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

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

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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

January 3, 2014

Another 12 months of firsts – 2013 in pictures

Doing what I do, you’d think it’s easy to get blase about travelling to new places. You know,  “what a job… another month, another remote but beautiful location to shoot”. But in reality, it’s the unknowns of new places, their challenges and unexpected rewards that keep me doing what I do. And 2013 was one of those years –  a series of first time experiences, most unique, some incredible, some insane and some I’d rather not repeat. Whatever their lasting impression on me, whatever the pain, the scary-bits, the ‘too many hours in airport departure halls’, I’m glad I got the chance to go and shoot them all, from Arizona to Afghanistan.

So here’s a little look back at the places, people and things that through 2013 helped me continue becoming the worldly-wise, level headed pro-photographer I am today. Or maybe they just made me go a little more crazy. You decide. 2013 was also the year I started Twitter (follow: @danmilnerphoto) and got an iPhone, which can do most of the things photographers do. Apparently.

The year kicked off with the Voelkl team ski shoot. Epic snow always helps. Getitng the balance between aspirational, inspirational and just showing what the product can do is the photographer's challenge. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4.

The year kicked off with the Voelkl team ski shoot. Epic snow always helps. Getting the balance between aspirational, inspirational and just showing what the product you’re there to shoot can do is the photographer’s challenge. Is there an app for powder landings? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4.

Tales from the dark side. Nothing beats working with light like this. It's a popular misconception that today's photography is all about computer work, processing and instagram-like filters. Who needs them? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, @ 1/1000th, f1/8.

Tales from the dark side. Nothing beats working with light like this. It’s a popular misconception that today’s photography is all about computer work, processing and instagram-like filters. Who needs them when you have January winter light? Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, @ 1/1000th, f1/8.

(more…)

January 15, 2013

Getting Vocal with Voelkl -a picture is worth a thousand words….

If this is a taste of the year ahead, I’ll be needing more memory cards. A 4-day shoot for Voelkl skis kicked off my 2013, in conditions that were about as perfect as we were going to get in the Alps. Quite a contrast from last years avalanche dodging and jib-tastic escapade. I was given the services of international backcountry freestylers Dylan Hood and Dash Longe from the USA and Flo Wieser (austria) and PA Chedal (France) to try to nail all the images needed by Voelkl to launch a brand new flagship backcountry ski at next month’s ISPO trade fair. Hmm, not that there was any pressure or anything.

The nerdy bit: It also gave me the chance to try out my new Nikon 70-200 f4G lens.. the new lighter (850g), but one stop slower counterpart to the usual 70-200 f2.8 I lug about. And when I say “lug” I mean. Lug. The f2.8 is a back-straining 1500g. Add that to a D3s body (1240g), a 24-70 f2.8 (900g), a 14-24 f2.8 (970g), a 50 f1.4 (290g) and a few accessories, and you have some heft. I’ve been waiting for Nikon to emerge with the f4 since I first heard rumours of its development a year ago. It was one of the lenses in Canon’s amoury that I missed when I switched to Nikon from Canon 2 years ago, especially when hiking the backcountry. (I’ll be seeing how the D600 and 16-35 f4, 70-200 f4 combo goes down when Jeremy Jones/TGR start calling for the next expedition..).

So here’s a peek at what pleased Voelkl….

This spot rarely fails to deliver... nor does Flo's 720. Backlighting is my way, and while the new 70-200 f4 is sharp and no doubt autofocuses without hesitation, I actually manually focussed on the take off to allow a more relaxed composition.

This spot rarely fails to deliver… nor does Flo’s 720. Backlighting is my way, and while the new 70-200 f4 is sharp and no doubt autofocuses without hesitation, I actually manually focussed on the take off to allow a more relaxed composition. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4, 1/1600, f.7.1.

I thik this was the 10th shot I have taken with the new 70-200 f4. yeah I'm happy. Dylan Hood sends a rooster tail that you normally see in snowboarding. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4. 1/100, f/8.

I think this was the 10th shot I have taken with the new 70-200 f4. Happy? Yeah I’m happy! Dylan Hood sends a ski rooster tail that you normally see in snowboarding. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4. 1/1000, f/8.

 

Seeing the skis can be a problem when shooting marketing shots in powder. Unless you have Dylan along for the ride. The base shot. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f2.8. 1/1250, f6.3.

Seeing the skis can be a problem when shooting marketing shots in powder. Unless you have Dylan along for the ride. The base shot. Nikon D3s, 14-24 f2.8. 1/1250, f6.3.

 

The evolution of skiing. Flo lays out a surf turn and gets barrelled. This was the last shot of the day, last shot of the shoot. I didnt know quite where he was going to lay out this turn on the bank, so kept the composition loose, the depth of field reasonable at f7.1, and tracked him in, adjusting my composition as he began the turn. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4,@ 1/2000, f7.1, ISO 200.

The evolution of skiing. Flo lays out a surf turn and gets barrelled. This was the last shot of the day, last shot of the shoot. I didnt know quite where he was going to lay out this turn on the bank, so kept the composition loose, the depth of field reasonable at f7.1, and tracked him in, adjusting my composition as he began the turn. Nikon D3s, 70-200 f4,@ 1/2000, f7.1, ISO 200.

All work and no play make Dan a dull(er) boy. Not strictly part of the shoot, but a "free run" down the Rectaline couloir on day 4 allowed the skiers to get the new skis dialled, and me to try the new Nikon D600 body. You know "free runs" are going to be a little different whren the guide (stian) says  " take it easy at the pinch, its not a place to fall" and " and at the bottom of the coulir there is a 1m ice shelf to drop off so don't go charging through..". Nikon D600, 14-24 f2.8 @1/1000, f5.6. ISO 100.

All work and no play make Dan a dull(er) boy. Not strictly part of the shoot, but a “free run” down the Rectaline couloir on day 4 allowed the skiers to get the new skis dialled, and me to try my new Nikon D600 body. You know “free runs” are going to be a little “different” when the guide (Stian Hagen) says “..take it easy at the pinch, its not a place to fall… oh, and at the bottom of the couloir there is a 1m ice shelf to drop off so don’t go charging through..”. Nikon D600, 14-24 f2.8 @1/1000, f5.6. ISO 100.

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.

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