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

July 8, 2014

This Life Aquatic – hauling bikes on boats in Scotland

Filed under: bike, photography, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — danmilner @ 6:45 am

Sometimes ideas for features take a while to come to fruition; like my Argentina railway bike epic in March, and like this slightly out there adventure I shot in Scotland in May. The idea: take some sea-kayaks, pack with overnight camping gear and throw our bikes onto inflatable dinghies towed behind.

Putting new meaning to the word 'floater'. Shot with GoPro HD3+

Putting new meaning to the word ‘floater’. Shot with GoPro HD3+

Combining bikes and kayaks like this might seem a bit like mixing water with electricity, but there was an inner voice that nagged me over the last couple of years to try it (the same voice that leads me to places like Afghanistan to shoot bike features it seems). After all what can go wrong?

Sea kayaks are great for covering distance on water. Sleek, fast, efficient. Add a floating ‘trailer’ of an inflatable dinghy with the displacement dynamics of a barge, load it with bikes and the equation gets interesting. Especially if the wind is against you. And finding a suitable stretch of water to try this 2 day, 2 night escapade presented another challenge. So we teamed up with Go-Where Scotland to help with location logistics and Sea-Kayak Highlands to provide the boats and then we hit the deepest loch in Scotland, Loch Morar, a loch with its own legendary monster. Apparently.

Dont stray form the paths lads. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4

Dont stray from the paths lads. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4

So armed with the Pelican-case packable Leica M9 and a couple of GoPro HD3+ cameras our idea finally came to fruition. No it wasn’t quite the miles-from-anywhere-Alaskan-wrestle-bears-for-your-dinner insanity that many now come to expect from me, but it was an authentic little adventure, right there on our doorstep with its own set of challenges and rich rewards. It shows that sometimes you don’t need to travel too far to put the ‘escape’ into escapade. You just have to be willing to get out there, ride some bikes and paddle 20+ miles in whatever weather nature throws at you, and do it with a dinghy in tow.

The feature will rear its monster head in MBUK and other bike mags around the world in the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s the EpicTV episode from the trip. It’s a little… err, different. Click image below to watch.

Click to watch film episode

Click pic to watch film episode


March 22, 2014

A little yellow bird told me – shooting Canaries

Filed under: bike, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — danmilner @ 3:08 pm

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.

Railing one of the best, and little ridden trails on the island. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/1000, f8

Railing one of the best, and little ridden trails on the island. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/1000, f8

And the unique GoPro video episode that goes with it (video opens in new window).

Screen shot 2014-03-22 at 14.59.02

November 20, 2013

MBR cover this month – it’s more than it seems

Filed under: bike — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 11:10 am

Landed the MBR cover this month, with a shot from this time last year riding from the Emmosson dam in Switzerland with friends Lucy and Phil from Bike Verbier. This was a week after we returned from our India Pindari trip.

mbr december

Leica M9, Zeiss 21 2.8.

The call-in for coveresque images came in from the mags ed’ wanting ‘Alpine possibilities’ to fit in with a big feature on the Savoie Enduro race. What makes this a fresh take for me, is that it’s actually a landscape shot that I’ve cropped to fit the portrait cover format. It’s not something I do regularly (or colour-swap a rider’s jersey colour, I leave that to the art ed’s of the mags) but every now and then, it’s hard to lose out on the credibility (and cash) of a cover shot because I’m clinging doggedly to some on-location perception of art or composition.

But in case you’re at all wondering what the original landscape looks like, here it is. And yes of course I prefer the landscape shot, inversion cloud and all. That’s how I shot it. God, what a sell out.

Leica M9, Zeiss 21/2.8, @ 1/100th, f4.8

Leica M9, Zeiss 21/2.8, @ 1/1000th, f4.8

May 15, 2013

P.O.M: March 2013

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , , , — danmilner @ 8:54 am

Photo Of the Month: The E*Thirteen geeks show me Annadel’s finest.


A lack of snow in Tahoe meant ditching my March snow-shoot plans with regulars Jeremy Jones and Mike Basich, and instead starting my mountain bike year early instead. A now annual trip to California included hooking up to shoot features with the legendary enduro rider Mark Weir, original MTB pioneer Joe Breeze and the geek-ish bods behind the tech-focussed brand E*Thirteen. The latter being based a stone’s throw from Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa (at least if you have a strong throwing arm) gave me a chance to revisit this great flowy riding spot and nail some beautiful shots for the forthcoming MBUK mag feature and GoPro video content for an EpicTV Gear Geek episode. Low, late light, amazing twisted trees and damn good riders always combine to get me inspired: all I had to do was dodge the cougars and poison oak as a scurried about in the undergrowth looking for the angle. Go geeks! Leica M9/Zeiss 18 f4.

March 9, 2013

Milner announces collaboration with GoPro

Filed under: photography, The Mangina chronicles — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 7:01 pm

It may or may not be a reflection on my photography, but it turns out that my talents have been recognised as worthy by a video camera company before either Leica or Nikon could hook me up. Maybe the latter two haven’t been following my blog enough. Whatever. I’m happy to announce a relationship between the photochimp that is me and GoPro.

An inside leg view of Finale's epic trails

An inside leg view of Finale’s epic trails just before it got dark and the goblins came out

Now don’t get all flustered and start worrying that I’m about to lay down my Leica M9 or D3S (I just got back from 10 days shooting for Transworld Snowboarding mag in the Dolomites, Italy… more about that later). But so as to dance to the tune of increasing demands for video content from the many expedition-like forays into far-flung lands atop bike or splitboard, you now get to see more of my face *squinting/wretching/wincing (*delete as appropriate to expedition’s destination, diet and temperatures) and not just lovely pictures of other people doing radical things.

