Tag

Aerial

Photographs of Clipperton Island, Ile de Passion

Aerial Photography, Clipperton Island, Underwater Life, Underwater Photography

In May of 2017 I was fortunate to join an expedition to Clipperton Island (more info on Wikipedia’s Clipperton page). Organized by Michel Labrecque and Julie Ouimet and conducted under French permit HC / 1485 / CAB with generous support from Oris Watches and many others, our two-week trip used San Jose del Cabo as the launching point. The boat Nautilus Undersea (formerly Undersea Hunter of Cocos) — a very capable and seaworthy dive boat — would be our home at sea. Hailing from Canada, France (including New Caledonia), England, Mexico and the United States, our talented group of scientists, journalists, geographers, film makers, explorers and photographers spent 6 days at the tiny, remote atoll.

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32835
Location: Clipperton Island, France

My primary interest was simply to experience the trip, to relax and allow myself to absorb as much of the island as I could with all my senses without getting too bogged down with the distraction of photography concerns. I have visited and dived many of the notable islands in the near eastern Pacific, from California’s Channel Islands south to the Galapagos archipelago, many of them repeatedly, but I had not yet seen Clipperton Island so in that sense it was very high on my bucket list of islands. In spite of the fact I will probably never return to Clipperton Island, I had no real photographic agenda. I brought a drone, three underwater cameras and one topside camera and just let the daily pace of the trip govern which I would pick up and use and where I would point it.

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Coconut palm trees on Clipperton Island, aerial photo. Clipperton Island is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32846
Location: Clipperton Island, France

The diving at Clipperton Island was very nice with healthy coral reefs and a variety of familiar-looking fish species. I was most impressed with the vast fields of huge, round Porites lobata coral heads. In many parts of the reef these enormous Porites clusters have grown together into a single shelf 20-50 yards across, very impressive indeed. There was a considerable amount of fishing gear found on the reefs, and our sitings of sharks were few and far between, evidence perhaps of fishing pressure on the shark species although that is not a certain conclusion.

Topside the island is harsh: little shade, no water, and very hot. Sunburn was a real risk since the equatorial sun would not only strike exposed skin from above but also reflected from the ocean as well as the bright white coralline rubble beaches. How the seabirds survive at Clipperton, or any of the similar islands, is beyond me. Most notable is the amount of plastic debris found on the island, testament to the seemingly insurmountable amount of plastic now present in our oceans. Several members of the scientific team performed surveys of the various plastics found on the beach to better understand where the debris is originating and how it is composed.

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

The French tricolor flag flies over Clipperton Island at sunset. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32902
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Photographically, I was happiest with the aerial images I made with my drone. I put the flying camera in the air as often as I could, 6-8 times a day, learning what did and did not work as far as composing sweeping panoramic views of the island as well as images depicting details of the lagoon, palm groves, beaches and Clipperton Rock. There is really no way to fully appreciate the beauty of Clipperton Island without seeing it from a position of some vertical relief. The contrast of the deep, clean, blue oceanic water surrounding the crisp white beaches, surrounding a contrasting set of green, black and orange lagoon hues, can only be appreciated by the birds that inhabit the island, the occasional airliner flying far overhead, and now, thanks to drones, us.

Below are a few of my favorite images from the trip, or you can see my entire Clipperton Island photo gallery. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial photo of M/V Nautilus Undersea at Clipperton Island. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32886
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll.  Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but  spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial panorama of Clipperton Island, showing the entire atoll. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a small (2.3 sq mi) but spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32889
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Clipperton Rock, a 95' high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Clipperton Rock, a 95′ high volcanic remnant, is the highest point on Clipperton Island, a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32940
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp, Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi

Blotcheye soldierfish and Clipperton Island coral reef, Porites sp.
Image ID: 32951
Species: Porites lobata, Porites arnaudi
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island

Blue-spotted jacks and coral reef, Clipperton Island.
Image ID: 32952
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island

Fishing Longline, Wrapped and Embedded in Coral Head, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32955
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island, Gymnothorax castaneus

