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

December 31, 2012

A lot of legwork: 2012 in pictures

Another 12 months. Another set of blinding adventure shoots, my busiest year yet.  One that included camping through -20C temps and shooting for a handful of new clients and one that squeezed in 100 days on the bike. Here’s a look at 2012 through my lens…

January kicked off with the Volkl ski shoot while most were still heavy headed from new Year revelries. Heavy storms meant most of the Chamonix valley was closed due to avalanche dangers and we had to get creative for the shots.

Nikon D3S, 70-200 2.8 @ 1/250, f5.6. 2x speedlites

Nikon D3S, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/250, f5.6. 2x speedlites & Pocketwizards TT5.

I  had this statue jib (above) in mind for 3 years, waiting for conditions to shoot it. I finally managed to get the shot I had envisaged for so long.

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1000, f7.1

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1000, f7.1

Meanwhile on the mountain, amazing low January light (above) delivered side-lighting that helps render any scene a beautiful aspirational image, while shooting from an elevated vantage point means you get to see the ski graphics. That always keeps a ski client happy. I start shooting for Volkl again next week.

February saw the coldest weather hit Europe for 50 years. It was the month I teamed up with Jeremy Jones and TGR for the Further project, meaning camping for a week through -20C temperatures in Austria, followed by a week in a remote refuge. Both backcountry forays involved 5 hour access approaches, dragging all our gear needed for surviving and filming/shooting, forcing decisions on what kit (which cameras? lenses?) was really essential. It was one of the harshest winter sessions I, or any of the TGR film team, have endured during the 4 years of filming Deeper and Further. The Further movie came out in the autumn. It’s a banger.

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @ 1/1000, f8.

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @ 1/1000, f8. This image has become O’Neill’s prime advert image for 2012/13 season.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/250, f6.3. Our camp in the cold Karwendel range.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/250, f6.3.  Our camp in the cold Karwendel range. The sun never reached camp and 2 of our athletes never changed out of the same set of their outerwear even in their sleeping bags.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @1/200, f4.  Shooting with Jones always means early starts. No time to warm boots; just get on with it.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @1/200, f4.  Time: 6.30am. Shooting with Jones always means early starts. No time to warm boots; just get on with it.

The cold continued during a shoot for Mens Fitness magazine on Biathlon (below). Shooting in -17C meant trying not to touch any of the bare metal of camera or lens while trying to dodge frostbite.

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1000, f4.5.

Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1000, f4.5. Our MF journo chases his instructor into the icy wastelands of a very cold winter.

March delivered a return to winter tent life via a trip to Kyrgyzstan (below). If truth be told I didn’t want to go to Kyrgyzstan, having been misled by 3 previous trips to Russia as to how testing such trips to ex-Soviet countries can be. Sometimes even the ‘dream job’ can seem a nightmare. Camping in a traditional yurt at 2600m for a week and splitboarding the mountains around it had its scary moments but the whole trip proved to be enormously rewarding. A great country. Very friendly people. I am planning to go back, with the bike.

Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8 @1/1000 f8. Stentiford lays out before a stunning Kyrgyz backdrop, only a few miles from the China border.

Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8 @1/1000 f8. Stentiford lays out before a stunning Kyrgyz backdrop, only a few miles from the China border. Snow instabilities meant a lot of the steeper lines stayed out of reach.

Leica M8, Voigtlander 40 1.4 @ 1/20, f2. The Leica always seems less intrusive when it comes to capturing local colour. We stayed with a Kyrgyz family for a night, and kept their little girls entertained with our western habits.

Leica M8, Voigtlander 40 1.4 @ 1/20, f2. The Leica always seems less intrusive when it comes to capturing local colour. We stayed with a Kyrgyz family for a night, and kept their little girls entertained with our western habits.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @1/30, f10, tripod. Our home for a week. No TV, no cellphone. Perfect.

Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @1/30, f10, tripod. Our yurt home for a week. No TV, no cellphone. Perfect. People seem less willing to disconnect from the obtrusive technology  that seems to dominate our lives now. If they did they might appreciate being alive.

