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

December 15, 2015

A Tale of Two Covers

It’s like being stood at a Bristol bus stop waiting for the quarter-hourly no. 49 into the city centre: you wait half an hour and then two come at once. And so it is with magazine covers. Despite the apparent demise and “slow death” (I’m told) of print, the kudos of landing a front cover is still something we photographers kind of enjoy. After all it’s the one image that people have to look at for a whole month, unlike the ephemeral online photo-of-the-day. And I landed two last month – both on leading UK mountain bike mags. But the two cover images couldn’t be have two more different stories behind them.

MBK_322_Ethiopiacover

Kamil Tatarkovic, Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. Nikon D600, Nikkor 50mm/1.4

Magazine covers are a political animal. There are rafts of self-justifying PR companies and media researchers responsible for ‘important’ ideas of how they should look to better sell a magazine – action left to right, subject positioning on the cover to allow cover line text, colours and vibrancy, size of the subject, coming towards or going away (when do you see covers of people riding away from the camera?), and sometimes (dare I say it) the make of bike and clothing the rider is wearing and its connection to potential advertising revenue.

Obviously the cover image is meant to first grab attention and then draw the reader in to want to splash some cash and take the mag home to read instead of racing family pressures to go and eat some junk food while trying to scan read as much of the mag as possible among WHS’ shelves. So while the editorial teams of both these mags thought these images ticked the appropriate cover boxes, these two photos come from very, very different backgrounds.

mbr dec15

James Brickell, Finale Ligure, Italy. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 70-200/f4.

MBR wanted a shot from the Italian riding Mecca of Finale Ligure, to link with an editorial inside the mag. Having just done a shoot there for my regular client Endura, and with Endura’s blessing, I passed over some of the shots that I thought might work for an MBR cover (it helps to know the style of the magazines you work for when you submit images). It’s shot on a trail I know well and this section has a little wall-ride kind of feel to it. OK its not a real wall ride, but it’s enough of an off camber rock slab to be able to throw some shape to the riding. Its surprising how much more ‘dynamics’ can be added to the shot by simply turning the bars instead of riding straight. And so cover number one is from a “catalogue” shoot. Ok, so bike catalogue shoots aren’t exactly a BHS knitwear shoot – we do actually have to go and ride bikes, which means getting to a trail, lugging in the camera gear and riding and re-riding, and usually riding again, sections of trail until the pedantic photographer has nailed the shot they want (i.e., showing the product in an authentic way). Job done. A colourful cover with solid action and a happy client to boot.

November’s MBUK cover is a different fish. Shot during an 8 day traverse of Ethiopia’s high, rugged Simien Mountains, this natural berm was just one corner among a hundred on our descent during day two. It’s refreshing to see MBUK run a ‘real riding’ cover like this -backpack and all- especially knowing where and when it was shot and the adventure side of just reaching that point in our journey. There was no shuttle to the trail, no “let’s just wait for the light to be right” and no “let’s session this a dozen times” kind of luxury for this cover shot. On a genuine point to point ride across some very unforgiving terrain, you have little time to stop and play or to re-shoot. On rides like this there are simply too many time-absorbing unknowns ahead to have that kind of freedom. You have to make assessments on the hoof, to decide if something is worthy of stopping and shooting, to set up quickly and get the shot and move on. It’s a set of pressures that are very unlike the catalogue shoot.

The one common denominator is working with riders that can ride and look good on a bike. It’s not something that comes naturally to most (believe me), but it sure helps make a cover easier to score.

 

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April 23, 2015

One Hit Wonders – shooting skiing.. again

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 6:03 pm

This week I shot the last of this winter’s shoots, this one for Animal, making the best of some, err, pretty “tricky” conditions (read: hiking slopes at 3400m to scratch a mere whiff of some pretty scant powder) and it’s occurred to me that winter has finally come to an end.

But I’ve got to fess up here. Winter doesn’t have the same appeal as it once did for me, and my winters now include a lot of heading off to dusty climes to shoot mountain biking (more about those trips to follow) in between powder fixes. After photographing wintery antics professionally for over 15 years, sometimes it can be hard to get animated about the prospect of shooting more of the “same old”. So when Voelkl skis asked me to shoot for them again in January, you might think I would have passed it up. After all, how much has skiing (and snowboarding) really changed in the 20 years I’ve pointed a lens at it? How many times can I shoot the “same old”?

