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Cuba!

My wife Maria loves living in Mongolia, but she craves the heat of the tropics. This might be a deciding factor in where we live next year.

This summer we decided to make a dash to Cuba. Cuba in the summertime – tropical indeed. The humidity was so high that you couldn’t find me during the hours of 12pm – 3pm – I was hiding out in the air conditioned hotel room. Studying math. But that’ s a whole other story.

We visited Havana, Viñales and Jibacoa – and here are some photos that came out of it. As in my previous post, I’ve saved my favourite shots for my photography site.

Havana


Viñales (find out more about it here.)

Jibacoa

Where finally, all we did was lay on the beach (study math) and watch lizards eat ants.


To see the best photos from Cuba, CLICK HERE!

I hope you had a great summer as well. 🙂

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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Life Abroad

 

Still in Mongolia… and a few other places.

Hello!

I haven’t posted in a while since I’ve been living a relatively low profile here in Mongolia. I did do some traveling this summer – throughout Canada, Cuba and Mongolia. To be honest, I didn’t take a lot of photos in Canada this time.

I also upgraded my gear this past summer. I managed to acquire a set of my dream lenses – for those who care here’s the list:

50mm f/1.4D
16-35mm f/4G ED VR
105mm f/2D
70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
And to ensure that the switch from DX to FX wasn’t too jarring:
Teleconverter TC-17E II

And the new FX body:
The D610

A little extreme, maybe?

Admittedly it’s been a little overwhelming and I usually only carry two of the lenses at any given time. Whilst I only really used the 50mm and the 105mm for the Cuba shots (the Mongolia photos were with my old D7000 body and 18-55mm + 55-200mm lenses), I am looking forward to some more studio time with the new lenses to really get acquainted with them.

Anyway, enough shop talk. Here are some photos from this past summer:

These were taken in Mongolia in the spring. Special thanks to a superb model, Enkhjin.

In June we took an 8-day trek around the Mongolian countryside, namely Arkhangai Province.

It was really quite a fulfilling trip despite long days of high speed offroad driving, sleeping on grass, and going without a shower (hey, I’m a city boy). Sometimes it felt as if we were driving to the edges of the earth, charted only by the nomadic people whom we encountered. Although every aspect of Mongolia that we had experienced until then was certainly the “real Mongolia”, nothing felt more genuine than the trip we took far beyond the reaches of electricity, running water, or any kind of supplies that needed to be brought with us.

For the next part of the trip we stayed with family members of our host, all of whom were traditional nomads. First was his cousin, a horseman.

Even though we would be leaving the country before Naadam began in July, we’d heard that there would be a “pre-Naadam” happening within proximity in 2 days. (“within proximity” in this region was 3 hours of driving.) We left early that morning and arrived JUST as the horse race was beginning. The race is held between boy jockeys since they are less of a burden on the horses.

This gallery is nearly empty but you can find many more images on my website here.

Finally, for the last leg of the trip we stayed with our host’s cousin and her family. It was quite an ordeal to locate them – we had a general region and once we reached that region, we asked the nomads we came across where we might find them. “Further over that hill” and “past the next hill but before the river.” We were low on gas and the stretches of land were vast. We had overshot their site by quite a few kilometers, and only realized it when we came to the edge of a cliff. Doubling back, we were able to find them, and spent an enjoyable evening hanging out by the river and listening to the dogs barking as they literally kept the wolves at bay.


These are just a few sample photos of our journey – if you’d like to see more you can do so by visiting here.

We will be in Mongolia for another year, and I doubt we’ll get a chance to travel like this again. If you’re the kind of person who can handle roughing it nomadic style, you will find a trek through the Mongolian countryside to be incredibly fulfilling. In the travels we have undertaken in the past 5 years, this definitely ranks highly on what I would consider the “real experience.” Mongolia in many ways still remains the vast, untamed northern frontier.

Next up: Cuba

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Life Abroad

 

Summer of 2014 – Greece (Part 2 of 2)

I had been to Greece 11 years ago, and had many fond memories of azure waters, idyllic beaches, and late night parties.

When I had previously visited Santorini, it was a busy place, mostly with honeymooners and jet setters who were the kind of people whose stories would be interesting to know. There was a magic. When I had to leave, I’d felt that I had left a piece of my heart there, and vowed that I’d be back for it one day with someone I loved.

This trip to Greece was a great chance to see more of the islands, to revisit Santorini, and to take my wife Maria with me on the journey.

Crete

Since I had never visited Crete and had heard many great things, we decided to go there first – the furthest point south that we would go, with the plan to take ferries to various islands north and end our trip in Athens.

