We are rob & lauren: two professional photographers who love weddings and travel. This is where all of those things come
together for us. Within these pages we hope you discover and sense our deep love for the cultures that we encounter and
experience. Our biggest hope is that you come away from this site with a great understanding, respect and love for them and
their ways. Enjoy!
Kimmi & Harsimran | Chuni & Ring Ceremony
Jalandhar, Punjab, India
March 30, 2008
In the evening following the Shagan everyone got dressed up and gathered at a hall for some more fun and frolicking. Oh, and also some ceremonies!
One big difference that we’ve noticed at the wedding’s we’ve attended here in India versus the Indian weddings we’ve attended in Canada is that here things are decorated much more elaborately. Manpower is an inexpensive cost here, so there are always armies of decorators putting together amazing themed rooms. For this ceremony the whole room was in tones of blue and silver, even with dolphins made of wire and cloth.
When Kimmi and Harsimran first entered they were offered these fantastic looking drinks. But they were both pretty nervous and not feeling like a bevy, so the waiters gave them to us! Score! They were very very tasty.
Kimmi looked flat-out, insanely, and mind-blowingly amazing. In this shot you can see Harsimran’s mother putting a necklace around Kimmi’s neck. She was given a full set of gorgeous jewelry, which was put on by Harsimran’s family.
Harsimran was looking great too. Nearly unrecognizable without the turban from the morning.
One of the important parts of this evening was the placing of the chuni (an elaborate shawl) on the bride by the groom’s mother. That is what is going on in this shot.
Then Harsimran placed sindoor (the bright red powder that married Indian women wear in their hair part) on Kimmi’s forehead.
And then they exchanged rings, just as we do in the West.
Kimmi and Harsimran’s mother.
Then, as with any Punjabi event, there is crazy dancing! Harsimran was picked up and paraded around.
And we even got into the spirit. This pose here is what the photographers at this wedding (there were about 6 besides us, plus 3 videographers, and 20 assistants…it was crazy busy) would always make people do. But they would actually stop them in the middle of dancing to make them pose like this for a shot! We’ve had people in Edmonton do the same pose as well…I think it’s supposed to make it look like your dancing. I find it pretty funny!
And thus ended that event. The next segment: the Sangeet (the ladies’ dance party!)
For the past week we have been completely wrapped up with the wedding celebrations of Kimmi and Harsimran. Like all Indian weddings, this one was a complete whirlwind and before you know it, you’ve spent 6 days straight with all these people, and suddenly it all just ends! Right now we’re sitting in the house, waiting to leave on our train back to Delhi. It’s a strange feeling, for the whole place is very silent, when just yesterday and the days before it was packed to the rafters with all the wedding-goers. But like all things it comes to an end, and we can just be happy that we were able to enjoy it, and have some pictures to remember it by!
I’ll be using this wedding as the main one to explain the Sikh ceremony. Once I get home I’ll probably supplement the photos with some more we have from other Sikh ceremonies we’ve shot. This post will eventually end up in the Weddings section, so you can always revisit it, and learn about the different events!
This Sikh wedding was in Punjab, which is a predominantly Sikh state. As such, I think you can expect most Sikh weddings to be similar (whereas Hindu weddings can be Punjabi, Bengali, Keralan, etc. and all are so very different!). But as always, we give the caveat that every Indian wedding will be different in some way, and you can only prepare youself so much, and then just expect anything ☺
We’ll start you off with the first ceremony we attended. It is called the Shagan, and is when the girls family take gifts to the house of the boys family. So the procession started early in the morning at the home of Kimmi’s parents, and the table full of gifts (including an iPhone!) was loaded up into the cars, and all the men (and me, the only girl!) set off.
When we arrived, the gifts were set on the table, everyone mingled a bit, the men sat in a room and chatted for a while, then we made our way into a beautiful tent to hold a small ceremony. With the Sikh religion, you must always cover your head when in the presence of the holy book, so you can see all the men and women here have their head covered.
As I mentioned previously, music is very important to the Sikh faith, and so there were these men playing absolutely beautiful songs.
Here you can see the priest sitting in front of the book, and if you look closely, you can see Harsimran in the back, in the yellow turban!
The women praying. With Sikhs the men and women sit on separate sides of the room.
In Indian culture the feeding of food is very important, in all religions we’ve encountered. Here you can see Kimmi’s dad feeding Harsimran. By the end of a wedding the bride and groom will have eaten more sweets than you can even imagine! Think of a Western wedding, just after the bride and groom have cut the cake. They then feed each other a piece. In Indian weddings, if they have a cake, generally they will feed each other, and then her mom with feed them both, then his mom, then her dad, then his dad, then all the guests…you get the idea! Basically they get incredibly full of sweets ☺
It was such a peaceful and emotional gathering, it was really great to have been a part of it.
