Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina – Filming REVO’s 2011 Web Short

December 4, 2010 7:51pm

The "warm" glacial summer breeze. T-shirt weather!

Yesterday followed more or less the same format as the day prior. Except for the classic photo shoot standout: the client needed an image of me near water to underscore a lens coating technology developed specifically to optimize details on the sea. The release target for the ad is next summer. Consequently, a prerogative for that shot was to communicate summer…by the sea. Yikes.

The glacial lake could suggest one aspect of the order—the near freezing temperature of the melt water gives it a light blue color that could pass for Caribbean. Ish.

A curious and undaunted hawk

But true to Murphy’s law, the katabatic winds were blowing intermittent rain sideways, which would occasionally be replaced by spray coming off the lake! So strong was the wind that water lifted from the surface in sheets of liquid smoke! In that context, I was asked to remove my coat and, with but a T-shirt, brace the 60 mile-an-hour winds, and communicate the warm comfort of a lazy summer’s day… Well. The shot was done hastily, if only for the fact that my T-shirt was instantly pelted with horizontal spray! Luckily, a photo happens in a fraction of an instant, and the chaos will all be lost to the finished image! Those REVO lenses work great, though…!

The next day is spent filming the short segment for the marketing campaign. That afternoon we shot a brief scene for the film that Ross, the director/DP, is putting together. He concocted a story whereby I board a ferry on the lake that will take me through the last leg of my long trek to reach the glacier. It is an improbable scenario in which I am to meet the boat’s captain who greets me with a “welcome back, Sebastian”, as if I were some kind of mythic ice legend, making good on my promise to be back to re-visit the famed glacier. To this I reply, all in Spanish, no less: “Hello captain Betto. You’ve grown your stomach!” The scene is all the more absurd as the “captain” is a tourist who shared the ferry with us. His Russian fur hat spontaneously won him the part, which he enacted as poorly as I believe I did. The following scene has me gazing into the distance, playing right in the habitual romance film has with broad clichés! Ross is a good man, though, and his enthusiasm wins my willing participation in this thin scenario. (“We meet again, mister Bond!”) In the end, the landscape wins the choicest role—ultimately that story is about me trekking in REVO’s across Patagonia and—no offense to anyone—it beats shooting in Detroit!

While the bulk of my acting duties was to walk this way or that, I am amused by the attention I receive for the acquired skill of placing one foot in front of the other. A film or photo crew is conditioned to pamper the “talent”, and I see now why so many actors are such babies. I am reminded of a quote I once read from Ed Norton, citing a 1920’s thespian who said: “When you scratch an actor—you find an actress!”

My mostly-menial performance is redeemed somewhat by an on-camera interview where I share intimate sensibilities and philosophies…in raging sixty plus mile-an-hour wind!

The long day ends with a ride into the spectacular Patagonian sunset, on our way to a traditional Asado restaurant. No place like Argentina for eating meat. Though I have a conservative and environmentally motivated position on meat consumption (the truth it, it is simply not good for anyone) that position is placed on hold when I am down here! The grass fed, free range animals produce the best red meat in the world. And the traditional asado cooking over burning wood yield a taste that is truly deserves the phrase: “holly cow”!

That said, come next week I will return to abiding by the grass roots campaign of “No Meat Mondays”. For a start.

Tomorrow is the long trek back to the northern hemisphere, in what will amount to about 24 hours of travel, counting layovers. Goodbye Patagonia. I’ll be back!

The jagged edge of the Perito Moreno glacier--last stop before calving.


Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina – First day of Photography for REVO’s 2011 Ad Campaign

December 2, 2010 6:03am


The night was short. Between crossing five time zones since Los Angeles; the eighteen hours of summer daylight (at this latitude); a late dinner and early rise; it wasn’t hard to dose off during the hour ride to location. Nothing like the crisp glacial air firing into the lungs to shake sleepiness out of the crow’s feet!

A short boat ride gets us to the shoulder of the glacier, and it is now clear why the Perito Moreno was named world heritage site. There are views through the trees’ foliage framing the approach to the ice that feel like an artist’s rendering of a Tolkien-like fantasy world.  The mass of blue ice looks surreal against the ash colored bark of the trees and the green leaves. It is simply stunning.


