Sunday, June 6, 2010

Genghis Kahn, Mongolian Hordes and Controlling Your Own Destiny

A Mongolian Renaissance Faire
I was with a couple of friends. We were out exploring the countryside surrounding Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Up ahead, alongside the road, there appeared to be some kind of festival happening, so we rolled on over to check it out. There was a makeshift grandstand, a covered eating area and a few tent structures from which people were selling food and drinks. There were even a few booths with crafts for sale and demonstrations of various kinds. We had stumbled upon the Mongolian equivalent of a Renaissance Faire!

The Mongolian Hordes of Ghenghis Khan
People were beginning to gather at the grandstand so we ambled on over to see what was happening. In the distance we could see dust clouds drifting over the low hills…and then cresting the nearest hill came hundreds of Mongolians on horseback wearing the costumes of the ancient warriors of Genghis Khan! Wearing iron and leather helmets, brandishing swords, lances and bows and arrows , with banners flying in the wind, the Mongolian hordes were truly at the gates!

Transported Back In Time
It was an awesome sight. It was as if we had been transported back in time. Two opposing armies had gathered several hundred yards apart on each side of the grandstand. In the distance we could see a huge catapult and a Yurt marked with the battle standards of the Mongol Emperor. Various individuals would race across the distance displaying extraordinary riding skills, leaning down and plucking spears and other items from the ground while maintaining a full gallop.

An Ancient Battle of Mock Combat
Eventually the two armies advance towards each other and merged in mock combat. The spectacle, a re-creation of an ancient battle, was a celebration of the birthday of the father of Mongolia, Genghis Khan. It was fascinating to watch. Individuals paired off slashing at each other with swords and stabbing with their spears and lances. I watched as two combatants parried with swords while a third horseman, bearing a lance and, undetected, approached from behind and pretended to skewer one of the embattled warriors. As the horses twisted and pranced beneath their riders their hooves kicked up clouds of dust, and slowly the entire battle scene began to disappear into a brown cloud. “This must have been how it really looked”, I thought to myself.

Flash Cards, Fumbling and Lost Images
Being photographers, all of us were busily shooting away. I had an eight-gig card in my camera and about half way through the melee I had filled it up. Not wanting to miss a second of the action, I frantically pulled a fresh card from my pocket, removed the full card, fumbled the new one into the camera, formatted it and got back to shooting. It wasn’t until I was back in my hotel room that evening that I realized that somehow, in all the excitement, I had put the original card back into the camera and formatted it…losing over half of my shots! Aarrgh! It still hurts thinking about it.

The Importance of Having a System
That little episode truly impressed upon me the importance of having a system to help keep track of full cards and empty ones. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I had been “truly impressed” with that sort of thing. Once, on a boat traveling down the Iriwaddy river in Burma , I was shooting Chinese fishing nets during a sunset when…actually, that is another story for another time. Let’s just say that having a system, for dealing with flash cards and sticking to it, can be a very important part of your photography process!

Taking Control of Your Own Destiny
But there is another, I think more important aspect to this story. A few days ago I got a message from my website (my actual e-mail address is not visible to prevent spam “harvesting”). It was from the art director of a French magazine. He wants to use some of those photos from the Genghis Khan re-enactment. I asked him if he had searched Corbis because the images are online with them. He replied that Corbis didn’t work very well in France and that he couldn’t see the thumbnails. WTH (What the heck)? Well, whatever the explanation, the fact remains that my website was important for getting me revenue from images carried by a stock agency. My website allows me to take some measure of control and supplement the reach of the agency as well as to get my non-agency images out to the world. Taking control of your own destiny is going to continue to grow in importance as the world of photography plunges ahead into the unknown territory of the future .

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Hi hi, I have BIG black numbers on my CF cards. Starting with no.1 and switching to no.2, no.3 and so on.