Almost 20 years later, I was preparing to shoot a campaign for Sport Obermeyer. It was to be a return home to the birthplace of the Obermeyer skiwear brand, so we wanted to shoot in the Alps. Naturally, I wanted to film on the famous Eiger again, so I called up my dear friend and legendary mountain man Stefan Zürcher, who is basically the world’s most talented when it comes to shooting extreme snow scenes. It was he who had originally scouted and organized our Samsung expedition. I said, “Let’s return to the glacier where we shot the Samsung ad,” and he replied, “That glacier is gone. It doesn’t exist anymore.”
I was devastated and utterly shocked. I stood in silence and disbelief as I absorbed the reality of what Stefan was saying. It seemed impossible, how could that even be true? It was massive and extraordinarily beautiful just 19 years before. It is such a short amount of time for such a drastic change. He went on to explain that they now have to wrap the top of the Eiger above Jungfraujoch with mesh wire so that the permafrost, which is melting, does not cascade rocks down onto the glass structure built for tourists. Stefan conveyed that we couldn’t even helicopter into the location anymore because there wouldn’t be a place to land. Before, we would land on the ice of the glacier, which gives you a little perch where you can keep the blades off the rocks. Now, it’s all just rock.
Revisiting many of the earth’s most awe-inspiring natural places over the years has proven to be a stark reminder of cause and effect. I’ve seen a kind of timelapse if you will.
Films like Chasing Ice help to illustrate to people, through time-lapse photography, the speed at which climate change is moving. When we look out at the ocean, we typically just see beauty. We don’t see that 90 percent of all pelagic fish have been killed in the last 50 years. Films can generate real awareness that translates into action.