Blue-striped Snapper and Panamic Green Moray Eel on coral reef, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32957
Species: Panamic Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax castaneus
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32963
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island

Underwater ROV Preparing to Dive at Clipperton Island
Image ID: 32964
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific, Porites lobata

Coral reef expanse composed primarily of porites lobata, Clipperton Island, near eastern Pacific
Image ID: 32998
Species: Porites lobata
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island

Bigeye Trevally, Bigeye Jacks, Caranx sexfasciatus, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33021
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Brown booby, Clipperton island, Sula leucogaster

Brown booby, Clipperton island
Image ID: 33088
Species: Brown Booby, Sula leucogaster
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island

Nazca Booby, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33093
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island

Plastic Trash and Debris, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33098
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama

Sunrise over Clipperton Island, Panorama
Image ID: 33103
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32866
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island.  The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)

Aerial view of the lagoon inside Clipperton Island. The lagoon within the atoll was formerly open to the ocean but has been closed and stagnant for many decades. Some experts believe erosion will open the lagoon up to the ocean again soon. Clipperton Island, a minor territory of France also known as Ile de la Passion, is a spectacular coral atoll in the eastern Pacific. By permit HC / 1485 / CAB (France)
Image ID: 32878
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island

Booby Bird Carcass on Barren Coral Rubble Beach, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33095
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island

Skiff and Palm Trees, Sunrise, Clipperton Island
Image ID: 33102
Location: Clipperton Island, France

Aerial Video of Archipelago Espiritu Santo and the Sea of Cortez

Aerial Photography, Mexico, Sea of Cortez, Video

In October I was fortunate to be a guest aboard a friend’s boat for 9 days, diving the islands north of La Paz, Mexico. One of our goals was to obtain visuals of the Archipelago Espiritu Santo as part of an effort to support legislative proposals seeking greater environmental protections for the area. The Archipelago, consisting of three islands — Isla Partida, Los Islotes and Isla Espiritu Santo — is considered by many to be the most beautiful island group in the Sea of Cortez. Following is a rough edit, a sampler, of some of the video we obtained. Be sure to click the small gear at lower right and select “1080 HD”. Cheers and thanks for watching!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, California

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This past spring my daughters and I took a couple flights over San Diego to shoot panoramas while the conditions were good. This is one of my favorites, showing the beautifully scalloped coastline of Sunset Cliffs, north of Point Loma. You can even see the sandstone outcropping we jumped off of into the ocean in the summer when I was in college! Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla are just visible at far left. This image was created with my uber-secret ball-head technique and is over 224 megapixels in size, printing up to 6′ x 20′ in size with no interpolation. If you like this, please see more panoramic photos and more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy's Point, Claiborne Cove

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Sunset Cliffs San Diego, Pappy’s Point, Claiborne Cove.
Image ID: 30790
Location: San Diego, California, USA
Pano dimensions: 8011 x 28354

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Torrey Pines Golf Course and Black’s Beach

Aerial Photography, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

This aerial panorama of Torrey Pines Golf Course will print huge: up to about 4′ high and 10′ wide! In the center is seen Torrey Pines Golf Course south course, with the north course to the left. I played Torrey Pines often when I first moved to La Jolla and it is as beautiful on the ground as it looks from the air. Dominating the scene are the 300′ tall seacliffs that characterize the coastline from Torrey Pines State Reserve south to Scripps Institute of Oceanography. To the right is seen Torrey Pines Glider Port on the mesa, and Black’s Beach at the base of the seacliffs. Interstate 5 is seen in the center distance along with University City, Del Mar to the extreme left and Mount Soledad and La Jolla to the extreme right. I am often asked if I use a drone to shoot aerials, since they are becoming so popular. The answer for now is “no”: I always hold the camera. Someday I will probably use a drone but for my current interests and goals, I have greater control and can produce a higher quality image if I am in the air with my camera. Besides, its fun to fly, and I don’t want a drone to have all the fun. It was exciting making this panorama, hovering over some of the most beautiful coastline in all of California. If you like this, see more of my aerial panoramic photographs. Cheers, and thanks for looking.

