(East Palo Alto, CA, 2004. Image copyright Hamish Reid).
There's this little urban desert just off the Dumbarton Bridge on both sides of the Bay, a flat landscape of glare, haze, salt pans, stagnant sloughs and pools of oddly-coloured water, dead railway bridges, electricity pylons, salt flies, old salt mining gear (fallen wooden trestles and rusted pipes), all right next to Highway 84 and Dumbarton Bridge. Like tens of thousands of others, I drive through here several times a week without spending much time thinking about it.
Well, that last part's not true -- I obsess
about it, every time I see it. I never stop thinking about how to photograph it, how to try to capture something that's often more atmosphere than definite landscape, something that changes face with each hour, each breeze or cloud. The trouble here is that the best light is early afternoon, but that means the coastal winds have usually picked up, destroying the stillness in the ponds and sloughs. As with many of these things, I let it defeat me, and in all the ten years or so I've thought about capturing it, I haven't actually done much about it. But every now and then I get out and drag a camera along with me...
I like the way this shot turned out: the overall effect for me is of a ragged flag with its horizontal bands of colour; the slight orange paint tinge on the post (which I didn't notice until a few minutes after I took the shot) mirrors the colour of the water behind it almost exactly; the post itself is the only real vertical in the relentless horizontality; the shape and colour of the water; the old railway bridge in the background anchors the distance and gives a good sense of scale.
Done with my little D100, hand-held. I spent the afternoon riding my mountain bike around the area, walking or riding out for miles along the levees and tracks, sun-soaked, hot, the salt in the air stinging my eyes. It's always worth it...