Gerry Ellis - The Camels of Pushkar

Each year this time the moon begins to fill over the arid western landscape of India and from miles, hundreds of miles, come the lazy loping strides of camels, a few dozen, then a few hundred and then in the thousands.

My trip to Pushkar was one of those fortuitous accidents when you give your travel schedule a bit of breathing room and you remain open to changing the plans at the last moment.

The camel fair is world renown among desert lovers (and camels as well). For years every time I heard whispers of western India they included the camel fair. But I wish whispers would have been shouts in my ear, if so I would have detoured from somewhere in the world to get here years ago – what an amazing sight!

Arriving late in the afternoon my guide Anaruk led me through the dusty back streets of Pushkar past the security guards (no alcohol is allowed into Pushkar during the holy holiday that embraces the camel fair) and after a couple minutes to assess the situation I bee lined it for the central watering trough. After all – in a desert where must everyone and everything convene? Water.

In the end I committed over an hour just here – most on video – the comings and goings of endless camels and there tethered herders. The noise alone making the experience a joy to witness (those will get added to this blog when I get back to Portland in mid Dec – check back).

After years of chasing stories around the world I have learned its best to identify the key location that draws the subjects (like this watering trough) and then work out. Here in the sand dunes of Pushkar I locked on to a group of camels and there colorful and animated owners and followed them from the water.

The technique paid off handsomely and over the late afternoon and following morning by following a select group I not only got more intimate images but also engaged with them, discovering more about their lives and got some incredible video and audio!

Sifting through feed to insure his camels eat well and look their best

Even camels lie down - eventually – a super wide 1Omm and a very close look at a camel’s muzzle.

Dusting the nostrils with tumeric – to the camel’s vociferous objections – but the powder insures flies stay out and prevents infection.

Pushkar dunes are an endless parade of boys moving camels from old owner to new, small groups

According to Amit, my new camel friend and expert, who traveled over 400 km to bring his camels for trade – this is a perfect camel – apparently others agreed – he sold it for the two new female camels and cash.

Postscript: The still photography in Pushkar was second to my video work – so I was often grabbing shots along side taping. The XTI works well for this as it’s fairly quiet and small, being seldom noticed as everyone’s attention was captured by the “TV…TV” of the Canon XA’s wide display screen. In most cases I shot with the 28-200mm zoom, but was prepared with the 10-22mm in my pocket.