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An Interview with Photographer Bianca Germain
Presented by Swarovski Optik
How do you connect to nature on a regular basis?
I was born in upstate New York, consider Denver my current home, and the American West my playground. The outdoor opportunities of the western landscape have exposed me to a greater connection with nature. In winter, most days are spent sliding around in various snowscapes on skis. Success in the backcountry is founded upon a greater awareness, both of self and place. It is fueled by the desire to connect with and better understand the mountains. As a backcountry skier, I look to the snow to guide my pursuits and avoid avalanches. The layers within the snowpack, records of winter’s storms, are read as weak or bonded, stable or unstable. The observations made help provide a bigger picture of current avalanche conditions. The terrain, the weather, and the vegetation are also considerations in guiding safe travel decisions in the backcountry. Growing these relationships with nature’s elements are a necessity in skiing safe, and ultimately provide a deeper connection with the mountains I choose to recreate in.
Do you have a good example of how companies, people or organizations are helping to rebuild the bridge and connection between people and nature?
The NASA funded Community Snow Observations campaign uses the citizen-science model to improve the collective understanding of snow depth variability in mountainous regions. It is a great way to inspire the mountain community to develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of the snow and terrain in the areas that we recreate. Everything living downstream of mountain snowpack depends on water provided by melting snow. This campaign is a wonderful way to better connect outdoor recreationists with mountain ecosystems.
Is there a conservation story happening right now that you are particularly passionate about?
I have recently started following a somewhat contentious debate between mountain recreationists, wildlife managers and conservationists in the Teton Valley of Wyoming. Wildlife experts and government biologists have proposed winter closures to several backcountry zones in the Wyoming Range, which are utilized by both native Bighorn Sheep and backcountry skiers. Limited winter range habitat is placing sheep and skiers in conflict. While the skiers aren’t contributing to a loss of habitat, research suggests their movements have an impact on how bighorn sheep utilize winter range. The suggestions have been received with antipathy, specifically within the backcountry ski community. Some skiers view the closures as a threat to their recreational and wilderness access. Or as a convenient solution to a problem for which they don’t feel responsible. It is easy to convince skiers to care about snow, but harder to convince them to care about the less visible impact of their actions on wildlife migrations. Climate change is an easy bandwagon to jump on. The social nuances are interesting in this instance because skiers are tied to a tangible environmental problem in which they play a direct role. My interest is in how skiers will respond when confronted with a problem like this one and for what they choose to advocate for.
Is there someone who inspires you and/or is doing great work in the outdoors space?
Two years ago, I was introduced to the hunting space. I have since followed different hunting pursuits from behind my camera. It’s a personal choice. I use my camera to understand the why, to slow the process until the day comes where I prioritize pursuit of an animal over pursuit of the story. I cannot pin one profound moment in nature that stands out amongst others. However, it is the collective experience that I have been a part of that has created something profound. I flip through various photo galleries, each hunt different from the other in place, animal, or hunter, but the same thing remains. The truest and most transparent expression of ourselves is best found and experienced in nature.
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