Photo project documents ecological change over time

JACKSON, WY —  With dramatic exceptions, usually in the form of natural disasters (wildfires, floods, etc.), changes in the landscape are subtle and slow. But they tell an important story if you know how to pay attention.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest and Teton Conservation District found a creative way to capture ecological change: repeat photography. The premise is simple: photograph the same landscape multiple times over the course of many years, and compare the scenes.

The Historic Photo Retake Project takes historic photos of Northwest Wyoming and compares them with more contemporary images. The result is a series of sliding mosaics that give viewers a detailed side-by-side comparison of the landscapes then and now.

Considering land conservation has been a pillar of Jackson’s ethos since the early 1870s, Northwest Wyoming is “an ideal place to gain an understanding of long-term ecological change,” the Forest Service writes.

“The science and practice of land management is rooted in our understanding of natural processes. If nature cannot do it, we usually cannot either… Although often beautiful, what we show here is not just scenery. It is habitat for wildlife, fish, and humans. What has happened here and what could happen, effects all of us. Repeat photography is a window to the past and a key to the future.”

Explore the Historic Photo Retake Project online — it works best in Google Chrome, but if you can, it’s highly worth checking out.

This change is a little more dramatic — the hillside on the left appears to have been recently cleared by fire. But look how it’s grown back over the years. (These are screenshots, the site is interactive! We highly encourage playing around on it.)

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