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1250, f9

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1250, f9

But then I remember the creativity of photography, the side that got me into this hobby that became my profession, and that’s the key: creativity.  I accept that at times I’m guilty (?) of focussing on the aesthetics of a scene than perhaps creating an in-depth portrayal of an athlete’s personal ability, but hey, that’s what has given me a name in this field.

So when I headed out with the Voelkl team in January, it wasn’t so much the fact that I’ve been headhunted, or the fact that I am shooting prototype ski hardware that the public hasn’t seen yet, or the ridiculously talented skill set the athletes exhibit that left me feeling fulfilled, as coming home with some (in my view at least) aesthetically banging images.

Nikon D3s, 24-70/2.8 @ 1/1000, f6.3

Nikon D3s, 24-70/2.8 @ 1/1000, f6.3

So shooting the “same old” never gets tiring when you realise that the play of light, the way the snow has fallen, or is thrown up, will be like that only once. Just once. You only get one shot when shooting powder, after that it’s tracked and spent. You only get one shot at making it work, at getting creative, at seeing the potential in a scene. Tomorrow it will be gone. And if you seek the creativity in a scene, however much leg-work and muttering to your self like a nutter while everyone else waits patiently it involves, it will pay off.

January 22, 2015

Behind The Scenes – my 2014 Year In Pictures

New places, new challenges, new clients, and a new website. That’s been my year in 2014. So, a little late I accept, here’s a snapshot of what goes into 12 months as a world-roaming, pro photographer.

Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ f2, 1/30.

Peanut kernels, Gran Canaria, Feb 2014. A lot of my time is taken up working out fresh story angles. In Feb I ticked off a couple of months of planning by riding and shooting a 3-day MTB traverse of the island of Gran Canaria. We climbed 5000m and descended the same, and we finished each day of riding in the dark. This was our end point, at dusk, pulling up on the west coast where, still sweaty, grimy and tired, we dived straight into a bar for beer. The peanuts came free. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ f2, 1/30.

Leica M9, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/500, f3.5.

The challenge of simultaneously being both adventure photographer and participant is finding the energy to keep shooting when you’re running on empty. 15 minutes before nightfall at the end of a long day 1 during our traverse of Gran Canaria, Feb 2014. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4 @ 1/500, f3.5.

Leica M9, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/1000, f6.3

In a first for me, I went somewhere with the main reason to GoPro film a video episode in my regular EpicTV series. Of course I threw my Leica M9 camera in my bag too, and yes, at the end of the week the lure to shoot some still images was too hard to ignore. But this new turn of events made me think how the video is currently re-shaping my job. At the end of it all though, shooting stills is still my lifeblood, helped by the importance of creativity on location, at the moment you press the shutter. That’s when the story gets told, not later in the editing suite. Photo: James Richards and Lucy Martin, Sierra d’Espuna, Spain. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4 @ 1/1000, f6.3

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

I’ve been shooting snowsports for 18 years and to be honest the safety issues involved have taken their toll on my eagerness to keep hitting the backcountry. Years spent shooting in some of the worlds most demanding places on some of winter sport’s most demanding expeditions have delivered me an increased awareness and knowledge of backcountry safety issues, but sometimes nature can have other plans outside of our control. Its the main reason my work has slowly been refocussing away from winter sports. After all, in ski and snowboard photography you don’t get published, or hired, shooting photos of people on pistes. I like to think that I am more cautious now than ever before, an approach that has kept us out of trouble and one that still lets you nail shots like this –end of day home run in Courmayeur, Italy as part of the Voelkl ski shoot. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f7.1

Nikon D3s, 70-200/4 @ 1/1000, f9

Backpack shoots like this one for regular client Osprey Packs is all about showing the backpack. Hide the pack and you might as well be shooting holiday snaps.  It means thinking about how your models orientate themselves while doing what they do. Making it work is helped by using people who understand this need while being able to make the action look authentic and effortless. Patagonia pro Dave Rosenbarger is one such athlete. Nikon D3s, 70-200/4 @ 1/1000, f9

Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/6, f3.5

It’s taken me 30 years riding bikes in remote places and adjusting to living out of a single bag to work out that actually 3 days is the perfect duration for a tough bike adventure. Yes a month lets you immerse yourself in the wilds, but three days means you can be ambitious and still get out alive. And so it was with our Argentina trip in March, shooting two unique and separate 3-day stories, that both involved some serious physical and mental commitment. Our second night during a three-day traverse of the high mountains to the jungle in Northern Argentina left us in this “hotel” – a family’s spare room crammed with slumping beds in a village of three houses that could only be reached by footpath. Here Hans Rey and Tibor Simai enjoy a hard-earned early night at the end of another long day. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @ 1/6, f3.5

Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @1/8 f3.5

When you’re tired and up against another tough day ahead, being served a breakfast composing only dry bread and black tea can leave you digging deep in resources that are already strained. It’s at times like this that you have to look on the moment as a unique learning experience, rather than a bitter challenge. Of course in the grand scheme of things this is no biggie, but it ain’t always easy. Here Hans ‘enjoys’ a quite moment of breakfast contemplation with our quiet host. Watch the film from this adventure here. Nikon D600, Zeiss 18/3.5 @1/8 f3.5

Nikon D600, Nikon 50/1.4 @ 1/1000 f4.

The second Argentina story was probably one of the most ‘out there’ ideas for a story I have ever had – to try to follow a disused, 100 year old railway line through the desert north of the country. While the concept sounds simple enough, the challenges on the ground -from 30C heat to battling headwinds at 3500m altitude- were diverse and made this 3-dayer as tough and as interesting as any others I have shot. Belgrano Norte railway, Argentina. Watch the film from this trip here. Nikon D600, Nikon 50/1.4 @ 1/1000 f4.

Nikon D600, 50/1.5 @1/1250 f3.5

Seeking shade from the 30 C heat in the only place available –a parked police truck in the mining village of Tres Cruces– we consider our options. Riding a decaying railway line means not only seeing a side of a country that escapes most visitors, but also gambling on accommodation options, and on this day we were unlucky. Riding lightweight and unequipped to rough the night in freezing temperatures we decided to jump a local bus back to our start point for the night and hire a local pick up truck to deliver us back to Tres Cruces next morning to continue our ride. It was a frustrating moment. Nikon D600, 50/1.5 @1/1250 f3.5

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/4000 f9.

Olympic snowboarder Dom Harington waits for the fog to clear to get a photo done as part of the Animal catalogue shoot in late March. Waiting is a big part of shooting snowsports. A very big part. You learn how to deal with cold, numb extremities. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/4000 f9.

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000, f10.

Patience finally pays off. Dom Harington and the flip side of waiting. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000, f10.

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

Somewhere near the Ligurian coast, Italy, became the location for the Endura road shoot. With clients like Endura wanting images earlier and earlier in the year, the classic cols of the Alps are no longer a possibility for a road bike shoot as early as April. Getting client pics is a mix of showing the product and capturing ‘aspirational’ images that can make billboard size images for trade stands. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f7.1

Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/125 f2

Loch Morar, Scotland. May 2014. It seemed like a good idea, or at least an original one: to use sea kayaks to haul ourselves, bivvi gear and our bikes across the water in search of mountain bike trails. Needless to say, adventure was guaranteed, even if it was only for 3 days. While I’ve been ticking off exotic locations for the last 30 years, this trip and story (to come out in MBUK mag very soon) showed that adventure is not about going exotic. It can be just as good on your doorstep, if you’re willing to think differently. It’s something I was reminded of by micro-adventurer Alistair Humphries, the other speaker at my November Kendal Mountain Festival speaking engagement. Leica M9, Zeiss 50/1.5 @ 1/125 f2

Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4 @ 1/740 f5.7

This trip was a definite leap of faith. Towing inflatable dinghies loaded with gear is no easy going, at least if the wind picks up. It was only half an hour into our 3 days paddle, that my 2 co-adventurers admitted that they had very little kayak experience. I quickly racked my brains for my own kayak rescue technique know how. Luckily we didn’t need it. Watch the film from this trip here. Leica M9, Zeiss 18/4 @ 1/740 f5.7

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f5

Back in Chamonix, France for a Keela trail running shoot meant working hard to preclude the normal, and over-shot, classic Chamonix background of Mont Blanc. This is one of my favourite “different” backdrops, that makes me think of Peru for some reason. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f5

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/320 f4

2014 was the year I started shooting for Yeti cycles. I’ve ridden their bikes for 6 years now, and they made me an ambassador early in the year. My job was to shoot with their 2 top pro racers Jared Graves and the incredibly named Richie Rude. Their brief needed an Alps location that we could shoot pre-launch bikes without inviting the attention and iPhone pics of a busy mountain bike resort. I took a punt on La Grave, a little ridden, hard core village, where  we could get on with what we needed to do without being noticed. The shoot sat immediately after the Valloire race, and early starts on the gondola to get up the mountain at 7 am for a sunrise session didn’t always go down best with Richie. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/320 f4

