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

July 29, 2016

Putting mouth where the money is – 100 pages & counting

Filed under: bike, outdoors, story telling — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 9:10 am

The story I shot last year riding a nine day traverse of Ethiopia’s  Simien Mountains has now topped 100 pages in print (+ running on a dozen websites), which is handy because trip sponsors —in this case Giro— like to see some bang for their buck. It’s what helps keep the sponsorship wheel turning for future trips.

Sugar daddies aren’t always easy to find, and most of the trips I shoot are self-funded, based on the calculations that I have enough editorials lined up to make these kind of adventure stories pay the mortgage. But with our Ethiopia trip costing about $5000 per person it seemed like a good idea to take this to someone who might have the budget and vision to make this work. Knowing that ‘adventure” was something that Giro was keen to align themselves with, and that this trip would present some amazing opportunities to do so, I took the pitch to them and they bought it. The conversation went something like this: (me) “Hi Dain, I have this story in Ethiopia’s mountains..” (Dain, Giro Marketing Manager) “I’m coming.”  They sent six people including myself to join guiding company Secret Compass for a ride through the incredible Simien Mountains, camping en route and hauling our bikes to the top of their highest mountain, the 4552m Ras Deshan.

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This shot of Sarah Leishman and Kamil Tatarkovic sums up the riding in the Simians of me: tricky, tough and unforgiving but immensely rewarding I had no idea that Kamil would throw in the jump when we set this shot up. Nikon D600, 50mm/1.4 @ 1/1000, f71.

As the photographer on a trip like this it’s hard to shake off the feeling of responsibility, the sense that the whole budget sits on your shoulders. After all the images are what will drive the press coverage from the trip – the same coverage that convinces the sponsor that their money was well spent. I’ve had it before both for clients and editorial shoots — a $100k budget advertorial trip to Greenland, the expensive Svalbard Further trip for Transworld Snowboarding, and more. It’s the kind of pressure that only experience teaches you to deal with.

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You’re rarely alone in Ethiopia so it was no surprise to see this shepherd sitting at the last pass we reached before climbing to the summit off the country’s highest peak. The SD card loaded radio around his neck blasted out traditional music. The people here are some of the most welcoming I have ever met. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/1000, f4.

 

So what of the trip? Ethiopia is hands down the most spectacular place I have shot. Its also one of the most friendly and welcoming places I have been. None of our team returned anything less than blown away by the experience, no matter how many previous adventures we’d done. And from the photo side, the trip presented a thousand and one unique opportunities to press the shutter. Here I’m sharing just three, as a snapshot of an epic experience.

You can see/read my feature from this trip in English on Mpora here, and in French here,French here, and Italian here.

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Our expedition’s success usually relies on the abilities of our support crew. Our chef nicknamed ‘Ramsey’ could turn any basic barn or corner of a mountainside into a kitchen, fuelling us to push our bikes to the 4500m high point of our ride. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18mm/3.5 @ 1/125, f3.5.

 

 

November 11, 2014

Alive and kicking – my new website is up

Filed under: bike, life, outdoors, photography, snow — Tags: , — danmilner @ 8:34 am

It was meant to be down for 2 weeks. Three months late my new website is finally up, using a completely new format, look and a fresh set of images. A lot of them.

A thousand of a second to shoot, three months to get up online.

A thousand of a second to shoot, three months to get up online.

What was meant to be a simple task  -dropping in a decent set of images into a photoshelter template and putting danmilner.com back online- turned out to be quite a lot longer process than I’d anticipated. When I start digging, I seem to have, err… quite a lot of photos that would look great full screen bleed on the smart new site, and narrowing my selection down to a manageable, less bewildering but representative edit was more than could be done in my tea-break. Throw in a few select ‘special projects’ galleries, add a sprinkle of more recent commercial work and still keep time aside to actually go out and shoot, and.. well you get the idea.

And then there are the captions. Every single image has a caption of some sort – from simple athlete and/or location details to a little background story to the pic. I guess I need to get quicker at typing.

Whatever, it’s up and live and kicking. All you have to do is make a cup of tea, grab a biscuit (hell, make it a packet) and sit back and enjoy it.

www.danmilner.com

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.

