Lucas Jackson on multimedia series on climate change in Greenland
This week, Reuters released a series of multimedia interactive graphics focused on climate change in Greenland. The series, by Photographer Lucas Jackson, Data Journalist Travis Hartman, Graphics Editor Christine Chan and Digital Editor Elizabeth Culliford, explores in detail how NASA scientists are studying the impact of warming oceans on ice sheets, in order to improve sea level rise projections. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Lucas offers a behind-the-scenes look at how they created the series.
Q. How did you get started on this project? What did you hope to accomplish with it?
A. I love the Arctic and try to keep up-to-date on it so I know that there is a lot of really fascinating research going on up there right now. Covering the research itself and not just the results would differentiate our climate change coverage from others and North America Photo Editor Corinne Perkins was incredibly supportive in finding opportunities to do that. Once we had some options, the Reuters graphics team came onboard because it was a compelling story but also because they knew there would be great data. That early collaboration really helped to reach the end result.
Q. What was your time in Greenland like?
A. This trip was broken up into two trips. The first was to spend time with NASA scientists taking part in the Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) research mission as they flew a plane out of Iceland. I went there in March for a week with data journalist Travis Hartman and the time we spent with those scientists gave us a solid foundation of images, video, data, and understanding that would help with the whole project. The second trip I took by myself to meet up with climate scientist David Holland and his team. That trip was a lot more difficult because it takes two days to get to Greenland and back. It was also made more difficult because I had to bring enough camera equipment, batteries, cold weather gear, camping gear, and clothing to last for eight days in the field. Once in Greenland, I just traveled with Holland’s team as they did routine maintenance and work. We had to helicopter around to travel from camp to camp and the sun hardly set. There was a healthy amount of rain for living in a tent but the weather cleared enough for me to get some really exciting pictures, drone video, and even footage of a massive calving event that is rarely seen, much less recorded. I worked as much as possible because I don’t know if I will ever be back in Greenland!
Q. What was the hardest part of the project?
A. The hardest part of this whole project was actually the production after all the footage and images were done. For this Christine Chan from Reuters graphics was a real hero coordinating, communicating, and planning all the text, video, pictures, and graphics to not only be a cohesive final project, but also a big delivery of multiple assets to clients.
Q. What makes you passionate about photojournalism? What do you find most fulfilling about it?
A. Honestly, it’s projects like this that keep me going through the hours spent standing in the rain, wishing I was warm, or arguing for better access. This is a story that informs the public in a really thorough manner and was a real team effort to present it as well as possible. That’s why I got into this, to inform people and entice them to learn more because a picture has drawn them into a story. It is incredibly fulfilling to see when everything goes right and with this project it went about as well as one could hope.
Q. What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a photographer?
A. The most rewarding times are when I capture an image that resonates with people. Whether it’s a rare documentation of a spectacular natural phenomena or making an image that viewers have an emotional response to, that is the best part of my job. Sometimes those moments are too far and few between so it can be difficult to keep motivated and inspired to do your best, yet I have discovered that those times can be great for personal reflection or figuring out where your next story can be. Photographers just want to be taking good pictures; if we are put in a position to do that we are pretty happy, even if it is raining and cold.
Q. Can you imagine being anything other than a photographer? If so, what?
A. I do love learning and being outside, so it would have to relate to those things. That’s one of the best parts of being a photojournalist at Reuters. I get to spend a short time experiencing and learning about all of these other people’s lives with them and then go back to my own. That and the chance to push the envelope of what is possible at Reuters and in the modern news environment has really kept me from thinking too much about a career change!