And that was the shagan. We all ate lunch afterwards (of course! You can expect to never ever go hungry or thirsty at an Indian wedding. We probably gained 10 pounds while here!). And then we drove back to Kimmi’s parents house, and took the afternoon to rest. Next up was the Chuni and Ring Ceremony in the evening, which will be our next post! We will try to spread this wedding out over a few days, since we don’t have time to get the whole thing ready just now, lol! Plus this way you get more constant attention from us.
Right now we're in Jalandhar, smack dab in the middle of our Indian wedding. It's been crazy so far, and we're enjoying every minute of it. There will be some photos coming up really soon, we just need to find free time, which is ever so scarce during a wedding :)
For now we'll show you some random photos and videos from the past few days!
Here are a couple videos from Amritsar that we didn't get to post, due to incredibly slow internet connections.
First, a little video from the Golden Temple. We’ve shot a couple of Sikh weddings in Edmonton, and I’ve always deeply enjoyed the ceremonies because of the use of fantastic music. At the temple it was no different, as 4 men sing and chant continuously, reading from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Here’s a video to give you a sense of the music and the setting.
Amazing isn't it?
And then for something that can only really be described via video: the border closing. We showed you photos, but honestly it's not enough. It was the most hilarious sight, really. The guards would stamp their feet, kick their legs insanely high, and then speed walk like-you-wouldn’t-believe towards the border. I’m so glad Rob got a great video of it going on, because it’s something that photos alone just can’t properly describe.
Now for the photos let's start off with Holi. Holi is a huge festival in India. It is known as the Festival of Colours, and basically consists of people running around, throwing paint and coloured powder on each other. It is celebrating to signify the coming of spring. Generally people can get pretty wild, so we kept a low profile, but did manage to get a few shots of the crazy young men covered in colour.
Then we made the drive from Amritsar to Jalandhar. Here are a few neat photos from the drive.
I find this absolutely hilarious, and I think many of my friends will as well. But if you don't get it, don't worry. :)
It's crazy how the men will ride on top of buses speeding down the highways.
And they share the roads with cows, bicycles, motorbikes, and even huge tractors!
Then we made it to Jalandhar, and met up with the family hosting the wedding. We've met them before in Canada, so it was absolutely fantastic to see so many familiar faces! And one of the funniest things is that they have a copy of the very first album we ever made (which is still the album we show to all our clients, believe it or not!). It was a pretty weird situation to see all these people here in India looking through the album that we have looked through hundreds of time back home.
Then while we were waiting we were taken for a tour of the nearby Kidney Hospital, where the father of the bride works as a kidney specialist. It was kind of weird, to be taken to all the Restricted Access areas of a hospital (including the ICU, NICU, Blood Storage Room, and the Kidney Stone Crushing Machine Room....no, that's not the technical term). But it was very interesting to see what an Indian hospital is like (albeit a private Indian hospital). We just took a couple of quick snaps but here ya go anyway.
Then while we were waiting to head off to a function, I took a quick shot of Rob wearing some snazzy new clothes he got for the wedding. Doesn't he look great? And for only $31 Canadian for the shirt, pants, belt and shoes. Rock on.
And finally we hopped in a car, and were driven to a wedding, hosted by friends of the family we are staying with. Honestly, I can barely even describe it, it was mind-blowing. More than we had ever seen or expected. First off we saw what we had dreamed of seeing - an elephant at a wedding!
Then we walked inside and just couldn't believe it. It was enormous, with probably around 1000 people there.
The groom is the one with the tall feather on his turban.
So there's a few photos to tide you over until we get some up from this wedding. Hope you are all doing well. We'll be back home in less than two weeks now, and honestly can't wait. We really miss our cat, Scooter!!! Isn't he the cutest thing you've ever seen??
Who wouldn't miss that cutie?? (Photo credit to Steph, my sister, who sent us this while we were traveling. It's currently our desktop background, and we say hello and give him pets all the time.....yeah we really miss him!)
After all our time in Delhi doing major photo shoots we were pretty photo’ed out. It’s been nearly 3 months of traveling and shooting, and we’re definitely starting to get pretty tired. So when we got to Amritsar I don’t think we took out our cameras for a couple days! It was nice to spend some time just wandering and shopping (we bought some pretty cool stuff, but we’re going to keep it a surprise until we get home and show our family! They aren’t going to believe how crazy we are, lol!)
Anyway, it’s definitely not like there isn’t anything to shoot in Amritsar, and once we mustered up the energy to do some shooting, we saw a pretty amazing thing. But let’s look at the photos, shall we?
First, since we keep talking about train travel but haven’t shown you anything, I’ll show you a quick snap from our train trip between Delhi and Amritsar. It was the first time we were able to book a 1AC seat. The classes on trains start with 1AC being the most luxurious, then 2AC, 3AC, and then 2nd class, which is completely unreserved, free-for-all seating. We’ve traveled in 3AC (not so fun, and pretty cramped), 2AC (better, with more space) and 1AC (totally awesome!). We never got up the courage to do the whole 2nd Class business, especially with all our expensive gear. Maybe one day, but not on this trip! Anyway, this is 1AC, and a 9 hour ride in one of these cars cost around $60 Canadian for both of us. Not too shabby at all!
