Mongolia – Treading on Bones

I landed a job in Mongolia over the summer to create an image library about dino bones. It all started with an out of the blue call from an old friend, Michelle, who’s with Infiniti Motors in Hong Kong. She asked if I was interested in supporting their media program and I was all ears. Gigs with Michelle have always had a wonderful sense of adventure.

An international media crew was invited to join the tail end of an expedition to retrace some of historic explorer Roy Chapman Andrews routes, dating back to the early 1900’s. Using drone technology, we could identify new sites in the Gobi Desert where potential dinosaur fossils and bones could be found. And mission success! A few new species were identified too along with lots of data points. I’m no dino expert but it was pretty hard not to get sucked in and feel hooked. Under the watchful eye of scientists from the Paleontology Department of Mongolia, we found bones dating back 80 to 100 million years… a number that’s pretty hard to get your head around, I know.

Gobi is stunning!  In 2013, I ran an epic 250km race through the Gobi Desert on the Chinese side of this open barren landscape. This gig was further north, near the small town of Dalanzangad. The sheer expanse, scale and emptiness is overwhelming. Other than the occasional scattered Ger Camp, it’s just a mass of wilderness, mountains and emptiness. In fact, Mongolia is 1,5 million square kilometres in size, so as big as France, Germany, Nethelands, Belgium and Spain put together, yet the population is a mere three million (compared to 220 million within the others).

During my two weeks there, we were treated to all manner of extreme weather from rain, hail, and chilly nights to baking hot temperatures in the midday sun. Normally after the rains, the land turns green and vibrant but after the epic amounts of rain we experienced, we were rewarded with insane mud pools. It was still a great trip. And besides, if Mongolia were an easy place, everyone would be there.

Infiniti put us up at the legendary Three Camels lodge, which is listed on National Geographic’s unique lodges of the world. With my own ensuite Ger Tent, I felt like a luxury bedouin. Healthy food, fantastic crew and awesome company. Having no WIFI or cell coverage in camp felt like going back in time. Being offline these days is a luxury in itself! Conversations over dinner, waking up to a sunrise rather than an overfilled inbox and no urgent uploads made us all slow down. And when you slow down, the magic happens…

My brief was simple… to create an image library based on cars, paleontology and culture, to build a master hero collection and work on individual imagery too. It was an open brief, which suits me well and allows me some creative license in terms of just getting out there and embracing the opportunities that come my way. As I always say, variety is key and I’m super stoked with the quality and mix of visuals.

A big thanks to everyone! This gig will certainly go down as one of my coolest projects.