Early the next morning, we were taken to a Mongolian Buddhist temple. We arrived before sunrise, even before the monks themselves were up. The entire place was empty, quiet, and incredibly cold, especially to me since I was only wearing a t-shirt and light sport coat. The only sound in this serene place were the numerous prayer ribbons flapping in the wind.
There were trails that led off in all directions through the trees. Some led to this large stone structure held up by four pillars. All of the pillars were covered with prayer ribbons coming in from all directions, all flapping in the wind.
Continuing on through some trails, I found this monk getting up and coming out of his yurt. He saw my camera and waved me off as if to say, “no pictures.” But the government official that was walking with me said some stern words to the monk, and then turned to me and said, “You may now photograph him.” The monk smiled and I was able to get this great portrait.
The government official had become a friend at this point. We had many interesting conversations while I was there, and he also knew that I loved to photograph people and faces, not just locations. I don’t know what he said to the monk, but I was very grateful to get the man’s portrait.
The trails wound their way through the terrain and eventually led to these stairs, going up to the Buddhist temple. I loved that the place was empty, even void of local temple visitors because of the early hour. Having the place to myself to photograph was superb.
Once getting up to the temple and seeing it was closed, I hiked on, looking for more vantage points and ways that I could photograph it from a distance. There were trails in various directions, that led up and down mountains and through small canyons. And some trails were laced with these prayer ribbons that seemed to go as far as you could see.
A short hike up some steep rocks let to a great view of the temple and the sun rising behind in the mountains.
I continued hiking higher and realized that I had very few pictures of myself on this trip. Most of the time after visiting a place, I come home to realize that I have lots of photographs of the things I’ve seen, and no images of me there. I took a moment to shoot a self-portrait using an outstretched arm and my Lumix point-and-shoot. After looking at the image on the back of the camera, I realized I had forgot to remove the shemagh I was wearing to keep my head and ears warm from the cold, winter wind.
I had packed light and was unprepared for below freezing temperatures. I was only wearing my t-shirt and light sport coat because it was all I brought, knowing that on the past trips to Beijing, I was able to pick up good knock-off NorthFace jackets for $15 when needed. But on this trip I was nowhere near the silk markets of Beijing while in China, and when I got to Mongolia, it was far colder.
I did however buy some knit gloves in Mongolia that had the words, “MAN” printed on them, and I almost always travel with a shemagh for its versatility. It’s handy as a scarf, but can be a tourniquet or sling in an emergency. On this trip I wore it often as a face mask to filter the common cigarette smoke or dusty air, I used it as a sunshade on long drives, and here at the temple I wore it as a head wrap to keep my ears and head warm in the wind.
But forgetting that I had it on the photo, I pulled it down around my neck and asked my new photographer friend from Malta to take a few shots of me. He and I got along great and we found ourselves often hunting for very similar images. I liked his eye, and he also shot the same Nikon D800 that I had with me. So with my Nikon, he shot these two images of me.
I was very grateful to get some photos of myself on this trip, and now that I’m home, I prefer the first image with the shemagh tied around my head. Though the scarf isn’t oriental, it does give the image a more exotic look.
Hiking up to the highest point on one mountain, there was a fence of prayer ribbons surrounding a very large rock on a cliff. I shot this panorama and it became one of my favorite images from the trip. I’ve already made up a small 30″ print of it for my home.
Also, my briefcase from Saddleback Leather has become one of my favorite travel items. I use it as an airline carry-on for my iPad, laptop, headphones, and books, and then at my destination I change the contents and straps and it becomes my backpack and camera bag. I had the thought that perhaps if I photographed my cool looking bag in this exotic location, maybe the company would want to buy some images or give me some trade. So with that in mind, I shot these two images as if for an ad for Saddleback. I haven’t yet contacted them or shown them these images yet, but I really like how they turned out.
At this point, then the temple opened its doors and the monks began to come for their daily chant. I have a lot of images of them worshiping that I’ll share in my next entry. They are some of my favorite images of the trip.
So until next time, America.