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Mongolia Photography Workshop
Mongolia is known as a country with the last true nomad and a great history of Chinggis Khaan! It is one of the most sparsely populated country in the world. Mongolia is unique and relatively unexplored travel destination that offers a great combination of scenic landscape, nomadic life style and rich culture! The first part of our adventure is the private Golden Eagle Festival in West Mongolia. You will be witnessing the cultural heritage of Kazakhs, their ancient art of eagle falconry, as well as the breathtaking landscape of the Altai Mountain Range! The second part of our adventure is the Gobi Desert, where you will have the rare opportunity to photograph the local Mongolian as they are herding the Bactrian camels across the Khongor sands in South Mongolia. Get yourself ready and be inspired by the beauty of Mongolia, as well as living a unique cultural experience in an 11 days/10 nights photography workshop where we emphasise on cultural, portrait, and landscape photography with some of the best photographers on earth!
A driver awaits you upon arrival in Chinggis Khaan International Airport, Ulaanbaatar (UBN) and transfers you to our hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Because of limited flights into Mongolia, we recommend you arrive one or two days earlier, and have time to explore the beautiful city of Ulaanbaatar. We will meet at 7PM in the hotel lobby and enjoy welcome dinner in the local restaurant. During dinner, the group gets acquainted and we´ll view the itinerary for our exciting journey ahead. There are no organised Photo walks in Ulaanbaatar during our tour, we suggest you use the spare time in the city to walk around for snapshots.
Overnight in hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
Highlights: Golden Eagle at Sunset
The day starts with a domestic flight from Ulaanbaater to Ölgii. The flight is 3 hrs. Our drivers await us at the airport and drive toward the Altantsugts Soum and Tsambagaraw Mountain, which is our base for the next two days.
You will be welcomed by the Kazakh family and enjoy the traditional meals in one of the Kazakh Ger camps. After lunch, the Kazakh eagle hunters will prepare themselves for our sunset hunting session. We get to watch them prepare the animals, both the horses and golden eagles for the session. Then we will drive to the adjacent river and photograph as the eagle hunters cross the river.
Overnight in Ger Camp.
Highlights: Golden Eagle Hunters
In the next two days, we will participate in a private golden eagle festival with 15 to 20 eagle hunters. We will have our private festival to ensure us great photos to bring home. The festival will be similar from the public festival, but there it is almost impossible to capture good images due to the enormous number of tourists. During our private festival, you will have full access to take as many stunning images as you want while the Kazakh eagle hunters demonstrate their amazing skills in eagle falconry on horseback with the majestic landscape in the background! We will be photographing them in various locations, running and posing on the mountain ridges, grasslands and rocky landscape, reflection under the Altai Mountain range, the horses running across the river.
Your day will be filled with excitement and heart-pounding moments! Let us tell you a bit about eagle hunting and eagle falconry: The tradition of eagle hunting is more than a thousand years old and Genghis Khan is believed to have engaged in the sport. The Kazakhs inherited the sport from their Turkic and Mongol ancestors and were practicing it when they emerged as an ethnic group since 15th century. The hunting with golden eagles is primarily for fur, not for meat. The main preys are red and Corsac foxes, hares, wild cats and wolf. Usually, the female eagles are captured from their nests while they are a few months old. They are then trained by their owner, and a close relationship between owner and bird develops along the way. The eagle will stay with her owner for 4 to 10 years, when she is of breeding age. She is then released as far as possible in order to discourage her from returning, and the owner will continue to monitor her to ensure she is feeding and reintegrating.
In 2011, UNESCO added Kazakh eagle hunting to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as an example of living human heritage. As one eagle hunter told National Geographic, “When Kazakhs came into the world, they were eagle hunters.” During the middle of the day when the light is harsh outside, the horses will rest and we will change our pace. We will set up for portraits inside the Ger camp and photograph the Khazakh people with their traditional costume. It´s a great scene working with ambient lights coming through the door. The results will simply blow your mind! If you are brave enough, you will be given the rare opportunity to get up close to the golden eagles and let them stand on your arm! Over these two days, we are invited for traditional cuisines together with the Khazakh family after the long days of photographing. The Khazakhs will also present their epic instrumental music and vocal singing! Overnight stay in Ger Camp on Day 3 and late night in day 4 we check in at a hotel in Ölgii.
Highlights:Fly to Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast, we will depart from Ölgii domestic Airport again on a 3-hours flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Upon return to Ulaanbaatar, the groups check in to a hotel in the city center.
Some free time is now again given to explore the beautiful city of Ulaanbaatar. In the evening, we will meet in the lobby and go together for dinner in the local restaurant. Overnight in hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
Highlights: Sand Dunes and Camels
We enjoy breakfast in the hotel before heading to the domestic airport. We fly from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad, flight time is 1.5 hours. The Dalanzadgad is very rural and transportation is irregular, in case if flights are unavailable, we will travel by cars from Ulaanbaatar towards Dalanzadgad at no additional cost.
Depending on the arrival time in Dalanzadgad, we have three options the Khongor sand dunes for sunset, the Yoliin Am Canyon or make an overnight stop at the Dalanzadgad to rest. On the way to the Khongor sand dunes, we will make some stops to photograph the Mongolia nomadic life. You will witness how the Mongolian people herding hundreds or even thousands of sheep, goats, camels, yaks, and horses just as their ancestors have for more than 3,000 years! Our main stage for the next two days – Khongor Sand Dunes, one of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia, with area over 900 square kilometers, and some dunes can reach the heights of 100 to 300 meters! The inhabitants here name the Khongor Sand Dunes as “Singing Dunes” due to the “roaring” or “blooming” noise when the sand grains move over one another in the windy condition. Bactrian camels will be our companions in the photography sessions.
