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

January 14, 2011

P.O.M. – a year in pictures

Filed under: bike, life, photography, snow — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 4:25 pm

It’s that time again, when the simple passing of midnight releases a barrage of ‘A Year in Pictures’ type image galleries collated from the previous 12 months of World happenings.  There’s hardly a journal (well, at least one that’s worth its weight in ink anyway) that doesn’t take this opportunity to celebrate the irreverence of photography and run an image gallery come the New Year, and I love it. Such galleries are a chance to glimpse what slipped past your radar first time around, chance to reflect on the beauty of the planet we inhabit and the (usually) ridiculous and often senseless way we seem to go about it, and all of it composed and depicted as the photographer saw and experienced it. One such collection I keep my eye on is the World Press Photo (catch the roving exhibition if you can), an annual collection of some of the most moving photojournalism you’re ever going to see. It’s not for the faint hearted that’s for sure.

So I thought I’d dip into my own previous 12 months of shooting assignments and post a kind of round up of my year: a year in which I shot feature commissions for a dozen titles, experimented with different lens techniques, and shot the most ‘out there’ bike expedition I have ever done. It was also a year that dealt me a true up and down set of experiences, including some very deep personal loss. I won’t pretend that it’s another World Press Photo exhibition, but maybe it provides an interesting insight into a year of a travelling professional ‘mountain’ photographer all the same.

Hit the ‘more’ tag to browse the round up of 2010 images below…

One man and his dog

“Trappers cabin” I thought was just a term for an old remote lodge, resplendently adorned with old timer memorabilia. I was wrong. Our basic abode for a few days in the Canadian backcountry came with genuine trapper and all the trimmings (gun, snowshoes and dog). We reached it by 60 Km ice road drive out of Golden, B.C. then a 30 Km snowmobile trek, but severe avalanche conditions kept the epic terrain out of reach of the photo assignment. Hearing wolf howls at night is not ideal when the toilet is an outhouse. There’s a wolf conservation centre just outside Golden the nearest town to where we were based, meanwhile the Canadian government pays trappers a $50 bounty per wolf killed.

Room with a view: Tantalus range, B.C.

As part of the Deeper film project I spent 3 days and nights camping on the Tantalus glacier, shooting the splitboard adventures of Jeremy Jones and Jonaven Moore. For Jonaven it was his first return to the range since being avalanched off some years ago, when he poached the lines illegally by helicopter. Over the years Jonaven had stared up at the Tantalus from his converted railway car home near Squamish, biding his time for a suitable time to explore the Tantalus again, knowing it needed a different approach. A lot has changed since that first attempt, including Jonaven’s take on snowboarding. His return on a splitboard was welcomed by stable conditions and perfect snow. Meanwhile my own ticklist of “firsts” included glacier travel in the dark , with pre-dawn starts kicking off the daily shoots. This was the view from the accommodation window.

Jeremy Jones wears the Wizard's Toque

As part of the Tantalus adventure, Jeremy Jones and local Mikey Nixon started out from camp at 3.30am to reach this line  -given the name the Wizard’s Toque (hat) by Jeremy- for sunrise when its east face would be best lit for shooting. That’s what makes these athletes professional. Meanwhile I had a lie-in, leaving camp at 5.30am to shoot it from my chosen ridge-top vantage point. With film projects being as they are, and with 2 years of footage in the can to select from, the Tantalus mission and its 3.30 am starts never made it into the final Deeper film edit though.

The swing to end all swings

The life of a travel photographer means you get to try things that otherwise would pass you by. This seated cable swing, strung high on the vertiginous hillside at Jonaven Moore’s property in B.C. was one I could not pass up. From a platform high on the hillside, the enormous pendulum swung you down and then up again, out through a gap in the lush green canopy among mighty old growth trees to the swing’s dead point about 80 ft above the valley floor and house below. Then it brought you backwards again.  Smooth, jerkfree but without harness, it is one of the most exhilerating, but scary things I have ever done. Period.

Hiking for turns part 1

The truth about snowboard shoots is that really you don’t get to ride that much. At least, ironically if the weather is good. Much time then is spent hiking and re-hiking lines. With one week and 2 pro riders sent over from the USA to shoot an assignment for Transworld Snowboarding mag we scored one half day of good weather.  Half of that was spent hiking back up for another shot.

World's best toilet

One of the most inventive people I know is Mike Basich. Staying with him at his place in the hills of Tahoe is rarely without adventure, and its for this reason  -and that he has become a good friend over the years since we first met as pro-rider and photographer-  among others that I try to visit him every year. The cabin he has built is eclectic. This is the toilet.

