the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

July 8, 2014

This Life Aquatic – hauling bikes on boats in Scotland

Filed under: bike, photography, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — danmilner @ 6:45 am

Sometimes ideas for features take a while to come to fruition; like my Argentina railway bike epic in March, and like this slightly out there adventure I shot in Scotland in May. The idea: take some sea-kayaks, pack with overnight camping gear and throw our bikes onto inflatable dinghies towed behind.

Putting new meaning to the word 'floater'. Shot with GoPro HD3+

Putting new meaning to the word ‘floater’. Shot with GoPro HD3+

Combining bikes and kayaks like this might seem a bit like mixing water with electricity, but there was an inner voice that nagged me over the last couple of years to try it (the same voice that leads me to places like Afghanistan to shoot bike features it seems). After all what can go wrong?

Sea kayaks are great for covering distance on water. Sleek, fast, efficient. Add a floating ‘trailer’ of an inflatable dinghy with the displacement dynamics of a barge, load it with bikes and the equation gets interesting. Especially if the wind is against you. And finding a suitable stretch of water to try this 2 day, 2 night escapade presented another challenge. So we teamed up with Go-Where Scotland to help with location logistics and Sea-Kayak Highlands to provide the boats and then we hit the deepest loch in Scotland, Loch Morar, a loch with its own legendary monster. Apparently.

Dont stray form the paths lads. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4

Dont stray from the paths lads. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4

So armed with the Pelican-case packable Leica M9 and a couple of GoPro HD3+ cameras our idea finally came to fruition. No it wasn’t quite the miles-from-anywhere-Alaskan-wrestle-bears-for-your-dinner insanity that many now come to expect from me, but it was an authentic little adventure, right there on our doorstep with its own set of challenges and rich rewards. It shows that sometimes you don’t need to travel too far to put the ‘escape’ into escapade. You just have to be willing to get out there, ride some bikes and paddle 20+ miles in whatever weather nature throws at you, and do it with a dinghy in tow.

The feature will rear its monster head in MBUK and other bike mags around the world in the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s the EpicTV episode from the trip. It’s a little… err, different. Click image below to watch.

Click to watch film episode

Click pic to watch film episode

 

June 24, 2014

Come to the dark side -shooting Trek bikes in North Carolina

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 8:02 am

I’ve never been to North Carolina. At least I hadn’t until last week when my annual session shooting for Trek bikes came through. Two years ago it was the Italian Dolomites, last year Arizona and in 2014, North Carolina the venue. All three couldn’t be more different, and all throw up challenges for the photographer (dodging hail storms in the Dolomites, 100F heat in Arizona, mosquitos and poison ivy in N. Carolina). My job: to shoot the launch of Trek’s new Fuel EX bike and in so doing, shoot the image needs of the assembled worldwide editors (and Trek’s) and well, just capture the feel of the bikes in this location.  Cue: high ISO.

Nikon D3S, 70-200/4 @ 1/640, F4.5, ISO 3200.

Nikon D3S, 70-200/4 @ 1/640, F4.5, ISO 3200.

I flew in expecting moss-bedragled trees and old dudes chewing tobacco sitting in rocking chairs on porches . But of course that’s the deep south. North Carolina just isn’t quite that far south (idiot). So no moss, but it still has the the kind of animals that kill you -copperhead snakes, big spiders, bears, and it has a lot of deep, dark woodland coating the flanks, summits and troughs of the Pisgah National Forest (Pisgah is one of those words that has always had resonance in mountain biking and at last I got to see what it was all about.) And Pisgah is one helluva dark forest to shoot in.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f2.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f2. You’re never far from a church in N. Carolina.

Shooting editors during a guided ride is all about leapfrogging ahead of them. No fuss, set up the shot, shoot and move on. It means moving fast without flashes, and so shooting natural light (which lets face it is my thang) however dark it is. But thanks to the current low-light able DSLRs this is possible. Shooting landscapes in the forest is one thing, but when you need a shutter speed of 1/1000th too, then even shooting f4 or wider, means ramping the ISO up to 4000 (or more). No the shots are not perfect (I’m not sure I agree that 12,500 ISO is quite as noise-less as they claim), but they work fine for a double page spread in the print mags (hey, remember print mags?) and would probably stand up to some billboard abuse, and they are more than good enough for that digital mag resolution.

So thanks Trek for the chance to push my D3S’s ISO to meltdown, and the opportunity to ride, see and experience the Pisgah forest in all its darkness (it is really good riding BTW). And eat hot boiled peanuts. Now that’s something I never thought I’d say.