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November 20, 2013

F-Stop Gear sponsors Milner

Filed under: outdoors, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 11:54 am

There are two ways to avoid a bad back as a mountain photographer: Twice weekly yoga sessions, or getting a decent camera backpack. The latter seems a lot easier than the first, but that’s not always the case. So welcome onboard the good ship Milner to F-Stop photo packs, my new sponsors for camera-hauling luggage for photo-chimps like me.

Might as well give up my yoga.

Might as well give up my yoga.

In over 15 years as a pro-photographer I’ve tried and ditched a fair few different camera backpacks. Some have accompanied me to the furthest corners of the Earth, from 79-degree North Arctic wilds, to the snowy  flanks of Russia’s Elbrus and ice-fringed corners of Alaska and Greenland, and its fair to say I developed favouritism to certain packs among the many I got to share quality on-mountain time with. But none of them ever scored 100% with me, not because I am a fussy bugger or whinging pom, but because none of them did everything I needed of them in the real outdoors.

With some (nature) photo focussed companies, their packs can lack real-mountain suitability (usability), lacking attachment points or straps for splitboards, snowshovels, crampons, or my sandwiches. For other more sport-orientated companies that ticked these boxes, their packs often lack the tech performance of decent internal dividers or they show fundamental design flaws, like not being long enough to accommodate a 70-200 f2.8 lens with hood. It’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t seem like a problem until you’re out on a three week snow camp expedition a long way from the next FedEx delivery point. Then, what was a niggle soon becomes a major hassle, and with camera packs, it has been a lottery. Until now.

I’ve been keeping a beady eye on F-Stop for the last couple of years, watching their packs develop into the full-grown beasts of outdoor capability that they are today, and can only say I’m pretty chuffed to be hooking up with them, beginning recently with a ski shoot for Nevica up at 3000m+ on the glacier at SaasFee, Switzerland. Who knows where I’ll be snuggling down in a snowy tent with my new packs next? If they could only make them edible too, just in case we get hit by another 10-day AK blizzard and run out of food, I think they will have through of everything, Until then they will score 99%.

I’m kicking off this autumn/winter armed with the Tilopa BC and Kenti packs, along with a set of different sized internals to suit the different shoots ahead.

Saas Fee in all its snowy autumn finery. Luckily there is a restaurant 100m away so I didnt have to eat my pack.

Saas Fee in all its snowy autumn finery. Luckily there is a restaurant 100m away so I didnt have to eat my pack.

May 16, 2013

The Birthplace of Mountain Biking gets some Milner movie madness

Filed under: bike, outdoors, photography, The Mangina chronicles — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 9:15 am

A few years ago someone asked me if I thought the (then) new D-SLRs with their HD filming ability would change the role of photographer. Would us stills-monkeys suddenly become overnight Spielbergs and of course be shooting both stills and movies while we’re out on location? It was an understandable question. After all you just have to push some buttons right? It’s a question that has popped back up time and time again, not least from clients wanting me to shoot and film expeditions simultaneously.

My answer remains the same. No. Of course it’s pretty much impossible to shoot stills and film at the same time. Each has its own set of skills and techniques and each focusses on different decisive moments. For filming it’s about 30 Frames Per Second (FPS) and needing a little motion blur to help the frames blend into each other, and tripods or steadycams. For action photography, it’s still about hand-held, high (1/1000) shutter speeds and focussing for maximum sharpness. You can’t do both at the same time. Simple.

Now sponsored by GoPro though, my job has evolved, a little, and now its rare for a trip not to be accompanied by the need to record it in moving image format, as is expected by the Youtube obsessed populace and employers alike. And so on the recent trip to the US while shooting mag features on Joe Breeze, Mark Weir and E*Thirteen with my Leica M9, I produced a few more episodes for my EpicTV Trail Ninja series with the GoPro HD3.

So here’s my fun trail guide to mountain biking in the the birthplace of the MTB  -Marin County, California.

Check here to see more.

January 15, 2013

Getting Vocal with Voelkl -a picture is worth a thousand words….

If this is a taste of the year ahead, I’ll be needing more memory cards. A 4-day shoot for Voelkl skis kicked off my 2013, in conditions that were about as perfect as we were going to get in the Alps. Quite a contrast from last years avalanche dodging and jib-tastic escapade. I was given the services of international backcountry freestylers Dylan Hood and Dash Longe from the USA and Flo Wieser (austria) and PA Chedal (France) to try to nail all the images needed by Voelkl to launch a brand new flagship backcountry ski at next month’s ISPO trade fair. Hmm, not that there was any pressure or anything.

