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

December 18, 2013

Landing the Patagonia Winter covershot – by staying on the ground

Filed under: photography, snow — Tags: , , , , , , — danmilner @ 10:19 am

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.

Forrest Shearer, splitboarding the Dolomites. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 70-200 f4.

Forrest Shearer, splitboarding the Dolomites. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 70-200 f4.

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.


March 11, 2013

Hitting the Dolomites for Transworld

Ok stop pestering me. Yep, thought I’d share a taste of what the Dolomites dealt us over the last couple of weeks shooting a story for Transworld Snowboarding mag.


Forrest Shearer visits the Gelateria. Chocolate sprinkles come free. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/1600, f 7.1 ISO 200.

Bundle together a Brit photographer (me), 1 jet-lagged American writer, 2 American pro-riders (Forrest Shearer and Blair Habernicht) each looking for different attractions the mountainscape can deliver, 1 American filmer with the biggest backpack of gear I have ever seen, and a lively, smiling Italian rider (Luca Pandolfi) used to riding crevasse-strewn Mont Blanc in the dark with his eyes closed and what do you get? Hmmm, an interesting trip indeed.

So the last 2 weeks of Dolomites wasn’t without its moments, but after an initial 4 days of stormy weather that left us with over 1m of new snow, the Italian sunshine made a slow but steady re-appearance.  Working the backcountry is never a walk in the park. Avalanche conditions, rapidly changing light and just simple access issues can make an idea become plain frustrating work. And for everyone but the smiling Italian, the Dolomites was new terrain (at least in winter), meaning a fresh set of perspectives to learn. Q. How big is that couloir? (A. 900m). Q. what aspect is that face? (A. South so the snow will be f*cked by now) Q. Will that one ever get light? (A. don’t think so) Q. How long will it take to get in there on a splitboard? (A. How much time do we have?) Q. How deep is the snow over theses very pointy sharp rocks ? (A. Not as deep as we’d like) Questions, questions.

Yep, we missed a couple of epic shots due to lagging at times (just a reason to go back next year though right?) but we nailed some bangers too. From my previous bike and TNF trail running shoots in the area, I know the Dolomites is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges on Earth, and hitting it in winter just re-affirmed the belief.

Blair Habernicht has meatballs. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1600, f 7.1 ISO 2

Blair Habernicht has meatballs. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 @1/1600, f 7.1 ISO 2

February 12, 2011

Naked women and hidden agendas

Filed under: outdoors, photography — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 2:41 pm

Choosing between the distraction of a semi naked girl or one of your own images blown up 10 m high, is just one of those decisions pro photographers have to make from time to time. I know what you’re thinking  -tough life-  but there are few things to boost an ego, and perhaps tickle professional pride, as seeing your lenswork blown up larger than life, and trade shows like the recent ISPO in Munich last week was one of those chances for me to see what some of last years clients have done with the images I shot for them.

My shot on the Jones Snowboards 2011 catalogue cover: when you consider how many 'gnarl factor' images Jeremy Jones had to choose from when considering his 2011 catalogue cover, is it surprising to see he went for one that any snowboarder could relate to?Just two mates having fun, and not a bikini babe in sight (or maybe they were still in the tent brewing tea and trying to keep warm). Canon EOS 1DmkIII, 70-200 4L.

But a stroll around such outdoor sport trade shows is more than a letch-fest or an ego boost, and from the photographer’s point of view can become a study of the very varied take on photography that marketing types have. I lost count of the large brands’ show booths that were, and not to beat about the bush about this, severely lacking in any imagery that even hinted at real style or credibility, perhaps as a result of  having redeployed some studio-based fashion photographer to the great outdoors to cater for their photo needs. Okay, that’s their prerogative maybe  -to prefer cliched, cheesey images of models standing gormlessly on sunbathed mountainsides a stone’s throw from the ski lift-  over real aspirational photography. But that’s just my take on it.

Once upon a time I might have been almost bitter about this kind of thing, wondering why clients wouldn’t come flocking to my door, cheque books in hand. But I know the outdoor market comes in all shapes, sizes and flavours. Of course I know that every brand has a ‘unique’ image they want to convey, and many of these images, at least when it comes to ‘big mainstream brands’ are decided from art-director meetings, often by people whose own outdoor experiences consist of walking from the car park to the gym for the Thursday evening spin session. And  I know not every mainstream brand wants to perhaps alienate its market by showing something with too much “gnarl” factor. So now I just smile and move on, weaving between the cookie-cutter stamped identities of wandering snowboarders, sliding effortlessly through the ‘oh so technical’ flavour of the ski hall and dodge the randomly dispersed semi-naked women employed as testosterone magnets to certain brand’s booths. I know the world is largely run by idiots and that I have my part to play in ridding this idiocy from our outdoor environment. It is a struggle worth participating in. Unite comrades! We have nothing to lose but our badly performing outer layers.

Oh, that and the opportunity to be surrounded by smiling, scantily clad womenfolk handing out flyers, I guess.

(OK, don’t take all this too seriously)

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