10/29/2012 04:06 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2012

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is a documentary film that captures in unmistakable visual images the increasingly rapid melting of the world's glaciers as a consequence of global warming.

Photographer James Balog established the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007 in order to demonstrate with time-lapse images the retreat and decline of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, and in the Himalaya and Rocky Mountains.

Balog installed 43 cameras at carefully selected locations in places of great isolation and extreme weather conditions, often at considerable danger to himself and his crew. The cameras were uniquely designed to take one photograph every half hour for up to a year at a time.

The resulting images are beautiful and shocking in equal measure. The massive and exquisite ice formations are literally melting before our eyes as climate change wreaks havoc on the ice caps of the world.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2012, where it won the Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. documentaries, and received a standing ovation from the audience. It played today to a sellout audience at the Ojai Film Festival.

Perhaps no other evidence demonstrates so conclusively the reality of climate change. Doubters and deniers might explain away forest fires, drought, tornadoes, and other signs of global warming, but the steady retreat of glaciers worldwide is another matter. Here the evidence is tangible, visible, and so obviously a consequence of warming per se.

Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski brings Balog's work to life, from the first efforts to design cameras capable of withstanding gale-force winds and 40 degree-below-zero temperatures, to the final images of acres of ice breaking apart and dissolving into the sea.

What distinguishes this film is the visceral impact of visual images in place of the abstract statistical evidence of global warming. Changes in carbon dioxide levels and in degrees centigrade over hundreds of thousands of years are convincing to some, but evidently not to the public at large.

The consequences of the melting of the ice caps will be measured in receding coastlines, massive flooding, and the displacement of many millions of people worldwide. The process has already been set in motion and is all but inexorable.

James Balog's work is a siren call to action -- visionary in conception, beautiful in execution, piercing in its urgency.