In 2009 I had never heard of Shin Kee Tract on the eastern edge of the Delta and west of Lodi until I was commissioned by the A.G. Spanos Company to photograph the first school kids who were bussed in to help plant native species while learning the importance of our natural surroundings. The Spanos Company was required to offset environmental harm from its housing projects by restoring 140 acres of Delta habitat at this location.
A few months later, always on the hunt for good places for Joanna and I to take an interesting sundown walk, I thought we’d try that here while it was still accessible. As she was on a mission to keep her quick pace for a good workout, I, with my camera at the ready, told her to go on ahead while I attempted to get a good shot of these shore birds earning a living in the shallows.
A few days later she asked if I had gotten any good shots and I told her that they were just OK. My feeling was that I had no tripod, the sun had slipped below the horizon and darkness was close. That meant I was crouched with my long lens cradled between my knees and the low level of light necessitated a slow shutter speed. I thought the resulting images were pretty good but no cigar, as the saying goes. I showed her this one and she thought enough of it to ask me to do a little work on it and make a test print.
I’m so glad she put her artist’s eye to work here because I might have just passed it by. It became one of many of my Delta images that the Wallace Stegner Environmental Center in San Francisco chose to hang for the summer of 2010.
Shin Kee Tract, named for the “Chinese Potato King” of the mid-19th century, is a good example wetland restoration coupled with education. While the wetland is not open to the public, ten years later Stockton students, as a part of their science curriculum, still occasionally visit. And the site is now a thriving wetland as well as a sanctuary for the endangered giant garter snake.
The Delta water issues are always a hot topic and it is my pleasure to show how amazing this place is in the hope that others may also find it to be a resource that we should protect.
Rich Turner explored, photographed, and aerial photo-mapped Antarctica as a Navy photographer, was a newspaper photojournalist for 19 years, and has operated his own fine art photography studio since 1990. “Delta Grandeur”, his traveling exhibit, is now touring California museums and libraries. His his most recent passion is spreading the word far and wide about what an amazing place the Delta and Greater Bay Area is. With the help of very talented writers, artists and photographers, publishing this magazine seems a good way to do that.