The Rig
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The Rig: Dan Milnor

Who are you and what’s your profession?

Well, there are things I know with absolute certainty. I work fulltime for Blurb as their “Photographer at Large,” or “Artist in Residence” as I heard myself described earlier today. I prefer the artist title not because I regard myself as one, but the reality is I quit working as a photographer at the end of 2010. This could be an entire story by itself, but I’m finding that I make better work, have more opportunities as a creative and have far fewer restrictions on me by NOT being a photographer. I studied photojournalism at the university level, and have worked as a newspaper photographer, magazine photographer, commercial photographer as well as a portrait photographer and employee of Eastman Kodak. I’ve had what I would describe as a strange career but one that has given me a unique perspective on how the parts of the creative industry work and don’t work. The last five years have been spent unlearning everything I was taught to believe. Any success I’ve had in photography is due to the help of many other people.

What’s your rig?

Here is where you probably begin to question why you asked me to do this. I use about a dozen different cameras, all of them analog. I no longer own a digital camera. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t HAVE to do anything in this industry, so you can work with whatever tools you so wish. My primary cameras are a thirty-year-old Hasselblad 500CM that I paid $65 for, coupled with 80mm and 120mm lenses. Also in my bag is a Fuji, collapsible 6×6 rangefinder. I also use the Nikon F6 for my 35mm work, coupled with the 28mm 1.8 and the 50mm 1.4. The rest of the gear ranges from a homemade, 4×5 pinhole to a Voigtlander with a custom underwater housing.

What hardware do you use?

My hardware is like a junkyard of unwanted material. I do have a “Blurb laptop,” which is a standard MacBook Pro but which model and the specs are a mystery to me. All I know for sure it that it’s really heavy. I have an original MacBook, which hasn’t been plugged in since about 2007, but I still have it for some reason. My “main” computer is a Mac Pro, which is probably at least six years old. I couple it with a 30-inch, Apple monitor. I use Firmtech SATA drives for my “archive” but in the near future I will have to change systems and migrate to something newer in an attempt to make sure my past, digital life survives a bit longer. The top drive in the bay is jammed, so my system is reduced to one removable drive, however, I’m hardly using this equipment at all anymore. I’m waiting for it to burst into flames. As for the phone, I use the iPhone 5 but only for work related reasons. I used a Samsung phone (Note II) for about six months and realized how outdated the iPhone really is. I long for the days of the flip phone, so the minute I don’t need a “smartphone” I’m going back to the empty can with a string and will only talk to those who live within “string reach.” I will talk to fewer people but I will know them so much better. I also have an iPad (gen 1) but quit carrying it about a year and a half ago. I replaced it with my paper journal which is far more enlightening and actually makes me us my limited brain capacity and keeps me away from surfing the web or social media, which I think we are all going to look back on and cringe.

What software do you use?

Feel free to start laughing now….I think I have everything from Lightroom, Aperture, Canon DPP, Adobe Bridge/Photoshop as well as Capture One. They all do certain things really well, but at this point the only software I need is Photoshop and Bridge. I THINK I’m still using PS 4 or 5. I honestly don’t know because how I use it is so rudimentary I would probably embarrass most people. The reason is simple. I shoot all film. When I complete a shoot the film is sent to the lab where they process, contact and sleeve the negatives. All negatives are scanned high resolution and placed on the FTP server. Normally, during this wait time I’m working on other projects, writing, riding my bike and general living life. I get a text from the lab telling me my work is online. I download, open in Bridge and simply look for the specific content. I make my selects and then complete a VERY basic “tweak” of each file using Photoshop. My function keys are assigned to my actions, so I can open, resize, create adjustment layer, dodge, burn and subsequently flatten all by moving down the function keys. I hit one final action that creates three different size files into three different folders. The images are then “archived” to drives and the negatives are filed. My goal is to spend no more than 30 minutes turning a shoot, otherwise I feel like I’m spending too much time in front of the computer. My file management system is painfully simple, negatives. I can have any film image I’ve ever made in my life in my hands in less than sixty-seconds. If I get an image request I scan it with an Imacon 343 and off it goes. If I lose my negatives to natural disaster I get to start my life over.

What would be your dream rig?

I think I already have it. The gear I have works fine, and most importantly it requires no upgrade, no software, no computer, etc. It’s durable, simple and also requires ZERO thought on my part. When I’m in the field I only have to think about light, timing and composition not menus, custom functions or how long it will take me download in my hotel room. My real dream rig involves me being invisible and a lot smarter than I am now. I LOVE writing, so subsequently I LOVE blogging. I’m not a great writer but I enjoy it. I use WordPress and I get help from friends who know it far better than I ever will.

What’s your favorite photography quote?

There are many.

I was once asked to photographer a famous baseball player who asked what my name was and when I told him he said “F*uck you Dan Milnor.”

“Photography is great but make sure you write everything down.” Carl Mydans told me this in France back in the mid 1990’s.

“Don’t stand in the north-forty and shoot something in the south-forty, move your body.” Photographer who loaned me my first real camera back in 1988.

This entry was posted in: The Rig


  1. Great stuff! I also switched back to analog. Leica m2 and 35mm, Mamiya c330, and nikon fe2. I don’t regret it. Ppl think I am crazy lol you just got to stick to your guns and do what you do.

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