The Very Best of Mongolia: Eagle Hunters, Landscapes, Gobi Desert
September 19 – 30, 2023
We will begin our journey 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’ll 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.
We’ll then travel to Ölgii province to meet the Eagle Hunters, their families, and eagles. We’ve been invited into the world of the Kazakh Eagle Hunters because of the trust we have built through nearly 10 years of visiting them. We’ll journey up into the mountains with them and watch as they exercise and train their birds. After several days of photographing this community, we’ll get to photograph our very own private eagle festival! Why private? The Golden Eagle Festival has 2,500 attendees, and it’s challenging to get the photographs we want. From our front-row seats, we’ll 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’s just our small group and about 40 Eagle Hunters. It’s a festive event, the stakes are high, and the competition is fierce! Our private Eagle Festival has become something that the Eagle Hunters know about and compete for. We’ll 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 homes. Kazakh hospitality is legendary, and you’ll likely be invited for a cup of tea or two!
Journey deep into the Mongolian countryside to places few get a chance to experience. You will be learning how to capture photographs of action, intimate portraits, compose compelling environmental portraits, and work on your landscape composition techniques throughout our journey in these stunning landscapes.
This workshop is fully customized—you’ll have simple but comfortable accommodations and our own private chef—so you can focus on the experience. Time has also been set aside for our famous image reviews and critiques to help you produce stunning images throughout our journey.
Come witness lifestyles that have been preserved for centuries with an instructor who has a wealth of experience leading photographers on epic adventures around the globe.
Read More About Mongolia
We’ve been invited into the world of the Kazakh Eagle Hunters because of the trust we have built through nearly 10 years of visiting them. Read more about our experiences with the fascinating culture and people of Mongolia.
We have learned to expect the unexpected! This itinerary is subject to change, but we intend to keep as close to it as possible. Also, not listed in the itinerary are the many image reviews, critiques, and post-processing sessions that we’ll have over the two weeks. We schedule them when time and facilities best allow.
September 19, 2023: Arrive today in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (ULN airport code), you will be picked up by our drivers holding a “Muench Workshops” sign with your name on it. You’ll go right to our hotel in downtown “UB.” The workshop starts with a group meeting at 5:00 PM in the lobby of our hotel, and then we will go for a group dinner at our favorite restaurant in UB. We’ll discuss the workshop and get to know each other better.
September 20, 2023: After breakfast, we’ll get settled into our comfortable Toyota minivans. There will only be three guests per vehicle to allow for plenty of room for you and your camera bag without crowding. We will head towards the Gobi Desert, photographing along the way, with a photoshoot of horses at sunset.
September 21, 2023: We reach the Khongor sand dunes in the late morning. These are the most substantial and most beautiful of the Mongolian sand dunes, stretching for some 170km in length. At the Khongor Oasis area, the dunes reach a height of about 200 meters, and locals call them “The Singing Dunes.” Upon arrival, we will check into our Ger camp. We will visit the camel herder’s family to discuss our private photoshoots of Bactrian Camels and camel herders in traditional Mongolian dress. Overnight at Ger camp. Heated Gers, comfy beds. Electricity for charging is in the main building. Toilet and shower facilities are in a separate building and are western-style.
September 22, 2023: Today, we are at the Khongor sand dunes photographing the dunes and camel herders. It is a full day with exclusive access to the camel herders and camels at sunrise and sunset, walking and riding on the dunes. After our sunset shoot and visit with the camel herder family, we’ll take the very short drive back to our Ger camp and have dinner and download images.
September 23, 2023: After a morning photo shoot at the sand dunes, we drive back to Dalanzadgad, where we will have a review of your images from the Gobi desert.
September 24, 2023: After breakfast, we drive back to UB. We’re in our comfortable Toyota Minivans, and you can stretch out in “First Class” and enjoy a nice nap. We reach UB by late afternoon, and check-in to our hotel and have dinner.
September 25, 2023: We’re up very early so we can fly to Ulgii on a 6:00 AM flight. No worries about airline luggage allowances, we’ve taken care of that! Once we arrive in Ulgii, we will visit and photograph at the local outdoor market. Afterward, we’ll grab a coffee in Ulgii, discuss the events of the coming days, and have the first of many private photoshoots with our host Eagle Hunter family.
