Week 5 – Naadam Festival in Mongolia

Uurga competition at the Naadam Festival in the Gobi near Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia

Uurga competition at the Naadam Festival in the Gobi near Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia

The Naadam Festival is a traditional festival in Mongolia, and takes place each year throughout the country. There are three main games; wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Until recently the games were mostly for men. This picture is the Uurga competition. The uurga is a pole lasso 10-12 feet in length with a leather loop at the slender end. The uurga is used to catch horses and other livestock and is generally used by a rider on a horse. For the Naadam games the uurga is placed on the ground. A rider approaches at full gallop and tries to grab the uurga as he passes. He gets two more tries should he miss the first time. This sport took place for perhaps an hour with many men taking their turns. I found a location with a clean background and front light. I experimented with a variety of shutter speeds beginning with freezing the action all the way to a very blurred capture. The one I have shown is partially blurred but sharp enough to see the expression and strain on the riders face. You can observe the dust and the motion of the horse’s legs. This young man grabbed the uurga on his first try. Notice his position. He is holding on with a rope and one leg, and is on the side of the horse.

The Naadam festival that I attended was in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia near the Three Camel Lodge. For many years I had the conception that a desert was sand dunes. The Gobi does have areas of sand dunes but for the most part it is covered with rocks, grass, and low shrubs. My first trip to Antarctica taught me that Antarctica is the largest desert in the world and it is covered in ice and snow, not sand. I looked up the definition of a desert and it was said to be a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The Gobi is the fourth largest desert in the world and extends into China.

Technical data:

  • Camera Panasonic mirrowless micro four thirds DMC-GH4
  • Lens was Lumix G Vario 35-100 mm f/2.8 lens.
  • Exposure was 1/60 sec. at f/22, ISO 200 at 89 mm
  • Taken August 1, 2015 at 3:39 PM