My first forays into the South Bay salt pond landscape were fueled by a photographic interest in color and texture. This theme still holds great appeal as I often find places that offer the potential for abstract or painterly images. My second landscape theme sprang from the realization that my aerial images contained traces of the South Bay landscape’s many transitions. Discovering and deciphering the vague remnants of boat landings, salt works, railroad projects, and infrastructure remains entertaining. As I head into my second decade of wandering the South Bay a third theme has gained firm footing - documenting the landscape’s current day transition. And there is change aplenty as the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (SBSPRP) has bold initiatives underway in Alviso, Ravenswood, and Eden Landing.
Each year, I have a South Bay hiatus between February and September in deference to nesting birds. This good, commonsense condition is part of my Special Use Permit that allows KAP in the South Bay and access to otherwise off-limits areas. I anticipate my first outings in the fall eagerly for they provide a sense of how things have progressed during the year. And each year I am struck by how much change I find in the landscape. Formerly fallow salt ponds acquire natural colors and textures followed by vegetation after being reconnected with the tides. The construction of levees, flow control structures, and nesting islands redefines pond components and the nature of water flow through them. New trails, viewing platforms, and signage foretell expanding public access.
In this context of change, I am delighted to find image pairs that illustrate progress in the restoration efforts. The abstract “Homage to Rothko” is one of the more popular images in my book Saltscapes and a personal favorite. While out shooting on Wednesday, I found myself near Salt Pond E6B so I stopped to look for the rusting 55-gallon drum that marked the location where I took the original image five years ago and a follow-up comparison five years later.. Having spotted the drum I sent a camera aloft with the hope of getting a third similarly framed shot.
While the 2014 and 2020 views differ greatly from the original “Homage to Rothko” I am fond of each version for they show how much change has occurred in Salt Pond E6B, a disused salt pond managed since 2009 to reduce its residual salinity.
I am taking these documentary photographs under a Special Use Permit from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Kite flying is prohibited over the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve without a Special Use Permit, as is access to this part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.