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.

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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.

March 16, 2012

Kyrgyzstan: The yurt locker.

Filed under: snow — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 8:49 am

I have got to admit, until a month ago I wouldn’t have been able to place Kyrgyzstan on a map. It’s a different story now. Now I know where it is. I know what the people look like. I know how cold it gets there. I know what they speak there. I know what they eat (it’s not a very vegetarian-friendly place I can tell you). I know how bumpy their roads are.

I just spent the last 10 days in this ex-USSR central Asian country shooting a story on staying in a traditional yurt at 2650m and splitboarding the adjacent rugged mountains. Let’s face it, a comfy yurt with its wood stove to dry kit, is a way friendlier place to sit about in post-shred than the usual sub-zero tents that seem to have become my home-from-home on the TGR Deeper/Further trips of late, and with local villagers’ horses on hand to porter our kit up the initial 800m climb to our base, things were looking easy from the off.

How naive. After seeing a stable snowpack for all of february, seasonal weather effects on a continental snowpack began a heavy avalanche cycle just before our arrival, meaning with our guide (40tribesbackcountry.com), we had to tread lightly in this uncompromising terrain. This isn’t the place to have things go wrong. And then there was getting up there. Everything we rode meant 1000m of climbing from the yurt each day, with the usual huffing and puffing that goes hand-in-hand with altitudes of 3500m/11,500 ft. And then there were the local taxis. Kyrgyzstan is the place where VW Passats go to die it seems.

But that’s what adventure is all about: new experiences and acquaintances, hardships, bumpy hours in the backs of decaying vehicles, and the absence of tofu burgers. I now feel a little better acquainted with Kyrgyzstan. Now where on the map is Ulaanbaatr…?

Camera-wise, I headed there armed with the Nikon D3s & Nikon 2.8 glass for the action stuff and my quintissential, less invasive Leica M8 for the travel shots. the story will grace a number of snow-related titles next winter.

James Stentiford rides 'eggs and bacon', a safe, if mellow line at last light before another night in the yurt locker. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8.

Our Russian taxi driver is called 'Schumacher'. His taxi is a 1985 ex-soviet army bus. He starts the engine by touching 2 bare wires together. Nikon D3s, 50 1.4.

Italian Tania Detomas skins the slow grind up to a line way above the valley floor, long before she has had her morning cappuccino. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8.

This was the scary scene that greeted us on the mountain: Leeward NE faces that were self releasing and cleaning out. Time to take it easy. For scale, this face is about 900m vertical. Nikon D3s, 24-70 2.8.

Horses are more important than cars for a lot of Kyrgyz people. At a sunday market, young Kyrgyz lads encourage their horses to barge each other in training for local 'no rules' polo, called Kok-Boru, that uses a headless sheep carcass as the 'ball'. Leica M8, Zeiss 28 2.8.

The Yurt locker. Home from home for 5 tired nights in a land inhabited by wolves and bears.The seeds of a vegetarian diet have now been sown here. Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8.

Sheep and Ladas and mobile phones. Rural Kyrgyz gather from 3am at the Karakol livestock market to buy or sell sheep, bundling their live purchases into the boots of Ladas. Leica M8, Voigtlander 15 4.5.

It took 4 hours to skin to this face at 3500m, only to find the snowpack stability less than friendly and we were forced to retreat. The real art of mountain riding is knowing when to back away. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8.

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.

http://www.tetongravity.com/embed/videos/Getting-In-Jeremy-Jones39-Further-Unplugged-Episode2-1665292.htm/

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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