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/1250 f6.3

La Grave resort is a tough place to ride and shoot, with narrow, steep, loose technical trails proving hard to get much flow on for the riders. After one or two sessions up the mountain we turned our attention to neighbouring valleys. While the riders trained during the day, I recon’d the area and by late afternoon, we could set out on an afternon-evening shoot, on what proved to trails that leant themselves better to aesthetics. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/1250 f6.3

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 50/1.4 @ 1/400 f2.2

A garage courtesy car in La Grave. Says it all about this little village. Nikon D3s, Nikkor 50/1.4 @ 1/400 f2.2

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/1000 f6.3

Summer was a wet one in the Alps in 2014. Our shoot in La Grave was a tough one, dodging bad weather and rain. We climbed to this spot with the idea of a sunset shoot on the mountainside. We were greeted by cloud and a strong cold wind. We cowered in the grass for over an hour, hiding from a bitter, biting wind, before the clouds began to move and we could grab the shots we needed. The photo feature from this shoot is currently up on Pinkbike here.  Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16-35/4 @ 1/1000 f6.3

Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/250 f2

Abandoned Merc, North Carolina, June. Trek bikes took me to North Carolina for the annual shoot of the launch of a new bike for two. It’s a unique place and one that is turning its attention towards mountain biking tourism as relief from its post-coal mining recession. Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/250 f2

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/125 f1.6

Hard to believe, but one of the tastiest things I have tried for a long time. I spotted this sign from a quiet roadside and needed to investigate. Its too easy to just keep on driving and remain ignorant – and miss a shot. To get the lowdown meant talking to the peanut vendor, something that not only means learning something new, but also breaks down the barriers to getting the shot. Too many “travel photos” are just sniped with a long lens. Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/125 f1.6

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f3.2

Mens Fitness magazine took me to Zurich to shoot their editor, Nick Hutchings, competing in the Ironman event. During a 12 hour event that involves a 2.5 mile swim, a 116 mile bike ride and a full marathon run to finish, needless to say opportunities to capture Nick in action were rare. But my brief included capturing the event, from pro-athletes to Ironman virgins suffering. Here a Brit competitor enjoys support form family during the climb up ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Ironman, Zurich. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/1000 f3.2

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/2000 f.3.2

I’ve raced some of the toughest mountain bike races in Europe including the 135Km one day Cristalp and the 6-day Trans Alp, and I’m happy to say I’m glad racing is behind me. I know though that the support of locals and spectators is often key to keeping going at times during these endurance races. Encouragement, whether it be from a family member or in this case, an unknown enthusiast imbibed with beer, is always appreciated. Anywhere. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/2000 f.3.2

Nikon D600, 16-35/4 @ 1/1000 f4

Zurich Ironman competitors and elephants. Nikon D600, 16-35/4 @ 1/1000 f4

Nikon D3s, 16-35/4 @ 1/125 f8

With only 1 bike-friendly lift still open in Chamonix in late October, I knew doing a 2-day shoot for DMR was going to be a challenge. But if a brand wants to move its focus from dirt jumping to all-mountain riding, then carrying the bikes up a chimney like this is all part of the game, at least Milner-style. Only half an hour later Ollie Wilkins, one of the world’s most recognised dirt jump riders admitted this was the first time he’d carried his bike. I laughed, but he shot me down with the quite understandable “.. why the hell would I ever carry my bike?”  Nikon D3s, 16-35/4 @ 1/125 f8

Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500 f2

I love the Peak district, UK, and need little excuse to go there, for a shoot or not. This was a shoot for Kinesis bikes to capture winter riding and commuting. Rain made some of the traffic-jammed locations in Sheffield we had in mind dangerously unsuitable, but added realism to the shots elsewhere in the town.  Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/2500 f2

Nikon D3s, 24-70/2.8 @ 1/800 f3.5

The Peak in all its autumn glory. Worth numb fingers for? Definitiely. Nikon D3s, 24-70/2.8 @ 1/800 f3.5

Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/250 f2.8

With a late afternoon shoot planned we set out onto the moors unaware that we’d be treated to a full moon. Staying on, despite the cold and wind of a late October evening, meant adding a few opportunistic lighting product shots to the folder, and pushing the ISO capabilities of the Nikon D3s to the max. People rate the low noise, high ISO capabilities of this camera, but I’m not 100 convinced. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/250 f2.8

Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/400 f1.8

Shooting my annual 3 days at Eurobike, the worlds largest bike trade show, for Future Publishing’s MBUK and What Mountain Bike mags, usually includes grabbing a portrait or two. Stuck inside the same sprawling but packed show hall every year means turning to props to get an original portrait. Fox suspension’s Mark Jordan enjoys a little ‘me-time’. Nikon D3s, 50/1.4 @ 1/400 f1.8

Packed in between the many shoots and trips my existence has been punctuated by producing regular bike film episodes for Epictv. To get an idea of the last 2 years of insanity involved in making this work, and get an idea of what drives me to some of these places, here is the latest, a “Best of ” Episode – the falls, fails, scary bits and expletives, that somehow all combine to make quite a solid ‘feel-good’ film.  Click on the image below to redirect to the film.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 14.57.00

November 11, 2014

Come to the Dark side – the Kinesis bikes Peak shoot

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , , , — danmilner @ 9:05 am

I’ve been riding mountain bikes since 1985. My first story ran in MBUK in 1993 —a feature about riding in Majorca, complete with dodgy action selfies, taken by balancing my camera on a nearby rock, while I balanced a trackstand in between some boulders, again. Although happily published, it made me realise I needed to get better at taking photos (and do trips with other people). Mountain bikes are, and have always been a big part of my life. I don’t ride a road bike very often. But to me bikes are bikes. They are amazing things. They are tickets to adventure. They are mobility marvels. They are part of the only transport solution that sort out our cities properly.

On reflection - Scott Purchas and the T2. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8.

On reflection – Scott Purchas and the T2. Peak District. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8.

So when I get asked to shoot a road bike session, I have no problem with that, at all. Especially if it’s in one of the most beautiful, and one of my favourite, places of the UK —the Peak District National Park. Last month’s shoot for Kinesis UK was all about showing their latest T2 bike as the do-anything machine that today’s everyday rider needs: commuter / winter hack / mile-munching tourer / summer sportif. But mostly winter hack on this photo brief, which is where the Dark Peak in late October comes in.

Moody, brooding, up against the elements. Thats the Peak District I’ve always know, from childhood day trips to hike over Kinder Scout, to wet camping and mountain bike weekends riding hardtails with 35mm of elastomer suspension up front. And I’ve got to say, even after all the incredible places in the World I’ve shot, this one place in the middle of the UK is still right up there. I think it always will be, whatever bike I’m shooting.

Wet roads, dry stone walls.

Wet roads, dry stone walls.

July 31, 2014

Grave Decisions on the Yeti Cycles shoot

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 3:52 pm

Chuffed to be now shooting for Yeti cycles and my artistically licensed ’employment’ with them kicked off with a week-long session in La Grave, French Alps. It’s the latest layer of involvement with the brand since hauling their legendary 575 bike along various expeditions for the last 6 years and this year becoming an ambassador of Yeti.

Late light on a trail we didn't know. Sometimes the 2 hour wait in the wind at the top waiting for the clouds to part seems worth it.  Nikon D3s, 24-80 /2.8 @ 1/500, f5.6

Late light on a trail we didn’t know. Sometimes the 2 hour wait in the wind at the top waiting for the clouds to part seems worth it. Richie getting rude. Nikon D3s, 24-80 /2.8 @ 1/500, f5.6

Yeti is one of the early mountain bike brands. It is the name we all wanted emblazoned on our frames back at the end of the 80’s and early 90’s (and since), if we could get hold of/find/afford one in the UK. It’s the name that still turns heads, and summons forth coo’s of admiration on the trail. So to land the job of shooting their two top pro Enduro racers  -Jared Graves and Richie Rude-  for a week was kind of being given the keys to a wind-powered, fair-trade, organic chocolate shop and being told to ‘go make yourself sick’.

With 6 days on location and two top shelf riders to work with, you could think that this shoot was served to me on a plate, but that’s not the whole story. Mountain bike shoots, or at least those that intend to nail authentic riding shots rather than product-test shoots in the local woods, involve a lot of leg work. They mean serious climbs on and off the bike, getting up early and being out late. Try telling the race winning pro racer that his interval, sprint and turbo-trainer schedule needs to accommodate this kind of on-hill antics and see what you get as a reply. Its all about tact and working together.

