My blogging’s been quite dry recently. So here’s something more fun. If you like landscape photography, you’ll love this video (expand to fullscreen if you can):
I love the energy of big cities. Sometimes there’s so much it spills over into the early hours of the morning. On a trip to Chicago last weekend we saw Hopper‘s evocative depiction of that straggling energy – when you just don’t want to follow everyone else home to call it a night – in his famous Nighthawks.
Sometimes the 4am conversation at Cafe Don Quixote was reminiscent of the Spanish Knight; other times it was as lonely as Hopper’s nocturnal scene. But there was always people-watching those other stragglers waiting at the bus stop opposite the cafe, and the warm tea always provided just enough energy to survive the night bus home.
[Nighthawks photo by Mollie E Tubbs]
I found the video below on the walkit.com blog. If you’ve ever used Google Maps to get your directions from one city to another, walkit.com can do the same for you if want to walk in any of 12 British cities (more coming soon). It even tells you how many calories you will burn and how much CO2 you will save by not driving. You can choose between direct or less busy routes – the latter option will probably be useful for cyclists too as it accounts for traffic levels. Those options are nice, but what walkers (and cyclists) in hilly cities like Bristol and Sheffield could really do with is a ‘less steep’ option!
So, what’s this video I found? It’s the latest film from Urban Earth, a project to (re)present human habitats by walking across some of Earth’s biggest urban areas. One of the main aims of UrbanEarth is to show what the world’s cities are really like for the people who live there – something that mainstream media can give a distorted or incomplete image of. Each UrbanEarth film is composed of thousands of photographs, one for every 7 steps (5 metres) of a person’s walk through a city. It’s kind of like a walker’s version of Google’s StreeView. They’ve done London, Mumbai, and now their latest film, which you can watch below, is my home town of Bristol, UK. If you know the area, see if you can track the route the walker takes (click the ‘fullscreen’ option if the window is too small).
I have to admit that I had no idea where the route started, but then by the time they got to Totterdown I knew where I was – those colourful houses on the steep hills overlooking the centre of the city gave it away. From there on I knew where I was going. If you’re still lost (or don’t know the area), here’s a map of the route.
Or, you can see the route traced on a ‘map of deprivation’. This map illustrates one of the vagaries of the shape of Bristol’s urban growth. Note the (inverted) crescent shape of the city – the southwest quarter of the city is ‘missing’. This is attributed to the Avon Gorge which cut off the growth of Bristol to the southwest. Not until Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened in 1864 could you quickly and easily access the southwest (rather than trekking down into Cumberland Basin and up the other side. You can also see the effect of the gorge from aerial photography – note how areas around Abbots Leigh and Leigh Woods appear much greener and less urban even though they are only about a mile from the centre of the city. In contrast, look at how the urban area expands relatively contiguously to the east for five or six miles into South Gloucestershire (Oldland, Warmley, etc). These areas aren’t officially ‘Bristol’ but they’re contiguous and have the same postal and dialing codes.
Anyway, that’s enough about the geography of Bristol. If you’re going to be walking around the city in the future, walkit.com may help plan your route (remember it doesn’t account for hills – but luckily it does know where the gorge is), and check the UrbanEarth blog for new films of other cities coming soon (maybe Bath would like to be next).
I like climbing tall things in cities and then looking down to watch the human ants going about their business. Maybe my interest in experimenting with spatial agent-based models is related to this fascination.
The BBC have taken these ideas, of looking down from on high and exploring the dynamic interplay of human activity across space, and produced some incredible movies for a new show. Checkout some of the footage below – looks awesome.
If you’re in the UK, the new series Britain From Above starts at 9pm on Sunday 10th August, BBC One.
Amazingly it’s just over a year since I arrived in Michigan and started my postdoc at MSU. Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? Well, the first few months didn’t fly so fast… but it’s been fairly well shooting by recently. That’s not to say I don’t miss home everynowandthen. Especially when I see videos like this about my hometown:
But I do remember Bristol – it’s not that sunny ALL the time. 😉
Last week I took a brief snowboarding trip to Utah. After two days on the fantastic Snowbird slopes we explored the area around Salt Lake City a little. One place we visited was Garr Ranch on Antelope Island, home of the oldest Anglo house still on its original foundation in Utah. Perched in the middle of the Great Salt Lake, it was quite a windswept location and impressive that it’s also the longest Anglo inhabited site in the state. A couple of photos from the trip now on the photos page.