In the midst of our shopping we took time to go to the “classiest restaurant in Amritsar”, as dubbed by The Lonely Planet. It was definitely a really nice place, with great food. Since we’re talking money in this post so far I’ll give you an idea of what a fancy meal out costs here. We ordered two mocktails, a large bottle of mineral water, two appetizers, two main courses, a pot of amazing Darjeeling tea, and a sizzling brownie (shown in the picture below, a brownie on a really hot plate with sauce drizzled over it so that it bubbled and steamed, yum!). The total cost was around 800 Rupees, which is $20 Canadian. Still can’t get over the conversions for things here!
And then we packed up the cameras and it was time to see the main sight of Amritsar: the famous Golden Temple.
This is the most holy gurdwara (Sikh temple) in the world, and attracts pilgrims from all over. Our hotel is very very close to the temple, and so we always see constant streams of people walking down the street towards it. Upon entering the complex, you take off your shoes, cover your head, and wash your feet. Then you step inside to see the amazing golden structure in the middle of a huge pond of water.
The water even has a bunch of huge fish in it!
It’s really an amazing sight, and I thought it was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen this trip.
We went around sunset and were rewarded with some really cool sights.
One of the really great things about Sikhism is that it is welcoming of people of all classes. They have a huge free kitchen that cooks dhal (lentils), rice and chapattis (bread) for about 40,000 people each day.
The dome of the temple is made up of around 750Kg of pure gold.
It was a very serene and peaceful setting.
It was really a must-see stop in India.
The temple is connected to the outer building by a huge walkway that is continuously packed with people waiting to go inside the temple to pray and offer prasad (a sweet food that is blessed in the temple). No photos were allowed once we got on to the walkway, but here’s a shot showing you the front of the temple.
And then for something with a completely different feel to it: the closing ceremony of the India-Pakistan border. We took a taxi out to the border at Attari/Wagah, which is about an hour from Amritsar. It’s really a huge deal out there! The guards were all elaborately dressed, and extremely tall (some were probably close to 7 ft tall!) and towered over Rob who stands in at 6 ft.
It has become something of a competition between the Indians and the Pakistanis to celebrate the most for their country at the closing. On the Indian side there was dancing breaking out (you know you’re in Punjab when….)
A neat shot of one of the guards
The huge crowd was waiting with much anticipation for the ceremony to start
And then it was time! It was the most hilarious sight, really. The guards would stamp their feet, kick their legs insanely high, and then speed walk like-you-wouldn’t-believe towards the border.
They performed with such severity, and yet looked pretty funny at the same time, it was great.
The crowd was totally into it. The announcer would yell “HINDUSTAN!” (which means India) and everyone would respond with “ZINDABAN!” and throw their fists up in the air. It means "Long Live India!" or "India Rules!", and they were certainly having fun saying it! (love vibes to both Geeta and Manju for helping me out with the translation!)
I couldn’t believe how high they could kick. It was tough to get a good shot, since they did it so fast, but here’s a snap.
And then they lowered the flags.
All good fun! We drove back to Amritsar, and then grabbed our mini-tripod and headed back to the Golden Temple for a couple of night shots. I finish up the post with those.
And that’s Amritsar! Tomorrow we leave for Jalandher, to attend a weeklong Punjabi Sikh wedding. It’s going to be great fun, and we’re really excited. Hopefully we’ll be able to find both an internet connection and some free time while we’re there to keep you posted. If not, you’ll hear from us next when we return to Delhi on the 28th for a few last days in India before we fly to Singapore, and then home at last. I can’t believe I’m already starting to detail the end of this trip, especially when we just got so many new followers thanks to the Taj session, but don’t cry everyone. We’re hoping to keep posting a new shot every week, from our thousands and thousands of photos that we took and never blogged, so the fun will continue, even when we return home. And I have a few articles to write, so much more to come. Until then, we still have two weeks left in traveling, and thousands more photos to take, so it’s not over until it’s over!
Yes, there is more of these two gorgeous kids! I can just sense you all hopping up and down with excitement!
So for our famous Taj session Megha and Chakshu wore their outfits from their reception. And for an Indian wedding there are two very important sets of clothing. It was only fair that we do a session with both outfits! So Megha and Chakshu went through another grueling round of beautifying themselves and we all hopping into the car and drove into New Delhi. We went to the gorgeous Lodi Gardensto take some shots in their amazing clothes. Here’s what we got.
Megha is super easy to make laugh, which bodes well for us since we can easily get great fun shots like this.
Throwing in a little mystery ☺
The setting was just amazing, although we still weren’t without big hordes of on-lookers. In India it is not considered rude, as it is in Canada, to simply stand and stare. So it was tough to handle, but once again these two did a flat out fantastic job.
I seriously think Chakshu could have a future as a model. He just poses and smiles so easily.
