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Mongolian Eagle Hunters: Stunning Portraits of a 4,000-Year-Old Tradition

By Chad DiBlasio on April 1st 2016

Following a text from fellow photographer and videographer Cale Glendening, Sasha Leahovcenco got the chance of a lifetime to travel to the mysterious land of Mongolia (which he referred to as a “bucket list country”) and take a step back in time. When I say back in time, I mean a place where dinners are cooked in a clay house over an open flame, where cell phones and modern conveniences like TV and the internet are not commonplace. This is a land where for more than 4000 years, the families and people have been tracking and hunting wildlife with eagles they trapped and trained from the wild. They do this, not only as a way to carry on tradition, but as a way to provide food and clothing for their families in this stunning, but harsh environment. While on a trip from a commission for a news agency, a small group of friends were able to live with and partake in the life few have seen with such closeness.

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Chatting with Sasha, one of the things that came up was this idea of being involved. What allowed these kinds of intimate photos to take place was that Sasha and the team decided to live with the hunters and their families for a week while doing the photos. Sasha spoke about the experience of the shoot saying, “I think you always go into situations like this where people live without the ‘luxuries’ we have like cell phones and computers expecting to impact them or influence them in some way. What has ALWAYS happened to me though is that they seriously impact me. Their love of simple life and traditions moved me.


The Setup

The setup of the entire shoot was relatively simple by design. Sasha said he likes to travel light, but also doesn’t like to have an intense setup that distracts from the story. The 35″ Octabox from Paul C. Buff, powered by the Alien Bee B800 made setup quick, and the large, soft light made for a perfect contrast to the stark and bare surroundings. The main light source was typically placed a few feet from the subject at a typical “down at a 45” setup.

Complete Gear List:

Main bag: ThinkTank Airport Security 2.0
Shoulder bag: ThinkTank Retrospective 30
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 24-70mm II
Main Light: 35″ Octabox with AlienBees B800
Battery pack: Vagabond Mini 120VAC
Light stand: 10-foot light stand


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To see more of Sasha’s work, check out his personal site here.

Images by Sasha Leahovcenco
Director/Organizer Cale Glendening
Images edited by PRATIK NAIK

CREDITS: Photographs by Sasha Leahovcenco are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify, or re-post this article or image without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Chad is a central Ohio based wedding/portrait photographer and educator. When he isn’t busy with his 4 kiddos, watching Gray’s Anatomy (with his wife…) or making things, he spends his time pinning home improvement wishes and learning about essential oils – he’s actually a hippie in hiding. He thoroughly enjoys laughing, riding motorcycles and a nicely edged yard. He’s been shooting for a shade over a decade and loves to talk tech and business.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Brian Wright


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  2. Bob Davis


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  3. Paul Wynn

    WOW these are amazing location portraits. Sasha is a true photographic artist.

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  4. James O

    Those are excellent photos. I’m curious though if the skies are from the same shot? The clouds look very smooth.

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    • Sasha Leahovcenco

      Thanks James. Yes, those skies looked unreal.

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    • James O

      Thanks for the reply, great work- it reminds me of Human Planet.

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    • Chad DiBlasio

      They are indeed James! Sasha mentioned that they even had to be a bit desaturated in post bc they were so unbelievably bright and colorful in real life!

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