Nikon D3S, 16-35/4, 1/1000, f6.3. ISO 6400.

Nikon D3S, 16-35/4, 1/1000, f6.3. ISO 6400.

 

June 7, 2014

Wednesday Morning 5am

Filed under: bike, photography — danmilner @ 7:39 pm
Nikon D3s, 16-35 f4.

Nikon D3s, 16-35 f4.

OK so it was a Tuesday not a Wednesday, and it was 5.30am, not 3 am, as per the iconic Simon and Garfunkel’s sixties album, but whatever, it’s the kind of hour that is not nice to see. But that’s what shooting photos is often about -blurry eyed, grumpy models and pre-breakfast morning breath. Being a pro photo monkey means you get to see a lot of places, and often you get to see them at the sort of time others don’t. It’s almost as if photography was just an excuse for insomnia. Thats what gives this job its edge, like capturing aspirational images on this bit of Italian road while shooting for bike clothing brand Endura a couple of weeks ago. Getting up at 5:30 meant catching this light on a section of tarmac I know heads straight east into the rising sun, and doing it knowing we had only an hour before the morning commuter traffic would close us down.

Next stop, Scarborough fair….

May 9, 2014

Me? Scared? Well, you can see my legs trembling 3 minutes in.

Filed under: bike, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — danmilner @ 12:57 pm

Want to see how our recent Argentina railroad epic with Hans and Tibor looks on video? Well, here it is.

Screen shot 2014-05-09 at 1.53.16 PM

April 10, 2014

Crossing the Line – softening the definition of trail riding

How do you get the world’s most famous trials mountain biker and an ex-pro downhiller to go cycle touring? Disguise it as a ride along an old disused railway line in Northern Argentina, that’s how.

Lost in translation - is this what my riders were expecting? Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500, f5

Lost in translation – is this what my riders were expecting from an MTB trip? Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500, f5

And so that’s how I found myself along with MTB legend Hans Rey, Canyon bikes pro-rider Tibor Simai and TV cameraman Rob Summers, pedaling along a 100-year old Argentinian railway at 3000+ meters last month. It was one of the most original stories I’ve ever shot, and it wasn’t without its own unique set of challenges (hey, would you expect anything less from me?)

 "C'mon Rob you can make it!" A warm up to the big bridges to come. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/1000, f4.


“C’mon Rob you can make it!” A warm up to the big bridges to come. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/1000, f4.

The idea to ride along this old railway came to me a few years ago when I saw it, admittedly from the comfort of a tiny rental car, during another MTB trip to the area. GoogleEarthing the line and researching its history (built by the Brits in 1903, abandoned in 1992) I thought how great it would be to try to ride the railway line south from the Bolivian border at La Quiaca all the way to Salta, a distance of about 400Km. I’d ride it solo, equipped with sleeping bag and bivi sac, eat wherever I came across a settlement, and photograph every person I met along the line.

But it didn’t turn out like that.

My concept swayed to the pressure of seeking financial rewards from my efforts, and evolved into more of an adventure story pitch. At one point it even included hauling a 3lb inflatable raft along to cross the many rivers wherever the bridges might be down (remember this railway hasn’t been maintained for 30 years). I pitched the story and re-pitched and this year, thought f*ck it, lets do it anyway. Finally after years of sitting on the backburner the idea came to fruition.

Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/2000, f4.

Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/2000, f4.

The outcome is one of the most unique stories I have ever shot, combining real mountain biking with a photographic record of how this once mighty transport lifeline has been left to decay (there is now a highway to La Quiaca) and slowly be consumed by the environment  - bushes grow from the tracks, sand buries the sleepers, 100-year old railway stations have become ghost-town buildings.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f1.8

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f1.8

No the railway isn’t the most remote, or the highest altitude, or the most challenging ride in the world (I’ll leave that accolade to our Afghanistan trip). But it threw up its own challenges: skin-blistering sun with no shade, steady hillclimbs at 3000m+, an absence of potable water sources and many crumbling iron bridges to cross, some suspended 20m high above gaping canyons.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/4000, f2.2

Early start in La Quiaca. Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/4000, f2.2

With the pressures of needing to work two features from the same 2-week trip we rode only 100Km of the line, over 3 days -a mere teaser of what the entire railway could offer, but it was a tough 100 Km through the region’s most incredible scenery, and 100 Km of railway that I’m pretty sure no-one has mountain biked before.