And Megha does a bang-up job as well. One day we’ll have to take modeling lesssons from them!
And together they are just fab.
It was like our dream photo location. Great light, and great architecture, we could have spent all day there!
Now here is a neat one. Rob was trying out a technique he liked, and I think the result is just awesome!
Megha’s chura looked great against her bright pink lengha (a lengha is a ornate skirt, that is worn with a top, and a very elaborate scarf. The whole outfit is unbelievably heavy. Honestly you would not believe it. Serious.
And then we got a little dramatic.
A great close-up of Chakshu holding on to his stole.
So there you have it, the second portrait session, and one that we enjoyed just as much as the Taj session! As fun as Taj was, it was really fast paced and stressful, so it was nice to take it a bit easier with these two, and find some relatively secluded places. And Megha and Chakshu haven’t even seen these photos yet, so we really hope they enjoyed them!
So, here we go. I hope you are all excited for this. Because you aren’t going to believe it.
To put it very simply, we just did a portrait session at the Taj Mahal.
Wow, hey? I still can’t even believe it, and the whole entire thing is just a blur. I think half of it is because it’s just such a huge deal, that we can’t believe we did it. And the other half is because we were under a lot of stress and pressure right from the get-go. It wasn’t easy to do at all, and I’m so happy that we managed to get some great shots even under some tough conditions.
You see, we had this little plan in mind for a while. We all packed our bags, and left Delhi early in the morning for a road trip to Agra, the city that is home to the Taj Mahal. We arrived around 1PM, I believe. We checked into our hotel, took a quick trip to see the magnificent structure, grabbed a quick bite, and then it was time to get ready. Megha and Chakshu changed into their gorgeous reception outfits from their wedding. (They got married here in Delhi in December, and we were unfortunately a month too late with our trip to attend). We made our way to the Taj around 5:00PM, hoping to get some great sunset light to work with.
First off, there was no sunset. Well, not one we could see. Agra was covered in a hazy foggy sky, so there was no real colour coming through. Oh well, we had nice light anyway, but it was darker than we would have liked.
So we all walk down an alley to actually get into the Taj. Megha and Chakshu dressed to the nines, walking down a smelly, busy alley. Funny stuff!
Then we get to the gate. 20 Rupees entry for Indians, 750 for foreigners ($0.50 and just about $20 Canadian). Hilarious hey? But that wasn’t the tough part. Apparently they now have rules that forbid you to bring in any bags.
Think about that for a moment. We’re there to do a photo session, and we can’t bring in our camera bags. Major stress out time!
Chakshu managed to convince a guy to let us bring in his tiny backpack, so Rob and I, in a wild flurry, start to decide what we want to bring in. We had brought everything, since this was going to be a portrait session to remember, and now we had to cut out most of what we brought. We stuffed in a few lenses, and some flash cards, and had to leave everything else behind. And this whole process took up a ton of our precious time where we still had some light to work with! Eek!
Then we all finally get through the gates, and walk in to see the Taj. It’s honestly breathtaking, and we started to get to work.
Chakshu is a photo buff himself, and he couldn’t resist whipping out his own camera to take some shots! He looks so incredibly cool in this shot, doesn’t he??
Megha’s incredible chura. She will be wearing these from the time she got married (December, 2007) until she has her reception back in Edmonton in June, 2008! Dedication!
Just putting on some of her jewelry
Love, love, love, love, love the feeling of this one.
We stepped off to the side to this great red colonnade to take some more secluded shots.
These two really know how to laugh with each other and are always having fun together. We absolutely loved it.
Plus they know how to work the camera like pros. I’m finding it hard to believe they AREN’T models. Seriously, this had nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them.
This shot feels like there was no one else around for miles. I love it.
How about we take a stroll towards the Taj? Ok!
A reflection in one of the pools.
I can’t get enough of this one.
Like a movie.
We took very very few shots of the Taj itself, lol! But here’s one we liked.
I still can’t believe this whole thing really happened.
And in the middle of all those romantic, intense and serious shots it was always goofing around and having fun. Our favorite type of couple.
Self portrait! We look absolutely grungy beside them, it’s ridiculous!
And can you believe this? At this point we pretty much were the very last people in the place, and it was pitch black. Rob had to set the camera on top of Chakshu’s backpack, since we weren’t allowed our tripods. But all the difficulty was worth it. This is Rob’s favorite shot of the day.
And then a few detail shots when we got back to the hotel.
Megha’s mangalsutra, the necklace she gets when she is married. It is one of the five things that signify a woman's married status, so it's very important!
And her fantastic shoes.
And that’s all we have done up so far. There are so many to go through that we just can’t do them justice on this laptop, and we’re itching to get home and work on them on our real computers. But now I’m going to get sort of sappy, so hold on to your seats.
