The Platte River Basin, located in America’s Heartland is one of the most appropriated river systems in the world. Every drop of water is spoken for, and little is free. The basin supports an industrial agricultural powerhouse laid over one of the most endangered and altered grassland ecosystems on earth. Beneath the ground it harbors more than half of the mighty Ogallala Aquifer; fossil water whose quantity and quality are at stake. Today this basin is being asked to be both food producer and energy pump in an age of climate change and economic uncertainty.
In 2011 Michael Forsberg and veteran NET Nebraska producer Michael Farrell set off on a journey to show a Great Plains watershed in motion via time-lapse photography and multimedia storytelling. Currently Platte Basin Timelapse (PBT) has more than 60 time-lapse cameras spread across the 90,000 square-mile basin, from its headwaters along the Continental Divide in the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies to the river’s confluence with the Missouri River on Nebraska’s eastern border. Each time-lapse camera tells one part of the story of that proverbial drop of water as it makes a journey of roughly 900 river miles through the heart of North America.
In 2016, Mike and his friend Pete Stegen completed a two-month 1300-mile traverse across the Platte Basin. They started at the furthest west point of the Platte Basin in the Sweetwater Gap of Wyoming and ended at the drain at the Platte-Missouri River confluence. The entire journey was completed by bike, foot, and canoe. This was all in effort to explore this critical water source and to show how it intersects with the lives of those who live in this 90,000-square mile watershed in the heart of North America. A documentary about their journey titled, Follow the Water will be aired on PBS National Earth Day, 2019. It tells the story of the Platte River Basin as Mike and Pete journey through the watershed - meeting dedicated conservationists, giving voice to the land and wildlife, seeing whats at stake, exploring the Platte Basin Timelapse project, and more.
A Trout with Feathers
In the upper reaches of North America’s watersheds, one will find a charismatic chunky gray bird dipping and diving underwater in clear, fast-flowing streams. This bird is called the American dipper and is North America’s only aquatic songbird. Mike fell in love with the American dipper on a college fishing trip. After learning about these birds and their unique behaviors of dipping and diving underwater, he set out on a mission to document their natural history. This included photographing their behavior above water and below.
The link below will take you to an essay with a portfolio of images and short documentary film. We hope you enjoy.