I get my camera out to grab some shots but I am told to move on, as our time on the glacier—under the strict supervision of the National Parks attendees—is short. Two things sink in: there won’t be a night spent on the glacier (it’s not allowed); and I am here as talent—not photographer! I cannot help but see the irony in walking past extraordinary shots, which production time won’t allow me to take…because my life as a photographer is being chronicled for a portrait ad!

I have typically witnessed glaciers in the Polar regions, which are naturally void of trees—no such vegetations at those latitudes. But here, the proximity of foliage to the ice gives this familiar landscape a new dimension. As to being a model, I know the odd feeling I am experiencing will be redeemed with the interview portion of our affair, which will be done in a couple of days. For now, being told to look right, look left, walk on, walk back is met with a mix of amusement and some measure of clarity: in knowing where the camera is and what needs to be captured, a part of me can’t help but re-live the feeling I got while on the Napapijri shoot (the outerwear brand for whom I am also an ambassador): this is the only time that I can actually communicate directly by osmosis with talent on how and where to be! With a shooter’s point of view, I have effectively cut off the middleman!

I give Bill Zelman—the photographer—a lot of credit: it’s never easy telling an old photographer dog what to do! With that in mind, I am as compliant as I can be. In spite of our short time on the glacier under the watchful eye of the National Parks attendant, it’s nice to put on a pair of crampons and drive and axe into the ice. The setting, replete with cracks and crevasses, and various shades of deep blue is otherworldly.  In this context, it’s hard to take a bad photograph.

The Patagonia ice sheet is the third largest in the world, and the katabatic wind is vicious at this end of the glacier; and unrelenting. I am asked to build the tent twice today, once on the ice, and once on a beach where the venturi effect has accelerated the wind to 60+ mph! Today we hear sobering news that an expedition on the glacier suffered a fatality. The men ventured for a three-day jaunt on the ice—with a guide—and somehow lost their tent to the powerful winds. One of them died of hypothermia before they could dig themselves a hole in the ice. I re-visit the seven days I spent pinned down by an unrelenting windstorm in Greenland and my partner and I speculated whether the tent would hold up. We had dug an ice cave next to the tent, just in case, for precisely that reason… This type of news always leaves a chill—no pun intended.



“Into the Cold” to be featured at Victoria Film Festival, Feb. 4 – 13, 2011

December 2, 2010 2:15am

Just announced: Sebastian’s award winning documentary Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul will be featured during the Victoria Film Festival in Victoria, Canada, February 4 – 13, 2011.

The mission of the Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival is to expose youth and adults to a broad range of cultural, artistic and philosophical ideas and lifestyles through the presentation of film, video, and new media in order to stimulate critical analysis and inspire an interest in using the medium as a creative too.

Check out the Victoria Film Festival‘s website.

Support Into the Cold yourself by adding the film to your Netflix queue!


El Calafate, Argentina – Scouting Locations for the REVO Shoot

December 1, 2010 4:13am

Wild Parakeets

Patagonia on the trail for a shoot location

Today was a long day of driving around with photographer, cinematographer and production crew in tow to find locations for the next three days of work—two days for the print campaign; one day for a short film designed for the web.

The latter tells a story of me walking across Patagonia on my way to the Perito Moreno glacier. Needless to say, it is a loose interpretation on reality, one that draws on the romance of venturing out into the wild with a pack on my back and not a care in the world. The sprawling landscapes allow the imaginary to roam through the chambers of one’s own adventurous inner world. While I favor polar or mountain environments to trek through, the theme echoes of notions I entertained many years ago of living a nomadic life on the trail.

Patagonia upholds its reputation as one of the more arresting landscapes in the world. Condors fly overhead. Sheep and wild horses graze the windswept valleys framed by mountain peaks stretching towards the sky, while glaciers pour into turquoise, freezing lakes. Rabbits and hares hop around, nervously evading the bold and menacing hawks or red tailed foxes. Vistas here will take your breath away.

