By Karina Moreton
Mongolia has mountains, grasslands and desert, so it was a perfect location for filming some fascinating stories for Human Planet. When I was asked to be the teams’ fixer in Mongolia, I had a ‘pinch me’ moment – here was an opportunity for me to show off the country that I love so much , to producers at the BBC’s Natural History Unit! Armed with maps, photos and anecdotes, we discussed a wide range of potential stories and we settled on a few. Based in the UK , my role is to set up recces and shoots for film shoots. However, I am always trying to dream up ways to get on location myself rather than to be just co-ordinating from the office. The winter Gobi shoot for the Deserts programme promised to be a tricky one, so I wangled my way onto it.
In the weeks up to our arrival, my colleague Esee travelled to the remote South Gobi talking to camel herders about wolves. It was a big ask. We wanted to find a family who were affected by wolves killing their livestock; who had pregnant camels due to give birth during our time there; who lived near the snow line – who looked good on camera… and who were happy for a team of us live with them and film them for a few weeks!
Somehow the amazing Esee found the right candidates – camel herder Ganbold and his family. Once the teams started filming, I had a whole host of questions thrown at me ‘how do we film if the wolf attacks at night without freezing to death?”. One moment we would be discussing the likelihood of a snowstorm in the Gobi desert in the first few weeks of February; the next dealing with the fact that the only town in the South Gobi has run out of firewood.
I am sure the viewers will connect with these warm-hearted people and learn from their daily challenges. It is the moments that weren’t captured on camera that will remain with me – the time when 6 year old Otgonbayar and I shared the very intimate moment of a lamb being born; the serene solitude of his elder sister riding off into the empty desert with their flock; and the giggles shared with the girls in the ger.
Mongolia and her people have captured my heart. I am so happy that audiences around the world will be able to have an insight into the culture and landscapes of this incredible country. Over the years, I have gained so much from the Mongolian nomads I have spent time with. Panoramic Journeys, who I work for, always give back to the families and communities they work with. Ganbold and his family now supplement their income by hosting guests who would like to experience their lifestyle first hand.
Little Otgonbayar was keen to know when the photographs and footage that we’d shot would be seen by them all . I was four months pregnant at the time, and so it was handy to be able to say that the Human Planet book featuring the photos of stills photographer Tim Allen wouldn’t be published until my baby was running. I continue to pinch myself, for although my work for HP has come to an end, Ganbold and his family remain friends. My son is nearly walking now – but I will be returning to the Gobi with The Human Planet book and the series on my laptop very soon.