine nature to urban squallor with that symbol of technology and affluence – quite possibly both at the same time (from different vantage points).
This image was taken in the middle of nowhere – a small Northern California town many hours from the nearest airport. This unmistakeable evidence of technology, sophistication and wealth is even there – ironically mirrored in the boarded up house that sits abandoned in a field.
Comments welcome as always.