A brief time in Mongolia

August 08, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I've had the most extraordinary opportunity to travel to Mongolia with some of my photographer friends for two weeks of time in the country for a master class on off-camera flash in late April of 2018.

While this was an amazing trip, it was very different from my previous trips to India. Mongolia is a country of approximately 3 million with almost 1.2 million living in the capital city of Ulan Bator. Which leaves the rest to be spread out across the amazing landscape of mountains, plains, and desert. We had arranged for time with two families in two very different areas of the country. Our first week was in the far western part of the country near Ulgii which lies under the Altai Mountain range. We were hosted by a local family of eagle hunters. Think in terms of the sport of falconry. This family uses eagles to hunt and for sports competitions. We were essentially camping with very little in terms of modern facilities but were very comfortable in our Mongolian Gers (Yurts). We enjoyed quite a few days with our hosts modeling for us with their eagles who were very tolerant of our flash gear. Probably my favorite evening of the entire two weeks was the feast they provided for us on our last night with them. They slaughtered a goat in the afternoon and prepared a feast of broiled goat and vegetables similar to a stew. After dinner, we shared a few glasses of vodka and were entertained by singing from our support staff and a few surprises from our photographer friends. 

What I found so different from India is the sparsity of people and the general reservedness of them. They weren't initially very interested in us foreigners, but quickly warmed up when they discovered that we were so interested in their country and history. Once, we exposed our love for the country, they were incredibly warm and welcoming. So, not as gregarious as the people in India, but every bit as welcoming and warm. Another big difference is that the everyday dress in Mongolia isn't that much different from what you'd see anyplace in America. While in India, the everyday dress could be incredibly different and colorful. Fortunately, our Mongolian hosts obliged our photographic desires by sharing their traditional dress used in celebrations and during cultural events.

Our second week was spent with a nomadic family in the central plains Southwest of Ulan Bator where we experienced life on their ranch with their goats raised for cashmere and the rest of their animals, camels, cows, and horses. We spent a bit of time in the nearby sand dunes photographing the camels and were thrilled with the horse riding skills of the sons.

You can explore many of my photos of this trip here at www.gneill.net/mongolia.


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