Bush Past Prime revisited

April 17th, 2014 by Cris

A few years back I hiked out to Salt Pond E2C for a round of photographs. This is a small pond near Turk Island. I discovered on that initial visit that it had been recently connected to the tides via a set of culverts that connected to the Alameda Creek Flood Control Channel. The pond bottom offered interesting textures and I was particularly taken with the skeletal remains of a dead bush.

One photograph of the bush made it into my portfolio with the title “Bush Past Prime.” This was during the previous presidential administration and I avoided the title “Dead Bush” thinking it might get the NSA in a tither.

Bush Past Prime revisited

A couple of weeks ago I had the occasion to hike back out to Salt Pond E2C where I found and photographed the remains of that same dead bush. The pond bottom has changed texture (sediment!) and there are a few channels developing here and there to carry the tidal flow. The bush is still quite dead. The most startling observation is that it has been 100 months since the original photograph.

Tempus fugit.

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Book trailers on Storehouse

March 14th, 2014 by Cris

One of the Heyday Books authors asked me to try out a new iPad-based site called Storehouse as a vehicle for a book trailer of sorts. The site has an interesting approach for assembling short visual narratives and delivers the results via their iPad app or a web page. I have put a couple up as testers.

Cover - Saltscapes article on Storehouse

Cover - Saltscapes article on Storehouse

Check them out by clicking the images above and scrolling downward after the pages load.

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EOS M Maiden flight

February 24th, 2014 by Cris

I had the new EOS M cradle aloft for the first time today.

Cesar Chavez Park in fog

The Solar Calendar – a memorial to Cesar Chavez.

The maiden flight took place late this afternoon at Cesar Chavev Park along Berkeley’s San Francisco Bay waterfront. The park had a thin thread of fog forming as the day came to an end – how atmospheric. The new KAP setup worked well. It has been a long time since I flew a cradle this light. Good thing too as the Sutton 30 could barely lift the load in an intermittent breeze. I am particularly impressed with the sharpness of the EOS M and EF-M 11-22mm lens.

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Benton in situ

February 17th, 2014 by Cris

Fellow kite aerial photographer Dave Wheeler took this shot showing me on the levee as we flew our KAP rigs over the Alviso Flat a few weeks ago.

Cris at Work

This was a most pleasant day with good company and moody light. My images from the sessions are shown a few posts down. You can see more of Dave’s photographs from the session on Flickr.

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A new KAP rig

February 15th, 2014 by Cris

I have been flying a Canon Rebel dSLR as my principal (and darn near exclusive) kite aerial photography (KAP) rig since July 2007. At last count I had a little over 250 KAP sessions with this rig (sound of Benton knocking on wood). I really like working with the smaller Canon dSLR cameras. They are tough. The larger APS-C sensor is relatively smooth and the higher ISO settings are more useable. On the other hand, my dSLR KAP rig is relatively heavy at 3 lb. 8-1/2 oz. (1.6 Kg) and it is a fairly expensive setup for my frequent work over water (salt ponds and wetlands) should replacement become necessary.

A few of my previous camera cradles

A few of my previous KAP rigs. My recent workhorse – the Canon Rebel cradle – in bottom row, center.

A couple of years ago I developed a KAP cradle for the diminutive Sony NEX-5. The camera offered an APS-C sensor in a relatively small package thus promising image quality similar to my dSLR rig at substantially less weight. For reasons I cannot fully explain I just never warmed up to the NEX-5. The images were fine but the interface seemed clumsy and I always seemed to find an excuse not to fly it. After it sit around for months I ended up giving it to one of my sons.

EOS M KAP cradle

A new KAP rig based on the Canon EOS M with 11-22mm wide angle lens.

I am now trying an alternative. A while back Canon issued their own version of a mirrorless APS-C camera – the EOS M. When issued the camera seemed overly expensive for what it delivered but this last summer the prices dropped dramatically to about 300 USD. I ended up buying one with its 22-mm prime kit lens and then splurged by ordering an EF-M 11-22mm wide angle zoom from Canada (they are not sold in the US).

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Upcoming talks / events

February 12th, 2014 by Cris

I have a few presentations related to Saltscapes and the Hidden Ecologies project on the calendar:

Cris at Open Show

Presenting at Open Show (a photograph by Mark Avery)

27 April 2014 – I am scheduled to do a KAP demonstration at the summit of Mt. Diablo as part of a weekend-long event organized by the Mt. Diablo Interpretive Association.

27 March 2014, 7 PM – I have a talk and book signing at Diesel, a Book Store in Oakland.

22 March 2014 – I have been invited to appear at A Literary Feast – Authors Dinner, an annual event at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center.

12 March 2014, 7:30 PM – Saltworks and Shorelines: a Visual and Social History of the San Francisco Bay. I am delighted to be presenting – with the talented Matthew Booker, author of Down by the Bay, in the Shaping San Francisco lecture series. The event takes place at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia, near 16th Street, San Francisco.

14 February 2014, 7-8 PM – Presentation and book signing for Saltscapes as part of In the Headlines, a series of in-gallery discussion during Friday Nights @ OMCA. This event at the Oakland Museum of California is associated with the exhibit Above & Below: Stories from Our Changing Bay, in which I have several photographs..

13 February 2019 – A lunchtime talk and Saltscapes book signing at the Oakland Rotary Club.

24 January 2014 – A book signing at the Winter Institute, American Booksellers Association in Seattle.

16 January – I was pleased to be selected for an encore presentation as one of five projects selected in the Open Show Best of 2013 event.

