Verizon Wireless partnered with the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society to produce the 2012 BioBlitz in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend. For the largest wireless network provider in the U.S. it is an opportunity to connect thousands of people with nature in real time. For John Johnson, Verizon Wireless’ executive director in the Western United States for corporate communications, there is also a deep personal affinity with the wilderness and photography.
“I love photography, I love being outdoors, and I love nature. The technology of today that is built into the smart phones that most people carry with them let you combine all these things in a really powerful and compelling way,” Johnson told me on the beach of a small lake across the street from Estes Park fairgrounds, headquarters of the BioBlitz. “The camera phone knows where you are. It has GPS and you can use it to capture high-definition images, videos, send them in real time up the network to share with other people. I find that when I do that … it’s really engaging, people say ‘he’s there right now, I want to go there too’. So I love that connection of the gadgetry, the technology, with nature and the ability to tell stories through powerful images that you can capture by being out and getting around.”
To facilitate the BioBlitz, Verizon added a new 4G LTE cell site on the peak of Prospect Mountain overlooking Estes Park and the Eastern Gateway to the National Park, Johnson said. “The super fast wireless service lets student scientists upload smartphone images of their species observations in real time to National Geo’s Fieldscope for analysis. It’s a great way to engage kids with nature and help them share their excitement using the gizmos and technology they love.” Check out some of the results of this work on Fieldscope.
Our interview over, Johnson pulled out a bag of gadgets to extend the capabilities of the smart phone, from tiny wide-angle lenses to a tripod and external microphones. “I am passionate about my photography,” he said as we returned to the BioBlitz, “but smart phones make it so easy to always be able to photograph or video any opportunity that comes up. So I no longer have a lot of use for a big bag full of expensive cameras and lenses. I like to be always connected and engaged with the world around me.”
Here are some of John Johnson’s photos taken and shared with his smart phone over the past couple of days:
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.