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Mongolian Eagle Hunter with Golden Eagle

Mongolian Eagle Hunters and Their Golden Eagles

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In 2012, I found myself journeying through the expansive Mongolian countryside, heading toward the majestic foothills of the Altai mountains. The modern world seemed to fade away as we travelled along roads dotted with nomadic families emerging from their winter refuges. Vehicles gave way to horses, and ger tents replaced homes, transporting me to a bygone era without the aid of a time-travelling DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

My destination was a family of Eagle Hunters deeply rooted in the ancient tradition of eagle falconry on horseback. Upon arrival, Buybelot, the head of this remarkable family, welcomed me. As I watched him work in harmony with his majestic golden eagle, I marvelled at the bond between them. How could such a connection form between a wild bird, taken shortly after birth, and a human hunter? Was it a skill they honed together, or was it a blend of the eagle’s natural instincts and the hunter’s training?

Living with this Kazakh family in Western Mongolia, I observed countless moments of profound connection between man and bird. It became clear that this bond did not stem from the eagle’s need to hunt or from training alone. It was forged from a deep, mutual respect. The man would command, the eagle would listen, hunting with instinct honed over centuries, and then patiently wait for the hunter to retrieve the prey from its talons.

In this timeless dance of nature and tradition, I witnessed the extraordinary relationship that can exist between humans and animals, a testament to the enduring power of respect and harmony in our world.

Buybelot was the first Eagle Hunters I ever met. I have stayed with his family every trip I have made to see the Eagle Hunters. I will never forget the conversation I had with him on my first night in Western Mongolia. I vividly remember our conversation about our families and our different lifestyles. That conversation had a profound effect on how I view the people that I photograph around the world. I realized that we are all more similar than we perceive. Regardless of culture or geography, we hold dear the same hopes and dreams for our families. 

That tender moment between an eagle and a man transformed my trip into something far more profound than a simple cultural visit. It became an eye-opening revelation that two beings, typically competing for survival, can join forces to create a better life for both.

Over a decade has passed since that first journey. I’ve returned to Mongolia more than twenty times. What started as an exploration of the unknown has evolved into a heartfelt homecoming, with strangers turning into cherished friends.

This web page is crafted to share with you the incredible world of the Eagle Hunters of Mongolia. It invites you to experience this remarkable journey through my eyes, offering insights and inspiration from a land where tradition and nature intertwine in the most extraordinary ways.

Mongolia is a landlocked country situated between Russia and China. It is one of the least populated countries in the world. 


Mongolia, a land of vast steppes and rugged mountains, has been home to a unique tradition stretching over a thousand years—the art of eagle hunting. This tradition, once essential for survival, has evolved into a revered cultural practice that showcases the deep bond between humans and the Golden eagle. In this article, I will delve into the captivating world of Eagle Hunters in Mongolia, exploring their history, rituals, and the enduring spirit of this ancient craft that I have been visiting for over a decade.

The horse plays an important part in Eagle hunting. These sturdy horses carry the hunters and eagles in very inhospitable environments in order to hunt. In this photo, Jenisbek rides through a river, showing off both his horse and his Golden eagle, Anna. 


Eagle hunting in Mongolia traces its roots to the migrating nomadic tribes of Central Asia, particularly the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. 

These migrations occurred over centuries. They were driven by factors such as political upheavals and the pursuit of better pasturelands for livestock. The Turkic nomadic tribes traditionally practiced falconry and hunting with eagles as part of their lifestyle. This skill and tradition were passed down through generations and adapted to different environments as they migrated. 

Over time, some of these Turkic tribes settled in what is now western Mongolia, particularly in the Altai Mountains and Bayan-Ölgii Province. Here, they continued their nomadic way of life, herding livestock and adapting their hunting practices to the local fauna.

Eagle hunting was, and to this day, about acquiring food and fur, demonstrating skill and establishing a deep connection with nature. Golden eagles, revered for their strength and keen eyesight, were prized hunting companions. The eagle hunting tradition exemplified the resourcefulness and adaptability of the nomadic peoples of Mongolia, embodying the spirit of survival and cooperation with the natural world.

The Golden eagle is the largest eagle in Mongolia, with a wingspan of up to two and a half meters (8ft). The weight of the Golden eagle is around four to six kg (8.8lbs to 13.2lbs). 


The Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is central to Mongolia’s eagle-hunting tradition. Revered for its strength, keen eyesight, and majestic appearance, the Golden eagle is the largest bird of prey found in the region. Eagle Hunters meticulously train their eagles from a young age, forging a unique partnership built on trust and mutual respect. The bond between hunter and eagle is foundational to the success of eagle hunting expeditions.

The selection and training of a Golden eagle are intricate processes that require patience and skill. Typically, Eagle Hunters capture young female eagles from nests high in the mountains, carefully selecting individuals with the right temperament and physical attributes. The training process involves acclimating the eagle to human presence, teaching it to perch on the hunter’s arm, and gradually introducing it to hunting techniques. This mutual training period strengthens the bond between hunter and eagle, establishing a practical and meaningful partnership that lasts years.

Females are taken from their nests before they fledge. They will remain with the Eagle Hunter for anywhere from 9-12 years. At which time, the Eagle is released back into the wild to live out the rest of its life. 

On average, the wingspan of a Golden Eagle ranges from about 1.8 to 2.34 meters (6 to 7.7 feet). The eagles can weigh between 3.6 to 6.35 kilograms (8 to 14 pounds). However, larger females can weigh even more, sometimes reaching up to around 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds) or slightly more. Their weight can vary depending on factors such as age, diet, and habitat.

The Altai Mountains are a mountain range in Central Asia and Eastern Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan converge and where the rivers Irtysh and Ob have their headwaters. The tallest mountain in the Altai region is Belukha mountain. It has an elevation of 4,506 meters (14,783ft)


Eagle Hunters in Mongolia are predominantly found in the western part of the country, particularly in the Altai Mountains region and surrounding areas. Here are some specific locations and regions where you can find eagle hunters practicing their ancient craft:

  1. Bayan-Ölgii Province: This province, located in the far west of Mongolia, is known as the heartland of eagle hunting. Bayan-Ölgii is home to a significant population of Kazakh nomads who have practiced eagle hunting for centuries. The rugged terrain and vast open spaces of Bayan-Ölgii provide ideal conditions for eagle hunting expeditions.
  2. Sagsai and Ulgii Districts: Within Bayan-Ölgii Province, the districts of Sagsai and Ulgii are renowned for their concentration of eagle hunters. Local families often pass down the tradition of eagle hunting from generation to generation, with many skilled hunters residing in these areas.
  3. Altai Tavan Bogd National Park: Situated near the borders of Mongolia, China, and Russia, Altai Tavan Bogd National Park is a scenic area within Bayan-Ölgii Province that attracts tourists interested in experiencing eagle hunting and nomadic culture. Eagle hunters often conduct demonstrations and participate in cultural events here.
  4. Other Western Provinces: While Bayan-Ölgii Province is the primary region associated with eagle hunting, you may also encounter eagle hunters in other western provinces of Mongolia, such as Khovd and Zavkhan. These regions share similar landscapes and cultural traditions with Bayan-Ölgii.


The Red Hat – The “eagle hunters’ red hat” is more than a fashion statement; it is a traditional hat worn by eagle hunters, particularly among the Kazakh people of Central Asia. 

The bright-coloured hat worn by Eagle Hunters holds cultural significance and serves practical purposes. Here are some key points about the Eagle Hunters’ hat:

Cultural Symbolism: In Kazakh culture, red is a significant colour representing bravery, strength, and vitality. The eagle hunter’s red hat is, therefore, not just a piece of clothing but a symbol of the hunter’s prowess and courage.

Practical Use: The hat is typically made from fox fur and often has ear flaps lined with fur to provide warmth in the harsh, cold climates where eagle hunting takes place. It’s designed to withstand the biting winds of the mountains and steppes.

Distinctive Design: The hat’s design can vary, but it commonly includes elements like a pointed crown and ear flaps that can be tied under the chin to keep it secure in windy conditions. Some hats also have decorative elements such as tassels or beads.

Ceremonial Role: In addition to its everyday use, the red hat may have ceremonial significance, being worn during important events or rituals within the eagle hunting community.

