Mountaineer uses time-lapse photography to communicate long-term point of view.
Alpinist Conrad Anker, 47, of Bozeman, Montana, has spent his career understanding how glaciation and geology formed the mountains of his peak pursuits in the high Himalaya, Patagonia, and Antarctica, among other locations.
As a climber, he’s well aware of long geological time scales. Now Anker is communicating this long-term point of view with his involvement in the Extreme Ice Survey, a project of James Balog that merges art and science to visually record the world’s changing ecosystems.
“People have short attention spans, especially young people,” said Anker in an interview during the annual SEJ conference in Missoula. In April and May, Anker led a five-person team of climbers and photographers who installed five time-lapse cameras onto the sides of mountains in the Himalayas. These images recently have been retrieved and are compared with a still photograph from the same location taken in the 1950s. Put together, the Extreme Ice videos are compelling evidence of glacial change.
“With the Extreme Ice Survey time lapse photography, [people] can absorb 60 years of glacial change in a few seconds. It’s not just an abstract indicator. It blows people’s minds. They get it,” he said.
He added that journalists and photographers should focus on ways to get readers to understand long-term time scales by making them real. Pick a point in time and show how that one point has changed, he explained.
The new cameras installed in the high Himalayas capture the progression of the ice melt in and around glaciers on Mount Everest. The initiative also monitors glaciers through photography and video in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, and the Andes.