UNL’s Outdoor Adventures program helped spark a career path for Nebraska photographer Michael Forsberg.
As an undergraduate, Forsberg worked from 1987 to 1989 as a trip leader in Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Adventures program. The work included regular staff training trips into the field. For one of those trips, Forsberg — who was studying geography with an emphasis in environmental studies — borrowed a camera from his father’s friend.
“We would do these trips on a regular basis to become certified to teach others about various outdoor adventure activities,” Forsberg said. “I really had no interest in photography at the time. I borrowed the camera because we were always going into the field, but would return with nothing to show what we did and where we had been.”
The early summer trip was highlighted by a mountain climbing excursion into the Sangre de Cristo Range in Colorado. While traversing Blanca Peak, the eighth highest peak in the contiguous United States, a storm rolled in and the group set up camp to wait it out.
While on that mountain, the skies literally parted and Forsberg reached for that camera.
“I unzipped the tent to look at the weather, and there was this beautiful shaft of light coming down out of these deep, dark, bruise colored clouds. The only thing missing was the ladder of angels,” Forsberg said. “I grabbed the camera and took some photos.
“When we got back, I had the slide film developed and looked at the image. That was the spark. From that point on, my goal was to figure out how to make a living out of this photography thing.”
After graduation, Forsberg worked briefly as a ranger in the National Park Service before being hired as a staff photographer and writer for Nebraskaland Magazine. He worked for the magazine for six years before starting his own photography business and gallery.
Forsberg’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Audubon, National Geographic, National Wildlife and Natural History. In 2001, his image of a Nebraska tallgrass prairie was selected for an international postage stamp.
He is also an assistant professor of practice in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication and the School of Natural Resources. Forsberg and NET’s Mike Farrell are co-founders of the Platte Basin Time Lapse Project.
Forsberg said lessons learned while with Outdoor Adventures have also helped him.
“I learned an awful lot there,” Forsberg said. “It not only helped me with my outdoor skills. I also learned how to plan trips, work with others and how to teach people in various ways.
“The skills I developed at Outdoor Adventures are the same skills I use everyday in the working world.”
Forsberg was a student worker in the original Outdoor Adventures location at 1740 Vine St., which also housed Campus Recreation. He looks forward to watching the program continue to grow as it settles into the new Outdoor Adventures Center, which is at 930 N. 14th St. and is open to the public for tours today (May 2) from 2 to 6 p.m.
“I had a tour of the facility a couple of months ago and it looked absolutely awesome,” Forsberg said. “The new building is going to offer all kinds of amazing opportunities to some very lucky students. And based on my experience with the Outdoor Adventures program, I know those opportunities are going to be unforgettable.”
For more information on UNL’s Outdoor Adventures program, click here.