chris mayne
Taking Flight: The Photography of Chris Mayne

April 30, 2010, Judd

An Encinitas resident for more than four decades and surfer of 53 years, Chris Mayne has overseen the construction of some of Encinitas’ most famous landmarks, including the Self Realization FellowshipGift Shop. His general contracting business is currently building the SRF temple annex on 2nd and J Street.

Mayne’s watchful eyes have also earned him critical acclaim with his hobby, avian photography.

Mayne, who started taking pictures of birds when digital photography was in its infancy, had three of his photos place in the top 100 by the National Audubon Society for 2011. One of those photos, of a Clark’s Grebe, was recently selected for the Society’s 2012 calendar.

Mayne says that his interest in avian photography developed after losing interest in surf photography.

“Generally, I don’t like surfers anymore,” says Mayne in a joking, quasi-sarcastic tone. “Surfing is inherently selfish and surfers have become way more selfish over the years. Almost every surfer thinks that every wave is his.”

Some of the surf shots that Mayne took captured birds in flight and soon, his interest in avian photography took off.

Encinitas, Mayne says, is the perfect breeding ground for budding photographers.

“We’re so lucky to be bordered by two pristine lagoons, Batiquitos to the north and San Elijo to the south.”

Mayne’s favorite birds at the lagoon to photograph are avocets. “They travel in groups but can be downright territorial, and change in color to orange from white in winter; they are great survivalists.”

Ospreys are another of Mayne’s favorite feathered friends. One improvement to San Elijo Lagoon Mayne would like to see is the implementation of osprey nesting platforms.

“In coastal Baja, osprey populations have rebounded tremendously because the Mexican utility companies have put platform nests on their power poles. We should do the same here,” says Mayne, whose wife, Carol, is a successful commercial artist and painted the mural outside the SRF gift shop.

In addition to San Elijo Lagoon, Mayne says that photographers looking to capture captivating photos of birds should consider San Diego Botanical Gardens and the D St. Overlook park adjacent to the library, where he personally photographed two rare warblers.

Fortunate to be able to travel frequently, Mayne has also photographed birds in exotic locations such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and India, where his hobby nearly cost him his life.

Mayne picked up an intestinal parasite.

“The medicine they gave me to kill the parasite nearly killed me,” says Mayne, who also felt something crawling on his feet in India. The mysterious creature to this day — roughly two years since the visit — “…makes it seem like I’m constantly stepping on marbles.”

Despite his brush with death, Mayne says without hesitation that he would hop on the next plane to India.

“I’d go back to India in a heartbeat. You better be able to let go there, otherwise they’re going to take you out of there in a straightjacket. Just watch where you step,” says Mayne, who will soon visit New Mexico for the fifth straight year to shoot (with his camera) sandhill cranes.

“If you’re into birds, you must visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grande Valley near Albuquerque. To see thousands of birds take flight at the same time just takes your breath away. The lighting there is amazing,” says Mayne, who concludes, “But Encinitas is an absolute jewel for avian photography as well.”

Judd Handler is a freelance writer and wellness/lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He surfs uncrowded, fun reef breaks; plays instrumental alternate-tuning guitar; goes hiking in the backcountry; and is amazed on a daily basis by just being alive.