Now, just imagine how many people are visiting the Taj each day. And then place a couple who look like models in the middle of it all, dressed up like they are at their wedding while everyone else is wearing t-shirts and shorts, and then have two people with huge cameras taking shots. Trust me, we attracted a LOT of attention. And even more than that, they attracted a sort of paparazzi, as tourists and locals alike were trying to snap a picture of them or just standing there staring. Some people were even jumping down from these huge platforms to sneak up behind Rob to get a shot. I think many of the tourists must have thought they were famous or something. But it was certainly really, extremely tough conditions for anyone to stay relaxed and happy, with all those people staring at you. Megha and Chakshu did a flat out amazing job, and it’s the honest truth that they completely share the credit for this shoot. The amount of work, preparation, dedication and commitment they put into this is astounding, and we honestly can never thank them enough for doing this with us.
I don’t know how we manage to meet such amazing people, who give so much to us (we’ve actually been staying with them in Chakshu’s house for the past 6 days, and they have been the most hospitable hosts imaginable). And then to put so much effort into doing the Taj shoot with us, it’s not just anyone who would do that, and we consider ourselves so very very lucky. So an enormous thank you to both Megha, Chakshu, and Chakshu’s family who have been so kind to us over this past week. And to Megha and Chakshu, without whom these photos would not exist. As far as we all could tell, this is possibly the first time this has been done on this scale. Photo sessions like this don’t really happen for couples in India, and with the amount of work it took to get to the Taj, it certainly wasn’t just a walk in the park. So we’re very glad to have been a part of this. Now we can’t wait to get home and get some of these printed for our house!
Ok, enough sappiness. We’re off to do another shoot with them in Delhi! Wish us luck!
Holy smokes guys, we're so sorry about this huge delay! When we headed off to Delhi we thought that we would have no problem finding internet, but as it turns out nothing in India turns out as expected :) We were staying in Gurgaon, which is a suburb, and thus not at all geared towards travelers with laptops. So we went for a loooooong time without any connection to the outside world. i guess people started to even get worried about us! So once again, huge apologies for the wait. But once you see what we've been up to, I think you're all going to forgive us right away!!!! Anyway, we're going to start off here with a few pictures left over from Jaisalmer, and from a day around Delhi. Then on Monday, March 17th tune in for some INSANE photos that you aren't even going to believe. Trust me, we're so excited to share these with you guys!!!
Let's get to the photos now!
Camo-puppies from Jaisalmer! These little guys were just totally zonked out, snoozing in the middle of the hot day. They didn’t even budge when I took their photo, they were too busy sleeping!
Our friend Philippe found a fantastic spot to watch the sunset at the train station in Jaisalmer. You can see a couple of trains there, and on the horizon is the fort!
And a close up of the silhouette of the fort.
We took a nighttime stroll up into the fort to take some shots. This is a really neat one Rob took, complete with a couple of ghosts!
And one of some textiles still hanging out for sale
It was so crazy, there were tons of these little piglets running around our hotel
A neat scene near our hotel
And a shot of the fort. They call Jaisalmer the Golden City because everything is made out of this fantastic gold sandstone. The fort itself is as well, and was built way back in 1156. Unfortunately, because of tourism and increased population there are actually huge problems with the water destroying the fort. It's very sad, because I don't think this place is going to last too much longer. I'm really glad we got to see it at least once.
A very strange sign…..
And a neat old door, complete with a Ganesh above it.
“What’s that you’re using there? Is that a 50mm?”
As we were leaving Jaisalmer we stumbled across the famous Palace on Wheels! It was stopped at the station for a while, and it looked amazing! Too bad it’s incredibly expensive, otherwise I’m sure we would have hopped on right away
And then we got to Delhi! Yay! We checked out Qutb Minar, a huge tower built back in 1193.
Some of the incredible carvings on the tower.
Who are these attractive people? Not just some randoms we saw, no no. These are our flients (friends/clients), Megha and Chakshu! And you’re going to be seeing much much more of them very soon…..
Wild parrots! Amazing! I can’t get over the wildlife here in India. You see monkeys all the time, and now some incredible parrots.
Some great columns
Then we went to see the Lotus Temple. It is a Bahai temple, and is open to people of all faiths. The design is very similar to the Opera House in Sydney, except this is a closed lotus, and that one is open!
It is such a beautiful structure
This day was really a tour of some of the great sights of Delhi! This is the India Gate, which is different from the Gateway of India in Bombay…
Some jewelry on sale around the Gate
And then it was lunchtime. One fantastic thing about hanging out with locals in India is that they know the great places to eat, and what to order. We made our way to a South Indian restaurant, and Chakshu and Megha took care of ordering. There was this crazy pizza type thing.
And a dosa! Dosa, dosa, dosa, dosa! I love that word! And I love the dish. I think I polished off half of one all by myself. It was so fantastic. It was like a huge crispy pancake with curry potatoes and onions inside. Then you would dip it in this sambar sauce and yum. I hope I can find some in Edmonton…
And these are idlis. They were like rice patties that you would let soak in the sauce. Fantastic.