Cultural Heritage: Eagle hunting and its associated attire are deeply embedded in the cultural heritage of the Kazakh people and other nomadic groups of the region. The red hat, along with other traditional garments, reflects a way of life that has been passed down through generations.

The eagle hunters’ red hat is thus more than just a piece of clothing; it represents a connection to nature, tradition, and the unique lifestyle of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. It’s a powerful symbol of identity and resilience in a challenging environment.

Other Traditional Clothing – Traditional eagle hunter clothing among the Kazakh people and other nomadic communities in Central Asia is designed to provide warmth, protection, and functionality in harsh mountainous and steppe environments. Here are some key elements of traditional Eagle Hunter clothing:

Deel (or Chapan) – The deel is a long, loose-fitting robe worn by both men and women. It is typically made from thick wool or felt to provide insulation against the cold. Deels often have a sash or belt around the waist to secure the garment and provide a fitted look. The design of the deel can vary by region, with some featuring elaborate embroidery or patterns.

Fur-lined Coats and Vests – In colder climates, eagle hunters wear coats and vests lined with fur, such as fox, wolf, or sheepskin, to provide extra warmth. Depending on the weather, these garments are often worn over the deel and can be removed or added as needed.

Boots – Eagle hunters wear sturdy leather boots with thick soles to navigate rugged terrain and protect against cold and moisture. The boots may be lined with fur or wool for added insulation.

Traditional jewelry, such as silver bracelets, rings, and necklaces, may be worn as adornments and symbols of status within the community.

Practical Design – The overall design of eagle hunter clothing emphasizes functionality and durability. Garments are often made from natural materials that can withstand the demands of a nomadic lifestyle.

Cultural Significance – Each element of traditional eagle hunter clothing reflects the cultural heritage and nomadic traditions of the Kazakh people. The attire is not only practical but also symbolic of the close relationship between humans and nature in these rugged landscapes.

The clothing worn by eagle hunters is a testament to their adaptation to and mastery of the challenging environments they inhabit. It embodies a lifestyle deeply rooted in tradition and shaped by the necessity of surviving and thriving in the wilderness.

I first met Serik Jenisbek in 2013 when I photographed my first Eagle Festival. He was one of the Eagle Hunters who also spent time with my group before the festival began. The following year, he also spent time with my group. I noticed he was sharing outfits to compete in the festival with his brother. I wanted to help. We gave his family money so his mother could make new clothing for the sons. I believe a bond has formed since those first couple of years. Each year I return, Jenisbek makes time to spend with our groups. In 2022, he got married. He invited my entire group back to his home in Ulgii for dinner. It’s been a joy to watch this young man grow and start a new family. Maybe one day, his children will become Eagle hunters like their father, and I will get the chance to photograph them. 


Becoming an Eagle Hunter is a rigorous and lifelong journey. Young boys and girls often start their training under the mentorship of seasoned hunters, learning the skills needed to handle, train, and hunt with eagles. This training process involves understanding eagle behavior, mastering falconry techniques, and cultivating patience and dedication. As they grow, eagle hunters become respected figures in their communities, embodying the spirit of Mongolia’s nomadic heritage.

The life of an Eagle Hunter is defined by a profound connection to nature and deep respect for the Golden Eagle. Hunters develop keen observational skills, learning to read the landscape and anticipate the behavior of their prey. They gain specialized knowledge of eagle behavior, understanding the unique characteristics of their birds. Eagle Hunters are not merely practitioners of a craft; they are stewards of an ancient tradition, preserving a way of life that reflects the resilience and ingenuity of Mongolia’s nomadic people.

This was a full-circle moment for me. This is Buybelot’s son, whom I met on my first trip to the Eagle Hunters. This was his young son that he was referring to when he was talking about future hopes and dreams for his family. He is now an Eagle hunter and learning how to be a farmer like his dad. As I sat there and photographed him, I could not help but think back to talking to Buybelot and his family… his son is now a young man who is Eagle hunting, and my children are also growing; my son is now a dad, and my daughter, soon to be a mom. It’s this generational connection that keeps me striving to get my groups to take more than a snapshot. I hope they walk away enriched because of my connection to this community, thinking about their images as a meaningful moment from a trip they will not forget. 


