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

March 24, 2010

Famous for fifteen minutes: racing for golden light with Jeremy Jones.

Filed under: outdoors, photography, snow — Tags: , — danmilner @ 6:02 pm

Nerdy photographers know and love the surreal pop the pink hue of a sunrise can add to a photo and they also know, at least if they’ve tried to shoot it, that this kind of aesthetic takes some commitment, not least on a remote mountainside in -10 C temperatures. On my latest assignment accompanying big mountain legend Jeremy Jones, the true level of energy and effort involved in capturing incredible snowboarding in incredible light was firmly driven home. Of course adding that beautiful pink tinge to an image means getting up early -4.30 am in this case- (something you are forced to almost get used to working alongside the inexhaustible energy of the Jones: this chap is on a mission and as the World’s highest profiled big mountain rider he knows what makes a shot) but our latest shooting/filming session was a far cry from sliding out from beneath a hotel duvet and driving, mug of coffee in hand, to a location prep’d by assistants.

Game 1: spot the camp tents. Canon EOS 1D mk3, 24-70/2.8

Crawling from a warm sleeping bag and wrenching yourself from a cold tent to push on (literally) frozen boots and brave the sub-zero temperatures at 4.30am is only the tip of our latest iceberg of effort that went into shooting big mountain snowboard images at sunrise this last week. Of course only east-facing slopes receive that real morning-glory treatment, which means getting both the rider above their line, ready to drop in on some east facing gnarl and photographer in the right spot to capture the gnarl, all before the sun comes up, ready and poised to witness one of natures most beautiful spectacles, a spectacle that really only lasts about ten minutes before burning itself out. So if you’re now wondering what getting into place before the sun arrives really entails then cue the world of headtorch-lit splitboard hikes in the dark across some testing terrain: skinning up icy steeps and traversing between snowbridges on glaciers, and all before your body has even had time to think about a daily movement.

Hmm, quite a playground you've got there in your backyard Jonaven. Canon EOS 1D mk3, 70-200/4.

So that’s been this week: the latest installment to the Jones/TGR Deeper project had us camping on the side of the Tantalus glacier, above Squamish, B.C., a zone that Canadian big mountain rider and Deeper regular Jonaven Moore had been eyeing up for several years, largely as he could see the incredible, if a little mentalist, terrain from his back garden. Gazing at 50 degree spine lines like these, mug of tea in hand from the leafy comfort of your porch might be enough for many Squamish inhabitants, but for Moore the itch needed scratching and as luck would have it, the factors seemed to align during my time with him in Canada, more than making up for a frustratingly initial Canada assignment complicated by rider pull-outs and very sketchy avalanche conditions (see earlier blog post: a game of two halves). This time around fresh snow, a rapidly stabilizing coast snowpack and a three-day high pressure in between the cycle of storms that usually envelopes the coastal range allowed us a quick heli taxi lift to cover the 2000 metre climb into the zone where we set up a base camp. Just like last year’s month-long Alaska project, once up on the snow, the Tantalus became a splitboard hike-for lines mission, if only for a less beard growth enticing three-day affair.

Jones leaves the swings and heads towards the bouncy castle. Canon Eos 1D mk3, 70-200/4

For all involved getting to the lines means carrying a hefty amount of gear –harnesses, rope, extra layers and food, shovels and probes, hiking poles, climbing skins and crampons- and of course for us photo-monkeys it means adding all that to our already bulging packs in which nestle a weighty pro-camera body and usually 3 chunky lenses*. This was one more trip I was glad I wasn’t snowshoeing and carrying my board, leaving the splitboard (mine a Helix twintip from Venture snowboards) on the feet to save weight on the back. It was also one in which I put my new Eos 1DMk3’s 10 frames/second through its paces and suddenly found myself feasibly in need of a longer lens, renting a Canon 400/5.6 lense (which at a ‘mere’ 1700g is eminently more portable than the f4 or f2.8 massive bits of glass when you’re hiking across glaciers and dodging holes.)

The end result: 3 days snow camping, 11 incredible lines ridden (including one that the Jones lists as the most technical he’s ever ridden in Canada), and 1 solo bivvi-out at the top of a ridge experience for Jonaven (as the only way of dropping into his line at the perfect time). Oh and some well earned morning glory. You know what I mean.

You’ll catch the feature from this adventure in next years snow titles and in TGR’s Deeper movie (due out in Sept ’10), but if you cant wait that long you can check a web episode of Jonaven Moore’s season on, along with the year’s progress of other Arcteryx-sponsored athletes on adventure missions, from kayakers and mountain bikers to climbers.

(* Okay, nerdy camera types, yes at times like this, hiking the backcountry behind goat-like pro riders I lighten the load a few grams by taking Canon’s 70-200 f4 L instead of the f2.8 L lens. Hey physiotherapy doesn’t come cheap.)



  1. Thank you very much for your article.

    Comment by Edword — May 3, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  2. […] glacier camp teaser Filed under: Uncategorized — danmilner @ 8:13 am So if you read my post a couple of months ago that detailed the snow camping/splitboard mission we did on the Tantalus […]

    Pingback by New moving image shocker: The Tanatalus glacier camp teaser « the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp — June 14, 2010 @ 8:13 am

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