Sunday 06 November 2016 – Pushkar, India.
I have come to Pushkar for the camel fair, the fair takes place over the first week or so of the annual Hindu Kartika festival. The camels and their herders arrive over the first few days and the bulk of the buying and selling happens four or five days after the fair starts. There is an expectation that up to 50,000 camels will come this year, along with numerous horses, goats, pigs and cows. My plan was to do the town based activities in the morning and then venture out to the fair in the late afternoon as the day cools down. I am also hoping to get some of the classic, camel silhouette against the setting sun shot, no originality here!
It was a really bad night last night, the music stopped pretty much dead on midnight which was great, but the honking of motorbikes in the alleyways and from trucks, and buses delivering pilgrims to town, on the main roads went on for quite a lot longer. Once that had settled the dogs started howling and barking and there was a dog fight right outside the hotel at 2:30. Finally to cap it off; at 4:30 the mosque started up. I am so glad I had a full sleep the night before.
After breakfast I loaded up my camera bag and sauntered down the hill into town, I am getting a little familiar with the various alleyways and paths, and am reasonably confident I can find my way back to the hotel from most parts of the town. I was planning on walking around the lake today, the far side seems to attract a lot less people and I was hoping to be able to spend some time sat on the lake side enjoying some piece and semi-tranquillity.
I made it about a quarter of the way around before running out of road. I could have walked around on the lake side; barefoot, of course, but was unsure if I was allowed to. So I didn’t. I spent a bit of time looking around town, the main streets are really crowded, loads of pilgrims are arriving for the religious part of the festival and loads of tourists are here to take photos. Hopefully obeying the cultural rules (as if!).
Back at the hotel I met up with Trev, who I briefly met yesterday. We chatted for a while, he is English, a couple of years younger than me and into portrait photography. He has been to India numerous times, including the camel fair and speaks a little Hindi, which is very useful if you are doing portraits and want to communicate with your subjects! It was great to meet up with someone to go exploring with, it makes things so much easier having someone to talk to and watch your back as it were. It also meant that going out of the hotel at night to eat somewhere else was much safer, not that I ever felt unsafe at all, Pushkar is quite a friendly town.
Trev and I met up at 3:30 and started off with a visit to the lake. The lake is very busy in the morning, and quietens down in the late afternoon. As Trev has been here before and was more familiar with customs I found it is perfectly acceptable to walk around the lake front, so we did. Being careful to not to take photos of the bathers that were on the shore, as per the rules!
When the light dropped and started to get a bit more interesting we went to the fair to look for some camel photography action. There were far more camels than yesterday, and I was surprised at A) how docile they were, walking around them was quite safe, and B) there was no smell. I had though being in proximity to a large number of animals would be a bit stinky. Not at all; maybe the fumes of Delhi and Jaipur had dulled my sense of smell.
By my standards I took a lot of photos, almost 100. There were a lot of other people taking photos, and it times it was a bit of challenge to get shots with no photographers in them, or without one jumping in front of you. There was no such thing as manners here. The herders, in the main take it all in good, if rather bewildered, spirits.
I loved this chap, you cannot just attend camel fair, you have to attend camel fair in style!
By accident Trev and I found a good spot where the camels were coming round a corner of a field and the sun was dropping almost over head. We set ourselves up and ten minutes later we had been spotted and a whole bunch more people came over, almost crowding us out. We stayed there for a while as small groups and individual camels and herders passed by.
Along with the ever present camel tour. I was offered one by the hotel before I met Trev and am glad I did not take it, they do not look to be as interesting or as much fun as getting in amongst it all.
Trev grabbed these two guys and had them pose for him, he got right down on his belly to get the post shots, and I snuck a quickie in while he was shooting. It was like watching a master at work.
Once the sun had gone below the horizon we abandoned our spot and headed back to the area while the herds were going to camp.
There was a little bit of trading gone this evening, a good study of a camels teeth is obviously crucial.
It was a good session, and we left as the sun had almost gone. Back at the hotel it was a quick rush uploading images from the camera to the computer to see what I had got. I was pretty happy with my first day effort. It is quite tough shooting, lowish light, hazy conditions, a lot of movement in all directions and loads of others competing for the same shot. Fun in other words…
Trev and I went out for dinner, the food in our place is great, but Trev had found another restaurant that quietly sold beer, which is very rare in Pushkar. We met up with Greg, another photographer and England resident for food, a couple of cans of lager and lots of travel and photography talk.
It was a really good day, I very much enjoyed hanging out with those guys, seeing Pushkar and a hell of a lot of camels! Roll on tomorrow.
PS, yes I do love lens flare. It was deliberate, honest! 🙂