Eagle hunting is a masterful craft that demands not only skillful technique but also deep cultural wisdom. Hunters don specially designed leather gauntlets to protect their arms from the eagle’s formidable talons. They use a variety of calls and signals to communicate with their eagles during hunts, orchestrating intricate strategies to locate and capture prey. Each hunting expedition is a testament to the profound harmony between hunter and eagle, showcasing the culmination of years of dedication and tradition.

The art of eagle hunting transcends the practical aspects of capturing prey; it embodies a holistic understanding of the environment and the interdependence of all species. Hunters navigate vast landscapes, often on horseback, using their intimate knowledge of the terrain and animal behavior to maximize their success. Each hunt is a dynamic interaction between hunter, eagle, and nature—a dance of skill and intuition that exemplifies the mastery of a timeless tradition.

In the vast steppes of Mongolia, eagle hunting becomes a symphony of life, where the bond between human and bird is forged in the crucible of nature’s challenges. This ancient practice is not merely about survival; it is a celebration of the intricate relationship between man and the natural world. Each moment in the hunt reflects the resilience, ingenuity, and spirit of Mongolia’s nomadic heritage, inspiring awe and reverence for a way of life that has endured through the ages.

For years, I visited the Eagle Hunter community in the fall. I had never had the chance to spend time with them in the winter until the winter of 2024. It wasn’t until that trip that I appreciated the solitude and bone-chilling temperatures an Eagle Hunter endures in the remote Altai Mountain region. For two days, we spent time with four Eagle Hunters in temperatures that reached -30C (-22F) 


Eagle hunting in Mongolia typically takes place during the winter months. This timeframe aligns with the natural hunting season of Golden eagles and the behaviour of their prey species. Here is a breakdown of the hunting season for eagle hunters in Mongolia.

This is a time of year when approximately 80 Eagle Hunters come together to participate in events for thousands of tourists. It is a fun festival where one can witness different events over a three-day period. While I have always had fun here, it is not the best for photographers. The backgrounds are cluttered and can present a challenging photo opportunity. 

Late Autumn (October – November)

Eagle Hunters begin preparing for the upcoming hunting season by training and conditioning their eagles. This period involves strengthening the bond between the hunter and the eagle and practicing essential hunting techniques. This is also the time of festivals for the Eagle Hunters. The Eagle Hunter Festival is a traditional event held annually in Bayan-Ölgii, a province in western Mongolia. This festival celebrates the ancient art of eagle hunting. During the Eagle Hunter Festival, participants showcase their skills in various contests and competitions centred around eagle hunting. 

Kokpar is a traditional Mongolian nomadic game that is actually “tug-of-war with a goat carcass while on horseback.” The winner of each match continues to the next round until one final winner is crowned. The games are intense. It shows how much a man and horse can work together. The intensity can sometimes get heated. At one of my first Kokpar events, Kazakh and Mongolian men ended up in an outright brawl and fistfight. 

These contests typically include:

  • Eagle Calling: Participants demonstrate their ability to call their eagles from a distance and have them land on their arms.
  • Eagle Training and Handling: Eagle hunters display their techniques for training and handling these majestic birds of prey.
  • Traditional Costume Parade: Competitors dress in traditional Kazakh attire, often adorned with intricate embroidery and jewelry.
  • Horse Riding and Games: Alongside eagle hunting, horse riding is an essential skill for nomadic life, and horseback competitions are common during the festival.
  • Cultural Performances: The festival often includes performances of traditional Kazakh music, dance, and other cultural displays.
  • Feasting and Celebration: Attendees have the opportunity to enjoy local cuisine and immerse themselves in the nomadic lifestyle.
Eagle hunting occurs high up in the Altai mountains. One Eagle hunter sits up on a ridge, and his partner will either be with him or down below, flushing out the prey to help the eagle see the prey run on the barren white landscapes below. 

Winter (December – February)

The peak of the eagle hunting season occurs during the winter months when temperatures drop and the landscape is covered in snow. This time of year is ideal for hunting because:

  • Prey species such as foxes, hares, and marmots are more visible against the white snow, making them easier for eagles to spot.
  • Eagles are more active during colder weather, which enhances their hunting abilities and stamina.
  • The harsh winter conditions create challenges for prey animals, making them more vulnerable to eagle attacks.

Early Spring (March – April)

As winter transitions into spring, the hunting season gradually comes to a close. Eagle Hunters may continue to practice and train with their eagles during this time, but the focus shifts away from regular hunting expeditions. Their focus shifts more towards moving their herds and family to their summer homes in the valleys of the Altai Mountain range. 


Eagle hunting is steeped in many rituals celebrating the spiritual connection between humans and nature. 

Before each hunting season, Eagle Hunters participate in ceremonies that invoke blessings for a successful hunt and ensure the safety of both hunters and eagles. These ceremonies often include offerings to the spirits and prayers for prosperity and good fortune. The rituals surrounding eagle hunting are a testament to Mongolian nomads’ profound reverence for their environment.

A more culturally significant ceremony is the release of a Golden eagle back into the wild once the Golden eagle reaches the age of 9-12 years of age. This ritual reflects the deep respect and reverence that eagle hunters have for their eagles and symbolizes the completion of a successful hunting season. The ceremony also honours the eagle’s role as a companion and provider while acknowledging its intrinsic connection to the natural world. 

Before the ceremony, the Eagle Hunters prepare themselves, their family, and the eagle for the event. This involves cleaning and decorating traditional attire, such as deel (Mongolian robe), and gathering ceremonial objects, such as offerings and symbolic items like eagle feathers.

The ceremony typically involves the participation of the local community, including family members, fellow eagle hunters, and sometimes neighbours or villagers. The gathering may occur in a communal or open area that is significant to the community.

The ceremony begins with opening rituals that may include prayers, invocations, or offerings to the spirits of nature and ancestors. These rituals seek blessings for the eagle’s journey back to the wild and express gratitude for the successful partnership between the eagle and the hunter.

The Eagle Hunter approaches the eagle, which may be perched on a special stand or held on the hunter’s arm. Words of gratitude and farewell are spoken to the eagle, acknowledging its strength, companionship, and contribution to the hunter’s life and livelihood. The hunter may also offer gifts or symbolic items to the eagle as a gesture of appreciation.

The ceremony’s climax is the eagle’s release back into the wild. The Eagle Hunter carefully removes the jesses (leather straps) from the eagle’s legs, symbolizing the end of the hunting partnership. The eagle is then encouraged to take flight, signifying its return to freedom and the natural world.

After the eagle is released, the community may celebrate with music, dance, and shared meals. The ceremony is an opportunity for reflection on the cycle of nature, the interconnectedness of all beings, and the importance of preserving traditions that honour wildlife and the environment.

The emotional ceremony concludes with closing blessings and expressions of hope for the eagle’s well-being in its natural habitat. Participants may offer final prayers or words of encouragement as they witness the eagle’s graceful departure.

Rituals and ceremonies are integral to the Eagle hunting tradition, reinforcing the cultural significance of this ancient practice. By honouring the spirits of the land and seeking divine protection, Eagle Hunters demonstrate a deep sense of gratitude and humility. These rituals serve as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the importance of preserving the balance between humanity and nature.

Portrait time inside the ger tent is selfishly one of my favourite things to do when we visit the Eagle Hunters. We cycle through the guests so there is only one photographer with an eagle hunter at once. This increases the photographer/subject connection. I get to stay in the tent for the whole time. I am not taking photos; rather, it’s the time I take to catch up with my friends, whom I only get to see once or twice a year. It also keeps the mood light during the portrait sessions and keeps the Eagle Hunters engaged with my guests when it’s their turn to take their portraits.


In the face of modernization and changing societal dynamics, eagle hunting has faced challenges in terms of sustainability and continuity. Economic shifts and urbanization have led to declining numbers of eagle hunters, threatening this ancient tradition with extinction. However, efforts are underway to preserve and promote eagle hunting as a cultural heritage, emphasizing its significance as a Mongolian identity and resilience symbol.

The transition from a nomadic lifestyle to settled communities has also posed significant challenges for Eagle Hunters. Economic pressures and changing social norms have altered the traditional fabric of Mongolian society, impacting the practice of eagle hunting. Younger generations are increasingly drawn to urban opportunities, leaving behind the rural landscapes where eagle hunting thrives.

Daiynbek Ay Molder is a young Eagle Huntress I met back in 2023. She is one of many young women who have taken up Eagle hunting since I first photographed Aisolphan in 2013 when the movie The Eagle Huntress was filmed. In the last ten years, I have had the pleasure of witnessing three amazing young women and their golden eagles, Aisolphan, Zamanbol and Molder. 


Looking ahead, the future of eagle hunting in Mongolia is at a precarious crossroads. While this ancient tradition continues to captivate the world, its survival is increasingly uncertain. The delicate balance of preserving its essence while adapting to contemporary realities is proving to be a formidable challenge. Now, more than ever is the time to witness this remarkable practice before it faces the threat of extinction.

Aisolphan gets some lessons from her father, Nurgav, during a training day we were invited to photograph in 2017. This was before Aisolphan moved to study in Kazakstan. This was the trip she told me that she would be going off to University and would be releasing her eagle back into the wild. We both sat there in tears. This was the first time I felt like part of this community. She trusted me enough to share her sadness, and she knew I understood the bond Eagle hunters have with their eagles. 

The preservation of eagle hunting necessitates a comprehensive approach addressing economic, environmental, and cultural dimensions. Efforts to foster partnerships between local communities, government agencies, and international organizations are just beginning to take shape. These initiatives aim to protect and promote this age-old tradition through education, conservation, and cultural exchange. Educational programs and outreach efforts are crucial in raising awareness about the importance of eagle hunting and inspiring future generations to embrace their cultural heritage.

However, climate change is casting a long shadow over the future of eagle hunting in Mongolia. The changing climate is not only affecting the natural environment but also disrupting the traditional practices of eagle hunters. Altered landscapes, shifting temperatures, and unpredictable precipitation patterns are wreaking havoc on the habitats of prey species and Golden eagles alike. As traditional hunting territories become less predictable and accessible, eagle hunters are struggling to locate prey and conduct successful hunts.

Zamanbol looks at her older cousin, Bazarbay, posing with his Golden eagle up in the Altai mountains.

Mongolia’s vulnerability to extreme weather events such as droughts, storms, and harsh winters (known as dzuds) further exacerbates the situation. These increasingly frequent and severe events directly impact the livelihoods of nomadic communities and the well-being of Golden Eagles. Severe weather can disrupt hunting activities, endanger both hunters and their eagles, and worsen challenges related to food security and animal health.

Bazarbay was at a private Eagle Hunter Festival that we sponsored in 2018. He had his whole family there that day. He asked me to take some family portraits for him in the portrait studio we set up. This photo always makes me laugh. His son’s personality is showing through. I don’t think I would have gotten this kind of reaction if I had not developed the kind of relationships I have fostered over the many years of travelling to spend time with the Eagle hunters. 

As climate change reshapes Mongolia’s landscapes and ecosystems, eagle hunters are forced to adapt their traditional practices to new environmental realities. This adaptation may involve exploring alternative hunting techniques, adjusting hunting seasons or locations, or diversifying livelihood strategies to cope with changing conditions. The ability of eagle hunters to innovate and preserve their cultural heritage in the face of climate change will be crucial for the continuity of this ancient tradition.

Witnessing the art of eagle hunting now, before it potentially fades into history, offers a unique and urgent opportunity to experience a living tradition that exemplifies the resilience and ingenuity of Mongolia’s nomadic people. Don’t miss the chance to be a part of this extraordinary legacy while it still thrives against the odds.


This is a model that we hired and dressed in 13th-century Mongolian Queen attire. I originally travelled to Mongolia because I am a history buff. I wanted to learn more about the culture, Chengis Khann and the Silk Road. I remember walking through a Museum in Ulaanbaatar. They had a hallway of traditional dress. I was amazed at the detailed outfits that the aristocratic people wore throughout their history. Some of the costumes reminded me of Padmé Amidala from Star Wars. So, we went to the costume shop and rented a costume for the day. This photo conjures up memories of my zest for learning about history on my early visits to Mongolia. 

Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm f4
Aperture: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/125th of a second

Lighting Sources: Natural lighting from her right side late in the day
Composition Notes: I used f4 to mute the background and make sure she was in focus.  I also offset her to my left and have her gaze off into the empty space to my right so the entire group could get the same photo. Having her look at one person at a time would have us lose the diffused light produced by a cloud.

