Mongolia- Uglii and the Nomads

After a 3 hour flight from Ulaanbaatar, we arrive in the town of Ulgii. This is close to where the Nomads and Eagle Hunters live.

This region is mostly made up of Kazakhstan people that came here to avoid persecution in the early part of the century. 

After settling into our Ger camp, we have a wonderful home-cooked meal and enjoy a beautiful sunset along the river valley. 

The Ger camp was started in 2019 by a local family and we were their first ever guest in July of that year and also returning in Oct of that year. Then the pandemic came and there has been no guest since.

What a joy to return! During the last two years, the family has worked 7 days a week and then takes all they earn and invest it into their camp. Now a fully built restroom and shower facility are here and it’s so comfortable! 

About an hour west of our camp, we drive to where these Nomads have set up for a season. We spend two days setting up sessions, photographing, and sharing camaraderie and a meal.Here they work and train their Eagles in preparation for the Eagle Festival that takes place in October. We now have several Hunters that love to share with us and be photographed. 

Our first opportunity is to meet up with two members of the family as they ride their camels carrying their Ger (Yurt) to a location to set up. 

Our good friend Mana Dainbek and his family are Hunters. He arranges this for us and a wonderful meal awaits us at his home. 

Photo Tip – Put the Camera Down!

What? Put the camera down?  YES! When we first arrived, we met up with the Nomad Camel riders, and everyone jumped out and immediately started taking photographs. 

Imagine if someone rolled up to you, got out of their car, never bothered to say hello, and started shoving cameras in your face? How would you feel? EXACTLY! 

We are not only here to photograph! We are here to experience, learn from others, gain cultural understanding, and break bread together! With this in mind, I told everyone, hey folks, stop for a moment, say hello, smile, and try to communicate!

Once we gain some hellos and treat our new friends as humans vs. a photo session object, amazing things happen, and the images are that much better because of it! 


Photo Tip – Move your Feet!

When I first started photographing these two as they crossed the river, the reflection of the rider on the far right was cut off in the grass. By simply moving a few feet, the entire reflection was seen. 

In moments like this, it is easy to get excited and miss little details that can make a huge difference in your photograph. We always say that the biggest issue with photographers is not their settings or editing skills, but learning to not be fixated on a subject and forgetting to move their feet for various perspectives! 


The Great Eagle HuntersIf you are unfamiliar with the film The Eagle Huntress, it is a must-watch. This was the documentary that first got Ally and me interested in Mongolia. The Eagle Hunters do NOT hunt EaglesThe Eagles are taken and trained from a very young age to hunt for prey, and the Hunters use the fur while the Eagles get the food prize. This is a centuries-old tradition; with each generation, there are fewer. We are excited to be a part of helping to preserve their culture and traditions. After 5-7 years, the Eagles are ceremoniously released back into the wild, where they are ready to mate and hunt for themselves. We are fortunate to have gotten to know many of these wonderful people. With that relationship, we have gained access to spend time together, have a meal with their families, and photograph them as they love to show us what they can do! Not many times would I say we have an “exclusive.” But in this world, yes, we get to do and photograph situations that give us unprecedented access and favor with these beautiful people. Some might get to photograph one or two, however, with the relationship we have been able to build, we work with 10-12!This should be a bucket list trip for everyone for many reasons!  There are really no words or images that can express what it feels like to be in their presence and just hang out with their families! 
Sessions with the Hunters 

As mentioned above and in earlier blogs, very few people go to these areas. Those who usually do might visit one or two hunters for a while. To be able to work with an entire group of Hunters over two days is something we have been honored to have happened during our trips here.

We have such respect for these people and their culture,  and with that has come unique opportunities and relationship building.  This has been one of the most rewarding relationships on a personal and professional level I have ever built. 


Photo Tip – Lower your Angle

In this image, I knelt to gain another perspective and to be at eye level with the grass. I have many photos where I am standing up as well. However, anytime I can give a viewer a perspective and view that they are not conditioned to seeing such as this versus standing at a regular height, it can create more impact. 

We are conditioned naturally to see everything at a stand-up level, horizontal, and with about 50mm in focal length. By changing that up, it can subconsciously create a different sense of impact for the viewer. 

Join MPA in Mongolia next July!

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                                                                                    Photo – Paul Anderson – MPA

It is always awesome when you know the people you work with are having a blast themselves. 

After spending two days with us, the Hunters started competing amongst themselves as well as showing us some of the games they play. One of those is to reach down and pick up a red cloth or coin. In this case, we switched it out to a McKay hat! 

The winner below sporting his new MPA hat! 

Do you want to hold a Golden Eagle? YOU CAN! Join us next year as we return in late July! This was not planned, but due to the ability to have these relationships continue to grow, the reality that there are still so few tourists, this is a PERFECT time to come back with a small group of only ten photographers!

Join MPA in Mongolia next July!

Email to be on the first priority notice list!