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JULY 02, 2003


California Coastline in Obliques - The California Coastline Records Project

In 2002, a California husband-and-wife team, Kenneth and Gabrielle Adelman, used their personal resources to acquire low-level oblique aerial photography of the entire coastline of the state of California and making them freely available on the Internet. Besides being pilot and photographer, the couple provided the helicopter, photographic and computer equipment and the web site.

Kenneth Adelman, 39, a Caltech ( California Institute of Technology ) graduate and IT entrepreneur in the 1990s, has been referred to in the press as a "retired high tech mogul."

The Adelmans are concerned with man-made destruction of the Californian coastline and want to create a permanent baseline record of the entire stretch. Such a record can serve, among other uses, as evidence of illegal land use and as a basis for monitoring.

Some technical details:

Photographer: Kenneth Adelman
Pilot: Gabrielle Adelman
Aircraft: Robinson Model R44 helicopter
Camera: 6-megapixel Nikon D1X digital camera with 27 - 70 mm lens ( equivalent to about 40 - 105 mm in 35 mm format. ). Camera was coupled to a GPS unit so that the latitude, longitude, and altitude of the helicopter at the time of exposure were recorded for each photograph.
Altitude: Range 150 - 2,000 ft. ( 45 - 610 m). Typically 500 ﷓ 700 ft. ( 150 - 210 m ).
Camera Position: Port side. Door was removed.
Exposure Hand-held.

Single frame, at a sustained rate of one frame every 3 second.
Photographs were approximately "half-overlapping." Forward advance between photographs was about 500 ft. ( 150 m ).
When more than one pass was made over an area, photographs from the different passes were merged into a continuous image by mean of a sort algorithm.
Formats: NEF ( Nikon's proprietary format ), TIFF, and JPEG.
Time: August 29, 2002 - January 17, 2003. ( Test run in March 2002.)
Coverage: California coastline, from the state of Oregon south to the US/Mexico border, a total distance of about 1,150 miles ( 1,850 km ).
As of June 2003, the only stretch that has yet to be photographed is at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara.
No. of Photographs: 12,100 to date.

The project web site at has, among other items,

The site was launched in October, 2002. The L..A.Times reported that there were 160,000+ hits in the first 2 weeks.

The project has both supporters and critics:

It is being called "one of the biggest technological advances for environmental activism", "the most significant tool coastal conservationists have ever had" or even "a breakthrough that would remake government planning and land ownership regulations." Scientific researchers, government planners and environmental advocates are reported to be among the first users. "Researchers said the photos could be used to measure erosion, beach changes, vegetation changes and development patterns."

On the other hand, property owners and land developers see invasion of privacy and vigilantism. There are also concerns about encouraging "desktop bounty hunting for land use violations" and micro-management of land use by the California Coastal Commission, a state agency responsible for conserving and managing the resources of the Californian coast.

Since October 2002, the project had received extensive press coverage, especially in California. It was given additional and international publicity by a US $ 10 million damage lawsuit, launched by entertainment personality Barbra Streisand on May 20, 2003, claiming intrusion of privacy and violation of California’s anti-paparazzi law.

The Adelmans do not consider this project to be a one-time effort. They plan to "re-photograph portions of the coastline every few years, so that historical data is available for research and enforcement purposes."

For details and more information, go to or e-mail: <>.

Website maintained by jim f.

Last modified: October 18, 2008