Northern California Science Writers Association

Intimate Aerials: Photography using Kite-Lofted Cameras

  • Wednesday, December 07, 2011
  • 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
  • Jannah restaurant, San Francisco

Cris Benton, Professor of Architecture, UC Berkeley

Join us for middle eastern food with a NorCal twist and a speaker who's above the rest (literally) at our annual holiday shindig. Enjoy the imaginative offerings of Jannah restaurant, such as carrot ganoush, middle eastern pizzas, and pyllo doughs stuffed with meats or vegetables. Hobnob with your local friends and out-of-town colleagues visiting for the annual AGU meeting. And relax to a top-notch lineup of seriously unserious science trivia, whacky door prizes, and see visions of the earth as you've never seen it before.

Cris Benton's talk will chronicle fifteen years of aerial photography using kite-lofted cameras. The views afforded by kite aerial photography offer a fresh perspective of familiar landscapes and in doing so challenge our spatial sensibilities, our grasp of relationships. The technique yields unique images from a range of altitudes (10 – 300 feet above the ground) that are too low for conventional aircraft. Examples will be shown from around the Bay Area in general and the South San Francisco Bay Salt Ponds landscape in particular. In 2003, more than 15,000 acres of former salt ponds were purchased from Cargill and are in the process of being restored as wetlands. As the salt ponds have been decommissioned and returned to a more natural state, Cris has been documenting both the history of the salt industry as well as the return of wildlife. In his talk, Cris Benton will touch on the history of early aerial photography, the equipment and techniques used as well as motivations for using kites in the current day. As an art form or a remote sensing tool, Cris' low-level approach yields images that are both beautiful and useful.

For those science writers who also like fooling around with gadgets, Cris will be bringing his cradles, cameras and kites for some show-and-tell. His very-low-cost rig was the cover story of the first MAKE magazine. MAKE magazine is the inspiration for the very popular Maker's Faire held every year in San Mateo and other sites across the country and has helped launch projects for innumerable do-it-yourself artists, kids, crafters and other science experimenters.

For the curious, here's a 10-minute video of Cris explaining how to build your own rig for kite aerial photography

Cris Benton is a Professor of Architecture and former department chair at UC Berkeley. Benton first started developing aerial photography to help him design buildings and harbors considerable passion for Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) and its associated historical, applied, and artistic dimensions. He began his South Bay work during a sabbatical year spent as Artist-in-Residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco where he worked on several KAP-related projects. The work has continued under Special Use Permits from the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and the California Department of Fish & Game. The resulting images of the salt ponds have been shown in exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Exploratorium, and the Coyote Point Museum, as well as conferences and art galleries.

Jannah restaurant
1775 Fulton St. (near Masonic)
San Francisco, CA
*** Easily reachable via Muni, on the 5, 21, 31, or 43 lines (the first three all stop on Market St., just outside the Montgomery and Powell BART stations)
*** Two hours free parking in garage across the street
[click for Google map]

6:00pm – 7:30pm Happy hour with beer and wine available
7:30pm – 8:45pm Dinner
8:45pm – Speaker

$28 members
$18 students
$32 non-members & AGU attendees

NCSWA is subsidizing the cost for members in order to keep dinner affordable.

Register by Wednesday, Nov. 30 to reserve your spot!

Pay online via Paypal
(you can use a credit card; no Paypal account is required)

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