Hit the more button below for the rest of the gallery….



September 8, 2012

Further.. Nearer.. Now: Behind the scenes of Further.

Filed under: snow — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 12:15 pm

‘F*ck this!’  became my second frequent phrase (after, ‘’s tea-time, right?’) during the 3-week Austria filming session for Jeremy Jones/TGR’s new film , Further back in February this year. Camping through constant -20C temperatures for a week was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done: tougher than last year’s Arctic nonsense, tougher than our Deeper AK expedition that primed this whole ballgame. It made me swear. A lot.

And now after two flippin’ years in the making, it’s with us. Further premiered yesterday in Tahoe. In 60-minutes, TGR have condensed two years of cold camping trips in places where sometimes you’d rather not be.  2 years of feeling remote, of hiking lines and getting shut down by the weather. 2 years of patience, frustration, debates, angst and laughter. 2 years of listening to American accents. 2 years of eating freeze dried meals and sh*tting in the snow. And 2 years of unique life experiences.

And to celebrate the culmination of two years of a lot of people’s efforts, I thought it would be nice’ to throw together a few images that capture some of what I shared with the project during the 8 cold weeks I spent with the film crew and athletes in Arctic Svalbard and Austria during the making of this film. A behind the scenes peek at Further through 18 photography insights.. below:

Sub zero temperatures mess with the cheese. After only a couple of days and nights the only way of even getting near to cutting this block of cheese was to use a snow-saw. Our first week out in Austria this year was accompanied by the coldest persistent temperatures on record for over 50 years.

Camp cold. This was as close as the sun got to hitting camp, meaning a 2-3 hour hike up to reach its warming rays and escape the real cold of the valley floor. It took us 5 hours to skin in and haul our gear to this camp zone. Nick the film tech guy hardly ever got to leave camp. I think his fingers are still there.

Mitch digs the window. By contrast our second session in Austria used an unstaffed refuge. It was cosy once we were inside. All we had to do was find it in the dark at 8pm amidst swirling snow remnants of a three day storm and dig it out. Here Klaus and Mitch excavate the window. This was our home for 4 days. Unlike the -20C camp session a week before, I would have been happy to stay here a lot longer.

The Hut. The hut’s location sat it right between some big lines and some small mini-golf warm up runs. I wish we’d known about these gaping cliffs when we were probing about in the dark trying to find the hut, or maybe not.

Topo map of fun. Klaus our guide studies a topo map of the area around the hut. Red colour indicates slope angle above 40 degrees if I remember rightly. Not a lot of room for error here. It is terrain that pushed our limits once the temps started warming up.

Waiting, drying. Being stormed out of the coldest valley in Europe meant having a hotel room for a couple of days to sit out the worst of the storm. It meant drying out tents and kit in any way we could.

Red dawn. Projects with Jones always mean early starts: we’ve done it in AK, in Canada and in the Arctic, but it never gets easier. Clawing your way from a sleeping bag in a hut in the dark is no real hardship, but doing the same from a tent in -20C weather means digging deep inside. Every move as you struggle free releases a shower of frost from the tent fabric. Once you’re out and the sun is rising though, you know why you’re there.


May 6, 2012

The Mangina Chronicles: The Further storm

Filed under: The Mangina chronicles — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 7:53 pm

Like the ten-day blizzard that hit camp in Alaska as featured in the award-winning Deeper movie, again a storm pins down Jeremy Jones’ adventure team in basecamp, this time in Austria.  And again I get to hold forth in another epic monologue. Things are looking bleak, but luckily, as you’ll see from this film clip, we have remained unaffected and unchanged by the fame that has been bestowed upon the film team by the award wins and unfathomable success of Deeper.

April 7, 2012

The Svalbard Chronicles Episode 4: Patience

The most useful attribute that 15 years of shooting snowboarding professionally has drummed into me is that of patience. Being patient with your riders and respecting the enormous effort they are putting in and the risks they are taking to get a picture forms the basis of a solid, healthy working relationship. Of course, if you’re out on an ice-field somewhere up near the North pole dealing with 24 hours of daylight and the eternal threat of polar bears, this kind of notion can slip from your everyday working practice.

