MONGOLIA – Photographing the Kazakh Eagle Hunters – The Days are a (Frozen) Blur

 

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The bulk of our shooting days are a pattern of: wake, dress, eat, prep, shoot, get warm, eat again, shoot, try and get warm, travel home after dark.

Yield-wise, some days are better then others, equipment challenges and an incident with one of the horses made today a bit of a bear.

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One morning, we spent all our time to get a particular shot I’ve envisioned since arriving – Eagle hunters in full gallop across the valley.  Easier said then done.  The cold affects autofocus, like molasses.  The horses travel to us so quickly that timing is an issue and we are also on the edge of adequate light – which affects shutter speed, iso AND depth of field. After three hours of takes and switching-out cameras and strategies we have successful shots.

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I’ll admit we were feeling a bit beat-down at times, lunch break and regroup usually does the trick.

Another day, in the late afternoon we do some simple tight face portraits of these amazing people.  The Broncolor Move lighting system extends our shooting time enough to complete the shots.

I’m struck by the feeing that I can see the two thousand years of Eagle Hunting history in their faces.

On one of our last days I clearly recall thinking we had come-off a meh day the day before, so I was doubly determined to get great images.

Colder then ever, extra clothes are piled-on in anticipation of the bite.

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Today’s goal is to get movement in our shots, our Fixer Aggie and I discuss how we can shoot from the moving van with a door open, to capture an Eagle Hunter in full gallop.

Rotating our three Hunters in-turn, the results are fantastic, exactly what I envisioned.

We shot so many passes, that the van ran out of fuel, we siphoned some out of a passerby’s motorcycle to get us home.

Quick lunch, dry socks and cups of coffee later, with an hour of good light left we are back out to ‘stonehenge’ to shoot eagle releases, again rotating our hunters, using a bait, we are able to capture the Eagles flying from the hunters to catch prey, it’s really astounding to witness.

A great day, We’ve created some very special images

Tomorrow is our last day.