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

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


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….


July 25, 2012

Heinous for 15 minutes (and another 23 hours, 45 minutes)

Filed under: bike, The Mangina chronicles — Tags: , , , , , — danmilner @ 8:00 am

Followers of this invaluable interjection of wit and satire will recall me shooting a 2 day MTB epic, with 24 hours of riding, in the Dolomites last autumn for an MBUK magazine feature. Well aside from the story shoot, I also multi-tasked and recorded this whole heinous affair for prosperity on my trusted GoPro HD2 for The North Face, the people that had initially sent me to that steep and mountain bike challenging area a couple of months previously to shoot their Lavaredo Ultra Trail running event. This time of course, I was accompanied by TNF endurance mountain bikers Rob Dean and Josh Ibbett, who, as no strangers to pain, at first seemed oddly at ease with the whole challenge, but did, I suspect, share in my jubilation at finally reaching our overnight alpine hut at 11.15pm (at least we would have if we’d had the collective energy remaining to do so.)

Anyway, this is all by-the-by now. The dust has settled, the pain receded, but my short film from our “adventure” is now pride and place on the TNF expedition journal website where you can find the film, images and a link to Rob’s blog of further mountain biking insanity.

the film is also below…

Riding the TNF Lavaredo Ultra Trail: welcome to Hell. from danmilner on Vimeo.

July 2, 2012

P.O.M May ‘012.

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 3:55 pm

Photo Of the Month May 2012: Shooting the new S4K climbing boot from The North Face.

Okay, so you can’t see the boots, but what the hell. My brief from The North Face while shooting a press launch for their new 4000m alpine mountaineering boot was to capture the aspirational feel of regular mountain enthusiasts in the mountains. What better way, I thought, than to hang on the end of an ice-screw and peer down at some British climbing club bloke getting a face full of icy meltwater while front-pointing his way out a shower on a glacier? It gave me good chance to test a new 3rd party lens too.. but more about that later. Nikon D300s, Tokina 11-16 2.8.

January 8, 2012

2011: A year in pictures

If you’ve avoided keeping up to date on my roamings during 2011, you’re bang out of luck now. You’ve stumbled on my annual recap of this last year spent as a travelling professional photo chimp.. . a collation of images that I hope gives a kind of insight into the eclectic adventures that my dream job allows me to photograph in various corners of the world, and the reason that we photographer’s are *mysteriously moody/unbearably over confident/trembling nervous wrecks (*delete as appropriate).

(Hit the “more” tab below the second image caption to see the gallery in its entirety.)

Canon EOS 1D mkIII, 24-70 2.8, f5 1/1000.

(above) It’s all about the backside air. Nate Kern throws a backside air over old mining ruins near Telluride, Colorado, while two well-known but remaining anonymous female pro snowboarders couldn’t resist giving him cheek. The trip with Jenny Jones, Hana Beaman, Nate and Angus Leith was a reminder that snowboarding, a sport so many of us begun for fun, needn’t just be business.

Canon EOS 1DmkIII, 24-70/2.8, f7.1, 1/800.

(above) Kickers have never been my favourite thing to shoot in snowboarding, especially when there is powder to ride and shoot in the backcountry. It has something to do with how I ride. I’m not a kicker person and find shooting them a little dull and restrictive. A lot of standing around cheering other people on. Kickers, compared to freeride shots, seem more about the style of the rider than the art of the photography, at least normally. After ticking the rider’s boxes however this time I found time to satisfy my own art-urges. Nate Kern is in there somewhere, deep in the Telluride backcountry, Colorado.


November 8, 2011

The mangina chronicles 1: Hell hath no fury…

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 9:18 pm

Yes, thanks to the good people at Go-Pro HD camera and bike-bit people Madison in the UK, I now get to grab some of that newfangled moving image stuff on many of my photo-adventures. The result? An irregular series of episodes called the Mangina Chronicles: an insight into the trials and tribulations of an adventuring photo-chimp.  Part 1 here comes to you as a sneak peek into the recent 2-dayer Lavaredo Ultra Trail epic we attempted on bikes, shot as a story for a forthcoming MBUK feature and video’d for The North Face. The full video episode will be on the ‘The North Face‘ website soon.

Don’t worry, this movie malarky will never catch on… so here’s another epic still shot from the same Dolomites trip to de-stress you. Sit back and gaze forlornly at the nice static image.

Josh Ibbet out past his bedtime.. or was it before his get-up time. It's all a sweaty blur now.