Here is episode 4 of my random set of behind-the-scenes look at our TGR Further Svalbard trip with Jeremy Jones and Terje Haakenson.

February 29, 2012

Human flypaper: Further comes to Europe

Filed under: snow — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 5:59 pm

Cold. So cold the oil lubricating the diaphragm blades in my 300/f4 lens started going sticky. That’s cold. I know. Shooting a sequence of Jeremy Jones riding a line that looked like human flypaper, every 3rd frame is underexposed by 3 stops. The aperture just wouldnt open up quick enough in succession to match for the 8 frames per second shutter. Sticky oil. Cold.

I just spent 3 weeks in Austria shooting with Jeremy, Mitch Toelderer and Bibi Pekarek as part of the 2-year TGR Further film project. Our session saw us camping for 6 days straight through one of the coldest snaps Europe has had in 50 years. -23C day and night with no let up can be testing at times, and saw the very real of frost bite in temps that prevented the 4-season gas from burning in our stoves. It wasn’t all a grimace though, no, there were moments of levity. My how we laughed the morning when we discovered Chris had forgotten to unlace his damp snowboard boots the night before and now they had frozen so solid he nearly broke his ankle trying to get his foot inside. The mental picture of him hopping about screaming in pain as he tried to force a foot into the unrelenting boot will make me laugh for decades to come. And then there was the almost daily challenge of trying to hack slithers off the frozen cheese for sandwiches. We had to use a wood saw. Happy days.

Human flypaper: Jones rides a nadge tech line that is usually reserved for summer climbers. We split 13 Km towing our gear on sledges to camp here. Nikon D3s, 300f4, f9, 1/640th.

The snowcamp session and subsequent winter-hut  session that followed drove home how tricky some of these “expeditions” can be, logistically, physically and mentally. Ironic that we were only 10 miles from an Austrian city of 100,000 people, and so much easier than our Svalbard arctic mission last April. So close, yet so far. Thats what it takes sometimes to get into mountains that offer faces that have never been skied/filmed. Willingness to get cold.

Week 3: our cosy winter hut. All we had to do was find it at 7.30 pm in the dark with headtorches in a blizzard after a 6-hour splitboard into the zone. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8, f5.6, 1/1000th

The feature will grace a number of snow titles next winter. I may have even thawed out by the time they go to print.

February 5, 2012

Holidays on ice: getting in there with TGR.

Filed under: snow — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 6:57 pm

Righto, on the eve of setting off on the Euro-installment of the Further movie project with Jeremy Jones, one that will see us snow-camping right slap bang in the middle of Europe’s coldest snap this year (hmm, I was shooting in a finger and battery crushing -27 C yesterday) I thought I’d give you another glimpse of the kind of challenges we robust adventurer types face (when we’re not being mollycoddled in luxury 4-start hotel spas), with an unplugged episode from TGR.

So, if you’re growing tired of my incessant amateur  video work (see tag ‘Mangina Chronicles’), you can marvel at what a full pro production team that knows how to film and edit properly can make of our Svalbard expedition. Here’s TGR’s recent behind the scenes take on the challenge of getting into ‘the zone’ for our Arctic camp-out in Svalbard. Click on the link below. Be prepared though: this video is no where near as good as my own Mangina episodes.

January 18, 2012

The Svalbard chronicles episode 3: The door.

Welcome to no. 3 in my random series of insights into the life of an adventuring photographer camping onthe polar island of Svalbard as part of the Further film project.

This episode: There’s no satisfying some adventurers it seems when an inexplainable “number” arrives in camp.

Svalbard chronicles episode 3: the door from danmilner on Vimeo.

January 16, 2012

The Svalbard Chronicles Episode 2: Friction

Another installment of my GoPro video behind the scenes glimpse of the life of an adventure photographer.

Episode 2: Things begin to go awry among the TGR Further splitboard expedition crew, camping deep on the polar island of Svalbard, 700 miles from the North Pole. Well, what do you expect with seven blokes and only one rifle between them?

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.

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.

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