There is nothing about La Grave that seems easy. Period. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/640, f6.3

There is nothing about La Grave that seems easy. Period. Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8 @ 1/640, f6.3

With the lads aboard the new SB5c bike not yet released to the public, the choice of location was paramount. I took a gamble and chose La Grave. The impossibly steep resort isn’t hallowed as a mountain bike Mecca, and it threw us some issues, but it has trails, and incredible scenery, and just as importantly is away from the prying mountain bike masses with their iPhones and Instagram accounts. Take these bikes to nearby Les 2 Alpes or Alpe d’Huez and they’d be all over the social media in less time than it takes to pump up a tyre.

I have wanted to shoot up at this road pass for years and we scheduled the hour drive there into our shoot. When we got there  hoping for late sun, it rained. I actually think it turned out for the better. Jared and Richie riding fast and loose. Nikon D3s, 16-35/4 @ 1/800, f5.6

I have wanted to shoot up at this road pass for years and we scheduled the hour drive there into our shoot. When we got there hoping for late sun, it rained. I actually think it turned out for the better. Jared and Richie riding fast and loose and better than I ever can. Nikon D3s, 16-35/4 @ 1/800, f5.6

So to cut a long rambling story short, we did the shoot, planning early morning lift-accessed sessions (that are still too late for sunrise at this time of year) and late light rides into the encroaching night, while trying to juggle an impossibly changing weather forecast to our advantage, and allow an ongoing serious training program to happen. Decisions made, Locations found. Shots taken. Peace prevailed.

Watch out for a full online gallery from the shoot next week at Yeticycles.com and Pinbike.com

June 24, 2014

Come to the dark side -shooting Trek bikes in North Carolina

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 8:02 am

I’ve never been to North Carolina. At least I hadn’t until last week when my annual session shooting for Trek bikes came through. Two years ago it was the Italian Dolomites, last year Arizona and in 2014, North Carolina the venue. All three couldn’t be more different, and all throw up challenges for the photographer (dodging hail storms in the Dolomites, 100F heat in Arizona, mosquitos and poison ivy in N. Carolina). My job: to shoot the launch of Trek’s new Fuel EX bike and in so doing, shoot the image needs of the assembled worldwide editors (and Trek’s) and well, just capture the feel of the bikes in this location.  Cue: high ISO.

Nikon D3S, 70-200/4 @ 1/640, F4.5, ISO 3200.

Nikon D3S, 70-200/4 @ 1/640, F4.5, ISO 3200.

I flew in expecting moss-bedragled trees and old dudes chewing tobacco sitting in rocking chairs on porches . But of course that’s the deep south. North Carolina just isn’t quite that far south (idiot). So no moss, but it still has the the kind of animals that kill you -copperhead snakes, big spiders, bears, and it has a lot of deep, dark woodland coating the flanks, summits and troughs of the Pisgah National Forest (Pisgah is one of those words that has always had resonance in mountain biking and at last I got to see what it was all about.) And Pisgah is one helluva dark forest to shoot in.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f2.

Nikon D600, 50/1.4 @ 1/3200, f2. You’re never far from a church in N. Carolina.

Shooting editors during a guided ride is all about leapfrogging ahead of them. No fuss, set up the shot, shoot and move on. It means moving fast without flashes, and so shooting natural light (which lets face it is my thang) however dark it is. But thanks to the current low-light able DSLRs this is possible. Shooting landscapes in the forest is one thing, but when you need a shutter speed of 1/1000th too, then even shooting f4 or wider, means ramping the ISO up to 4000 (or more). No the shots are not perfect (I’m not sure I agree that 12,500 ISO is quite as noise-less as they claim), but they work fine for a double page spread in the print mags (hey, remember print mags?) and would probably stand up to some billboard abuse, and they are more than good enough for that digital mag resolution.

So thanks Trek for the chance to push my D3S’s ISO to meltdown, and the opportunity to ride, see and experience the Pisgah forest in all its darkness (it is really good riding BTW). And eat hot boiled peanuts. Now that’s something I never thought I’d say.

Nikon D3S, 16-35/4, 1/1000, f6.3. ISO 6400.

Nikon D3S, 16-35/4, 1/1000, f6.3. ISO 6400.

 

February 2, 2014

Think you know snow? Treading lightly on the Voelkl ski shoot.

