Repeat photography provides a window for viewing the same place at different moments in time. It is accomplished by positioning cameras in the same location as the historic surveyor/climber’s. In the field, we will use a light-weight mirrorless camera system (Fujifilm X-T3), which affords excellent image quality and a field-friendly design, and we plan to document our work with environmental and locational measurements – portable weather instrumentation, GPS, and field notes – in accordance to current repeat-photography methodologies.

What can a historical landscape / repeat photography analysis tell us? Like the polar regions, mountains respond rapidly and intensely to climatic and environmental variation, so much so that they have increasingly become recognized today by both social and natural scientists as “sentinels for change,” harbingers for what’s to come in our warming planet. Recently collected meteorological data from Mount Logan, in fact, shows warming rates at the highest elevations to be six times the global average, which far exceed past expectations. This new evidence of extreme “elevation-dependent warming” high on Mount Logan makes the proposition of using historic imagery to see and display century-scale environmental change an exciting one, and the archive of historic material is both extensive and heretofore unutilized for this purpose.

Mount Logan’s first ascent, in 1925, generated a significant amount of landscape images. The team’s deputy-leader, Howard “Fred” Lambart, a Dominion Land Surveyor by profession and member of the Geodetic Survey of Canada – he had spent seven years working for the International Boundary Survey along the Yukon-Alaska border using photography in the service of creating highly accurate topographic maps – was tasked by the Department of the Interior to make a high-resolution photographic survey of the mountain. 

Similarly rich photographic collections have been identified from climbing expeditions in 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s adding important quarter-century markers to the project.

1950 Summit Panoramic Photo-2
IMAGE: Panoramic photograph from Mount Logan’s main summit, June 17, 1950 (André Roch)

Our primary goal will be to create a data-set of paired images from Mount Logan, and make those images – and the stories they may tell – widely accessible in an open, online gallery: the Mountain Legacy Project’s
Explorer website, a map-based interactive viewing platform for investigating century-scale climate-driven shifts in Canada’s mountains. We also seek to document our own field processes and experiences with photography and journalism, to tell strong stories about environmental and landscape change, and the history of climbing and science on Canada’s highest peak.