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)

Aerial panorama of Blacks Beach, Torrey Pines Golf Course (south course), and views to La Jolla (south) and Carlsbad (north)
Image ID: 30851
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The Disappearing Kelp Forests of San Clemente Island

Aerial Photography, California

I was recently diving at San Clemente Island. The profound lack of giant kelp forests was a striking contrast to what I am used to seeing over 25 years of diving at the island. Under ideal conditions, giant kelp can grow about 2′ per day (the fastest growing plant on Earth), but it does require relatively cool water to really flourish. In 2014, water temperatures were higher than normal, leading to poor growth conditions. The kelp has not recovered, and if an El Nino that is predicted to occur in 2015 comes to pass, it is almost certain to cause whatever kelp forests are at the island to recede considerably. Here are two images, from above the southeastern tip of the island (“Pyramid Head”) looking northwest along the axis of the island, shot in September 2010 (top, healthy thick kelp forests appear in brown, from Pyramid Cove in upper left around Pyramid Head point and up the eastern side of the island) and July 2014 (almost total absence of giant kelp forests). These two images are crops, click on either to see the original composition.


See more photos of San Clemente Island, photos of giant kelp forests, and aerial photos. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Point Loma, Cabrillo Monument and San Diego Bay

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

This is a highly detailed aerial panoramic photo of the southern end of Point Loma, with Cabrillo Monument and both old and new lighthouses visible. The original Cabrillo lighthouse is seen atop the bluff, while the new lighthouse is down near the water’s edge next to the green lawns. North Island Naval Air Station and San Diego Bay are seen in the distance over the top of the peninsula. The submarine reefs of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve are clearly visible through the clear water. The Coronado Strand stretches off to the right (south) toward Mexico, while the broken coastline of Point Loma and Sunset Cliffs stretches off to the left (north). This high resolution panorama will print 40″ high by 90″ wide. If you like this, please see more aerial photos of San Diego. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument, San Diego, California

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument
Image ID: 30847
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Aerial Panorama of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Aerial Photography, California, Panoramas, San Diego

One of the images I wanted to add to my collection of San Diego aerial photos was a very wide, very detailed image of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge. I could have taken a single image with a very wide lens — such as this image taken a few years ago that has since paid for the flight many times over — and achieved a reasonable result, but as far as high resolution goes this approach has its limits. The wider the lens, the more distortion is present in the image (think “fisheye view”). Correcting such distortion reduces the sharpness of the details especially around the edges of the image. Also, a single photograph will be limited in resolution by what the camera can record — these days, 36 megapixels is typical. What I really wanted was an enormous, highly detailed, and rectilinear (straight lines, no fisheye distortion) image suitable for large reproduction in a space that would warrant it, such as an office lobby, museum, or the Oval Office. Equipped with the most expensive and high-tech ball head in the world, my daughter and I got up in the air and set about shooting the images. I later stitched them together on the computer using several stages and software programs. The result is this panoramic photo of the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge, suitable for printing 50″ by 100″ wide with no interpolation.

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge

Panoramic Aerial Photo of San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge
Image ID: 30789
Location: San Diego, California, USA

If you like this, please see my other San Diego aerial photos, or my collection of aerial panoramic photos. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panoramic Photo of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Park, San Diego

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, Panoramas, San Diego

Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation. If you like this, be sure to check out my always growing gallery of San Diego photos.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Point La Jolla and La Jolla Cove, Boomer Beach, Scripps Park. Panoramic aerial photograph of La Jolla Cove and Scripps Parks (center), with La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rising above, La Jolla Shores and La Jolla Caves to the left and the La Jolla Coast with Children’s Pool (Casa Cove) to the right. The undersea reefs of Boomer Beach are seen through the clear, calm ocean waters. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 50″ high by 130″ long with no interpolation
Image ID: 30773
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

This is the second in my series of recent San Diego aerial panoramas, part of my collection of aerial photos of San Diego. Making an aerial panorama is difficult. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Panorama of Bird Rock and the La Jolla Coastline

Aerial Photography, California, La Jolla, Panoramas

Aerial Panorama of La Jolla’s Bird Rock, with surfers in the water at lower right. Submarine reefs, characteristic of the La Jolla coast, can be seen through the clear water. Mount Soledad rises above everything. This 180-degree panorama extends from Camp Pendleton in the extreme distance to the north to Point Loma in the south. The resolution of this image will permit it to be printed 80″ high by 200″ wide with no interpolation.

