Want to see how our recent Argentina railroad epic with Hans and Tibor looks on video? Well, here it is.
May 9, 2014
April 10, 2014
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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….
March 22, 2014
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.
And the unique GoPro video episode that goes with it (video opens in new window).
February 2, 2014
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.
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.
January 3, 2014
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.
December 26, 2013
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.
December 18, 2013
Just got this in my inbox. And I’m well chuffed. It’s admirable outdoor brand Patagonia’s new 2014 winter catalogue -just out- with my shot adorning its cover.
My near two-decades of shooting snowboarding has seen its twists and turns. I’ve shot in some of the world’s wildest places, flown in helicopters and ski-planes, dug snowmobiles out of trouble, dodged polar bears and camped through some less-than hospitable temperatures. I’ve shot for dozens of different brands and had the fortune to shoot with some of the world’s most legendary riders, from Craig Kelly to Travis Rice and more.
But seeing this image work for Patagonia is a highlight, and here’s why: It could be Patagonia’s more environmentally conscious approach fits better with my own lifestyle. It could be that Forrest is a very, very nice bloke to share time with in the backcountry and a talented rider to boot. It could be that having shunned helicopter trips for the last few years after questioning their role in our climate-challenged snow sports, this backcountry session, like so many in the last few years, was all about splitboarding. Or it could be that this images gets printed on over a million catalogues and everyone says “wow, that is a dope shot!” and I get more beers bought for me in the pub. The jury’s out.
Thanks Patagonia. Thanks Forrest.
December 8, 2013
Last night I spent a generous hour spewing forth anecdotes and showing images from our June MTB trip to Afghanistan at one of my public slideshows, this one in Chamonix, France. This morning, nursing a booze-induced heavy head, I donated $175 to the charity Central Asia Institute.
Our pioneering mountain bike trip has, in some corners, been labelled ‘eg0-tourism’, due mostly to the idea of us riding (expensive) mountain bikes through a poor area. I’ve had these kind of debates before. Of course essentially the trip we undertook was an adventure editorial and the reasons I and the other 5 westerners signed up for the expedition are multifold. There is the lure of remote, untamed challenges, the desire to pitch your own personal ability against harsh environments. There is the beauty of meeting, and sharing cultural exchanges with, people who otherwise don’t get to see far outside their immediate surroundings. And there is the concept that for everyone on the trip -myself as photographer, the filmers, the pro rider , the guide, the magazine editor- this kind of stuff is work. Yes, we’re privileged in so many ways. But egos don’t come into it.
What we, and I’m certain most of the locals we shared time with, emerge with is a better understanding of the world, of people. And that’s why I love to do such slideshows -to try to share this kind of experience, to allow a glimpse through my lens of a world westerners rarely see or understand. They give a taste of what being a pro photographer is all about too. And lastly, they give me an opportunity to raise some cash for a charity.
During our 2-day drive through the north of Afghanistan en route to our trailhead, we passed numerous schools built by the charity Central Asia Institute. The charity launched by Greg Mortensen (author of Three Cups of Tea) has had its ups and downs over the last few years, but the schools they build in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a view on Peace through Education, are there to see. I’ve seen them. I’ve seen kids stream from the doors to get a glimpse at a half dozen foreigners hauling strange mountain bikes along a tortuous mountain road. And that’s why last night’s slideshow’s collection was for the CAI.
No ego. No guilt. Just plain giving something back.
December 5, 2013
Altitude sickness, fatigue, cold and sunburn are the kind of things we calculated for on our recent pioneering Wakhan mountain bike expedition. But the many river crossings passed us by. Not for a minute did we think these would be so formidable. It’s arid Afghanistan after all right?However, the thundering torrents of brown meltwater became the great leveler among our group, with their distant sound causing the hairs to stand up on the backs of all our necks as we rode our trail towards another inevitable shoe-dunking. June is full meltwater season, and the many glaciers and snow-covered peaks around us teamed up with the steep, ravine-streaked terrain to remind us of this this at every opportunity.
Dark, churning icy waters gave no indication of depth and the roar of meltwater was kept in rhythm by a metronome clatter of rocks being rolled along the riverbed. Wading became a game of human 10-pin bowling, carrying our bikes across a very real game of chance. Some were steep and narrow, others a good 50m wide, but all were swift and cold. One slip from numb feet and a bike could be lost, or worse. Add the shouts and wild gesturing of our anxious Afghan support team to which we tried to pass bikes and you have a recipe for chaos. The above shot was our third river crossing on day one. We would have more than a dozen more during our 12 day expedition. Only two of them would have bridges.
Catch my full feature in MBUK, Bike Germany, Revolution Australia, Friflyt Scandinavia and online on Italy’s MTB-forum.com later this month.