Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation

Christopher Burkett

Kelp Constellation

California, 1992

Original Cibachrome Photograph

Pristine condition

certified authentic
Add to Collection $1,500.00
Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation
Kelp Constellation



Original Cibachrome photograph, “Kelp Constellation, Point Lobos.” Individually handmade by Christopher Burkett from 8×10-format transparency film. Mounted on cotton rag Antique Rising Museum Board. Signed in pencil on mount with title, date and edition number on verso.

40×50″ Museum Edition is limited to 15. Due to the size and delicate nature of the artworks, they must be shipped directly to a professional framer of your choice. For clients in the Bay Area, we also offer framing and installation services. Please for additional information.



“In July of 1992, my wife Ruth and I drove to Carmel where I was going to have a gallery show at Photography West Gallery. We brought my cameras and spent a few days photographing in the area eventually finding ourselves at Point Lobos, a lodestone for landscape photographers for many years.

While Point Lobos has fascinating rock formations and photographic potential of the actions of waves and rocks, what I was drawn to was the deep water kelp which grows in the ocean on the south side of the peninsula. On that day the ocean was calm, and the low swells would move water in and out of the cove with no breakers at this spot. The tide was low, the sun was hot, and the kelp moved in and out, swaying in unison with the sloshing movement of the water.

It was a perfect subject for an 8×10 photograph, but it was not going to be easy. The obstacles were numerous and significant. The kelp was in nearly constant motion, only briefly pausing at the end of each in and out cycling of water in the cove. To avoid a blurred photograph a fairly high shutter speed would be necessary, activated at the precise moment. To be able to use a faster shutter speed the lens would have to be more open than usual which meant there would be less depth of field. Yet the water and kelp wasn’t just moving to and fro but also up and down as the swells came and went. It would be necessary to predict what the water level would be when the exposure was made because of the limited depth of field.

Focusing on the ground glass was difficult and actually dizzying as the water moved up and down, back and forth. Another complication was that a view camera has no view finder so once I had the image composed I had to memorize exactly what area I would be photographing but there were no landmarks, only constantly moving kelp and each movement of the water resulted in a slightly different composition. Nevertheless it was worth a try as I really wanted to have this image in what Ruth sometime refers to as “my magic box.”

I was able to use the view camera swings and tilts to precisely align the plane of focus with the water at the time when the kelp swayed all the way to the left when the water came in. The kelp swayed almost 180° to the right as the water moved out so this was not as easy as it may seem. Calculating the exposure with my 1° spotmeter was problematic because I couldn’t get a reading of the golden kelp. The bright pieces were too small and in almost constant motion but I found some larger pieces nearby and that, combined with my reading of the dark water was sufficient.

I stopped the lens down, closed and cocked the shutter and waited for several in and out cycles until the kelp moved into position. l used my 450mm lens at the relatively open aperture of f/16 at 1/4 second on Fujichrome 100 film and made only one exposure. Despite the above mentioned difficulties, when I examined the film weeks later the image was in perfect focus with no blurring. It was exposed correctly and was the composition I had visualized.

Although I had the image on the film it had to wait twenty years until 2012 when my technical expertise and esthetic understanding had developed enough to allow me to finally make a Cibachrome which expressed what I saw and felt that warm summer afternoon.

As I contemplated the final 30×40” Cibachromes, I saw much more than just sunlit kelp in the midnight blue water, thus the title of this image. It is one of my favorites.”


All Christopher Burkett photographs sold at Photography West are new and in pristine condition. HD videos of the individual piece you are purchasing are available upon request. For more information, please


Christopher Burkett has labored for over four decades to create what many regard as the most impeccable and luminous color photographs in the history of photography. Gifted with a contemplative spirit as well as painter’s eye, Burkett has an uncommon ability to capture the natural world in a manner that simultaneously reflects “the world behind the world” as Minor White and Paul Caponigro might have put it. And although Burkett has been compared by curators to American color landscape photographers Eliot Porter and Ernst Haas, whose genre of American landscape photography he extended, neither of them exclusively developed their own film, nor attempted the darkroom standard clearly in evidence upon viewing Burkett’s original Cibachromes.

christopher burkett in his darkroom


Cibachrome, also known as Ilfochrome, is among the most stable of all color photographic processes. The dyes reside within the emulsion layers, giving the photograph its characteristic color saturation. The base is a polyester triacetate, rather than fiber-based paper, which adds to the longevity. It was a positive-to-positive photographic process based on the Gasparcolor process, created in 1933 by Bela Gaspar, a Hungarian chemist. Purchased after the merger of Ilford UK and Ciba-Geigy Photochemie of Switzerland, the process was first trademarked and marketed as Cibachrome in 1963. Each Cibachrome is composed of ten layers containing various combinations of light-sensitive silver halides and dyes that are sensitive to blue, green, or red light waves, which gives it an incredible depth and three-dimensional quality. After exposure of a positive, either through an enlarger or direct contact, the Cibachrome must be developed with black-and-white developing chemicals. This step creates a silver negative image within the layers. Next, the photograph must be bleached. The bleaching rids the photograph of dyes in proportion to the amount of silver that has been developed in the previous step and produces a positive dye image in color. In 2011, Cibachrome/Ilfochrome products were discontinued and it is now considered a historical process.