Filming Alaskan Glaciers With The Canon C100
I have vivid memories from my childhood of visiting the Portage Glacier. It was immense and it stretched all the way up the valley towards the cloud covered peaks above The cold wind wiped down the face of it and would snap at you face as you got closer. I can remember being both thrilled and terrified to hear the thunderous roar as whole walls broke off the glacial face and crashed into the water sending a massive wave towards the boat we were on.
That was then, and this is now.
All these years later, the glaciers in this valley have melted slowly away, leaving behind and incredibly beautiful lake fed by dark gray and jade green rivers. Like an army retreating, it has left behind only a few small icebergs or patches of ice in the snow field to be found. The road had to be extended further into the valleys and the hiking trail snakes further each year for visitors to get a closer look at it.
And even thought it was depressing in some ways, in others it was mesmerizing. The sun burned down on everything in the valley and the icebergs seemed to be shifting in shape and changing colors as they melted away before our eyes. We knew we had to film them, but trying to capture it all was a massive challenge to say the least. Filming snow and ice is always tricky. The amount of light that is reflected is immense and trying to get critical focus can be nearly impossible because there isn’t a huge amount of detail on the smooth surfaces.
Right Tools For The Job
The Canon C100 has great built-in ND filters that make getting a useable image with shallow DOF field possible. We also used the Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro lens to get a fair amount of these shots. In order to make sure we got the focus on point we used the built-in Peaking option. I wish the C100 had more color options like Magic Lantern does.
We used our Tenba HDSLR/Video backpack to carry the C100, batteries, 70-200mm, 24-105mm, and the 100mm Macro. Overall it’s a great bag and was easy to move around on the rocks and get across the river without having to worry about taking an unexpected dip.
Color balance was tricky as the light was constantly changing across the valley and also the different faces of the icebergs were made of different types of snow and ice. I custom white-balanced almost every shot, but a few had to be adjusted in post due to the blue of the ice coming across too strongly.
See It While You Can
Overall, I’m thankful we had the opportunity to film in this location and capture what we could of the ice melting. Of course this winter it will snow, they will freeze again, and melt in the summer next year and for the years after. However, chances are the snow will be a little less, the freezing not quite as much, and the melting a little longer as years go by.
This video isn’t meant to be a downer, just a reminder. Things are slowly changing.