The nerdy bit: It also gave me the chance to try out my new Nikon 70-200 f4G lens.. the new lighter (850g), but one stop slower counterpart to the usual 70-200 f2.8 I lug about. And when I say “lug” I mean. Lug. The f2.8 is a back-straining 1500g. Add that to a D3s body (1240g), a 24-70 f2.8 (900g), a 14-24 f2.8 (970g), a 50 f1.4 (290g) and a few accessories, and you have some heft. I’ve been waiting for Nikon to emerge with the f4 since I first heard rumours of its development a year ago. It was one of the lenses in Canon’s amoury that I missed when I switched to Nikon from Canon 2 years ago, especially when hiking the backcountry. (I’ll be seeing how the D600 and 16-35 f4, 70-200 f4 combo goes down when Jeremy Jones/TGR start calling for the next expedition..).

So here’s a peek at what pleased Voelkl….

This spot rarely fails to deliver... nor does Flo's 720. Backlighting is my way, and while the new 70-200 f4 is sharp and no doubt autofocuses without hesitation, I actually manually focussed on the take off to allow a more relaxed composition.

This spot rarely fails to deliver… nor does Flo’s 720. Backlighting is my way, and while the new 70-200 f4 is sharp and no doubt autofocuses without hesitation, I actually manually focussed on the take off to allow a more relaxed composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, 1/1600, f.7.1.

I thik this was the 10th shot I have taken with the new 70-200 f4. yeah I'm happy. Dylan Hood sends a rooster tail that you normally see in snowboarding. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4. 1/100, f/8.

I think this was the 10th shot I have taken with the new 70-200 f4. Happy? Yeah I’m happy! Dylan Hood sends a ski rooster tail that you normally see in snowboarding. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4. 1/1000, f/8.

 

Seeing the skis can be a problem when shooting marketing shots in powder. Unless you have Dylan along for the ride. The base shot. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f2.8. 1/1250, f6.3.

Seeing the skis can be a problem when shooting marketing shots in powder. Unless you have Dylan along for the ride. The base shot. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f2.8. 1/1250, f6.3.

 

The evolution of skiing. Flo lays out a surf turn and gets barrelled. This was the last shot of the day, last shot of the shoot. I didnt know quite where he was going to lay out this turn on the bank, so kept the composition loose, the depth of field reasonable at f7.1, and tracked him in, adjusting my composition as he began the turn. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4,@ 1/2000, f7.1, ISO 200.

The evolution of skiing. Flo lays out a surf turn and gets barrelled. This was the last shot of the day, last shot of the shoot. I didnt know quite where he was going to lay out this turn on the bank, so kept the composition loose, the depth of field reasonable at f7.1, and tracked him in, adjusting my composition as he began the turn. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4,@ 1/2000, f7.1, ISO 200.

All work and no play make Dan a dull(er) boy. Not strictly part of the shoot, but a "free run" down the Rectaline couloir on day 4 allowed the skiers to get the new skis dialled, and me to try the new Nikon D600 body. You know "free runs" are going to be a little different whren the guide (stian) says  " take it easy at the pinch, its not a place to fall" and " and at the bottom of the coulir there is a 1m ice shelf to drop off so don't go charging through..". Nikon D600, 14-24 f2.8 @1/1000, f5.6. ISO 100.

All work and no play make Dan a dull(er) boy. Not strictly part of the shoot, but a “free run” down the Rectaline couloir on day 4 allowed the skiers to get the new skis dialled, and me to try my new Nikon D600 body. You know “free runs” are going to be a little “different” when the guide (Stian Hagen) says “..take it easy at the pinch, its not a place to fall… oh, and at the bottom of the couloir there is a 1m ice shelf to drop off so don’t go charging through..”. Nikon D600, 14-24 f2.8 @1/1000, f5.6. ISO 100.

January 11, 2012

Live view: Another slideshow in the off’ing.

