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.


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.

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

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.