The FIlm

A portrait of our planet’s changing climate

On assignment for National Geographic in the polar reaches of the world, James Balog and a band of young adventurers ended up with something more compelling than photos when they captured the largest calving event that had ever been caught on film.


In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James 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, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

As Balog finds himself battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. 

featured subjects

James Balog

National Geographic Photographer/Co-Creator

James has been photographing human modification of nature for nearly 40 years. To reveal the impact of climate change, he founded the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007, the most wide-ranging ground-based photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. He has published several books, founded the Earth Vision Institute, and is currently a professor at Cornell University.

Jeff Orlowski


As a photographer on location with James Balog, Jeff discovered his passion for film making through Chasing Ice and hasn’t slowed down since. In 2014, he founded Exposure Labs, the production and impact company that has produced 3 films, all accompanied by in-house impact campaigns. Jeff has now directed 2 more award winning documentaries: Chasing Coral and The Social Dilemma.

Dr. Tad Pfeffer


Dr. Pfeffer is a glaciologist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and professor of civil, environmental, and architectural engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research areas include the mechanics and dynamics of glaciers and heat and mass transfer in snow. He has worked on glaciers for 30 years, traveling to Alaska, Arctic Canada, Greenland, Antarctica, and mountain locations in North America and Europe. He has done fieldwork on Alaska’s Columbia Glacier for two decades.

Dr. jason box


Dr. Box is a research scientist whose frequent travel time on the inland ice exceeds 1 year. He was awarded a NASA grant to support the installation and maintenance of Greenland EIS cameras to measure glacier speed changes, putting precise numbers on glacier flow sensitivity to climate. He was a contributing author to “Climate Change 2007”, the definitive report on the science of global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Svavar Jonatansson

Icelandic Field Coordinator

Jonatansson started traveling frequently to Europe and later the United States in his early twenties where he photographed his surroundings and experiences, culminating in a personal project called Inland/Outland. He met James Balog outside an aluminum smelter in 2004 or 2005, and since then, has assisted him on the journey that has now become EIS. Jonatansson studied Sociology at the University of Iceland, and works full time on his photography and radio projects.

Adam LeWinter

EIS Field Coordinator

Adam LeWinter joined EIS in 2007. Prior to joining EIS he was a design engineer and machinist in Colorado and New Zealand, bringing his experience in product design and fabrication to the custom-made time-lapse camera packages used by EIS. In addition to working on the development and fabrication of the time-lapse equipment, Adam managed the expeditions and fieldwork for EIS, working extensively in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Montana, and Nepal.

the team

Adam LeWinter, Jeff Orlowski, James Balog of EIS at Columbia Glacier, Columbia Bay, Alaska; EIS camera AK-2 (New) “Waterline” camera, June 20, 2008

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