Jenny Jones in the forest

Twice X- Games winner Jenny Jones accompanied me on my trip to Mike Basich’ place in Tahoe. For shoots it doesn’t get to be a much better combo than this: an incredibly talented athlete and some beautiful forest in which to frame the action. This turned out to be my personal favourite snowboard shot (of mine) of last year.

Creative genius

The idea of building his own rope tow to install on his property in the hills of Tahoe was the ‘excuse’ for visiting Mike Basich last winter. This shot captures the last part of the rope tow being welded together using recycled junk.

Creative genius 2

Mike had this spot in mind for some time, biding his time to get a suitable shot on it. The planets aligned while I was with him. Mike is one of the best purveyors of the classic backside air. In an industry that is transfixed on style and fashion, it’s time with people like Mike that put a lot into perspective for me. Maybe its just we’re growing old together.

The solution for overcrowded ski resorts: miniature people

Tilt shift lenses are something I’ve wanted to play with for a while, and the annual Animal team shoot gave me the excuse to use one. By shifting the plane of focus you can distort the image to lend a little “Hornby miniature railway model’ feel to it. Like any obscure lens effect, they can be easily overdone and can reach saturation quickly if used too much. They are also expensive lenses. And a b*stard to use well. It may be a while before I buy my own.


While in Vancouver between snowboard stories, I grabbed the opportunity to hook up with Dr Dew, the designer at Kona bikes to shoot a portrait led interview with him for What Mountain Bike magazine. With the guilt edged price of flying today, I’m finding the need to pack as many assignments into each long haul trip as possible, with bike and snow becoming unlikely seasonal bedmates. The Dewey feature tops of a set of “legends” features I’ve shot, all with legends whose names adorn many of the bikes on which I’ve cut my own mountain bike teeth over the last two decades: Ritchey, Fisher, Bontrager, Roskopp and finally Dewey. Certainly I feel a little privileged to have shared a day with each of them. They are all very nice people.

smooth lines

The world of professional road bike racing is not one I’m that familiar with, but it fascinates me, in a weird ‘can’t quite identify with it’ way. A team shoot for a main sponsor on a rainy January day meant time for some reflection and contemplation from both riders and the photographer.

Miniature people part 2

Sometimes adventure can be found closer to home than you might expect. Despite shooting in some of the world’s wildest places a trip to ride the 3 day West Highland Way long distance trail in Scotland has proved to be one of the most genuine bike adventures I’ve ever done. Certainly it hosts some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and a very real way of making you feel small.  A little humility at the hands of mother nature is something that should be on everyones agenda. Maybe we’d give her more respect.

You know the day is going to be good when it starts with tea served on a tray decorated with kittens

Nearing the Tibetan border on a three week long bike trip to Nepal’s Upper Mustang region, our tea house accommodations became increasingly adorned with Chinese tat. The Upper Mustang region has only been open to foreigners since 1992, and even now has restricted access. Officially it was closed to protect the culture and heritage of this ancient Kingdom. Unofficially it was closed under pressure from the Chinese after finding CIA operatives in the region training Tibetans to fight the Chinese occupiers.

hiking for turns part 2

Autumn is never long enough.

old trail, new angle

What you have in your mind’s eye and what occupies reality are often far apart. Often its due to the way your eyes de-clutter a scene, or filter out distractions to present your mind with a clearer image based around the main subject, that then becomes complicated or unclear in a photo.  It’s something that keeps photography a mystery to many. Having ridden this trail several times over the last few years I had a mental image of a spot that would make a great autumn shot. When I loaded the camera gear  and we re-rode the trail this autumn, the trail didnt twist and turn how I thought it did, and the original camera angle I had in mind never appeared.

Turner oil paintings get the photo treatment

And so to Britain again. The English Lake District never fails to deliver in scenery. I scouted this spot for a fell running shoot two days earlier and in full autumn splendor felt compelled to head back there on the bikes. With one of the moost beautiful scenes unfurliung before us, I understand why so many landscapes painters heralded from the UK. Two days later this scene would be buried under snow and remain that way until the arrival of 2011.



  1. Its funny to see your photo of the “West Highland Way” coz my mate Dave said he managed to do a wheelie all the way across it.

    Comment by nick chapple — January 30, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    • Did Dave also tell you he was going to buy you a drink last time you were going to the pub? Funny though, as on the first day of our WHW 3 day epic I snapped my rear axle and had to ride pretty gingerly for the last 2 days, a lot of the time the axle snagging and stopping it from even freewheeling, so thats as good as pulling a wheelie in my book (as my repertoire of bike moves doesn’t include wheelies it will have to).

      Comment by danmilner — January 31, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

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