GEO magazine sends Tobias Hutzler on expedition with the Royal Ontario Museum in search of the origins of life

One of Tobias Hutzler’s latest assignments put not only his photographic vision to the test but also his physical endurance. For a feature on scientists’ mission to uncover fossils believed to reveal vital details about the origins of life, GEO magazine commissioned Tobias to accompany a team from the Royal Ontario Museum as they ventured to a remote part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

“The team made revolutionary discoveries,” says Tobias, who describes his experience below…

“We were climbing mountains in unexplored valleys high up in the middle of the mountains. I did specific mountain training for this expedition, climbing steep mountains in temperatures below 0, training in the summer heat of Manhattan in full mountain gear.

The safest area for the camp was right in the path of an avalanche, in the middle of a burnt forest, with branches sharp as knifes, surrounded by a mother grizzly bear and her cubs, an angry moose, and a large dark something with orange eyes that sat in the trees above our tents at night. During the freezing nights, I could hear a bear breathing and stamping a few feet from my head.

Besides the weather being freezing cold, there were only a few hours without heavy rain and snow. Shooting digitally in these conditions is very challenging, and there was no access to power.

I focused on the magic of the scientists’ discoveries and the fascinating experience of being in the untouched wilderness. Nobody had been there before. I absolutely wanted to get an overview shot of the camp at night, even though this meant we had to climb a steep rock in pouring rain at night. When we arrived on the shaky rock, right on the edge of the glacier valley, with 400-foot drop right at our boots, I had one minute to photograph in the right light. But I got the shot, and it was worth it. This view showed so clearly what we all felt on this expedition; it put it all into perspective and showed how small we humans are in relation to the stillness and grandiosity of nature. To me, it shows the relation of man to nature.

It was fascinating to work with the team, all passionate, driven people, and to see their incredibly hard work. During our expedition, they discovered several unknown creatures, and fossils saw daylight for the first time in over 500 million years. There is magic to this, and it’s about much more than science. It is about life itself.”

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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Photo by Tobias Hutzler for GEO.

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