California has long had the reputation for being one of the U.S.’s most beautiful and environmentally-conscious states. This week, as leaders in business, government and the environmental movement gather in southern California to discuss sustainability at Fortune Brainstorm GREEN, we’re bringing you a series of blogs spotlighting the natural beauty of the California coast — seen through the eyes of photographer and videographer Keith Ellenbogen. Check out his previous posts from California.
In California’s Elkhorn Slough, scientists are currently exploring and researching innovative ways in which they can reduce or prevent water pollutant runoff from entering the wetland.
For example, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation is working with farmers to create “buffer zones” — small barriers that use natural vegetation to prevent water and fertilizer from farms from seeping into the wetlands, and eventually the ocean.
To help gain a better understanding of this project, I spent the afternoon with Mark Silberstein, executive director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and an all-around great guy. He took me to a number of farms and buffer zones to see and photograph the work they are doing. However, I soon felt confined as I struggled to capture images that showcased the interrelationships and use of land from the ground. What I wanted was a bird’s eye view.
As a result, I decided to charter a small helicopter and fly over the Elkhorn Slough and these buffer zones. The doors of the helicopter had been removed, so I could easily lean out and take pictures. I worked with the pilot to find just the right altitude and position so that I could take pictures that visually communicate the close connections between land and sea.
These natural barriers help clean the water, demonstrating that natural ecosystems provide valuable services for people even within urban environments.
Keith Ellenbogen is a member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). His California assignment was part of a larger effort to document the state of some of the world’s most important and vulnerable marine ecosystems — and the people who depend on them — in support of the Ocean Health Index, a new tool for benchmarking global ocean health that will launch later this year. Check out his previous blog series from the Philippines’ Turtle Islands, and see more of Keith’s photos on the New England Aquarium Explorers Blog.