Our accommodations for the next two nights are where you will see yourself living alongside an actual Eagle Hunter family. We will sleep in heated Ger tents. Men in one Ger, women in another Ger. Comfortable beds, and plenty of space. Toilet facilities are camp-style: a ground-toilet with a small tent around it. Electricity for charging is by a generator, and is in the main dining Ger tent, as needed. Amazing meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner cooked by our private chefs.
September 26, 2023: We have private sessions with a total of five eagle hunters in the foothills of the mountains. You will photograph the methods that the eagle hunters have used to supply food and fur for their families for over one thousand years. At sunrise and sunset, we’ll have five eagle hunters on horseback with their golden eagles. Throughout the day, we have a variety of photoshoots and portrait sessions planned.
September 27, 2023: This is a special day—our own private eagle festival! We have worked with the Eagle Hunters and locals to create a unique private Eagle festival just for us. You will witness and photograph their eagle hunting skills, wild horse riding, kockbar, and other events that show off the prowess of horse rider and horse. You can shoot indoor portraits of some of the best eagle hunters in our own private tent. This may be a private eagle festival, but the competition is fierce, real, and intense!
September 28, 2023: Catch our early afternoon flight back to UB from Ulgii. Upon arrival in UB, we will head to our hotel and have dinner in the hotel.
September 29, 2023: Today, we travel just outside the city and we’ll photograph Mongolian archers on horseback. Later in the day, we will visit the best cashmere stores in UB where you can purchase some of the finest cashmere in the world, and grab a quick lunch. Back at the hotel, we will have a final editing session. Then it’s a celebratory dinner prepared just for you in a museum in UB, catered by our private chefs. We’ll then head back to the hotel and overnight at the Best Western.
September 30, 2023: Depart for home.
Physical: Though there is not much hiking on this workshop, you should be fit enough to walk a mile or two on level ground with your photo pack. During our time with the eagle hunters, the walks are usually less than 300 meters from the vehicle. In the Gobi, some of the shoots will require you to climb up or down low sand dunes, and you might walk on heavy sand for a little while. Optionally, you can climb some of the largest dunes on earth! Expect long days with early mornings up for sunrise. There is downtime every day, so you can rest, relax, or nap. Evenings are usually not too late unless we are shooting the night sky.
Food: 4- and 5-star restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, with a choice of local and internationally-known foods. In the Gobi, we'll eat dishes you know and understand, but cooked in the Mongolian way. At the eagle family, our private camp in the valley, and in the Gobi Desert, we have our own private chefs. They will cook dishes you know and like in the traditional Mongolian ways. Beef, chicken, lamb, pasta, vegetables are all featured. We can accommodate food allergies and special dietary requirements throughout the workshop in all locations, no problem.
Accommodations: In Ulaanbaatar, we are at a 5-star hotel with all the expected comforts. On our way to the Gobi, we will spend a night in a comfortable 3-star hotel. At the Gobi, we are comfy Gers with separate bathroom facilities that are shared by all. At the Eagle Hunters near Ulgii, we are in shared Ger tents, bathroom facilities that are shared by all.
Transportation: We have two commercial in-country flights. Most camera bags will fit in the overhead bins, but roller bags will not fit and must be checked. We have paid for extra weight allowances for your camera gear. When driving, we are in comfortable new minivans, with three guests to a van, with plenty of room to stretch out. When off-road and when out at the eagle families, we are in Toyota Land Cruisers, again three guests to a vehicle with plenty of room for you and your gear. The roads can range from extremely bumpy dirt tracks to smooth paved highways.
Moderate: You must be able to complete walks of 1 mile on uneven ground or heavy sand.
Arrive Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN), Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia before 3:00 PM on September 19, 2023. Flights out can be made anytime on September 30, 2023.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $750 supplement. (Hotels only.)
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop.
- Internal flights during the workshop.
- All transportation during the workshop.
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides.
- Multiple image reviews and post-processing sessions.
- English-speaking local guide throughout the workshop.
- Photographic guiding and instruction from 2 pros.
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction.
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!
- Travel to and from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Single rooming available for $750 supplement. (Hotels only.)
“The photo opportunities were fantastic. Especially the eagle hunters. Kevin was great. Helpful and fun, but not intrusive. He put our shooting ahead of his, which is something that some leaders sadly do not do. I would definitely like to go on another one of his trips.t
Kevin was great at the short recommendation for settings right before a shoot and he always seemed to be correct. ”