At first glance, the images resemble an Abstract Expressionist canvas – the more vivid paintings of Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” series, or something by Mark Rothko. The shades within the colors are incredibly deep and textured, creating a sublime scene.
Then the eye adjusts and forms take shape. Figures become identifiable – roads, power lines, ditches, the shadows of clouds cast onto water. A careful viewer (one who has ever flown into any of the San Francisco Bay Area’s airports) will discern the Cargill Salt Ponds near the south edge of the bay.
For 30 years, professional aviator and commercial aerial photographer Robert Campbell has been taking pictures of the salt ponds from his plane, capturing the ponds’ different moods as their colors shift with the seasons and the weather. A unique intersection of natural ecosystems and industrial fabrication, the salt ponds produce some 650,000 tons of sea salt annually. A combination of minerals, micro-algae, and brine shrimp create the ponds’ striking pattern of colors. In some ways, the ponds are an unremarkable sight. But with his lens positioned high in the air, Campbell is able to make the familiar world appear unrecognizable.
You can see more of Campbell’s work at www.robertcampbellphotography.com. His Salt Pond series is on display at the Saret Gallery in Sonoma County, CA.