Bactrian camels are double-hump camels native to the Gobi Desert. They are among the most adaptable creatures on Earth, as they can cope with drought, high altitudes, and extreme temperature between +40°C in the summer and -30°C in the winter. Domesticated Bactrian camels are a separate species from wild Bactrian camel, they have served as pack animals in inner Asia since ancient times, and as a form of transportation on the Silk Road. We will have 5 camels and 2 local Mongolians in their traditional costume to pose in the sand dunes for photography! You will witness the amazing shadow of sand dunes casted by the low-angled sunlight and the camels walking across the sand dunes. Just as if you were experiencing the silk road era!
Overnight in Tourist Ger Camp or hotel in Day 6 and Tourist Ger Camp in Day 7. The amenities in the Tourist Ger Camp include electricity, comfortable beds, and very clean public shower and toilet.
Highlights: Sand Dunes in the Gobi
In the morning we start with early sunrise session at Khongor sand dunes. After breakfast, we will travel towards the Bayanzag red sand cliffs, which are also known as Bayanzag flaming cliffs. Bayanzag means “rich in saxaul tree”. Saxaul tree is a thorny shrub which measures approximately 2 meters high and proliferates in the surroundings, it is a good source of food for camels.
Bayanzag flaming cliffs have many sedimentary sand cliffs where many dinosaurs’ fossils have been found. We will capture sunset by the cliffs and depending conditions we will do astro-photography or the light painting in the panoramic viewpoints.
Overnight in Tourist Ger Camp. This camp has private shower and toilet.
Highlights: Rocky Formation
On the way back to Ulaanbaatar, we will stop at the rocky formations of Tsagaan Suvarga, or “white stupa”. The formation eroded by the wind and is located in the Southeast of the sum Ölziit. Observed from a certain distance they resemble a ruined city. They are extremely spectacular and photogenic, about 60 meters (196,85 feet) high and 400 meters (1312,34 feet) long. Here we will photograph the sunset and night sky.
Staying in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
Highlights: Mongolian wrestling and Archery.
After breakfast we spend our day photographing warriors. The Mongols are descendants of the greatest warriors the world has ever seen. The Mongol armies which conquered Russia and all of Eastern and Central Europe never exceeded 150,000 men. There were a number of reasons what made the Mongol warriors so successful and good in battle, but first and foremost it was their training. As soon as they were old enough so sit on a horse and hold a bow, they started hunting. From a young age they were also taught a fighting still called Bökh, which is generally referred to as Mongolian wrestling. Therefor the mongols were expert horsemen with great endurance. Horse and man and could travel anywhere from 80-120 km pr. day, which was an unheard-of speed at that time. Their skills with the bow and arrow were so good they could shoot accurately from a horse in all directions, even from behind. This enabled them to encircle their enemy and killing everything within that circle. Even if they fell or lost their horse they had expert knowledge in Bökh, so overall Mongolian combat skills were superior to anyone.
The Mongols are amongst the friendliest people you find. They are extremely proud of their heritage and still today are great with horses, bow and arrow and are considered, in any discipline of wrestling, amongst the toughest wrestlers in the world. We will have the opportunity to meet these warriors both archers and wrestlers, in traditional clothing. They will demonstrate their skills, and if you are up for it you can also take a spin in “the ring” with them.
This is our last day together and in the evening we say our farewells at dinner.
Departure day and we leave Mongolia with great memories and even greater images! You will be transferred to Ulaanbaatar Airport by our drivers.
Ulaanbaatar : Arrival – meet the group
Flight to Ölgii : Golden Eagle Hunters
Kazakh Ger camps : Golden Eagle Hunters
Olgii – Ulaanbaatar : Today we fly from Olgii to Ulaanbaatar
Gobi Desert : Khongor Sand Dunes
Flaming Cliff : Khongor Sand Dunes
Tsagaan Suvarga : Rocky formations on out way back to Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar : Mongolia Wrestling
Oli H., our trusted tour producer and leading force at En Route. Oli is a designer and professional photographer from Iceland with tireless passion for the art form. His successful career as a photographer traces back to his early teenage years where he started out hovering around in a photography studio in Reykjavík. Oli is a brilliant photographer and a mentor with years of teaching experience in both computer skills and photo editing. Oli has already made a treasure chest of invaluable images from Iceland and from his other travels, he enjoys all his tours but constantly seeking new discoveries and unexplored paths. Oli tirelessly seeks to find new perspectives and on his adventures finds great joy in introducing and sharing his findings with new people as well as publishing his travel stories and tutorials on YouTube.
Dr. Kah-Wai Lin Dr. Lin has been leading hundreds of photo tours and workshops throughout the world. He has been presenting over 300 seminars around the world, i.e. USA, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China, on behalf of Phase One, Fujifilm, Sony, NiSi, Fotopro and Skylum. On social media, Dr. Lin has over 300,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram.
Dr. Lin is the official photographer of Phase One Camera; ambassador and education advisor of NiSi Filters; ambassador and global marketing advisor of Fotopro Tripods; ambassador of f-stop; ambassador and global marketing advisor of FeiyuTech; pro team of Spiffy Gear; pro team of Red River Paper; marketing manager of iwata-Tech. He is also sponsored by BenQ and The Heat Company.