August 29, 2011

Of sleepless nights and men in tights: the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc revisited

Filed under: outdoors, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 2:28 pm

It’s that time of year again, when my sleep patterns are sacrificed for the sake of photographing men in tights. Perhaps the world’s toughest running race, the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (170Km, 9500m of ascent), happened this last week and principle sponsors, The North Face, assigned me to capture their athletes doing what they do best: running in remote corners of the Mont Blanc massif at unearthly times of the night and day.

I may be a morning person, but pre-dawn starts are never high on my “to-do” list. So after 4 hours of sleep I dragged my weary self out of the relative warmth of my van to leg it up to a location I had in mind that, if all went well and the athletes hadn’t been unduly slowed by the previous night’s snowfall that now sat several inches deep on the pass, would mean capturing their somewheat insane exploits just at first light.

And so racing the racers began. That’s the art of shooting the UTMB (or indeed shooting the Mountain Mayhem event in June): to get and stay ahead of the runners at each stage of the race, and get to the right spots at the right light. Read between the lines this means running up mountains, shooting the runners and then running down again, all with about 40 lbs of photo gear on your back. I’m not much of a runner you understand.

Jobs like this are schizophrenic. lots of planning and re-planning as schedules and even the route change make it a pain and a stress, but once on location and it all comes together, there’s often nowhere I’d rather be. After all, when otherwise would you have the excuse to see the sunrise in one of the most beautiful valleys in Europe, miles from home, and all before you’ve even had chance to put the kettle on for a morning brew? Sometimes this really is the best job in the world. Now where’s that alarm clock?

After a night of snow at 2500 m, you'd think TNF's Tsuyoshi Kaburaki but would take a moment to stop and warm up in the sunrise, but no, not this morning. Places to be. Time: 07:02. Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8G.

June 24, 2011

Sleep is overrated: 24 hours of shooting the Mayhem

Filed under: bike, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 8:46 am

I’m a morning person. I’ve worked that out over the years. While I am a sprightly (some say annoying) ball of energy first thing, my energy peters out by the evenings, usually, leaving me sullen, a grumpy participant of dinner parties and snowcamping escapades alike, moody and wanting to go home and to bed. Last Saturday the mould was broken though, when I had to opportunity to stay up way beyond my accustomed bedtime to shoot the now legendary Mountain Mayhem 24 hour MTB race for one of its sponsors, The North Face.

My boy scout year wasn't wasted: knowing where the sun sets (thats West) means getting a heads up on where might be a good place to backlight riders at dusk. Silhouettes mean you can't see the grimace of pain though. 9 hours in and 15 to go. Nikon D3s, 24-700 2.8.

I’m no stranger to bike-orientated masochism, but wanting to ride for 24 hours straight is another deal altogether. A ten mile hilly lap means by midday the second day, the top soloists will have ridden 210 miles, and the top team 270 miles. Madness? Perhaps, but many don’t see it that way. Now in its 15th year, the Mayhem is going strong, and luckily for me, its 1500 amassed solo and team entrants (including the TNF’s own ‘factory’ team and soloist Rob Dean who I was assigned to shoot) together generate the kind of electric atmosphere that will keep a sleep derived photographer focussed for the duration of the event, long enough to capture what he thinks is the essence of a 24 hour endurance event like this. on a Saturday night is the best time for curry, even in a Worcestershire field.. Nikon D3s,14-24 2.8

And so armed with my now trusty Nikon armory, a dual flash-and-slave set up and an impressive rustle of waterproofs (hey it is England in June after all) I strode purposefully from the start line and paced the 10 mile course with the 13.5 Kg (29.5lb) monkey that is my photo pack on my back. To and fro, up and down and back up the same hillsides, working every angle of late and early light I could calculate, while being blinded by the 4,000,000 lumen LED ‘s of today’s headlamps (I retaliated by firing my flashes back into the riders faces of course, hey fair’s fair) I was driven onward by the unbridled energies of the riders themselves. Rain, wind and sunburn. Sleep deprivation, blisters and dehydration. And a heady mix of exhaustion and endorphins. I might not have been actually on a bike, but I think I got to share some of the rider’s experience.

Gratuitous tree shot. Riders thrown in for free. Nikon D3s, 70-200 2.8 VRII.

So thanks Mountain Mayhem riders. Thanks for keeping the energy going all night long. Thanks for helping a photographer stay up a little later than his bedtime, for a change.

Down in the innertube station at midnight. Nikon D3s, 50 1.4.

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