Filed under: photography, snow — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 4:16 pm
Working safe, mellow, north aspects is all about working the light. Freeride World Tour champ Nadine Wallner works some magic as the snow begins to heavy-up. Shots like this I use manual focus to give me more freedom of composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200/4, 1/1000, f11.

Working safe, mellow, north aspects is all about working the light. Freeride World Tour champ Nadine Wallner works some magic as the snow begins to heavy-up. For shots like this I use manual pre-focus to give me more freedom of composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000/f11.

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.

Aspirational is only half the story on commercial shoots. Marketing people like to see what they are selling, and that's where Per Jonsson comes in. he's the kind of athlete you can trust to miss you when you get in close. Tracking fast approaching subjects is a great test for autofocus, and one of the only times I use it. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/2500, f5.6.

‘Aspirational’ is only half the story on commercial shoots. After all marketing people like to see what they are selling, and that’s where Per Jonsson comes in. He’s the kind of pro athlete you can trust to miss you when you get in close. Tracking fast approaching subjects is a great test for autofocus and one of the only times I use it. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8 @ 1/2500, f5.6.

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.

Last run of the day and the camera's still out. Occasionally we take a free run, but when the terrain looks liek this and the light is reflected off the biggest peak in Europe, you've just got to keep shjooting. Nadine Wallner heading home. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000, f 7.1

Last run of the day and the camera’s still out. Occasionally we might grab a no photos, free run, but when the terrain looks like this and the dying light is reflected off the biggest peak in Europe, you’ve just got to keep shooting. Nadine Wallner heading home. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4 @ 1/1000, f 7.1

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.

June 29, 2013

If it’s Friday it’s 100F out there: Shooting the new Trek Remedy 29-er

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , — danmilner @ 6:05 pm

Arizona has dodged my riding and shooting radar to date. At least it had until May this year, when I landed in Phoenix for a 4 day shoot for Trek bikes. The shoot, to capture the image needs of various assembled global mountain bike magazine editors, sounds like child’s play, but is in fact a tough call. Think: sunrise-to-sunset days, trying to juggle the artistic needs of both a company launching 2 new bikes and various magazine styles alike while attempting to stay hydrated in 100F desert heat, and you have an idea of what’s entailed. Something has to give. This time it was the hydration.

AMB cover designed and original shot, for your perusal. Nikon D3S, 70-200 f4, 2 speedlites & Pocketwizards, 1/1250 sync.

AMB cover designed and original shot, for your perusal. Nikon D3S, 70-200 f4, 2 speedlites & Pocketwizards, 1/1250 sync.

Great trails, great guiding and great catering back-up (thanks Skratch!) helped, but for myself and photographer Stirling Lorence the workload is heavy -joining breakfast after a sunrise shoot, then leapfrogging the group editors’ ride to try to capture the bulk of editor’s action needs before heading back out on a sunset shoot to nail the last of a specific cover shot hit list means packing in more hours than even the Arizona sunshine will allow in a day. But whatever.

So my first editorial from the job to land in print is this, the cover of Australia Mountain Bike mag, shot while on a planned 7pm sunset shoot. The shoot involved hiking/riding up a trail for an hour to capture the legendary Arizona golden hour of light. And whaddayaknow? As soon as the sun got low, the clouds moved in. My faved natural light approach had to be replaced by 2 speedlights, to add drama to a drifty corner, backlighting the rooster of dust and adding some sidelight to the subject. So the art guy at AMB has tweaked the light & contrast a little to suit their style, but my employees on this job, Trek, landed the cover. And none of us, me included are gonna complain about that. Now where’s my water….?

June 5, 2013

P.O.M. April ‘013 – the Life of Mo

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 7:23 am

Photo Of the Month: Tracy Moseley, Punta Ala, Italy.

DM_TMo_PuntaAla013_0163

A post-practice stretch session, squeezed in the aisle of her campervan during the first round of the new Enduro World Series, Punta Ala, Tuscany. I spent 3 days shadowing the World Champion DH-now-turned-enduro-racer, shooting for Bontrager a behind the scenes reportage of life on the road of one of their pro-racers. Not getting in the way was one of the challenges, while still trying to record authentic other side to the pro athletes life. Tracy went on to win this event. For me it was also chance to try my new Zeiss 18mm ZF-2 lens on the Nikon.  Nikon D3S, Zeiss 18/3.5

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