Weaver birds re-claim the line's telegraph poles. Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500, f2.2

Weaver birds re-claim the line’s telegraph poles. Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500, f2.2

Sometimes ideas have to evolve. And luckily this one did, or it may never have found light of day. And anyway the book I would have produced from my original idea would have been slim -we never passed another person on the line. Read the feature from this crazy idea in MBUK mag and others in a couple of months time and the EpicTV video episode here in a couple of weeks.

Local canine shows no appreciation of what the team has achieved at our finish point in Humahuaca. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/40, f13.

Local canine shows no appreciation of what the team has achieved at our finish point in Humahuaca. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/40, f13.

For the photo geeks, I used my Nikon D600, Nikkor 70-200 f4, Zeiss 18 3.5 and a Nikkor 50 1.4, and the new F-Stop Loka Ultralight backpack.

 

April 6, 2014

Putting the “Rad” back into … err, daily life.

Filed under: photography, snow — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 11:04 am

Yep, I know you’ve been waiting for this to happen. I’ve teamed up with the good people at Radshot.com to offer you the chance to easily keep your snow-obsessed habits topped up with a daily does of rad-ness, by way of incredibly beautiful snowboard photography that we photographers work ruddy hard and take enormous selfless risks to shoot.

I’ve rummaged in my somewhat bulging drawers  -swollen to bursting point with well-over 15 years of snowboard imagery shot in places such as Greenland, Alaska, Russia and Pakistan and capturing the snowy antics of riders like Travis Rice and Jeremy Jones-  to hand Radshot.com a big wad of my belters to offer as a daily FREE photo of the day. Just head over to their site and subscribe to get your daily photo fix, or do that social media thing (whatever that is) to connect with them @RadShotPics.

My images will start gracing their site at random intervals from today. And when you’re done gawping too long and realise that you have forgotten your loved one’s birthday/Xmas/anniversary you can order a photo or canvas print of any of the images you see, easy, at the click of a button apparently, delivered direct to your door for a very, very reasonable price.

Oh and there are some other photographers on the site too. So be warned….

Rice wishes he'd taken his kayak instead of his splitboard. Going over the rapids, AK style.

T-Rice wishes he’d taken his kayak instead of his splitboard. Going over the rapids, AK style.

March 22, 2014

A little yellow bird told me – shooting Canaries

Filed under: bike, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — danmilner @ 3:08 pm

Yeah I know, it’s been a while, I’ve been busy. And one of the busy moments recently was shooting an MTB traverse of the magnificent island of Gran Canaria, following the advanced route of the TNF Trans Gran Canaria. It’s an idea I have had for a while, and finally it came to be. Three days, 4500m of up and downhill, and 95% on trails carrying our own gear (I used my F-Stop Kenti pack) this trip was a blinder -and the island’s incredible landscapes was a bonus. One of the best MTB adventures I’ve done & shot in over 30 years of MTB adventures (some would call them moments of madness). So here’s the photo for the month of February..

Read the print story in MBUK and Bike Magazin Germany any time now.

Railing one of the best, and little ridden trails on the island. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/1000, f8

Railing one of the best, and little ridden trails on the island. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/1000, f8

And the unique GoPro video episode that goes with it (video opens in new window).

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 14.59.02

February 2, 2014

Think you know snow? Treading lightly on the Voelkl ski shoot.

Filed under: photography, snow — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 4:16 pm
Working safe, mellow, north aspects is all about working the light. Freeride World Tour champ Nadine Wallner works some magic as the snow begins to heavy-up. Shots like this I use manual focus to give me more freedom of composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200/4, 1/1000, f11.

Working safe, mellow, north aspects is all about working the light. Freeride World Tour champ Nadine Wallner works some magic as the snow begins to heavy-up. For shots like this I use manual pre-focus to give me more freedom of composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000/f11.

Like kids and animals, I’d throw in snow as being one of the hardest things to work with (not that I’ve done an awful lot of work with kids or animals I add). This month saw our annual shoot for ski hardware-meisters Voelkl. With dates booked months in advance, and a whole team of 15 professional athletes descending on the location for a 4-day session, I’d be lying if I pretended that I don’t get anxious in the few days before the shoot. Snow is fickle. It comes, it goes, it crusts, it gets heavy.  But you have to work with what you’ve got, and make it work, and that’s the difference between being a pro photographer and a lucky enthusiast. Your images are the single end result of a lot of planning and the handing over of a significant shoot budget.  In 4 days, 4 photographers are to capture most of the companies vast image needs for both the ISPO product launch and the rest of the year’s marketing blurb. And its with this knowledge that you step out, camera in hand.

And that’s where the snow bit comes in.