We started in Chania on the northeast side of the island.

The Venetian harbor in Chania

The Venetian harbor in Chania

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Boat Builders in the old port

Boat Builders in the old port

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Hiking from Sfakia to Loutro.

Hiking from Sfakia to Loutro.

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A church in Rethymno

A church in Rethymno

Canonballs in the Rethymno fortezza.

Canonballs in the Rethymno fortezza.

From the museum in Heraklion

From the museum in Heraklion

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in Heraklion

in Heraklion

Santorini

We moved on to Santorini, which I was really, really anticipating. In the past 11 years, I had seen it endlessly featured on TV shows, in magazines, and on Pinterest, and all I wanted was to take Maria there.

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This was our cave room on the caldera. Kitchenette and bathroom on the left, bedroom in the back.

view from the room

view from the room

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Beautiful island, right? So beautiful that everyone wants to go there, and supply and demand have taken its toll. The prices have increased, but more significantly, the foot traffic has gotten way out of control. At any given time there are 3 large cruise ships in the harbor, dumping package tourists who want their fridge magnets into Santorini’s tiny little alleys by the thousands. It just doesn’t work. It wasn’t charming and idyllic, it was overstuffed and obnoxious. I regret having this experience after my first time there, but that’s what happens when a place is as beautiful and as featured as Santorini. Everyone wants their part of it.

I would still recommend anyone go there, but do not go during peak tourist season. I’ve been told that May or September are the best times, and if I ever go back, it will be during one of these months. Or avoid the island altogether. The Cyclades have many beautiful islands, many of which are not overpacked because they haven’t been featured on a travel show.

Ios

Ios has long been considered the party island, since a bunch of hippies hijacked one of the large beaches back when hippies hijacked things. Now it’s largely visited by the young crowd who can get cheap flights from European destinations and come party like it’s spring break. We really didn’t see much of that though, since we stayed in a place on the other side of town, and didn’t really stay out late. Ios is the kind of island where there can be a giant party happening over there, while you enjoy your infinity pool and cocktail over here.

The island has endless gorgeous beaches – many of which have only a few (or no) people on them. You’d need to rent a boat, which is easy enough to do if you’re brave enough to skirt the island’s rocks and bumpy waves. It wasn’t that hard, but if you freak out easily, I wouldn’t recommend it.

It was well worth it for us. We had a full day of exploring beaches, and it made for my favorite day of the whole trip.

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Magganari Beach, on the south point of the island. No parties, and the best beach I saw on this trip.

Magganari Beach, on the south point of the island. No parties, and the best beach I saw on this trip.

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Naxos

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Naxos was a beautiful island, and certainly less “aggressively touristed” than Santorini or Ios. We had originally planned to visit Mykonos next, but after what I had seen in Santorini, we decided to skip it altogether.

We went in the complete opposite direction of what foreign tourists would do, and went to Syros instead.

Syros

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It was in Syros (and perhaps Hora Sfakia in Crete) that had made us feel like we had gotten “the real Greek”. The trip had started out a little hectic with trying to beat tourist mobs, but it certainly mellowed out toward the end of our trip. Until Athens!

Athens

Naturally Athens is a giant tourist hub, but we just had a few things do there before we returned home to Mongolia.

Like you know, see the Acropolis.

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It’s not easy to get a picture of the parthanon without someone standing in front of it…

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The Temple of Athena


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Odeon
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When I had first visited Greece years ago, I had visited this little ouzo bar that had seemed tucked away off the beaten path. But it had never been off the beaten path, it had been in the middle of Plaka, one of the oldest and liveliest neighborhoods of Athens for thousands of years.

As I walked by and saw it, I gasped that I had found it again. It was what had made me first fall in love with Greece, and made me fall in love with ouzo. The little bar is called Brettos, and though the owners weren’t terribly friendly, they were still gracious enough to let me snap a few photos.

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And that was our trip.

Hope you enjoyed!

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

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Summer of 2014 – Latvia (Part 1 of 2)

Hello everyone!

It’s been a very busy summer. We were away from Mongolia for 6 and a half weeks, in Latvia and Greece.

I’ll make a separate entry for both countries, though I took far more photos in Greece. Latvia was incredibly beautiful, but it rained most of the time we were there.

We arrived shortly before Līgo, Latvia’s midsummer holiday. It was very fortunate for us, because I love beer, and my wife loves good food, as you could expect any European holiday to have.

Chris and Eugene

Myself and my father-in-law, Eugene. We’ve got this covered.

Līgo was a great time, and by great, I mean we sat around a cottage house eating, drinking, and walking or driving around the countryside to eat and drink some more.

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Latvians know how to do smoked fish. Delicious.

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Poppies

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Stuck selling Līgo wreaths in the rain…

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Of course one of the great things about Europe are the old-world markets, and Latvia didn’t disappoint.

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You can imagine how good this cheese bread was when it came out of the oven.

You can imagine how good this cheese bread was when it came out of the oven.

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You can drink local beer right in the market. Canada... you have a long way to go.

You can drink local beer right in the market. Or take it away.

Riga is a very modern city, with the usual international brand stores. Here is some of the old city, which was incorporated in the year 1201 (although many of the buildings date at around 1900.)

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And of course, since Riga is a post-communist port city… what would any children’s playground be without a little fun on the back of a dying soldier?

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We had a great time in Riga despite the constant rain. It took a little getting used to for the sky to be “day lit” up until or past midnight, and made it hard to sleep since it came back up just a few hours later.

I have no idea where we’ll live next on our international agenda… but the food and beer alone has put Riga on the list.

Next:
Summer of 2014 (Part 2 of 2) – Greece: from Crete to Athens

 

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

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Spring in Mongolia

April showers bring May flowers!

Not quite, here.

Sandstorms and snowstorms in a twelve hour period bring havoc to sinuses and traffic.

It’s springtime in Mongolia, which is not as good as it sounds, but is still better than the cold, dark winter.

Just a couple of months ago we were going to work in the dark and coming home as the sun went down. The thermometer was frozen for a few months at around -32 Celsius, and the burnt, raw coal pollution was a thick, heavy fog on most mornings. I’ve been fighting sinus infections and respiratory illnesses since November. Such is the price of coming here with healthy lungs, the doctor has told me.

It was 20 degrees Celsius last week. Today it’s -8 with 6cm of snow on the ground. This is spring in Mongolia. “Don’t be surprised if you see snow until June,” I’ve been told.

My Canadian compatriots have been all over social media for the last month whining about the same thing. That they were fortunate enough to have some warm weather in April, and then complained in epic proportions when they got a reminder that winter is not quite finished. They seem to have forgotten that they live in CANADA, a northern country where one might expect winter to keep a few surprises. I feel somehow that the Mongolians could teach the Canadians a thing or two about heartiness.

It’s been a mostly quiet winter for us. Previous posts have highlighted some of our winter activities – dogsledding in Terelj National Park, seeking out the rare Takhi in Khustain National Park, and attending high end fashion shows. I was able to order some new studio toys and have a few photo sessions, but mostly I’m just looking forward to a few projects I’ve been lining up. I’ll write more on those as they happen later.

horses

Spring in Mongolia – life in Mongolia is not for the faint-hearted. I’ve had good days and bad days – mostly stemming from successes and frustrations at work, and adjusting to the… ahem… laidbackedness of Mongolian culture. Some days I get frustrated, and other days I have patience. For the most part I’ve continued to learn more about myself during this process, as living in foreign culture can do.

I’ve DJed semi-regularly at various clubs around Ulaanbaatar, with some hits and some misses. It can be difficult to understand the musical tastes of cultures that are not your own, and as a result, it can often be difficult to find the right venue the play the music I’d really like to play. Mongolia’s scene has heavily featured trance music in recent years, but from my own experiences, it seems to be quickly transitioning into a large demand for hip hop and pop music. In times like this, I like to offer something a little different, or I just make my own mixes to fill a void on the radar.

I’ve made some great friends, and have begun to develop a rapport with some local models.

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Tseku, Bela and I have done a few shoots together, and as I meet more people here, I look forward to more interesting projects. As previously mentioned, I have a few projects lined up this spring, and hope to get them started in the coming weeks.

In the meantime… summer is coming at some point, and every day inches closer to it. We’ll be enjoying a great summer in the sun, and of course, there will be a trove of photos to come of that later. It’s been a while since I’ve done a photoshoot with my beautiful wife Maria, and I have a few fun ideas lined up for her in mid-summer.

I hope all of you are well, and are finding the will to survive the extended winter. 🙂

To follow any photography updates, you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/chrisdwyerphotography.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

Pride of Mongolia Fashion Show

Some highlights from an exquisite show at Marquee 27 on January 17, 2014.

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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

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Dogsledding in Terelj National Park, Mongolia

We went dog sledding and horseback riding on the Tuul River in Terelj National Park. It was a little intense at times, but well worth the experience. The dogs aren’t as vicious as they look in the photos, they were just really, really anxious to get running.

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Barkers

Ready To Go

Attentive Dogs

Huskies

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Horses

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life Abroad

 

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