Conservation Photographer Michael Forsberg presents about Great Plains

By Lizzie Moran, NewsNetNebraska

“I fell in love with the Plains on top of a mountain in Colorado,” conservation photographer Michael Forsberg said.

Forsberg presented about the use of time-lapse photography, his book and the importance of conserving the Great Plains on the evening of Nov. 8, 2014. The presentation, “The Roots of Hope: 20 Years Photographing Flyover Country,” occurred at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum building on University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovation Campus.

His love for the Great Plains began as a child when his family would visit Bear Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park. Forsberg said he looked toward the plains to the east, while his friends looked to the west.

Since then, Forsberg has photographed the Great Plains, spanning from swift foxes and sandhill cranes to the grasslands and the Platte River. Recently, he has been experimenting with new photography technologies, especially time-lapse photography.

After traveling the Great Plains for six months per year for three years, Forsberg published his book titled “America’s Lingering Wild: The Great Plains.” By the end of his field work, Forsberg had traveled 100,000 miles in 12 states.

“I liked that he [Forsberg] accompanied everything he talked about with really detailed pictures,” sophomore actuarial science major Ryan Long said. “When he was describing his back story about why he fell in love with the Great Plains, he had photos from his childhood and his college years depicting the moments that he truly knew he was in love with the Plains.”

Three students from the Raikes School of Computer Science are aiding Forsberg’s conservation efforts and photography project to create a time-lapse photography software. The open-source project, Phocalstream, is a research tool funded by the Water For Food charity.

Time-lapse cameras were placed at dams, lakes, rivers and grassland fields, among other locations.

The Phocalstream tool takes a range of data from around the state and uses photo comparison graphs to figure out things like the average flow of a river, for example. Photos can be selected based on criteria such as time or pictures with animals or other wildlife.

“ I thought it was a cool research tool, and I liked that I could learn about what Water For Food does and use technologies I hadn’t used before,” sophomore computer science major Ashlyn Lee said. Lee was part of the team that developed and worked on Phocalstream.

Forsberg’s speech included a slideshow of his photographs and videos of wildlife on the grasslands. Forsberg also commented about the changes happening on the Plains, statistics on the diminishing land and what can be done about conservation and sustainability.

In this new age of journalism, Forsberg is trying to use his photography to bring awareness to the constant changes happening on the grasslands. After exploring the many conservation needs in the Great Plains, he is using his time-lapse work to show people what is changing in the area.

“I think one of the biggest things was that he [Forsberg] is using his work as a means to demonstrate to a greater audience that the Plains are something that we need to preserve,” Long said.

As a photographer, Forsberg said his goal is to stitch the Great Plains ecosystem back together with pictures.

“His speech gives me a greater appreciation for the Great Plains and where I live,” Long said. “I hope to see a better future and continued improvement in the ecosystem because it’s vital to many aspects of our lives.”

One thing is apparent: the Great Plains will continue to drive many of the needs of the people in the area. Time will pass, but the need for conservation won’t stop, just like Forsberg’s love for the Plains.

Link to my live Twitter feed from the event can be found here:

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