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Climate Change in Your Life

This assignment ran from Apr 27 to May 18, 2015.

Editors Note: Please DO NOT submit pictures taken outside the time frame of this assignment. Make sure the day/date/clock is set accurately on your camera. We will look at the time/date stamps on the pictures and will NOT consider images taken outside the effective dates of the assignment. This is an assignment to produce NEW work, not an archival search.

For this assignment, we want you to use your camera to document the climate and how you see it changing in the place where you live. Not only is this a photography assignment, it is a thinking-about-photography assignment. How can we use photography to express an idea, and do this eloquently and aesthetically in photographs? This is the approach we would ask you to take if you were on assignment for National Geographic.

Think of climate as weather averaged over a long period. Each location on Earth has its own climate. It can be visually expressed in what kinds of trees, crops, and flowering plants grow in a place, the length of growing seasons, the kinds and architectural styles of buildings we live in, and the types of clothing we wear through the seasons. Climate is also expressed in temperatures and precipitation: how hot it normally gets in summer, how cold in winter, how much precipitation and what kind—rain or snow—is normal for a place, or even if a place gets rain or snow at all. Some places are very dry, just as others are very wet; deserts and rain forests are examples.

Look at your own habitat—your neighborhood and community—and use your camera to explore the climate where you live and, if possible, show changes you have seen. A few examples for you to think about: Are trees leafing out earlier in spring. Are the flowers blooming earlier? Are you seeing new kinds of birds and animals that ordinarily are found farther south, or north? Are you seeing more or less snow or heavier downpours of rain and floods? Is where you live getting drier or getting less or no rain or snow? If you live in a forested region, are you seeing more fires earlier and later in the year? If you live along the coast, are you seeing impacts from coastal storms, like coastal erosion from rising sea levels?

Remember, we only want new photos shot between the assignment dates, April 27-May 18. Good luck!

Curated by:

Jessie Wender
Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic Magazine

Dennis Dimick
National Geographic Executive Editor, Environment
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published May 25, 2015.
Thank you for your contributions!

Beyond Preconceptions

Posted may 15, 2015

Dear Photographers,

We're approaching the end of our assignment, and we have seen some incredible photographs, and very interesting interpretations of what climate change in a variety of dimensions looks like in your life.

There are some stunning and disturbing photographs of landscapes affected by droughts and floods, erosion, and fire. And, there are some powerful photographs of a variety of unusual weather; extreme storms, snowfall, and blizzards.

Photographers have captured local crops that are or will be affected by climate change, such as Win Win's photograph of grape vines, or Harrie Muis's photograph of Olive Trees in Southern Spain. Other photographers have looked at communities affected by climate change, such as Aditya Waikul's photograph of villagers waiting for water at a dried well in India.

There are images that look at some of the sources of climate change, like Jassen T.'s aerial photograph of pumpjacks in California, as well as photographs of alternative energy sources as potential ways to reduce future impacts of climate change, like Borre Heitmann Holmeslet's photograph of wind turbines.

Photographers have also submitted emotive and creative images using reflections in water to conjure ideas of excess, such as Martine Lanchec-Girard photograph of dam repair in Madagascar, and some photographers even took a conceptual approach creating still life images that strive to convey the urgency of climate change in alternative ways, such as Duey Moore's constructed image.

With one weekend left, we encourage you to get outside, or outside of your preconceptions, and visualize climate change in your life. Maybe the climate is not changing where you live, but you do live in a climate region. This may involve looking at the world around you and seeing the causes, but maybe not the effects. It may involve visualizing solutions. This process is as much about imagination and ideas as it is pictures, and maybe conceptual images result from this.

We realize this is a difficult assignment, made all the harder by the short time frame. But constraints force us to think in fresh ways and to imagine what might be, and assignments are designed to do just that. In our experience the best images come from those who go beyond the easy solutions, the first images that come to mind. Our goal here has been to engage your minds and imaginations which then produce provocative images embedded with meaning. Thank you again for all the wonderful submissions.

