Welcome to The Witness Tree

Many of you reading this are already familiar with The Witness Tree, my new project photographing landscapes that are being affected by climate change. If this is your first encounter with my work, thanks for stopping by to take a look.

If you are interested in supporting this project – today, September 9th, is the last day to make a tax-deductible donation and get a great thank you gift via my crowd-sourcing fundraiser on Indeigogo.com. If you are reading this after that campaign has closed – you can still make a tax-deductible donation via my fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas.

So far I have only photographed a few of the many locations I hope to document.  As I will be on sabbatical from teaching this year, I will be able to pursue this project in a much more in-depth manner.  I decided a blog, rather than a traditional website, would be the best avenue to let people know what and where I am currently photographing and also to share some stories from the road. Although I am focusing primarily on landscapes, I have already met some very interesting people whose stories and portraits I will also share.

Glacier National Park, Montana, August 2011 – Part 1: The Glaciers

My cousin Theresa admiring the view of the mountains at Lake McDonald

My cousin Theresa admiring the view at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park

view of Ptarmigan Lake in Glacier National Park

View of Ptarmigan Lake

I will begin this blog with images from my recent trip to Glacier National Park. Not to dismiss the beauty of Yellowstone or Yosemite, but I think Glacier is my new favorite national park. It’s not the easiest or the cheapest place to get to, but perhaps that extra effort made it that much more worthwhile and memorable of a trip.

By now most people know that global warming is causing glaciers worldwide to melt at increasingly rapid speeds. Of the 150 original glaciers that were in this park when it was founded over a 100 years ago only 25 remain.  Initially climatologists predicted these 25 would be gone by the year 2030, but now some predict their demise could come as early as 2020, less than 10 years away.

view of the Salamander Glacier through some trees

View of Salamander Glacier

I was there for a week in early August with my cousin Theresa and we were surprised to see some snow still lingering on some of the trails and hillsides. Like many landscapes, Glacier is being affected by a variety of changes in the climate, not just higher temperatures. Thus that still-existing snow was due to an unusually heavy snowfall in the North and West this year. A few areas of the park experienced almost 40% more snow this year which delayed the opening of the famous Going to the Sun Road that runs through the center of the park. Although in some ways this extra precipitation is welcomed as it provides necessary water for plants and animals, it points to the unpredictable patterns in the climate that are emerging as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere continues to climb. (more on this in a later post)

View of Old Sun Glacier from Ptarmigan Trail, Glacier National Park

View of Old Sun Glacier from Ptarmigan Trail

Although I felt very blessed to be surrounded by the beauty of this park, it also made me very sad. When my now 4-year-old niece Magdalena asked if she could come on this trip with me I said, “No sweetie, you’ll be celebrating your birthday at your grandparents’ house then. Don’t worry, you can go see the glaciers another time.” And as the words came out of my mouth, it really hit home. There is a very good chance she won’t get to see the same Glacier National Park that I did.  And it made me wonder, after the glaciers are gone, will they rename the park?

Swiftcurrent Glacier at sunset, seen from Many Glacier Lake

Swiftcurrent Glacier at sunset, seen from Many Glacier Lake


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