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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Johnny Haglund

Oct04

The best working tools I've ever had

By Johnny Haglund, Tuesday October 04, 2016
In the middle of it. I’m on the ground, in the face of the eagle, composing and trying to find an unusual angle. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/8, ISO 100.

In the middle of it. I’m on the ground, in the face of the eagle, composing and trying to find an unusual angle. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/8, ISO 100. © Johnny Haglund

Everything, more or less, has been photographed on this planet. And the eagle hunters of western Mongolia have been captured by countless photographers from all around the world. This knowledge pressure on me, because even with limited skills on how to handle a camera, anyone can take a fairly decent photo of these huge flying creatures and their owners. So when it came to me, who makes a living from photography, I certainly needed to come up with something more than just “some nice pictures”.

I decided to approach my assignment as I have always done – by being a fly on the wall; to not stage anything and just spend time with my subject and document what they usually do and hope they do something interesting. So I made a deal with a nomad family who lived quite far away from where the tourists roam. For four days I was to be with them, sleeping in their ‘ger’ (nomadic tent), eating with them and documenting what they usually do on a normal day.

I knew that they start training their eagles in the beginning of autumn to get ready for the winter hunting season, but they don’t do this every day, so it was a risk. But luckily the 70 year old man, Tingil Khan – who’s been doing this for 50 years – was very eager to train his three-year-old female eagle. And when he works with his eagle, he always dresses in traditional clothes – even when he is all alone. In other words, I picked the right family and the right time.

I woke up every morning, before everyone else, to be ready for all they would do. And every time Tingil went out with the eagle, I ran after him and his horse, and tried to just document everything. I would lie on the ground, close to the eagle, put my lens into both the eagle and the man’s face and be on top of them when he fed it and pet it. I was probably lucky the eagle did not hack out my eyes or grab my camera with its powerful claws.

I used my EOS-1D X Mark II to the extreme in both high ISO, autofocus and surprisingly the camera’s extremely fast frame rate. Usually, in my line of photography, I don’t need 14 pictures a second… but I did this time and thank you Canon for putting that in this machine. Because when Tingil trained with his bird, the eagle flew extremely fast and to capture the creature just where I wanted it, as it came towards Tingil, I used the accurate autofocus and 14 frames-per-second, and got the exact photograph which I wanted.

My Mongolia trip is done, and after three weeks with two new Canon cameras (the EOS-1D X Mark II and the EOS 5D Mark IV) and thousands of exposures, I have to say I’ve never been more satisfied with my working tools.

Need for speed. As the eagle was put on the ground and Tingil called it from far away, tempting her with rabbit meat, I needed accurate auto-focus and fast frame speed to get exactly what I wanted… and I got it thanks to my EOS-1D X Mark II. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/8, ISO 640.

Need for speed. As the eagle was put on the ground and Tingil called it from far away, tempting her with rabbit meat, I needed accurate auto-focus and fast frame speed to get exactly what I wanted… and I got it thanks to my EOS-1D X Mark II. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/8, ISO 640. © Johnny Haglund

I’m not going to go into the debate whether this is animal cruelty or not, but I did notice that Tingil was very careful to bring his bird into the 'ger' often, petting it, giving it proper food and more. Here the bird, Tingil and his grandson. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 41mm; the exposure was 1/30sec at f/5,6, ISO 3200.

I’m not going to go into the debate whether this is animal cruelty or not, but I did notice that Tingil was very careful to bring his bird into the 'ger' often, petting it, giving it proper food and more. Here the bird, Tingil and his grandson. Taken on an EOS-1D X Mark II with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 41mm; the exposure was 1/30sec at f/5,6, ISO 3200. © Johnny Haglund