Thinking Caps On

Posted may 11, 2015

We realize this assignment is a tough one, trying to make climate change visual in your own backyard, especially within the short timeframe we are setting. It is hard to show change in such a short time!

That said, when we attempt assignments at National Geographic, it requires us to do some backgrounding, research on what is happening with the climate, not just picking up our camera and walking out the door. This article from National Geographic offers examples of how climate change plays out, this can help you think about climate change and its impacts.

Where I live the growing seasons have been getting longer. Leaves have been coming out a bit earlier in the spring, the last freeze date in the spring has been getting earlier. That means leaves on trees are coming out a few days to weeks earlier, and it also means that the behavior of animals is changing.

Like you I have been trying to make climate change visual in my own back yard, and here I submit two examples for you to think about. Last week I was out in the park taking pictures with my phone, which I often do while on morning walks. In one situation I was photographing the local stream, and two geese walked into the frame. Geese, which used to migrate south from here in the winter, are sticking around all year as winters get more moderate. Geese are now year-round residents of my neighborhood, but when I moved here 30 years ago they were always gone south for the winter.

(This past winter though was very cold where we live in the Eastern U.S., but the long term trend has been towards warmer temperatures and less snow. In the western U.S. the winter was far warmer than normal, and globally temperatures have been rising.)

As our winters have moderated we have also seen a bit earlier arrival of leaves and blooms on trees. So this picture, which shows the richness of nature in my neighborhood can also be used as a way to talk about how we are also seeing spring arrive earlier, how leaves are coming earlier.

This article from the Washington Post reports how cherry trees in our region have been blooming up to five days earlier.

Lastly, we have been seeing an increase in extreme precipitation events where I live, more rain comes down in big storms. While this picture is not taken during the time frame of this assignment, it also speaks to these kinds of changes we have been seeing as the climate changes where we live.


In the Western U.S. states, for example, wine grapes that used to grow only in California are now growing further north in Oregon. These are examples to help you think about climate change in your own life. Remember, our goal here is to help you think about what pictures mean, not just what the look like, and an assignment requiring you to put on your thinking cap before you take pictures is our main goal.

Good luck as you put on your thinking caps and then head out with your cameras!

Picture The Idea

Posted may 1, 2015

Photographers, thanks so much for your enthusiasm and effort so far. We appreciate your willingness to engage on this assignment. Please remember that we want you to take new pictures, and that the only pictures we will consider for the final selection or for publication are those taken during the time frame of this assignment. We realize this is challenging assignment—to photograph climate change—and hope you will take on the challenge to make new images to express this complex idea rather than digging through your archive.

Another reminder is to please include meaningful caption information. For images that do not directly "read" climate change, we'd love to know more about what we're looking at. The more we know about what you were attempting as you photographed the assignment, the more informative it is for us and for all your fellow photographers who are participating.

There are many ways to interpret climate change, and we are interested in how you picture this idea. Examples of what to photograph are written about in the assignment description, and include types of trees, crops, and flowering plants found in your habitat; growing seasons; architectural styles of buildings; types of clothing worn through the seasons; temperature and precipitation; new birds and animals; deviations from the typical snow and rain accumulation; coastal erosion; and ramifications from floods, drought, fires. and costal storms. But please feel free to think outside of the box, and be creative and aesthetic. In the end, we want to see wonderful photographs!

Jessie Wender

Jessie Wender

Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic Magazine
Jessie Wender is a senior photo editor at National Geographic magazine where she commissions and researches features and the magazine's short form sections, including Visions, Proof, and Departments. She loves working with artists and with creative people, and is a huge supporter of emerging photographers.

Dennis Dimick

Dennis Dimick

National Geographic Executive Editor, Environment
Dennis Dimick is National Geographic's executive editor for the environment, and grew up hiking and fishing in the national forests of Oregon's Cascade Mountains. An avid hobby photographer, he has been a picture editor at the National Geographic Society since 1980.