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Cris Benton Captures South San Francisco's Colorful Saltscapes

Once upon the 1860s, much of the South San Francisco landscape was a vast plain of marsh and mud. Then small-time salt manufacturers began to use levees to further their production of the briny stuff. From the ground, this watery terrain is only as special as the sky that’s reflected on its surface, but take a bird’s-eye view—or, in the case of photographer Cris Benton, a kite’s-eye view—and suddenly the turf turns otherworldly. Benton’s camera—a radio-controlled Canon EOS Rebel T2i attached to a single-line kite—captures colors ranging from rusty red (the high-salinity evaporation pond seen here features a crust of gypsum and salt) to electric Kool-Aid-green (evidence of low salinity). The retired UC Berkeley professor’s recent book, Saltscapes (Heyday), features 110 images of this curious environment, parts of which are now being restored to marshland, much to the delight of the winged creatures who make a pit stop here as they travel the Pacific flyway in search of warmer climes. 

This article was published in 7x7's June 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe.