The tradition of hunting with golden eagles is thought to have been started around 940AD by nomadic people from the Manchuria region of northern China. Today the tradition is maintained largely by Kazakh and Kyrgyz people in their native countries, as well as in a few diasporas. In Bayan-Ölgii, the westernmost province of Mongolia, a small number of ethnic Kazakhs have dedicated themselves to this traditional pursuit of native rabbit, fox and even wolves. Though modern amenities, including firearms, are increasingly available in their remote valley, this select group of hunters continues to honor ancient ways and considers the use of eagles to pursue prey the highest form of art. The relationship between a man – or, increasingly, a woman – and an eagle takes years to develop and strengthen.
On this 14 day workshop we will travel to Ölgii province to meet the Eagle Hunters, their families and their eagles. We will journey up into the mountains with them and watch as they exercise and train their birds. After exploring this relationship for several days and in several locations, we will get to photograph at our very own private eagle festival! From our front row seats we will watch the region’s hunters gather to test their skills and those of their eagles. Look for horse racing too, and even goatskin tug-of-war. It is a festive event, the stakes are high and the competition is fierce! We will be staying close to the action the whole time, living in cozy, fire-warmed gers – traditional round, felted tents – set up for us among the families’ own. Kazakh hospitality is legendary and you will likely be invited for a a cup of tea or two!
Afterwards we will leave the larch-forested valleys of the west and travel into the heart of the Gobi Desert to meet the traditional Bactrian camel herders. Bactrian camels are the lifeblood of the Gobi people – used for meat, milk, fur and transportation. The ability of the camels to survive and thrive in arid conditions cemented their importance along the infamous Silk Road – the great movement of goods between ancient Europe and Asia – and earned them their prominent place in the art and literature of the region. Life here is little changed – the nomadic camel herders still live as they have for centuries. We will have the opportunity to compose portraits of the herders and their livestock in a variety of different lighting situations, against the stunning backdrop of some of the longest sand dunes in the world.
Are you ready for an adventure? Join Muench Workshops pros Kevin Pepper and Lisa LaPointe as they journey deep into the Mongolian countryside, to places few get a chance to experience. Kevin and Lisa together have a wealth of experience in the region and will help you to not just capture stunning photographs, but to have meaningful interactions with the local people. This workshop is fully customized – you will have simple, but comfortable, accommodations and we are bringing our own private chef – so you can focus on the experience. Come witness lifestyles that have been preserved for centuries!