Virtual Backgrounds

Published September 7, 2021 most pictures taken with an iPhone 11.

During the pandemic, I’ve been going on mini-excursions to find beautiful and inspiring images. Staying inside and working from home for the last 18 months, there aren’t the big pictures and vacations to look forward to. Instead, I look for the little things in the world, take a quick snap, and post it as a virtual background for the day.

I’m not expert at photography or art but I’m getting good at inspiring myself. As Rachel Carson said,

The pleasures, the values of contact with the natural world, are not reserved for the scientists. They are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of a lonely mountain top — or the sea — or the stillness of a forest; or who will stop to think about so small a thing as the mystery of a growing seed.

Rachel Carson, from Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson from Brain Pickings

Each day when I go for a run or a bike ride, I let myself be inspired by something and try to take a picture of it. I remember a simple principle of photography, that it’s all about how you use the light to see the image. I’m running around with my iPhone XS most of the time, by no means that best camera but something that’s certainly good enough.

I’ve learned that you almost never get to take the perfect picture. I don’t have enough time to wait for the sun to move in a certain direction. I can’t tell dawn to wait a few minutes more for me. Sometimes the sun just hits New Jersey just so in some magical way.

The sun hitting New Jersey just right in the morning.

Or when I wake up early in the morning in Manhattan, coming up from the Hudson River, I was awestruck by this sight.

Sunrise in Manhattan.

Other days, things just look kinda crummy. Because most of the people I work with are in different parts of the country, I want to share with them how my morning starts. I turned this into black and white (the original was 95% as gloomy) because that’s pretty much what this day looked like by the 69th Street Transfer Bridge.

A gloomy day looking at the 69th Street Transfer Bridge.

But my favorite was when I took a picture of some flowers on the sidewalk. They weren’t anything special, just some flower beds. But in the morning dew, just after sunrise, they looked awesome.

Then one of my friends said, “I love it because of the weed!”

“What weed?” I said, with supreme horticultural ignorance.

“There’s a weed right in the middle of the picture. It’s amazing because the imperfection of the weed makes the rest of the picture more beautiful because it makes the whole thing more real.”

Some flowers (and a weed) on the sidewalk.

Here are some of my other favorites for the year. Almost all of them were all taken just walking around.

From the Beach

From Manhattan


From the Office at 1 Broadway