On the Trails of the Glaciers


[Photo] Fabiano Ventura

Why did you use film and not digital cameras, and in particular large-format cameras?

The decision to do all the shooting on film and large format (4x5 inch plates) was necessary in order to capture very high resolution images capable of providing the same details as the historic photographs, not to the mention advantages such as extremely low distortion, extreme sharpness of the bench lenses. The need to compare the old photographs with modern ones also made it important to avoid any parallax effect. After I had found where the original picture was shot, I had to use the same focal ratio and the same film size. Most importantly, I aimed to push the quality of the shots to the highest instrumental limits available today, with the hope of obtaining ultra-high resolution images. (By scanning a single 4x5 inch plate at 2,200 dpi, one can obtain a 8,800x11,000-pixel bitmap image, a total of 100 million pixels for each image!)

During the expedition we collected panoramic mosaic images composed of up to seven plates which, when joined together, form a single image of more than 500 million pixels almost 80,000 pixels wide. Similar resolutions allow us to obtain prints nearly without interpolation up to over 40 feet wide! The choice to achieve such high resolutions was taken both for scientific purposes and to create a photo exhibition with very large prints, in order to give a stronger suggestion and solicit a deeper level of attention from the project's audience.

What is it like visiting the mountains with the goal of photographing them as opposed to climbing them?

The first time I came there, I was the photographer of a mountaineering and scientific expedition; this time the expedition was a photographic and scientific one, and organized exclusively by me. The two activities, mountaineering and photography, are inseparable. Often, to reach the right photographic location you must be an alpinist even if you don't want to reach the highest peaks; it's always necessary to climb and to face the mountains to reach the exact spots from which to take the pictures.

A documentary exhibition and a photographic exhibition are related to this expedition. Can you tell us about them?

The documentary is produced by Roberto D'Angelo's SD Cinematografica and will be distributed worldwide through major television networks. Filmed in full HD, it will run 52 minutes and will be available in three languages (English, German and Italian). You can also view a short trailer. The first photographic exhibition took place in Rome last winter, in a very prestigious location, and was a great success both in terms of number of visitors and media coverage. We have several exhibitions in many different European cities. The exhibition is made of more than 40 high-quality and large-size photographic prints; among these pictures there are eight three-meters-wide panoramic images. All modern photographs are associated with their matching historic images and can be viewed at macromicro.it.


Pictures of the exhibition setup and its opening can be viewed here.

The next event will be the scientific convention 1909-2009: One Hundred Years of Glaciology and Photography in Karakoram—Problems and Results of a Secular Symbiosis, which will be held in Rome on October 15, 2010 at the Italian Geographic Society. Find out more here.

What is the future for On the Trails of Glaciers?

We are currently involved in the organization of the next expedition, which will take place in Caucasus in 2011. Having gathered a large consensus by the international scientific community, we have expanded the scientific committee. We have already found many photographic archives useful to make our comparisons. Vittorio Sella alone had organized three photographic expeditions to that area in the 1800s.

Moreover, the project plans three more expeditions to investigate the situation in Alaska, the Andes and the Alps.

For more information, please visit: macromicro.it (Italian) or macromicro.it/eng (English).

Additionally, more information and photos from On the Trails of the Glaciers are contained in Alpinist 32. For a limited time, subscribe to Alpinist for a year and get an extra issue for free.

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