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.

“The Platte Basin doesn’t have to be your watershed, but the stories can be applied to any watershed in the whole world, whether it’s a creek in your backyard, or the Zambezi in Africa. It’s just a way to communicate, whether it’s to my mom or to a highbrow scientist.” –Forsberg

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 50 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.

“Everything that we are doing is trying to see a watershed in motion, trying to explain what a watershed is, to get people to understand that nature doesn’t know any straight lines, neither does water, and a watershed is a living breathing organism that is constantly changing.” –Forsberg

This project is a multi-year initiative that aims to get people to come together as a community and to start thinking about what it means to live in a watershed today. PBT aims to do this by: educating via STEM-based curriculum for middle and high school students, producing a forthcoming documentary film for public television, working with researchers to pair and tease out science from the time-lapse imagery, using innovative audio and visual technologies, and creating web-based multimedia journalism stories.



When I am photographing prairie wildlife, I often feel like I am chasing ghosts. Photographing the survivors of prairie species whose numbers have been decimated, or all but eliminated from these wide-open spaces. Even on the Platte River, where 500,000 sandhill cranes and millions of ducks and geese find critical refuge each spring, there is the underlying reality that only a fraction of the habitat remains that existed a century ago.   - Michael Forsberg

From 2005-2009, Forsberg traveled 100,000 miles crisscrossing the Plains from Canada to Mexico working on a book called Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild. The main goal of the book project was to put a face on and build appreciation of what many from the outside looking in consider “flyover country.” It explores the wildlife, habitats and conservation challenges in the heart of the continent.  The Great Plains - America's Lingering Wild exhibition opened at Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska in February 2010. It has since traveled to locations across the United States.

In November 2012, the documentary film Great Plains-America’s Lingering Wild  was released on NET, Nebraska's PBS television station. It was released to a national audience by PBS in September, 2013. In the film, Forsberg examines what wildness remains in the Great Plains of North America. Featuring brilliant and stunning imagery, Forsberg meets a host of dedicated people working to keep the wildness alive. The documentary is a co-production of NET Television and Michael Forsberg Photography.


On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America

In 1999, Forsberg embarked on a five-year personal mission to photograph and write a book documenting the migration of Sandhill Cranes, On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America. His goal was to connect the lives of the cranes and their habits across the continent from western Alaska to Cuba.  Self-published in 2004, the book was the result of a five-year personal journey of 65,000 miles, 1,000 rolls of film, three 100-page journals, two file drawers jammed full of research and 13 locations in four countries. With stunningly beautiful photography, On Ancient Wings and its accompanying exhibition presents sandhills in their wild, but increasingly compromised habitats today.

Forsberg was also included in the PBS documentary Crane Song, which weaves together striking visuals and majestic sounds of the sandhill cranes' journey with the stories and insights of the people who observe these creatures, as well as landowners endeavoring to ensure a habitat that is welcoming to cranes.