The acclaimed documentary Chasing Ice recently added to its trove of awards and accolades when it was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Currently in theatres (see www.chasingice.com for locations), the movie follows prominent environmental photographer James Balog as he gathers undeniable evidence in the Arctic of our changing planet.
Pivotal scenes in the documentary were shot with the AG-HVX200 P2 HD camcorder.
In the spring of 2005, Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, the photographer had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to an epic event in human history and sparked a personal challenge that would put his career and his well-being at risk.
Within months of that first trip to Iceland, Balog conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young field staff in tow, he began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
As American Cinematographer magazine reported, “Chasing Ice’s most awesome moments come from watching the thunderous calving events. (In geologic terms, calving is the breaking off of a mass of ice from its parent glacier.)The first was captured at Store Glacier in Greenland, when they were still unloading gear from the helicopter. ‘We’d all been talking about a glacial peninsula that looked really weird, and just on a whim, I set the HVX200 to roll,’ says Jeff Orlowski, the documentary’s producer/director/director of photography. At the helicopter, he heard people start to yell. The peninsula—five football fields long—was starting to crack and roll on its side, like an ocean liner–sized log. ‘The only reason we caught that at all was because of the HVX200 and P2 cards. There’s a feature called Loop Load that allows it to roll forever. When you hit stop, it saves the last x-minutes of footage, based on the card.’ Orlowski had about 50 minutes in the loop. Because glacial calving can start so slowly and imperceptibly and the cracking sound takes multiple seconds to reach the viewer, it’s virtually impossible to catch the beginning of a calving event based on one’s eyes or ears. Orlowski’s foresight got that indelible moment on film.”
Not only did this monumental footage yield some of Chasing Ice’s most remarkable moments, but it also galvanized Orlowski to make a full-blown documentary. At the time (2007), the Store Glacier breakaway was the largest calving event that had ever been filmed.
That record was bested in 2008, when the filmmakers captured a calving at the Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland, which is presumed to have launched the iceberg that sank the Titanic. The HVX200 was among the small-form HD cameras and time-lapse systems that recorded what remains the most massive glacier calving ever documented.
Early this year, Chasing Ice received the prestigious Excellence in Cinematography Award: US Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, followed by Environmental Media Association’s 22nd Annual BEST DOCUMENTARY AWARD, an Audience Award at the South By Southwest Film Festival, and many other top honors. Oscar nominations will be announced on January 10.
The documentary’s web site is www.chasingice.com.
Photos courtesy of Chasing Ice.