Mesmerizing photos of ice caves and climbers by Paul Zizka (12 photos)

9 March 2024
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44-year-old travel photographer Paul Zizka from Banff (Canada) specializes in photographing the northern lights in different parts of his country. He adds to this magic gaping ice caves and daredevil rock climbers.

One of his new images shows a climber on an arcing ice wall, with the purple-green light of the Aurora Borealis flickering against a scattering of bright stars. Another photograph shows the silhouettes of two climbers climbing up a large rock face in the night sky, their bodies illuminated by headlamps. In another photo, a climber scales an icy cliff above water, with the scene reflected in a mirrored surface.

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Zizka took these photographs in the Canadian Rockies and around Jasper National Park. He used various Canon cameras to create the compositions. The distance to the climbers varied from a meter to a kilometer, and in some cases he had to communicate with objects by radio.

“The circumstances surrounding each of these photographs were very different, many of them taken during the ascent,” says the photographer. “And some are preliminary renderings where many factors come together.”

“For example, I might observe the Aurora Borealis and then invite my mountaineering models to take part in the shoot. It's a collaborative effort with the climbers and requires a lot of communication to get positioning right,” he explains. “I need to look at the elements in the frame from a compositional perspective to figure out where to position the climber.”

Sometimes he had to move in search of the perfect shot, and sometimes he asked the climber to move to a certain place and stay there for a few seconds in order to capture the desired picture.

Some shots were more difficult to execute than others, and, according to Zizka, this was especially true for those taken at night, when the landscape was illuminated by artificial light sources.

This particular footage was taken in Canada. But as a travel photographer, Paul Zizka has traveled to all seven continents, documenting Mother Nature and extreme adventurers.

Talking about what drives and inspires him, he said: “Climbers love seeing the final image and it's such a fun process to collaborate with them to bring it to life. To see such tiny figures against vast and intimidating landscapes is to show how small we are in the grand scheme of things.”

Paul Zizka has published eight photography books and his images have been featured on countless covers and in publications including National Geographic and Outdoor Photographer. He says the general reaction to his images is “awe and gratitude.”

“I often hear people describe my photographs as otherworldly, as if they are from another world,” he says.

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