A couple of years ago, while I was collaborating a lot with Christopher, I was also looking at a lot of Google Satellite images. I would start by visiting a place I had never been, or wished to go some day, and follow any rivers or interesting roads, colors, textures, capturing screenshots like a tourist snapping photos.
It became sweet sadness for me to realize that most of these locations I would only ever visit this way, and never have the chance to travel there myself to feel and experience what these places were really like; to smell the atmosphere, to feel the climate on my skin.
It reminds me of the first time I stepped foot inside a library and realized that I could never read all of those books in one lifetime– that life is limited.
Eventually, I wound up with hundreds of screenshots of different, fascinating satellite locations. I spent a whole day printing them out in the Cooper Union “architecture” computer lab before graduating, because I wasn’t sure when I would have another opportunity to use up so much ink on what was amounting to a new project.
I never recorded the locations of these fabulous images until one day, when I found a red river. It was a normal river starting out, somewhere in China, I do believe. I still have the image somewhere in one of my many external hard drives. Anyhoo, I followed this thing from top to bottom, where it divided the continent with its blood red beauty.
The way that Google Satellite works is that it collects aerial photographs from many sources and times, stitching together what it feels are the most detailed or high quality images. This is how you get fabulous glitches:
Throughout my journey down river, images cut in of a river that was not yet red, or perhaps done being red… images of a river that was natural in color. This made me think that whatever turned the river red must have been temporary, a glitch of nature. I saved the images and went to bed, not thinking to record the latitude and longitude of that location.
The next day, I spent hours lost in China’s deserts, searching for that mysterious river. I never found it. But even today, years later, I continue to search while visiting and recording other locations on the planet, and updating my blog as often as I have time to.
I spend an awful lot of time hovering over cities, forests, and prairies, searching for the most interesting compositions to capture. Cropping has tended to be my weakness in photography, as I would much rather just use the eye of the machine as my guide instead of directing images in post-production… but cropping these images in Google Satellite has given me a different appreciation for the art. I don’t take credit for the images themselves as they are a collaboration between nature and Google and its subsidiaries. But I’ll take my share of credit for finding these places and cropping the heck out of them to produce images that hopefully evoke some feeling of wonder or pique someone’s interest.
The popularity of my blog has died down a bit since I stopped updating daily. But I still love hearing that people will look up every location, or that they think my blog is the best there is. I hope to continue to share the experience of awe with the rest of the world through this.