If you’ve kept an eye on this column, you’ll know that little video insights into some of the ruddy hard trips I’ve been shooting of late have been creeping onto my radar –India, Morocco, Arctic Svalbard, Dolomites– all have been given the moving image treatment, with resulting edits appearing on websites of clients such as The North Face and Osprey packs.

And now with the formal backing of GoPro sitting hand in hand with my new MTB Trail Ninja series for EpicTV, you can expect to see more of this kind of nonsense, perhaps a little more directed, a little better edited and, well just better. And expect you should. I have some insane locations for original trips happening this year…. watch this space. You can bet that none of them will be easy. I’ll be pushing the GoPro 3’s capabilities too as a still camera.

Next stop: learning to ride pump tracks with Mark Weir in California. That’s going to hurt. And you’ll see it all at 60 Frames-per-second, full 1080 HD.

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….


December 29, 2012

P.O.M Dec ‘012

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 12:16 pm

Photo Of the Month December 2012: Self portrait, Elba


This month the snow started falling so I headed south on a little exploration of new (to me at least) terrain and photo possibilities. Armed with a map and little prior knowledge of where, meant trying rides according to how trails looked on the map and how the contour lines stacked up. Some worked , some didn’t, but this is the kind of stuff that makes adventure. On the last day on location, during the last ride, on the last ridgetop I reached, I shot this self-portrait above a stunning coastalscape far below  -the end point of the descent ahead of me. Shooting self portraits is never the easiest thing, using a 10-second self-timer on my Leica M9 (other cameras such as Nikon DSLR’s make it easier with their programmable shutter releases) but sometimes when the factors add up -the light, the feeling, the trail- you’ve got to try (sometimes they work: I won Bike Mag photo of the year in 2004 with a self-portrait). You’ve got to get the timing right, actually be riding in the frame and have some kind of respectable style in this age when riding style is the hallowed ground. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. A bit like going exploring new trails. This time it did. If I told you where this was, I’d have to kill you. Okay, it is the island of Elba, Italy. All I can say is, look out for a follow up trip feature later in 2013. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5.

December 23, 2012

Morocco Rematch and the launch of Ready Steady Ride

Filed under: bike, The Mangina chronicles — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 3:51 pm
The Hobbits enjoy the new-found fun to be had on bicycles. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4.

The Hobbits enjoy the new-found fun to be had on bicycles. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4.

Six years ago I hit Morocco with a couple of bike friends. We rode a week through the Atlas Mountains with only our backpacks and a map to get us through. It was what adventure is made of – memories, good times, hardships, food poisoning and tough riding at 3000m+

I liked the country so much I went back there in 2009 to shoot a snowboard story.

Simply, Morocco is one of the most accessible adventure locations you can find. It offers a true taste of the “exotic” -cuisine, customs, culture that are different to anything offered by the “West”, without the risks often associated with travel in some middle eastern countries or the jetlag of long-haul travel.

It is a country that also offers a lot of good trail riding, something that due to the A-to-B agenda of our initial bike trip, meant we missed out on. I knew then that I’d have to go back to shoot more mountain biking, oh and ride some damn good singletrack.

This November I did that, packing my Leica M9 for portability and unobtrusiveness. Like most of my trips, I needed to find a story pitch that would anchor a fee-paying home for my shoot. That was the easy part: the idea was already in place: to show how easily Morocco can deliver true adventure without the awkwardness of getting shot at/robbed/eaten by bears that you find elsewhere, even the USA.

The story is lined up with MBUK magazine amongst others in the springtime, but until then you can get a taste of the adventure from this new TV series launched in Morocco.

Ready Steady Ride Morocco 640 from danmilner on Vimeo.

December 20, 2012

P.O.M. Nov ‘012

Filed under: bike — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 2:51 pm

Photo Of the Month November 2012: Nic Kidd, Peak District, England.


Occasionally November isn’t the best month to go riding in the UK, especially if the ride you’ve got in mind goes over the top of the moors. But where there’s a will (and some Goretex clothing) there’s a way. Two decades ago, the Peak District was high on my list of riding destinations  -easy to access, great natural trails and an ‘out there’ feel (usually due to howling winds/fog/bottomless peatbogs or any comination of all three). It didn’t matter that we were riding hardtails with 2 inches of suspension travel in our forks. The soft spot I have for this place was kindled then, and has statyed with me. And now, when I’m in the Peaks, I just have to go for a ride, no matter what the weather.   Leica M9/Zeiss 50, 1.4.

November 23, 2012

P.O.M. Oct ‘012

Photo Of the Month October 2012: Railing the Himalayas with Tracy Moseley.

Lets’s face it, October is the best month for riding pretty much everywhere in the world. Colours become softer, light lower and temperatures more manageable when you’re faced with hours of climbing. It’s a busy time for me. I hit the Indian Himalayas with World Champ Tracy Moseley and assorted bike delinquents as part of a guided trip by Mike of Our 12-day out-and-back ride included this day, a six hour climb up to 3800m, on some of the most beautiful singletrack I’ve ever ridden. At the top we turned around and started back down a descent that took over 2 hours. This shot was actually captured on the way up, while the early light (we started out at 5.30 am) still threw the valley into shadow, making for perfect silhouette opportunities against the glacier-strewn backdrop of 6611m Nanda Khat peak. Leica M9 / Leica Summarit 90mm 2.5.

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