So there’s a bit of Delhi. Now I’ll let you all wonder what we have up our sleeves and then check back in on Monday to see it! I know you’re going to love it ☺
Just wanted to throw up a quick little post here before we take off. We're about to board our train to Delhi (19 hours I think) and just wanted to give warning for that since we probably won't be posting in a while. I know everyone was getting used to new posts every day, which was thanks to a little feature our web guy Jon put in, that let's us delay posts so that we write them all in one day, and then they post one a day. Cool, right? Well, we don't have any posts on the backburner, but once we get to Delhi I'm sure we'll have something for you.
Until then, we'd love to hear more from you all. A huge thank you to all of those who have been posting comments for us.It's always so nice to log on to the internet and hear from you. India is far far far from home, but we always get a nice little cheer up when we hear from everyone back there.
Oh, and silly me, I forgot that I never got that video from Jodhpur up! But it's fixed now, so scroll down a couple posts and check it out.
We'll be posting again soon, until then stay warm, and enjoy yourselves!
I've Been Through The Desert On A Camel With No Na
March 4, 2008
Well, that’s half true. The camel had a name. It was Tooty. And Rob’s was Honky. They were our faithful steed as we tramped across the desert yesterday.
People come here to Jaisalmer primarily for the camel safaris. Out in the desert of Rajasthan, it’s a small town, overlooked by a fort, and crafted almost entirely out of golden sandstone. And while the town itself is very fascinating, the camels are what get the attention.
And rightfully so.
Our trip was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and something we certainly won’t forget for a long time. We’re even vividly re-experiencing right now, as we sit on some very very very sore bottoms.
But let’s get to the pictures right away. We opted, thanks to some very wise advice from a fellow traveler, to keep our camel trip short. We started off at 8AM in a jeep, and drove out into the desert. The scenery here looks a little something like this.
We stopped by a small village that was strangely enough set in front of a background of huge wind power generators.
At a very old temple we found a troupe of some incredibly cute puppies
And saw a great scene of two young boys carrying water down the road
But we were just waiting for the camels. We mounted up (a rather scary experience, since these camels are absolutely enormous, and then aren’t exactly graceful, so you just lunge up into the air), and set out across the desert. At first it was mainly scrub land, lots of sand and small shrubs. Here’s Rob, sporting his bright orange turban (which I tied myself, thank you very much) and mounted up on Honky.
The first leg of the journey was fairly straightforward. We marched along, single file, steering our camels along narrow paths in between the shrubs. It was still before noon, so the sun wasn’t at full strength yet. But the going wasn’t comfortable and after about a couple of hours we were more than ready to stop for a rest. We found a big tree with shade, and let the camels rest while we lounged on blankets, and our guides made us chai and some lunch (hey, I never said we were roughing it). The camels enjoyed their break, getting to have some food and get their big packs off.
We took the time to get some camel portraits
Rob was trying to act the camel whisperer, but Honky moved quickly and he got a little jumpy, haha!
And during the second leg of the trip things got interesting. We had made our way to the Royal Sand Dunes, in the Thar Desert. Now, generally the camel tours take people to the Sam Sand Dunes, which are starting to get over crowded. We opted to pay more, and take the jeep way out to start, so that we could get some relatively empty dunes. And it was really worth it. The whole trip we only saw a few other groups, and only in passing. We were able to stop, get some shorts, and see the landscape with literally no one else around for miles. It was amazing.
Here’s me, looking all dramatic.
A really awesome shadow shot that Rob got.
Self portrait while on camels!
Just relaxing after we made our final stop at the dunes.
Our guides brewing us some chai.
Now, as fate would have it, the one other person on our tour with us was a young photographer from Paris named Philippe. How amazing is that? You have to spend all day with someone, with nothing to do but ride camels and talk, and they just happen to be in the exact same boat as us: young, traveling photographer, trying to make a living and enjoying seeing the world. It was fantastic to just spend all day chatting. Honestly, put two photographers in a room together and they could talk for the rest of days. What was also really great about having Philippe along with us is that finally we would be able to get a shot of us that wasn’t taken by holding a wide angle lens up in front of ourselves! And honestly there is no better place for a portrait of us than here.
One big surprise in the desert, that I guess I should have expected but didn’t, were these enormous beetles. Ugh. At first I thought maybe we would be missing out, not spending the night out there, but I don’t think either Rob or I would have gotten a moment of sleep knowing there were tons of these things crawling around!
So, as the sun started to set I wanted to fulfill a dream of mine. I wanted to get the quintessential shot of camels on the dunes silhouetted against the sunset. Our guides were generous enough to let us borrow their camels, so I grabbed us a couple of models and off we set up the dunes to find the right spot.
And find it we did.
We were all just going crazy, sprinting along the dunes, knowing that we had only a few minutes before the sun would be completely gone. Again, we were so happy to be sharing that time with another photographer, rather than a regular Joe who would have thought us completely bonkers for posing camels up on the dunes for a half an hour.
But whether or not we’re bonkers, we’re very very happy with our shots, and can’t wait to get some printed to put in our house.