Filed under: outdoors, snow — Tags: , , , — danmilner @ 7:38 pm

Thursday 19 January 2012, The Vert Hotel/bar, Chamonix: So I am kicking off the new year with another (free) Milner slideshow/hecklefest. Expect the usual inane babble and artfully dark images, this time from the Svalbard Polar trip with Jones and Terje. If you’re not around Chamonix next week, then you can catch a (soya)beefed up showing later in the year at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival (November).

There'll not be a dry eye in the house.

January 8, 2012

2011: A year in pictures

If you’ve avoided keeping up to date on my roamings during 2011, you’re bang out of luck now. You’ve stumbled on my annual recap of this last year spent as a travelling professional photo chimp.. . a collation of images that I hope gives a kind of insight into the eclectic adventures that my dream job allows me to photograph in various corners of the world, and the reason that we photographer’s are *mysteriously moody/unbearably over confident/trembling nervous wrecks (*delete as appropriate).

(Hit the “more” tab below the second image caption to see the gallery in its entirety.)

Canon EOS 1D mkIII, 24-70 2.8, f5 1/1000.

(above) It’s all about the backside air. Nate Kern throws a backside air over old mining ruins near Telluride, Colorado, while two well-known but remaining anonymous female pro snowboarders couldn’t resist giving him cheek. The trip with Jenny Jones, Hana Beaman, Nate and Angus Leith was a reminder that snowboarding, a sport so many of us begun for fun, needn’t just be business.

Canon EOS 1DmkIII, 24-70/2.8, f7.1, 1/800.

(above) Kickers have never been my favourite thing to shoot in snowboarding, especially when there is powder to ride and shoot in the backcountry. It has something to do with how I ride. I’m not a kicker person and find shooting them a little dull and restrictive. A lot of standing around cheering other people on. Kickers, compared to freeride shots, seem more about the style of the rider than the art of the photography, at least normally. After ticking the rider’s boxes however this time I found time to satisfy my own art-urges. Nate Kern is in there somewhere, deep in the Telluride backcountry, Colorado.

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December 25, 2011

The Svalbard Chronicles part 1: Downtime in camp.

It’s that time of year when bike shoots get muscled out by the ripped torso of snow-bound adventures and the postie suffers relapsed hernias while trying to  stuff  my letter box with assorted snow mags from around the world that feature my work shot last winter. This week the latest Transworld Snowboarding dropped with a resounding thud onto my WELCOME door mat, well in fact 2 significant issues of TWS did -the 2011/12 Photo Annual and their 25th anniversary issue. The former sports what TWS’ editors have gathered as the “greatest” shots of the year, and my shot of Jeremy Jones dropping what we tagged “the Nat Geo chute” during our recent Further Svalbard Arctic camping trip scored the spread as “Best Landscape” shot of 2011. I’d be happy enough if this was it all, but nay! The 25th anniversary issue lists my Deeper Alaska story from 2 winters ago amongst the ten most memorable features TWS have run in their 25 years as the world’s leading Snowboard title. Yes, of course I’m chuffed.

Is it really that hard to shoot the "landscape shot of the year" when you have this location and this rider to fill the frame. Surely all I had to do was press the shutter, right? Hmm, yes and hike up to this vantage point at 11 pm. And try to fend off frostbite. And sit out another 3 day storm. And eat 2 weeks of freeze dried meals.. and that's not touching on the polar bear issue. .Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 VRII

So to help me celebrate this boost in ego, I’m launching here the Svalbard Chronicles… a varied and randomly ill-defined edit of my video-diary from the same 3-week Svalbard camping session back in May. if nothing else the video pieces may help you understand how, why and what the hell a mountain photographer’s life is all about. Be warned: there will be more.

September 7, 2011

P.O.M: August ‘011.

Filed under: outdoors, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 3:00 pm

Photo Of the Month: Mike, early morning trail running shoot, Chamonix.

It's all about the trail running at the moment it seems, what with covering the UTMB for The North Face recently, I seem to have become accustomed to seeing faces of pain and anguish. Not so for Mike, local trail runner who stepped up to the mark with a smile for a client backpack shoot this month. I had the location planned out, but every now and then luck plays its hand, adding the early morning mist for atmosphere. Of course if we'd just been lazy and stayed in our beds another hour we would have missed the early light that lets us photomonkeys capture this kind of aspirational stuff. That said seeing Mike leap rock to rock high on an exposed ridgeline, didn't make me long to don running shoes. I'll stick to the bike. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 VRII.

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