Chasing Ice // James Balog Documentary

James Balog is the focal human at the center of Chasing Ice. This increasingly legendary nature photographer talks about his early efforts in the genre, where he quickly discovered that his disturbing photos of endangered species being killed, maimed or harvested for pieces of their bodies didn’t exactly meet with public acclaim, despite the worthiness of the subject. His intent has always been to show the interrelationship of Man and Nature, and when he finally decided to start examining our planet’s shrinking ice field, he felt he had hit upon an idea that would be both scenic and disturbing.

Balog’s peculiar genius was to help found and implement what is known as the Extreme Ice Survey, or EIS for short. Balog set about installing time lapse cameras which finally were able to document the incredibly shocking retreat of some of the world’s largest glaciers. Chasing Ice‘s Jeff Orlowski evidently didn’t originally have an idea to make a feature documentary out of this enterprise, and instead was along for the ride, but along with Balog and the rest of the EIS’s crew slowly came to realize that this was a story that needed the widest exposure possible.

What Chasing Ice ends up being, therefore, is both an environmental wake up call but perhaps just as compellingly a document of a devoted group’s heroic efforts to overcome extreme environments and logistical nightmares in order to make the ice survey a reality. The result is a combination of thrilling location photography, including some devastating “calving events” (when huge pieces of glaciers or ice floes break off and being melting into the sea), as well the hardships faced by Balog and his crew, both technical (the early cameras don’t work as promised) and personal (Balog has some health issues as the survey proceeds).

My hunch is that Chasing Ice will probably not sway those who are firmly in the “non-believer” camp when it comes to global warming, but I also have a strong hunch that even those folks may be momentarily distressed by some of the “calving events” and stunning disappearances of glaciers which Chasing Ice documents. The ironic thing about this fascinating piece is that it is both lyrically beautiful and awesomely overwhelming, showing huge movements in Nature which hopefully don’t necessarily portend absolute calamity for our species and in fact the entire planet.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman

 

En la primavera de 2005, el aclamado fotógrafo ambiental James Balog se dirigió al Ártico en una tarea difícil para National Geographic: capturar imágenes para ayudar a contar la historia del cambio climático de la Tierra. Incluso con una educación científica, Balog había sido un escéptico sobre el cambio climático, pero aquel primer viaje al norte le abrió los ojos a la historia más grande de la historia humana y provocó un reto dentro de él que puso su carrera y su bienestar en riesgo.

Pocos meses después de aquel primer viaje a Islandia, el fotógrafo concibió la atrevida expedición de su vida: Extreme Ice Survey. Con un grupo de jóvenes aventureros a cuestas, Balog comenzó a desplegar revolucionarias cámaras time-lapse en todo el Ártico para capturar un registro de varios años de los glaciares del mundo.

 

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