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves.  Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south).  La Jolla's Mount Soledad rises in the center.  The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide

Aerial Panoramic Photo of Bird Rock and La Jolla Coast, with surfers in the waves. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are to the far right (south). La Jolla’s Mount Soledad rises in the center. The submarine reefs around Bird Rock are visible through the clear water. This extremely high resolution panorama will print 80 inches high by 200 inches wide.
Image ID: 30778
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

In March and April I made a series of flights to photograph many of San Diego’s prominent coastal features. (Yesterday I described one flight focusing on making aerial photos of San Diego’s Marine Protected Areas.) During their spring breaks, my daughters and I hired helicopters a couple times with the goal of adding to my collection of aerial photos of San Diego, trying something new. The pilots and I discussed the plans before taking off, and we gave it a shot. Making an aerial panorama is very difficult to get just right. The technique used in the sky is important and requires a good pilot and the right conditions. Lens choice is important as well, otherwise distortion will affect the resulting image considerably. And obtaining a perfect result, with no “stitching errors” or gaps, requires a degree of patience, several pieces of software, and some trial and error. I spent days assembling these panoramas, and hope to see them reproduced at enormous sizes once the right opportunity presents itself. This is the first of several I will post over the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Aerial Photographic Survey of San Diego Marine Protected Areas for Lighthawk

Aerial Photography, California, San Diego

I recently made a special flight with my pilot friend Steve Parker in collaboration with Lighthawk. Lighthawk’s mission is “to accelerate conservation success through the powerful perspective of flight”. On this flight, we were trying to produce new aerial images of several Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the San Diego coastline for organizations involved with these MPAs to use in their outreach, conservation, research and legislative efforts.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Image ID: 30569
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA

I’ve flown with Steve many times, including previously for Lighthawk to document the impacts of the large wind turbines constructed on the landscape around Ocotillo, California as well as a number of times to survey blue whales in the southern California bight and the Channel Islands. On our San Diego MPA mission, we would be passing over several lagoons and rivermouths, various kelp forests, two submarine canyons, several stretches of coastal bluff, one peninsula and lots of urban elements surrounding and interspersed with these MPAs. Our goal was to produce imagery presenting, for each of the MPAs, at least the following: 1) the general setting of each MPA, so that viewers can quickly understand what and where it is, and 2) something unique, special and/or appealing about each MPA, to help viewers connect with and appreciate the MPAs. Steve’s daughter Roxanne accompanied us as second pilot as well as locating the MPAs and facilitating communication between Steve and me. Steve handled the primary piloting, and communications with air-traffic controllers in the area.

The Marine Protected Areas that we hoped to fly over were, from North to South in the order we would see them:

  • Batiquitos Lagoon SMCA
  • Swami’s SMCA
  • San Elijo Lagoon SMCA
  • San Dieguito Lagoon SMCA
  • San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA
  • Matlahuayal SMR
  • South La Jolla SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR
  • Famosa Slough SMCA (we missed this one, unfortunately)
  • Cabrillo SMR
  • Tijuana River Mouth SMCA

