Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Water Wednesdays | #2 The Fish Economy

Timmy Calvert is a San Francisco fisherman but lives in Dunlap, near Fresno in the Central Valley.  The remaining members of this once vibrant community (from 300 families to 30 in the past hundred years, according to spokesman Larry Collins), have been forced out of San Francisco and generally commute to fish.  Photographed April 11, 2009.
The link between water, agriculture and the economy is the primary foundation for most of the arguments in favor of further water storage and infrastructure.  This, unfortunately, is as it should be.  The vast central valley is almost entirely supported by agriculture, and much of the country is reliant upon California produce.  The food production industry in California is a strategic national resource.

However, water forms the basis of many industries, and the fishing families of Northern California have been experiencing a steady decline for decades.  The link between damn building and decline of fish stocks has been well established.  The fishing industry continues to suffer, but makes less noise than central valley agriculture.

A water development policy that balances the needs of agriculture and the needs of professional fisherman, anglers and the environment is a long way off.  The primary question, 'is there enough water?', is frequently obscured by political interests taking advantage of a crisis partially of there own making.  If we can examine and properly answer that question, we can move on to issues of conservation and efficiency which are the only possible solutions.  We cannot shortchange the environment to save agriculture, or give up on a domestic fishing industry to prop up a domestic veggie industry.  Such solutions are not only morally bankrupt, but also create a fundamental imbalance in a natural system that could have unpredictable consequences years or decades into the future.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introducing Water Wednesdays | #1 Wasting Water

Most Californians are acutely aware of the current drought in the State.  For many - such as farmers, agricultural laborers, environmentalists and rural residents - it is a daily concern.  For urban and suburban users, the severity of this years drought may have crept into their insulated lives.  Water rationing, restrictions on water-intensive landscaping and pictures of dry reservoirs reveal the seriousness of the situation.

Last time the water outlook was anywhere near this bad it collided with my life, and the repercussions are still playing out.  The severe drought of 2009 caught my attention just as I was finishing J-school in San Francisco.  I missed graduation while photographing farm worker protests in Fresno County.  Since then I've followed the issue and made photographic trips whenever possible.

Context is often lacking in the public discussion about California's water future.  I recently read these words by Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife....

"..take a deep breath, put down the arguments we all had in the past and come together as Californians."

"This is not about picking between delta smelt and long fin smelt and chinook salmon, and it's not about picking between fish and farms or people and the environment."
         -Quoted in "California Water...", KPBS, Feb 15 2014

No reason to mention what is actually needed, which is collaborative, innovative solutions with as little political influence as possible.  Unfortunately, all sides seem to picking up their arguments and using them rather then putting them down.

I hope by featuring an image and a brief story from my archive every Wednesday, I can add a little context to the water talk.  And I hope you find it interesting.

#1  Wasting Water

Englebright Dam, along the Yuba River, spills 8200 cubic feet per second over it's lip during early heavy storms in Northern California.  December 2010.
Overflow spilloff is not the problem currently on people's minds.  However, you will definitely hear arguments about how much water is being 'wasted' (i.e., being allowed to return to the environment and the ocean).  This is why we need more storage - so we can save more for the lean times, like now.  I take issue with this reasoning for a couple of reasons.

The primary problem is that not many good potential dam sites remain.  From the 1950's to the 1970's (and 80's) America went on a dam-building spree, and California was a hot spot.  Do we want to stretch the limits of engineering in this case?

In addition, dams drastically alter the landscape, displace people and wreak unpredictable havoc on the environment.  Water stored in a dam sits out in the blazing sun, evaporating, all summer.  It develops molds and scums.  The amount of time and energy that currently goes into mitigating these effects should be enough to convince us to avoid dams.

Nature has a storage system.  Humans sometimes call it underground storage, or aquifers. Allowing more land in the central valley and neighboring watersheds to flood in the wet months might be a good way to store water for the future, without nasty dams.  Finding that land would not be easy.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Diabetes type 1 for the New York Times

A few weeks ago I did a gig for the New York Times, which ran last Sunday April 6th.  It is a sprawling piece about the increasing cost of health care technology and medicine for the chronically ill.  For my part I was lucky enough to photograph a wonderful family in Oakland, who have a daughter with Diabetes Type 1.  You can read the excellent story by reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal here.

Below is the full-frame version of the shot that ran, and an outtake.  Thanks to Gabrielle, her family and Beth at the Times

The insulin pumps Gabrielle Woodland and others use for Type 1 diabetes are efficient, but expensive.CreditNathan Weyland for The New York Times

Gabrielle tests her blood sugar level with a glucose reader.  Photo by Nathan Weyland

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Update, resurection

Sorry for the extended absence.  I'm back in the Bay Area, now in Oakland and loving it.  To catch up visually, check out

Rather than mourn over lost time, lets just get down to business.  Here are just a couple images from my time away from the blog.  We're back, baby. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Memories of Yuba / Recuerdos de Yuba

Apologies for the prolonged absence, but a lot has happened since the last post. I've moved out of the Yuba/Sutter counties and returned to the Bay Area, this time Oakland. Although I love it here and am happy to be back, I do miss the unique culture and open space of the north valley. Here are a few portraits from my last couple months.

New work, from the new hood, coming....

Discúlpame por la ausencia prolongada, pero ocurió mucho hasta el proximo post. Mové afuera de las condidads de Yuba-Suter y volví a la area valle, este vez Oakland. Aunque me encanta aquí y me hace feliz volver, echo de menos la cultura unica y plano campo del valle central norte. Aqui estan unos retratos de mis meses finales.

Trabajo nuevo, del bario nuevo, viene....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Picturing water management in California / Tema fotografica: Manejando agua en California

A few frames from my ongoing look at the struggles to transport, allocate and conserve water in our desert state.


Unas cuadras de mi mirada continua a la lucha para transportar, asignar y conservar agua en nuestro estado desierto.

Englebright dam is uniquely designed to spill over during heavy flows. It is rare that it occur so early in the year, however. /// Presa de Englebrigh tiene un diseño unico que se permite desbordar durante lluvias pesas. Aunque es raro ocurrir tan temprano en el año.

Scientists look for salmon carcasses in the Yuba River to help determine population. The fish die after spawning in the late fall. /// Científicos buscan cuerpos de salmón para determinar poblaciones en el Rio Yuba. Mueren los Salmón despues que se desovan en los fines de Autumno.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surviving // Sobreviviendo

For the past six months I've been following Lydia through her treatment and surgery for stage II breast cancer. She has finished chemotherapy treatment and is doing well, awaiting some physical reconstruction surgery. Below is a frame of her cheering on her son at his High School soccer game a few days ago.


Hace las seis meses pasadas he seguido Lydia durante su tratamiento y cirugía para el cancer de mama. Cumplió ella la quimioterapia y esta haciendo muy bien, todavia espera cirugía reconstrucíon física. Debajo es una foto de ella ayudando al equipo de su hijo durante su partido de fútbol en su secundaria hace unas días.