We spend the day getting in and out of the van, and end the day on a working sheep farm. The “gouchos,” sporting their traditional “pepe-le-pew” berets, ride the herds on horseback. With the high snow-capped peaks for a backdrop, this is a horse riding paradise.


El Calafate, Argentina — Shooting the REVO campaign in Patagonia

November 30, 2010 12:17am

After what amounted to virtually twenty-four hours of travel time from Los Angeles, via Atlanta and Buenos Aires, the plane finally touched down on the El Calafate runway.

I am with the REVO team, and their photo and video crew who came down to shoot my portion of REVO’s 2011 advertisement and communications campaign. Upon discussing where would be a good place to shoot, we all agreed that finding the right ice environment would be appropriate. I have been newly appointed brand ambassador for REVO, and given that they are a sunglass company—we also needed sun! In early December, the options for the combination of sun and ice are narrowed down dramatically. The northern hemisphere is mostly dark or grey at this time of the year. It is hardly a safe bet for sporting polarized shades!

That leaves the southern hemisphere, which of course is entering its summer cycle. Antarctica is difficult to access for just a week of work—it is also unpredictable and very expensive. We were quick to narrow the search to Patagonia, and settled on the Perito Moreno glacier in the south west Santa Cruz province of Patagonia (S 50˚29’ W73˚03’).

We all met in the Buenos Aires airport and I was happily surprised to find out that Ross Richardson would direct and film the video portion my piece. Ross is a very talented director of photography with whom I worked many years ago on a Tommy Hilfiger commercial that I directed. The spot had turned out very well, and was notable in that it was to be the last commercial that I would direct after more than fifteen years in that business. I found it difficult to be pushing consumerism on television while speaking publicly on the urgent need for a path to sustainability, which clashed unequivocally with vapid consumerism. Mine was a personal choice of what I perceived to be a necessary break in favor of my environmental commitment. I am not dogmatic about it, but to pursue a career pushing product on TV while preaching responsible consumerism felt shy of authentic, if not outright opportunistic. That choice proved to be hugely rewarding.

Running into Ross was serendipitous and had us recollect on the old days. It also makes me feel more comfortable with the prospect of being in front of the camera. Ross is a good man, and if I can’t be natural with him, my case is hopeless! By coincidence, I also ran into one of his crew guys whom I had met in the Minnesota Boundary waters area in February 2009 as I trained for my North Pole trip. He was there shooting dogsled footage, and we had had a moment to discuss my upcoming trip. Small world indeed.

We’re up at 6AM for a reconnaissance of the glacier, and to outline what we will be doing while here. I have a feeling I will spend a night or two sleeping on the glacier…


Cinema for Peace Honors “Into the Cold” and Sebastian during Green Evening in Berlin

November 19, 2010 12:14am

On November 12, 2010, Cinema for Peace will hold a Green Evening in Berlin to promote Sebastian Copeland’s fascinating movie “Into the Cold” and at the same time showcase the power of moving pictures in raising awareness about environmental issues.

Accompanied by Orlando Bloom, Sebastian will be presented with an Honorary Award for the film.


Day 44 – Disko Bay Epilogue

June 25, 2010 3:29pm

The glacier here advances at rates of 40 meters per day

AM on the bay, basking in twenty four hour sun–no bathing suit though

Ilulissat, Greenland
Arriving in Ilulissat spells a very different Greenland experience than what we have had so far. It has paved roads, hotels, souvenir shops, and tour operators. And were it not for the multitude of sled dogs everywhere to remind us that this is still–at its core–a working Inuit town–Ilulissat would begin to feel like Niagara falls: a tourist destination. As well it would be: a Unesco certified World Heritage site, the icefjord of Ilulissat (which literally translates to “iceberg”) is one of the more arresting ice landscape anywhere in the world. Disko Bay which dominates it, is littered with the largest icebergs I have seen anywhere. The Ilulissat glacier is the most active in the northern hemisphere, advancing at speeds that are confounding, particularly as they have been exponentially growing. The accelerator here, as can be expected, is climate change. In 2001, the glacier moved at the rate of 20 meters a day. By 2004, that number had astoundingly increased to 40 meters per day. The cause is universally accepted to be warmer air and warmer water: the glacier loses in thickness, and the water erodes the base below the surface, precipitating the pour.