Aspirational is only half the story on commercial shoots. Marketing people like to see what they are selling, and that's where Per Jonsson comes in. he's the kind of athlete you can trust to miss you when you get in close. Tracking fast approaching subjects is a great test for autofocus, and one of the only times I use it. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/2500, f5.6.

‘Aspirational’ is only half the story on commercial shoots. After all marketing people like to see what they are selling, and that’s where Per Jonsson comes in. He’s the kind of pro athlete you can trust to miss you when you get in close. Tracking fast approaching subjects is a great test for autofocus and one of the only times I use it. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/2500, f5.6.

Early snow in the Alps can make people complacent. Shouts of “its gonna be a huge winter” echo around the valleys. But in reality, the early snow and cold spell just left a dangerous hoar-frost layer and weak snowpack for any off-piste skiing. This is the kind of consideration that adds a certain pressure to real ski shoots -you know the kind of shoots that really capture the aspirational, the kind of stuff that’s put my name on the map for the last decade and a half.

And then it changed. Kind of.

Fresh snow before the shoot is always a relief. It puts pay to all that head scratching, wondering what the heck we’re going to shoot and where we’re going to do it. But it also buries that weak, avalanche-prone layer. So it’s within these criteria that we set out on the Voelkl shoot, keeping to safe areas and watching as the heat wave reduced most south facing slopes to heavy, lifeless mush. Pro ski photography is all about reading signs. It’s about reading warning signs in the weather, it’s about seeing which way the wind has blown, which way the light is angled, about reading signs in your athletes faces and body language that say “Well Dan, I’ve kind of had enough hiking today.”

Pro ski photography is about knowing snow.

Last run of the day and the camera's still out. Occasionally we take a free run, but when the terrain looks liek this and the light is reflected off the biggest peak in Europe, you've just got to keep shjooting. Nadine Wallner heading home. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000, f 7.1

Last run of the day and the camera’s still out. Occasionally we might grab a no photos, free run, but when the terrain looks like this and the dying light is reflected off the biggest peak in Europe, you’ve just got to keep shooting. Nadine Wallner heading home. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000, f 7.1

January 3, 2014

Another 12 months of firsts – 2013 in pictures

Doing what I do, you’d think it’s easy to get blase about travelling to new places. You know,  “what a job… another month, another remote but beautiful location to shoot”. But in reality, it’s the unknowns of new places, their challenges and unexpected rewards that keep me doing what I do. And 2013 was one of those years –  a series of first time experiences, most unique, some incredible, some insane and some I’d rather not repeat. Whatever their lasting impression on me, whatever the pain, the scary-bits, the ‘too many hours in airport departure halls’, I’m glad I got the chance to go and shoot them all, from Arizona to Afghanistan.

So here’s a little look back at the places, people and things that through 2013 helped me continue becoming the worldly-wise, level headed pro-photographer I am today. Or maybe they just made me go a little more crazy. You decide. 2013 was also the year I started Twitter (follow: @danmilnerphoto) and got an iPhone, which can do most of the things photographers do. Apparently.

The year kicked off with the Voelkl team ski shoot. Epic snow always helps. Getitng the balance between aspirational, inspirational and just showing what the product can do is the photographer's challenge. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4.

The year kicked off with the Voelkl team ski shoot. Epic snow always helps. Getting the balance between aspirational, inspirational and just showing what the product you’re there to shoot can do is the photographer’s challenge. Is there an app for powder landings? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4.

Tales from the dark side. Nothing beats working with light like this. It's a popular misconception that today's photography is all about computer work, processing and instagram-like filters. Who needs them? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, @ 1/1000th, f1/8.

Tales from the dark side. Nothing beats working with light like this. It’s a popular misconception that today’s photography is all about computer work, processing and instagram-like filters. Who needs them when you have January winter light? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, @ 1/1000th, f1/8.

(more…)

December 26, 2013

Latest GoPro episode.. with a smile

Filed under: bike, The Mangina chronicles, video — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 3:27 pm

Sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up in the business side of the sports that provide my livelihood. It’s too easy to be glib too, and pretend that it’s just a barrel of laughs. My work takes me to places that are scary, environments that are unfriendly, and under deadlines and budget pressures that can sometimes take the edge off what is a ‘dream job’. So in case you’re wondering where I stand, here’s my latest GoPro episode -from one of my favourite bike destinations-  from the monthly series I produce for EpicTV.com. Sometimes a smile is what it’s all about. Oh and a damn big royalty cheque from the boss.

Trail Ninja Kirroughtree

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