Meet the Oblique Photography Field Crew!

[This post also appears on the Mountain Legacy Project website with some slight modifications. You can check out the MLP blog here.] 

Summer is here, and that means the Landscapes in Motion field crews are hitting the road to begin the data collection process in Alberta’s southern Rockies. Sonia Voicescu and Karson Sudlow will be capturing repeat photographs with Julie Fortin of the Oblique Photography Team and Mountain Legacy Project over the next few months, and they can’t wait to reach that first mountain peak.

If you attend the Environmental Studies program at the University of Victoria, the chances are good that you’ve heard of the Mountain Legacy Project. For Sonia Voicescu and Karson Sudlow, it was a recurring theme in courses on geography, ecology, climate change, human effects, and more. Among the many appeals of the project was its strong interdisciplinary nature, which made each of them want to get involved.

The paths they’ve taken to end up with the Oblique Photography Team are quite different, yet a common theme is their desire to expand their knowledge and experiences beyond what they can gain in a classroom.

For Sonia, it is the continuation of a long journey which has taken her from her home in Montréal, where she studied Environmental Sciences, to a non-governmental organization helping communities in Nicaragua become more resilient to natural disasters. After a period in the public service with Health Canada studying noise pollution, she started the Restoration of Natural Systems Diploma program at the University of Victoria. She took a course taught by Eric Higgs, the Oblique Photography Lead and Director of the Mountain Legacy Project, and became determined to get involved with the project.

  Karson Sudlow captures some notes at a repeat photography location he visited during the 2017 field season. Photo courtesy Karson Sudlow.

Karson Sudlow captures some notes at a repeat photography location he visited during the 2017 field season. Photo courtesy Karson Sudlow.

Karson also wanted more after completing a degree in Biology at the University of Alberta. His aim in joining the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Victoria was to learn more about environmental and ecological questions—questions he could not answer in a microbiology or genetics lab. After snagging some work helping with image processing for the Mountain Legacy Project, Karson was given a co-op position that he has held for the last two summers.

For both Sonia and Karson, the interdisciplinary nature of the project was enticing, as was the strong culture of teamwork and collaboration among the researchers and staff. They were immediately welcomed into the decision-making process and have had the chance to learn from the diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and experiences of their team members.

Preparations for field work have been intense and have involved lists upon lists provided by Julie Fortin, who has several summers of this work under her belt. They’ve had to determine which historical survey sites to revisit and photograph, including which survey sites are a high priority for the Fire Regime Team and for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, whose field support makes their work possible. At the start of the summer the pile of tasks seemed insurmountable, between preparing historical photos, rounding up gear, and ensuring all the parts for the cameras and tripods were accounted for. But with the help of Julie and the rest of the team, they were able to do it.

  Karson Sudlow (left) and Sonia Voicescu (right) practice with the photography equipment on Mt. Tolmie in Victoria before heading into the field. Photo by Mary Sanseverino (Mountain Legacy Project).

Karson Sudlow (left) and Sonia Voicescu (right) practice with the photography equipment on Mt. Tolmie in Victoria before heading into the field. Photo by Mary Sanseverino (Mountain Legacy Project).

Sonia and Karson will be on their own for much of the field season, so they are apprehensive but excited. Karson had a chance to get his feet wet last summer by joining for a couple of weeks of field work, and he and Sonia are both looking forward to the feeling they will experience when they reach their first site. Can you imagine? After weeks of looking at historical photos, using Google Earth to figure out where they were taken, and working through the chaos of field preparations, they will finally get to stand where a surveyor stood a century ago.

They’re hoping the experience will be a memorable one. Perhaps it may even compare with Karson’s first site last year—a lightning storm blew directly over them, and as they took shelter below the peak, they watched in amazement as a lone wolf played in a field amid the thunder and lighting. Field work comes with so many unexpected moments that stay with you forever, and Sonia and Karson are incredibly excited to discover what this summer of repeat photography has in store for them.

Sonia Voicescu is in the Restoration of Natural Systems Diploma program at the University of Victoria, where she is learning applied restoration techniques. In the Fall she will begin her PhD working with Mountain Legacy Project images and tools with Eric Higgs. She is from Montréal, Québec.

Karson Sudlow is in the Environment and Geography program at the University of Victoria, where he is learning more about ecosystem sciences and environmental studies. He is from Red Deer, Alberta.


Sonya Odsen is an Ecologist and Science Communicator with a background in boreal ecology and conservation. She is a regular writer for Landscapes in Motion and is part of the Outreach and Engagement Team for the project.

Every member of our team sees the world a little bit differently, which is one of the strengths of this project.  Each blog posted to the Landscapes in Motion website represents the personal experiences, perspectives, and opinions of the author(s) and not of the team, project, or Healthy Landscapes Program.