Day 43–Technical Specs and Final Words

June 22, 2010 10:24pm

Thank you for keeping up with our expedition, it made it

First, I learned today that the spill in the gulf is still raging. It is a characteristic of being cut off for extended weeks that you tend to remake the world in your head. One thing I would never had imagined getting so wrong was seeing that oil still pouring out of its gash, at the rate of a million gallons a day; and the criminal consequences on the ecosystems and communities. It is devastating to witness so abhorrently a tragedy that was as predictable. I hope this lesson will be heeded once and for all: it is a dramatic cry for a commitment to a market transformation towards renewable energies. Our survival–quite literally–depends on it…
Tomorrow morning, we leave Qaanaaq–its bay of the sleeping giants, where icebergs feel trapped in time as much as space; its rolling ice fogs; its howling dogs; its colorful stock houses; and the arresting visual panorama which has been my view from the bedroom window for the last four days (a cross between Ice Age and The Day After Tomorrow!). And with that–I am compelled to say–comes the end of the entertainment portion of our program!
Eric and I are headed to Ilulissat, in transit back to our respective lives, which effectively puts an end to the expedition, and its Qaanaaq epilogue. I will spend a couple of days scouting the Disko Bay icefjord for more photos opportunity in view of my next book. The Ilulissat glacier is one of the most active in the northern hemisphere, spitting out enormous icebergs (some measure well over three hundred feet high–above the water line!) like a giant ice cube dispenser…


Day 42–Summer Solstice

June 21, 2010 8:05pm

This is the majestic view I have from my window on this, the longest day of the year

Qaanaaq —
Today was the longest day of the year. Up here, since the sun has not set for many weeks, this means that the sun reaches its highest rotational zenith; if there were a night, it would have been the shortest. And given the splendid sunny weather we have had all day, this really did feel like a long day!
Summer solstice coincides, not by accident, with Greenland’s national day. It is a national holiday marked by local community celebrations. In Qaanaaq, the whole village gathers for some recitations, singing and food for everyone.
Qaanaaq is a town of six hundred people (a correction from my earlier description: there are approximately two hundred dwellings here, and not fifty); all of them came out to celebrate. Some wore the traditional seal or bear skin outfits–just the pants or jacket: given the 10C degrees, they might have suffocated had they worn the entire outfit. The food served was raw whale; I took a pass, having tried it before… but they seemed to enjoy it.
I spoke with a few of them and discussed how early thaws and a changing climate is affecting Inuit culture. Life is tough for an Inuit to whom hunting and fishing on the ice is virtually the only means of survival. With an early thaw, their very existence is endangered. It isn’t just the bears…
An ice fog shrouded the sea ice on and off all day, but never went past the beach. Only the peaks of the tallest icebergs were visible above the white sheet, and I sat on a rock for an hour contemplating the extraordinary views. It was silent and peaceful; a welcomed calm to follow the intense focus of the last forty days. And a great way to rest my sore legs! The fog eventually cleared revealing some new large cracks in the bay, and considerably more water by the shore than two days ago. I am relieved to have ventured when I did–our first night here–in spite of the fatigue and hesitation I felt then. The weather has not been like then again since, in the way that I like to shoot ice: overcast. And given the accelerated melt, it is unlikely that I could get out now. I got it by a narrow margin, and the photo result– arresting! As they say: why plan for tomorrow what you can do today…