And one last group portrait: Me, Rob, Philippe (yes, his shirt says iPood, why? Who knows ☺ ), and our lovely models.
Afterwards we had a nice little dinner, and some blessedly cold drinks, and we were picked up by a jeep to take us home. Philippe braved it out and spent the night in the desert. He is traveling all across Asia for a project of his, to document how different cultures wake up and spend their first moments in the morning. And so a sunset wasn’t good enough for him, as he needed to see the sunrise as well. But he said the experience wasn’t too bad, he wasn’t completely eaten by bugs, and he showed us the shots he took this morning, and they are great. But I can’t say I’m jealous: we were very happy to get back to our room and sleep in a soft bed last night!
So I hope you enjoyed those shots! And I’m sure Philippe will be posting some of his, so make sure to check out his site as well, at www.regardasie.com. It’s in French, but pictures are pictures, and I’m sure you’ll find some great ones to peek at!
After seeing the fort for so long from our hotel, we were more than ready to get out there and see it up close. A quick tuk tuk ride and there we were, standing at the foot of the massive structure. First we were met by this wonderful camel! We named him Cameron.
Then we walked into the fort. Along the way we came across a sign pointing out some holes in the walls that were created by canon balls. I thought it was so great that this pigeon was just hanging out in one of the canon ball holes. I’m dedicating this picture to my sister and her boyfriend, both of whom work as “pigeon whisperers” back home in Edmonton.
I love this shot of a woman walking along, with her sari blowing in the wind.
And Rob, doing what he does
These guys took their gates seriously
This was probably the first time we saw such beautiful flowers in India
And some really fantastic trees
The architecture in and around the fort was unbelievable. You remember that I said Jodhpur was one of the most visually interesting places we have ever been? This is definitely one of the main reasons!
We found a pretty sweet spot to get some shots of the Old City
And this is what I was doing up there! I absolutely love the blue houses.
Here’s a quick video to give you a sense of where we were standing
And us with the blue houses in the background!
Inside of the fort were some jaw dropping rooms. Those maharajas really had a sense of style! Although I believe this room was decorated using golf leaf, glue and cow urine….
This fort was built around 1800, I believe, and is just a photographer’s playground
And here’s the photographer!
This was an old palanquin. We think that some of our brides should get ones like this for their doli ceremonies! This thing was easily much taller than both Rob and myself.
One of the guards having a cup of chai
Two guys showing off a length of fabric that is used to tie a turban. Can you believe the length of that?
And one final shot of Cameron. As we left the fort he was having a little snack, and was so cute to watch as he just munched away.
And that’s Jodhpur. Highly, highly recommended. Approved by The Wedding Travelers. Whatever you want to say, it’s cool. Next we're off to Jaisalmer, which we hope will be just as visually stunning.
First, before we get to the magic of Jodhpur, let’s take a look at a couple of the photos from Bombay, as we drove towards the train station. It was simply unbelievable how many people were living like this along side the road. The rows and rows of these shelters never seemed to end.
And yet life seemed to go on as usual
It was certainly a very humbling taxi ride.
Now we’ll take a big leap into Rajasthan, to the city of Jodhpur, called the Sun City. I can honestly say that this is one of the most visually interesting places we’ve ever visited! We’ve certainly had a wonderful time taking photos here, and could stay for much longer, but alas, we’re about to move on. Such is our whirlwind journey around this huge country!
So the other day we armed up with our cameras and endeavored to simply wander and shoot. Sure, we usually end up getting lost, and having to catch an auto-rickshaw back to our hotel, but it’s always fantastic. We end up wandering far away from the normal tourist route, to places where people seem more interested in the fact that we’re carrying huge cameras than the fact that we are tourists who can be sold things. We end up getting lots of great shots of people as we do that, so today we’ll primarily be showing you some of the neat portraits we took.
First off we came across a woman painting pottery. She would put the red designs on using her fingers, dipped in thick red paint. It looked wonderful.
Then it was a puppy attack!! An attack of kisses, that is. These two puppies came running out at us and just showered us with kisses. Wonderful Indian hospitality : )
Ok, this picture is likely to make us laugh for years and years to come. Just after we were attacked by the puppies, we heard this very strange sound coming from down the street. We looked up to see a donkey barreling down the road, all alone, basically screaming and just running like nobodies business. To this day I still have no idea why a lone donkey was just running down the road, but I can’t help but giggle when I think of the sight.
Now to those portraits. Kids love to come up to us and ask for their photo to be taken. This dapper young guy even gave Rob a big “Thank you”. We love good manners : )
And how could you not be stopped in your tracks by this absolutely gorgeous little girl??
These schoolchildren literally mobbed us. Seriously. A couple came up to ask for their photos to be taken, and then all of a sudden we were surrounded by dozens of them all screaming at us for a photo! It was nuts! We had to run away eventually, but it was pretty darn funny
I love the smile on this little girl
And this dapper guy is our “internet man”. Just across the street from our hotel is an internet point, and this is the owner. He chatted with us for a while, and then Rob took his photo. The guy liked it so much that we burned him a CD right there with the shots! He was so pleased that he announced that he would pray to the gods that we would have a son before the next time we come back to India....Lol!!