This image takes me back to my first visit to the Eagle Hunter Festival near Ulgii. I remember watching these Golden Eagles sit on the arms of the Eagle Hunters up on the hill. I was thinking to myself, “Those eagles are large”. Then, this man caught his Golden eagle 50 yards away from me. I had no idea just how large they were. This photo really shows how large these birds are in comparison to a man. 

Camera: Nikon D500
Lens: Sigma 150-600m f5.6-6.2
Aperture: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/3000th
Lighting Sources: Natural lighting from the sun that was coming from my back right side

Composition Notes: The Eagle Hunters were calling their eagles from a cliff. I wanted to convey just how large these female Golde eagles were in comparison to a man. This photo shows the 8’ wingspan and 2ft tall body of the eagle in full display.

This image makes me remember how wonderful the Mongolian people really are. We went to visit the Eagle hunters in July. Traditionally, it is a hot month. We all had brought light coats, shorts and T-shirts. We were not prepared for this freak snowfall and freezing temperatures that we woke to one morning. Families from around the valley heard we were there. They came from everywhere to bring us warm clothing to keep us comfortable and warm. 

Camera: Nikon D4s
Lens: Nikkor 24-105mm f4
Aperture: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/250th of a second
Lighting Sources: The Sun was to my back, so their faces would be lit up

Composition Notes:  I framed the Eagle Hunters and ger tent with the mountain behind them. I waited until the wind picked up to produce some clouds over the mountains. 

A tour to Mongolia with me now includes the Gobi desert. This was the second group of people that I visited on my travels to Mongolia. The Bactria, or two-humped camel, permits the Mongols to transport heavy loads through the desert and other inhospitable terrain. The camel is invaluable not only for transporting folded gers and other household furnishings when the Mongols moved to new pastureland but also for carrying goods designed for trade, something that dates back to when the Han dynasty started the Silk Road back in the 2nd century. 

Camera: Nikon z9
Lens: Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8
Aperture: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/800th of a second
Lighting Sources: Early morning light coming from the right side

Composition Notes:  I used the leading lines in the sand to draw the eye toward the Camel herder on top of the dunes. I go out into the dunes before sunrise so we can have high contrast in the dunes and have the sun expose the leading lines in the sand

In 2018, I was honoured by the Government of Mongolia. They gave me a citation for my dedication to building tourism and promoting Mongolia. When that happened, new opportunities opened up for me in Mongolia. The next year I was granted access to photograph the Monks at the Gandan Monastery in Mongolia, something that is considered off-limits for people. 
This image was a result of that decision to allow me access. While I love how this photo turned out, far more important to me is the memory of my dedication and the willingness of the Mongolian people to share their culture with me and my groups.

Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikkor 24-105mm f4
Aperture: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/250th of a second
Lighting Sources: Behind him, we used natural light from a window to illuminate the mist coming off the tea. To illuminate his face, we used a gold reflector placed in front of him. 

Composition Notes:  I made sure there was a black backdrop behind him so the focus would be on the Monk. The photo is more about the ceremony of drinking the tea, so that is why I placed him off to the left of the frame, featuring the tea against the dark background. 


What have I learned after my time in Mongolia? Eagle hunting in Mongolia represents far more than a mere hunting technique—it embodies the enduring spirit of a people deeply intertwined with their environment and heritage.

Each journey into the world of Eagle Hunters reveals new insights into a timeless tradition that honours the profound bond between humans and nature. The friendships I have forged within the eagle hunting community offer me a deeper glimpse into the soul of Mongolia, a land where ancient traditions flourish amidst the ever-changing currents of the modern world.

My connections have transcended the photographer/subject dynamic. These proud people have become cherished friends, and my time in Mongolia is now about rekindling these bonds and continuing a personal journey that has spanned over a decade. It’s a journey of discovering their families, embracing their way of life, and celebrating the rich tapestry of their culture.

Join me in this extraordinary adventure, where every visit feels like a homecoming, and each experience leaves an indelible mark on your heart. Let us explore together the majestic landscapes and timeless traditions of Mongolia, forging unforgettable memories and connections that will inspire you long after you return home. See our Mongolia Tours Here

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