Mongolia– Naadam Festival local style. 

After a 4 hour’s journey, we arrive at a local village to witness the Naadam festival taking place.

It is such a wonderful moment to be a part of the local “scene”.   Although the large Naadam festival day will take place in a 20,000-seat stadium, here we get to experience real-life within a community. 

Naadam (meaning Games) is an annual event featuring three sports. Wrestling, Horse Racing, and Archery. Every village and town in Mongolia celebrates this.  After two years when Naadam was canceled due to the pandemic, the excitement was in the air. This is a time for the gathering of families and communities and competition.  Although the competition is friendly, the stakes of honor are high! 

Wrestling – If you think wrestling is like WWE, think again! The wrestlers in Mongolia are revered. During a match, many wrestlers compete at the same time until the last one is still standing. Several matches are always taking place at the same time. As they enter, the first and most important aspect of the ceremonial eagle dance is performed by each competitor.  Each waves their arms such as wings and dances around the judges. The goal is to take down your opponent by getting him on the ground.  A match can take an hour sometimes with sizing each other up, working strategy, and then making a move. These guys are big and strong and it takes a lot of effort to finally place an opponent to the ground.One takedown wins. Seems simple? Well, it’s not. Very much a strategy of where to grab and how to take your opponent down. There is no weight class so it is an all-out any weight and size goes and it can be small and strong against larger and heavy.  

Join MPA in Mongolia next July!

Email to be on the first priority notice list! 

Photo Tip – Ready for the Action 

In an event like this, it can seem rather slow and boring. The key is to be patient and ready. Because the moment it happens, it happens QUICK! 

In these wrestling images by MPA instructor Paul Anderson, he had to wait patiently through all the strategies and sizing up and be ready the moment the action took place! 

It is important to prepare, be focused, and make sure you have checked some images as a test so that the moment the action takes place, you can shoot away! 


Horse Racing – Jockeys during the Naadam horse racing are children ages 5 – 10. Categories range by age and race distances. Yes, they are children, but this is not “child’ play”. This is considered one of the most important events of the year with riders learning and training all year for this event!  Race range from 5 to 25 kilometers (15 miles!) Each winner can move up from the local race, to the highest level race at the National Competition which is televised live! 


Join MPA in Mongolia next July!

Email to be on the first priority notice list! 

Photo Tip – Panning for Emotional Impact 

There is nothing wrong with stopping the action completely. However, I find that sometimes images where the action is so stopped it can lack the feeling and energy of “movement” and speed. 

By learning panning techniques, you can create a feeling of action and speed. 

This is done by slowing the shutter speed down. In the images above, I shot these at 1/40th of a second.

By moving the camera with the subject, in this case, the riders, as they go by, you are moving with them and as the shutter is slow, the background is blurred. Do not worry about the subject themselves being perfectly sharp either. Because this also creates that sense of motion and speed! 


1. Slow shutter speed down. The faster the subject, the faster it needs to be, but you have to experiment with what that speed sweet spot may be based on the speed of the subject, your ability to pan, and lots of various factors. 

2. Make sure you get your light meter lined up for the other parts of the exposure. 

3. Set the camera on a continuous shutter. Be sure to shoot as many images as possible as the subject comes by. 

4. Results – DO NOT EXPECT PERFECTION! For every 100 images, 1 or 2 may be that nugget you are looking for!  That is part of the fun and thrill of doing this type of photography. There are never the same results twice! 


Join MPA in Mongolia next July!

Email to be on the first priority notice list! 

Ar-Burd Sand Camp 

After spending time in the local village, we went to our camp where we stayed for the next two nights. Here the owner is a famous horse racer that has trained and raced all over the world including, a horse he trained that won the Preakness!

He owns 1500 horses and he arranged for a couple of hundred of them to be brought over 5 miles to us to photograph the herd! 

It was AWESOME! seeing this heard out in the beautiful Mongolian landscape which stretches for miles and miles!