Don Edwards Poster notes

Quick Links for information about the poster, kite aerial photography, and the photographer:

Visit the locations of the poster photographs in Google Earth where you can “fly” above the South Bay and dip down to see where these colors were captured — all from the comfort of an armchair.

Artist’s Statement including thoughts on the South Bay work and descriptions of equipment and technique.

About the photographer

Charles C. Benton is a Professor of Architecture and former department chair at UC Berkeley. With principal academic interests lying in the Building Science area, he is engaged in the Building Science Laboratory for teaching and research as well as a longstanding program of post-occupancy case studies.

Benton harbors considerable passion for Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) and its associated historical, applied, and artistic dimensions. Benton began his South Bay work during a sabbatical year spent as Artist in Residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco where he worked on several KAP-related projects.

General Background

I am repeatedly drawn to the exuberant, otherworldly landscape of South San Francisco Bay. There, depending on the mood of a Sunday, I can bring binoculars to bear on the still abundant wildlife, explore diverse halophilic microorganisms with a field microscope, hike out to ponder early engineering interventions scattered across the Bay shallows, or (my favorite) launch a kite-lofted camera to photograph juxtapositions in the landscape from above. And juxtapositions abound – dendritic marsh channels as foils for the straight lines of infrastructure; wild openness confronting the confines of encroaching capitalism; salt ponds, vividly colored by the aforementioned halophiles, constrained by subtly hued mud and marsh; derelict, forgotten engineering works faintly echoing their former functions.

Over time my idle curiosity became a sustained fascination. For behind the visual richness of these juxtapositions lie the South Bay’s interesting history and the active formulation, at this very moment, of bold initiatives for its future. So, for five years now I have hiked the South Bay and taken low-level aerial photographs over the salt ponds using cameras lofted by kites. That these images are often visually compelling is in no small part because they reveal hidden and often enigmatic aspects of the landscape. It turns out that the vantage point of my aerial images, ranging between three and three hundred feet above the ground, greatly reduces sky reflection from the salt pond surfaces thus exposing colors, textures and traces of the Bay’s previous epochs.

Interesting resources on the South Bay for the armchair explorer:

SFEI Maps for 1858 T-sheets:

David Rumsey Historical Map collection for 1878 Thompson & West Atlas of Alameda County

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration site for 1928 Aerial Photos

The Hidden Ecologies Project blog:

Benton’s photo.net gallery:

Benton’s general Flickr photostream:


The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has provided patient counsel and, importantly, a Special Use Permit to take kite aerial photographs in the refuge. More recently, the California Department of Fish & Game has granted permission to photograph.

The Exploratorium, in particular Senior Artists Peter Richards and Susan Schwartzenberg, provided safe harbor during my 2003 Sabbatical and ongoing encouragement to pursue the aerial photography more seriously.

Dr. Wayne Lanier has been a steadfast companion and collaborator in exploring the South Bay.

UC Berkeley’s Committee on Research has provided modest support for project expenses.

One Response to “Don Edwards Poster notes”

  1. Aquamog Says:

    Those are some of the coolest photos I have ever seen. How can I get my hands on one of those posters? Do they sell them locally or online?

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