When Water Dreams

I started visually exploring water in the landscape in 2006. My shift in emphasis from large format black and white photography to digital, combined with a growing appreciation for modern abstract painting, was a turning point. Through both the technological possibilities of the digital medium as well as its promise in the realm of color, I found a means to express my views about water. Finding my artistic voice when working on water was challenging; the excitement of initially promising images was quelled by subsequent disappointments.

A solution to the artistic challenge revealed itself on a commuter flight over South San Francisco Bay. I was surprised to look down and see a colourful landscape of meandering streams, salt-encrusted sloughs and salt evaporation ponds. At one time salt sloughs and tidal wetlands covered the entire south end of the Bay. Over the last 150 years vast salt harvesting operations and commercial and residential development have claimed 85% of the wetlands. Today, restoration of part of the area back to tidal wetlands is one of the largest projects of its kind in California’s history.

The issue of the ponds is complex and controversial, with Bay cities expanding on to the sloughs, Cargill Corporation planning to fill some of its salt ponds for development and environmental organizations and some governments working to restore wetlands. As I researched the ponds, I learned their striking colors were the result of microorganisms, which change color with the water’s salinity. These algaes and microscopic shrimp dye the ponds and streams vivid magentas, oranges and yellows. These colourful ponds and streams became the subject of my project. To photograph this landscape, I took to the air. From the open door of a helicopter I attempted to achieve artistic empathy with compositions unfolding 700 feet below.

Why have I photographed commercial salt ponds and development-threatened sloughs, knowing the complexities of the situation? First I was seduced by the color and form laid out below me, then upon reflection I also saw an opportunity to offer up the issues for review and discussion, to ask questions. I hope you do too.

(Special thanks to Tom Willock & Susan Sax-Willock of the Willock & Sax Gallery, Banff, Julian Ferreira and Peter Jeune of The Camera Store in Calgary, Cameron Rolfe of Bay Helicoptours , Joel Avila of Hawkeye Aerial Photography in Santa Clara, artists Will Peters, Justin Bhatia, Todd Korol and Jack Blair, and my wife Celeste Peters.)

Curved and Winding Salt Channels Curved Salt Channels, Canal Magenta and Orange Salt Ponds, Road
Orange Salt Pond, Bird Pastel Salt Pond #1 Pastel Salt Pond #2
Red Salt Channel Salt Patterns and Polygonal Landforms Salt Ponds, Power Line
Submerged Landscape #2 Yellow Salt Channel Yellow Salt Slough, Boat

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