5 Mins With: Dan Milner

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What do you do?

I shoot bike photos in the Spring, Summer and Autumn and snow photos in the Winter months. Some people call me a photographer.

How did you get into taking photos of bikes for a living?

I started freelancing features to magazines, getting my first commission in 1992 in MBUK. Then I juggled regular work (I used to work for the Nationbal rivers Authority doing pollution survey work) with trying to pay for my hobbies until one day I decided to make some commitment and try to eek out a living just shooting. That was about 12 years ago, and I’m still hungry.

Where do you find your inspiration?

The biggest challenge is to put some feeling into the images, to capture the real essence of the moment (yes, that’s a bit cheesy I know, but it’s true). I shoot bike stuff like I want to see bikes pictured.. the kind of shots that makes me want to go and ride. Nothing beats traveling though..  to give you inspiration.

Which photo are you most proud of?

Among my bike shots, I suppose it was a self portrait B&W..

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.. it won Bike (USA) magazine photo of the year in 2004. I actually just went for a ride on my local trail in Chamonix one autumn morning, and threw my Contax T2 film camera in the camelbak, loaded with B7W film.  The trail was enveloped in cloud with amazing heavenly shafts of light bursting through it. I had to do a self-timer shot of myself, riding into the shot counting to ten, to put a rider in the shot. I shot one frame. It worked. I think its the shot that created the biggest stir. Apart form that it would be portraits of people in post-war-torn Kashmir.

What was your first proper camera?

Proper? Theyr’e all proper. OK, after the Kodak instamatic that shot square pictures it was an Olympus OM1. Brilliant all-manual film camera: so reliable until it broke sometime during 7 months of travel in South America in 1989.

Any Do’s & Don’t's for aspiring photographers out there?

Do find your own style.. it takes a while and a lot of practice. Do bother to experiment…. easy now it’s digital. Do get some education.. even a night class will get you understanding some basics of photography. And do decide what you’re shooting when you shoot it.. don’t rely on Photoshop to “save” a picture. Don’t worry if your images don’t find it into magazines the first year you start to go “pro”. Don’t just think photography is easy. Don’t think you’ll get rich.

What’s in your camera bag?

Well if it’s a multi day bike trip, then it’s a Leica M8 (digital rangefinder) plus three of the 6 lenses I have for it. That makes a very portable set up so you can ride all day, every day without too much hassle. If it’s a “paid” or snow shoot then it’s a Canon EOS 1D Mk2N, with three  ”L-series” (that means expensive and heavy) lenses covering 15 to 200 mm focal lengths.

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What bikes do you own?

I’m mostly riding a Yeti 575 I built up with Pikes and mostly XTR kit. It’s the best handling thing I ever rode (at least for the type of trail riding I do). I also have an Airborne Ti hardtail with Reba’s, a 1995 Kona Cindercone rigid that I spent a year on in South America in 1996 and has since become my town bike and a Van Nicholas Ti road bike that doesn’t get out more than twice a year!

What was your most frustrating day with a camera?

Hmm.. there are plenty. Unlike bike shoots, when the sun disappears on the snow you can’t shoot anything, the light is too flat, no definition. We’ve had plenty of days waiting for a glimmer of sun on snowy mountains, including a ten day blizzard this April while camped on a glacier in Alaska.. On bike well, last week was pretty frustrating, over in Switzerland and we hit the best bit of trail for the whole three day shoot and my Leica packed up on me.

Where is your favourite trail?

Hard one to put to one trail… but  right outside my door. It’s an hour hike a bike to get to it, but it’s 1200 m descent of rideable singletrack all the way down to my house. I have a top ten trails list though.. including Porcupine Rim in Moab, the Colorado Trail near Kenosha Pass, and the Kirroughtree loop in Scotland and Cut Gate in the Peak.

Cheers Dan!

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Dan’s new website is up: www.danmilner.com

You’ll find plenty of bikey, snowy and travel images to cheer up a blustery autumn day and perhaps sow the seeds of travel plans once more.

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