Time in the air is always limited and, frankly, it comes at a steep price. I wanted to make sure we had some variety of perspectives, and at least one or two good images from each of different MPAs. It is a challenge, in more ways than one, to pull off a successful photo flight like this. We had several long conservations with Lee Pagni at Lighthawk about the objectives, then Steve and I had to work out several possible flight dates given tides, position of the sun in the sky, etc. Our first slot was scrubbed due to clouds. When we finally met at Palomar-McClellan airport in Carlsbad, we already had invested some hours and energy. On top of that are the expenses Steve incurs operating the plane, which are considerable. So, I did want to leave any possibility of missing a photo due to equipment failure or simply having the wrong lens in hand. I would be shooting out the side of Steve’s Cessna 206 plane, with views from about 7 to 10 o’clock (the nose of the plane being at 12 noon). We also mounted a GoPro camera on the wing, pointed somewhat forward and down, in the hopes of obtaining some additional very wide images with a view that I was not able to get. We set the GoPro to take a picture every 5 seconds for the duration of the flight. I photographed with three cameras to give me quick access to a variety of focal lengths: Nikon D800 with 14-24 lens, Nikon D800 with 24-70 lens, and Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200 lens. The 24-70 is by far the most useful lens for this sort of aerial landscape. The 14-24 is typically too wide and sometimes catches a wing tip or strut in the corner of the frame, but it can produce beautiful aerials in some circumstances. Unless the air is exceedingly clear, 70-200 is typically too much lens for my taste and produces a flat-looking, low-contrast image even with a polarizer. (The 70-200 is, however, excellent for photographing whales while shooting straight down.) I also had two GPS units recording our positions every few seconds, producing a “GPX file” which I would later use to “geo-tag” all of the photos. (Good thing I had two, my older GPS produced a faulty GPX file and is now retired.)

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego

Aerial Photo of Cabrillo State Marine Reserve, Point Loma, San Diego
Image ID: 30641
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Editing left me with 150 images, including a few of the GoPro ones that illustrated reef structure in La Jolla that I did not manage to photograph well with my “real cameras”. In particular, the GoPro stills are hard to use due to the fisheye-like view they produce, but in some cases the fisheye distortion can be corrected and a useable image results. Taking all of the GoPro images, correcting them all for distortion and then cropping them to a 9:16 perspective, allowed me to produce a sort of jerky time-lapse which gives a sense of the views we where working with. If you don’t see a Youtube frame below, you might need to refresh the page. Be sure to select “HD” when it starts playing:

When editing aerial images, the first thing I always do is “geo-tag” them. This simply means adding the location (latitude, longitude and altitude) into the EXIF information that is present inside of a digital photograph. I do the geotagging in Adobe Lightroom, using the GPX file created by my handheld GPS. (Some cameras, including the iPhone, geotag photos as soon as they are taken.) The raw GPX file is simply a dot-to-dot set of locations that, when plotted in software like Google Earth, shows the path of the flight:

Here are a couple zoomed-in-views, showing our flight paths over Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA) (first image) and Swami’s SMCA and San Elijo Lagoon SMCA (second image):


These tracklogs are nice, but without the images they simply say “we were here”. After geotagging the images and producing a “KMZ file” to display in Google Earth, one can see the images at the location where they were made. The geo-information associated with each image is now of some value:


If you have Google Earth installed, you can work with the full KMZ file by clicking the next image. (It may simply download the KMZ file instead of displaying it in Google Earth.) It contains embedded within it small versions of all the edited images, appearing at their proper locations. If this does not work, you can download the raw KMZ file to your computer and try loading it into Google Earth directly.

The full collection of images being made available to bon fide conservation organizations can be seen here. Please contact me directly if you have questions, or if you would like to make use of them.

I would like to thank Lighthawk, Christine Steele and Lee Pagni of Lighthawk, and my pilot friends Steve and Roxanne Parker for helping to make these photographs possible. I will be posting detailed information about selected images from this flight over the coming weeks. If you reference these images, they should be credited “Phillip Colla / Oceanlight.com / Lighthawk.org”.

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve

Aerial photo of Batiquitos Lagoon, Carlsbad. The Batiquitos Lagoon is a coastal wetland in southern Carlsbad, California. Part of the lagoon is designated as the Batiquitos Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, run by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve
Image ID: 30563
Location: Carlsbad, Callifornia, USA

Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, California

Aerial Photo of San Diego Scripps Coastal SMCA. Blacks Beach and Torrey Pines State Reserve
Image ID: 30622
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve

Aerial Photo of South La Jolla State Marine Reserve
Image ID: 30638
Location: La Jolla, California, USA