A book underway


Goodness, it has been a while since I posted. My excuse is that I have been quite busy working on a book with a tight deadline. I’ve recently finished the manuscript and image selection so it is in the hands of others now and I can get back to photography.

Saltscapes cover

This is the cover design (by Lorraine Rath) for a book I have underway with Heyday Press covering my photographs of the South San Francisco Bay landscape. The project has been both fun and arduous. The publication date is December 2013.

Heyday Press has now posted an upcoming book announcement.

Saltscapes explores a unique and transitional landscape using a novel photographic technique.

On approach to SFO, a glance out of the airline window finds the South Bay’s patchwork of vivid salt evaporation ponds. These ponds support a five-year-long process of solar evaporation that yields 500,000 tons of salt a year. As San Francisco Bay water makes the trip from 2% to 32% salinity it evolves through a succession of bright colors – evidence of halophilic algae, bacteria, and other organisms that thrive at specific elevated salinities. And these tiny creatures paint our day’s version of what has been a remarkably transitional landscape.

The salt evaporation ponds cover what was once a vast marshland. In the mid-19th Century small “mom & pop” salt operations were established alongside a scattering of landings placed where the major creeks met the Bay. The salt ponds changed in the 20th Century as small operations were subsumed by waves of corporate consolidation. In recent times one company, Cargill Salt, owned the salt-making rights to all San Francisco Bay salt ponds. In 2003, Cargill sold 16,500 acres of South Bay salt ponds and salt-making rights to a coalition of non-profit and government agencies. The transferred wetlands are now managed for the public good with an emphasis on wildlife habitat, flood control, and recreation. In this new transition some of the ponds are destined to become tidal marshland again.

Most of the images in this book were taken by using a kite, unseen in the image, to lift a small, radio-controlled cradle holding a camera. I position the camera by walking around and/or letting out or retrieving kite line. I aim the camera and fire its shutter using the radio while I stay at the ground end of the kite line. The camera can rotate through the compass, tilt from horizon to nadir, and change from portrait to landscape format. I compose my images by watching the camera and imagining what it would see. The whole process entertains me greatly.

Kite aerial photography is a delightful technique for documenting the South Bay. While standing in that flat landscape the visual experience of the ponds is dominated by sky reflection on the water. Lofting a camera allows a view straight down and this eliminates most sky reflection to reveal the colors and textures of the ponds and, in ways I had not anticipated, traces from previous epochs in the landscape.

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