16 January – lunchtime talk to my former colleagues in the Building Science Group at UC Berkeley

12 January 2014 – Hike and KAP demonstration at the Weep in Alviso for a group from the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose.

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A visit to the Alviso Flat

February 6th, 2014 by Cris

Alviso Flat lies just a hundred yards north of the Alviso Marina County Park. Lying to the west of the 1880 South Coast Pacific railroad grade, the flat is a widening of the ditch flanking the rail tracks. I have no idea why the ditch widens here but it makes an interesting and photographic landscape feature. The area fills with a few inches of water during our winter rainy season and tends to dry out in the summer. This has been an exceptionally dry winter so I was a bit surprised to find water in the flat during this January visit. Perhaps it is due to the adjacent salt ponds, which were relatively full, or a connection to the New Chicago Marsh on the other side of the tracks. This marsh is running with much higher water levels since the Salt Pond A16 construction project.

Alviso Flat Alviso Flat

Moody views of the Flat.

As you walks along the levee past Alviso Flat you can see the vague remnants of a few marsh channels. These are much more evident from the air as is the color du jour of the flat’s shallow water (in this case light brown).

Alviso Flat

KAP images often offer surprises, such as these strange growths eminating from the buckle lines in the gypsum pond bottom (note the reflection of the camera cradle and kite).

Fellow KAPper Dave Wheeler, who was visiting from Maryland, accompanied me on this outing. You can see Dave’s white Rokakku kite in several of the images. During our late day hike there were rain showers here and there interspersed with the occasional dollop of sunshine. We stayed dry and the predominant cloud cover made for very nice reflections in the still waters of the Flat.

Alviso Flat

Youthful hiking companions.

I had been out at the Alviso Flat and the Weep just two weeks prior with a group from the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose so I have added a few images from that outing to the Flickr set that follows.

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Hydroseeding the E14 levee

November 12th, 2013 by Cris

In November 2013, Save the Bay began field work on a project to establish vegetation of the levee separating Salt Pond 14 to the north and Salt Ponds E8X and E9 to the south. This levee has a major makeover in 2011 and has been quite bare since. The idea is to establish a band of plant life to serve as habitat along the edge of E8X and E9 as these ponds are now connected to the tides and returning to a more natural state.

Hydroseeding the E14 levee

A pole shot of the hydroseeding truck on a foggy, windless morning.

This photo series begins with a set of pole aerial photographs taken in an early morning fog as the hydroseeding truck made the first of several passes. I returned two days later to take kite aerial photographs of the hydroseeded levee bank to discover that the green dye, added to the mix to help guide an even coverage, had already dissipated.

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Mud Matters at Eden Landing

October 29th, 2013 by Cris

With the arrival of fall the nesting season is over and I am allowed to photograph in the South Bay again. Project managers also wanted me to photograph a construction project that is subdividing Salt Pond A12 into series of smaller managed ponds to serve as avian habitat. The ponds will be kept at different salinities. The session afforded my first look at the large scale project reconfiguring Salt Ponds E12 and E13 into a series of smaller managed ponds.


Heavy equipment constructing distribution ditches and flow control structures in Salt Pond E12.

The reconfiguration work occurs along the banks of Mt. Eden Slough, the “cradle of San Francisco’s salt industry” according to author John Sandoval. This section of former marsh is where the first small salt operations appeared in the 19th Century and here remain the most interesting of old salt works ruins, some so faint they are at the threshold of perception. The land is now going through yet another transformation as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project and will see considerable change over the next few years. It should be fun to watch.

Oliver Salt Works ruins

I had found the textures on the righthand side of this Oliver Salt Works ruins photo worth a revisit.

During an earlier photo session I was much taken with the visual texture of a distribution ditch under construction. The ditch was being lined with a layer of impermeable clay with the skillful marks made by the large front end loaders creating a lovely pattern. The wind was coming from a direction that meant I would have to cross a dry borrow ditch to photograph these particular textures. The bottoms of disused salt ponds in the South Bay are often underwater during our winter rainy seasons and dry out during the summer. In their dry phase a thin crust forms over a thick, black, organic marsh clay that accumulated over the millennia when this was a tidal marsh. I often look for evidence that the crust has supported someone else’s weight before trusting it with mine.

Borrow ditch footprints , Salt Pond E12 construction-103

Encouraging footprints – someone made it across the borrow ditch. I didn’t.

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Upcoming talks / events

October 27th, 2013 by Cris

I have a few presentations related to Hidden Ecologies on the calendar:

Cris at lighttable

4 December 2013 – Book launch at the Exploratorium. This will be a talk and book signing to serve as the official launch for Saltscapes. This “after hours” Exploratorium event is free and open to the public if you RSVP by calling (415) 528-4646.

7 November 2013 – I am one of the tinkerer profiles in the Exploratorium’s new book the Art of Tinkering by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich. The book launch will be an Exploratorium After Dark event. I will be on hand to give a pole aerial photography demonstration on the Exploratorium’s plaza. This online preview of the book includes the KAP section and a balloon aerial photography idea put together by the book’s authors.

28 October 2013 – the 2013 State of the Estuary Conference. I have been invited to present a table display of advance copies of Saltscapes, example photographs, and my KAP equipment..

10 October 2013 – 7th Annual Heyday Harvest. I will give a brief presentation related to Saltscapes, my forthcoming book published by Heyday Press at the 7th Annual Heyday Harvet: The Art of Heyday.

18 July 2013 – OPEN SHOW: Hacking Photography and Video I will be one of five presenters for this iteration of Open Show, hosted by Pivotal Labs on Howard Street. The event starts at 7pm and requires the pre-purchase of a ticket.

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