Day 41–The Bay of the Sleeping Giants

June 20, 2010 8:18pm

The Bay That Time Forgot

It is always a tad unsettling to find yourself in a mirror after a long stretch of abstention. Not that you miss it, or think about it much. Which is perhaps partly why, when that reflection eventually stares back at you, you may find yourself in front of distant, slightly older relative. Forty days is long enough to have to get re-acquainted. Who is that strange bearded fella? And what’s he looking at? You lookin’ at me…?
For one thing, he is considerably thinner. Though there is no scale in the bare bone cabin that is our home (until the weekly Wednesday flight that will move us from Qaanaaq), and the mirror is quite small, it looks like I may have lost about fifteen pounds. Considering I’d lost twenty two after walking to the North Pole last year (over thirty five days), fifteen pounds in forty days is an improvement. Almost twenty five percent better, in fact! Regardless, now comes the time to put some weight back on, especially with the South Pole coming up in November…
A word on the physical toll of this type of trip: overall, the body fared pretty well. The strain was mostly in the feet, chins and knees. The flat of both Eric’s and my feet is pretty numb, and will likely remain so for a couple of months. This is especially the case for the left foot, and particularly the big toe. Eighty percent of the trip was made on one tack, and that toe is the last point of stress when setting the downwind ski’s edge against the kite.
Chins, one ankle and the knees are also sore or numb, which is hardly surprising considering we often spent ten to twelve hours a day–and often more–strapped tightly in ski boots. No matter how comfortably customized–thanks to my pals at Doc’s Ski Haus in Los Angeles!–it remains hard plastic!
Numbness also in the fingers which I account mostly to photographing, as is customary for me. No frostbites this time, though! The two index fingers are also numb from struggling to launch the handle kite–Yakuza–in low winds!
Finally, muscle soreness and fatigue especially in the shoulders and the legs, though I think the latter has a good deal to do with the natural Stairmaster of going up and down the mountain–twice–with heavy loads in the final two days. Yumi and Ron, if you are reading this: you would be proud of that routine!
Apart from the slight atrophy that comes from under using some muscle groups (chest, triceps) while over using others (core, legs, back) while losing weight, I am pleased by the absence of serious strain, or injury…
I ventured out alone on the sea ice last night, and spent all night in the company of the giants. I set off at one AM, with some apprehension as to the stability of the bay, seeing as I got trapped once in the middle of a frozen bay, alone, as it broke up before me and moved out to sea– with me on it! It remains one of the more intense experiences of my travels. I armed myself with the sat phone and a GPS and a number to the local police; two flares, in case of an encounter with Mr. bear; some food bars and liquid; warm clothes; and my cameras!
The greater challenge was getting past the rough ice that hugs the shore and breaks with the ebb and flow of the tides. Large and small chunks of ice are pressed together, but not bonded, with areas of open water. The trick is not to pick the pieces that will instantly roll when you step on them; or calculate the risk of stepping briskly onto them as a bridge! This goes on for the first two hundred feet or so from the beach. Once past that, the sea ice is relatively stable; the terrain mixes a multitude of puddles with the occasional open crack. Those are the ones to watch in determining the type of current, if any, and whether they are widening. A change is generally very subtle; but if they widen, my thought is: run–back to shore…! Luckily this did not happen and it looks like the sea ice will be here for another couple of weeks. An Inuit here shared with me yesterday that the bay used to break up in August; but in the last few years, it has been breaking in early July due to the warming temperatures. This shortens the Inuit’s ability to hunt on the ice, which traditionally makes for the best hunting opportunity (same for the bears, by the way) which they carry out with dogsleds. The melting starts their fishing season earlier, also, but the fish are more and more scarce…
Walking on the frozen sea, surrounded by icebergs the size of multiple stories buildings is a little bit like walking in an enchanted land where time stood still. The monolithic pieces of ice were spat out too late in the season by the nearby glaciers. As a result, they got caught by the freeze and wintered out in the bay instead of floating out to meet their demise early. To walk amongst them (occasionally up to them) stuck as they are in one spot, reminded me of the scene in The Matrix when Lawrence Fishburn trains Keanu Reeves how to stop the illusion of time and maneuver around it–to dodge bullets, for instance! It was that, or a set from Ice Age! It’s an arresting visual experience, which connects vividly with the spirit of the ice. These sleeping giants are headed to their inescapable fate; they are just buying time…
I spent six hours in their midst and walked for miles–distances can be deceiving–and made my way back, in the rain, around seven AM!
Along with some new images for my next book. I made it safely back to shore and sneaked into bed to give my sore legs some relief… A good night’s work!