Mongolia In February

In Assignments, Awards & Accolades, GEAR, Travel by David11 Comments


**There’s a subliminal message embedded in this photograph. See if you can find it.

I’ve had some questions about my preparation to shoot in Mongolia. It’s a winter shoot, outside, so it comes with challenges I don’t usually face while shooting in Africa, S. America or Asia. Temps right now in Ulaanbataar are running from highs of -15C to lows of -35C (that’s 5F to -31F) and for me – a wimpy west-coaster – that’s really cold.

I’m dealing with two issues, aside from the limited daylight hours. One is how I am going to manage the cold, the other is how my gear is going to manage.

We’ll have 5 hours of daylight and 2 hours of dusky light.
To extend the shooting day I carry a Canon 580EX, 430EX and a handful of pocketwizards, along with an off-shoe cable, and various gels, diffusers, etc to throw a little more light into huts and gers, etc. Long an opponent of strobes I am growing to appreciate their versatility. When you need them, you need them.

The Canon 5D is rated by Canon to operate to -40C, so the real issues
in the cold are battery life and moving from cold to warm, which causes
condensation. Spare batteries will go in an inside pocket and be kept
warm with HotShots if necessary. Cameras will be put into
medium-sized kitchen garbage bags, the air sucked out, and the top
twisted shut before going back into the vehicle. I’ve got a bag of
silica packets to deal with errant moisture in the plastic bag.

I don’t do cold. There are reasons I moved from the east to the west – several of them involve the climate. Here’s what I’m packing:

2 pairs North Face long underwear – bottoms
2 pairs North Face long underwear – tops
1 pair MEC fleece tights
2 pairs Filson Rainier Pants
3 pairs liner socks
2 pairs Wigwam -40 Socks
Patagonia Retro-X Jacket
Patagonia Down Jacket
Patagonia Primo Gloves
Assorted toques and balaclavas
Salomon B29 Boots
Hot shots – pocket warmers to keep spare batts warm.

My client has a great sense of humour, so I’m pretty sure she’s kidding about all this and when I get my passports back the visas won’t say China and Mongolia, they’ll say Botswana and Swaziland and the joke will be on me, and we’ll all laugh.


  1. hah! I love that photo. I would love to be up there in the cold, that is where I thrive ๐Ÿ™‚ Give me -20 any day compared to this +2 rain stuff…bleh!

    Hope you have a wonderful time there though! Mongolia is such an amazing country.

  2. You’re tickets are on the way… ๐Ÿ™‚

    You’re flying Star Alliance round trip – Canada – MONGOLIA – CANADA.

    And my sense of humor will be traveling alongside you in prayer… LOL

  3. Hi Dave,

    Just wanted to let you know that it’s a sunny +15 degrees today in Corsica and that I was thinking about you. In a good way. A warm way.

    Remember, if it gets “too” cold in Mongolia you can always huddle up with the horses like you did in Tunisia Sahara with the camel. Oh wait, did you write about that yet? heh. Well, when you do, let me know and I’ll send the pictures. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Have a good trip!

  4. d, WELCOME TO MONTANA IN JANUARY. if only you had a couple more days, you could just drive to the interior and check out all your gear. man, i do not envy you. i hope you come back with all your toes!

  5. David;
    I’ve been to Mongolia twice. Here’s my advice. 1- Don’t go in winter. 2- Take some food because Mongolian fare is weak at best. 3- Don’t drink the fermented mare’s milk ! (called ireck (sp ?))4 If you have any lung problems forget about breathing as everyone heats with dung,coal or wood.
    Really have a great trip.Look foward to seeing you shots.

  6. Ed – Thanks. I’m afraid when I go is not up to me, so Mongolia in winter it is! I have plenty of powerbars and will do my best to stay away from the fermented horse milk – though you gotta try stuff at least once, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ Still, your comments are appreciated – thank you.

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