The western part of Mongolia hosts many Eagle hunters, one of which is Silau (below). Silau is an eagle hunter that we met at the wedding, and he asked if we would like to join him and his sons on a hike to check and collect the Balapan. A Balapan is a 2 year old baby Eagle which nests within the mountains. Silau had already identified this Balapan as a new bird to train for future years.
Near the local western town of Ulgi, the 90th Anniversary Nadaam was taking place. At this larger Nadaam, we had the chance to see an archery competition. Archery is the only game in the Nadaam, which is played by both male and female competitors.
Additional Photographic details
On this trip, I did have the opportunity to take the new Leica M246 for my black and white work. I like shooting with the Monochrom because I find it pulls texture and details out of the scene, which is different to the way that colour images are captured. With the dusty environment, horses, dark skin and interesting faces, this camera and Summicron lens combination would help to tell the story of this wonderful Nomadic culture.
I also always take my Lee Graduated filters and Natural density filters just in case I’m shooting photographs and need a shallow depth of field in bright daylight, or I am shooting landscapes with moving water.
I also, take my Zoom H6 for audio, just in case I need to shoot some video on my M240.
Not all projects are smooth sailing. Have you had any setbacks and what were your learnings?
When you go somewhere that is completely new, everything is engaging there is a want to photograph everything, kind of a trigger-happy moment for at least the first few days.
Once the excitement is over it’s time to settle and work out what the project(s) will be about, and this usually takes a little time and patience to work out. Somebody once gave me some great advice, and recommend that the first few days should be experienced without a camera, as this can give perspective and time for projects to be created.
Once a few projects have been identified, I find it much easier to focus on what images are needed to help tell the story and what not to take photographs of. One benefit of this technique for me, is that it tends to lead to better and a higher quality of pictures to select from when I get back home. To be honest though, I still can’t leave my camera at home on those first few days, and I do like to get carried away with the visual excitement of everything. However, the projects always appear at at some point.
Some of the events, especially the horse racing and Buzkashi are very fast paced, so judging the decisive moment, and getting the correct focus point can be extremely challenging, and did lead to a few missed shots.
Great backgrounds make great photographs, and something which I can be taken for granted. From the Mongolian experience, I’ve defiantly appreciated hunting out a great background, and then put something in it (even if it involves posing someone).
A take away from this experience is that including many complimentary elements in the scene, as well as a human presence can make the final image much more exciting and engaging.
Fixers. These people are the key to successful photographs. We had great fixers on this trip, which made the culture more accessible and thus easier to photograph and get better pictures. As a reflection, we met a couple of other photographers, who were having a miserable time in Mongolia all because they didn’t have the right fixers in place, that had the correct local knowledge and open up the opportunities.
I have been taking photographs for over 20 years with a view of just to document my life and it’s surroundings. I came from the film days and moved into digital photography about 10 years ago. I bought my first Leica camera 2 years ago (the M240) and recently had the opportunity to go back to classic photography by buying a Leica M/A and started to use Film as part of my work once again.
I also love to print, whilst I enjoy printing with Inkjet, I’m very passionate about alternative printing, and have been making Platinum prints using Digital Negatives for a while now. This process was founded in the 18C and apart from making a digital negative and printing it on acetate, the wet processing side of it hasn’t changed. but this is a life project, one that I’ll continue when I get time to devote to it.