Then as the sun was setting I walked up to the roof of our hotel and took a couple shots of the surroundings. The landscapes here are absolutely breathtaking.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Jodhpur is that many of the buildings are painted blue. Add to that the huge figure of Meherangarh Fort, and you have a pretty impressive sight.
And, as is becoming the norm here in India, we hear some loud noises, and rush outside our hotel room to see a huge parade going by. This one was actually a barat, the procession of the groom to the wedding. If you look up in the right corner of the photo, at the end of the line of people, you can just make out the groom sitting on his big white horse.
And what is another common sight here, geckos!
So thus ended our first day here. And the next day we were off to the fort, so that is what you get to see next! Stay tuned : )
Following our surreal first night in Bombay we were excited to get out the next day to take some “snaps” as all the cool kids we met at Arjun and Runa’s wedding say!
We started off heading back to Victoria Terminus, the main train station in Bombay. And it’s absolutely astounding! Can you believe this is a train station?
We actually did try to book a train ticket while we were there, and some guy tried to charge us double what the price should have been. But this was not our first day in India, and we told him “No way” and walked off, and booked it much much cheaper elsewhere. Plus one for Rob and Lauren!
Now when we travel we don’t head out the door at 8AM and take photos until the sun goes down. We would be absolutely exhausted. We try to take things easy, and just go out with the purpose of taking photos for a few hours each day. So when I was planning where to go in Bombay, I thought that heading to the Oval Maidan would be a perfect, and relaxing, spot! And as I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth the Oval Maidan is, this sign might give you a clue.
It’s a huge field that’s simply for cricket! Since we’ve arrived in India it seems like all the kids play is cricket, and all that’s on the sports channels is, yep you guessed it, cricket. Being from Canada we have absolutely no clue at all how cricket is played. We’ve watched enough here to sort of get the idea, and drew on junior high school gym classes to fill in the blanks, but we’re hopeless when it comes to the scoring. Nevertheless, it was really amazing to go and watch some people actually playing, rather than just watching on TV. And I’ll tell you we both found it more exciting!
There were hundreds of people there, and dozens of games going on, but certainly not enough space for all of that! So all the games bled into each other, and outfielders from one game would be standing right in the middle of another game. It was hilarious, and we were both stumped as to how they kept it all straight! It was such a neat setting as well, with the gorgeous buildings of the university and law courts peeking over the trees.
Then we took a walk to the famous India gate, where there were TONS of people just hanging out. Unfortunately we missed sunset by like half an hour, so the light was fading fast!
One of the neat attractions around the gate are these huge carriages pulled by horses. You can see one in the left side of this shot. Crazy.
Next we hopped into a cab and made our way to Chowpatty Beach. We thought we’d find a popular little beach, with some families hanging out, and not much else. Boy, we were wrong. It was practically a full moon party (a crazy crazy all night rave that’s held one a month on Ko Phan Ngan, Thailand) but with families instead of travelers. There were rides, tons of food, vendors selling little toys, and hundreds and hundreds of families. Here’s a shot of some balloons swinging in the breeze (remember, it’s completely dark out at this point)
We were both shocked at how incredibly large Bombay is. We thought we were in the downtown area, surrounded by huge buildings, but once we got onto the beach we could see a completely separate skyline of even more sky rises.
And we couldn’t get over these rides they had there. Remember that we’re in India, and things are done quite differently…
Rob decided to get creative and do some abstract work using the lights…
There were tons of vendors selling these neat little toys that consisted of a little blue LED light on a helicopter type thing that you launched into the air, and watched float down. As Rob was taking a shot one of the toys landed right in front of the camera, and the little boy came to pick it up. You can see the blue line going through the middle of the shot. Cool!
And one last one of a street near our hotel. Rob really like the fact that it was called “Ganesh Lane”
Unfortunately we weren’t able to spend more time in Bombay, since it was really expensive for our room! But it was definitely an enjoyable change of pace, and we both enjoyed our time immensely. I’m sure we’ll be back one day to explore some more of the huge city.
P.S. You might remember the statistics we posted regarding poverty in Bombay. And you might be a bit confused, since all the photos we posted showed nothing of that. In truth, the area that we stayed in was remarkably free of much poverty. However, as we took a cab to the bus station, we drove past countless slums along the sides of the streets, and we were both completely surprised at how different these two parts of the same city could be.
After the intensity of Varanasi and Calcutta, I’ll tell you that both Rob and I were feeling very drained and overwhelmed by India. I’m not ashamed to admit that I allowed at least some of my expectations of this country to be shaped by the Bollywood movies that I so love to watch. And so far no one had been spontaneously breaking out into song and dance in the streets. I was worried that perhaps India wasn’t going to live up to all these expectations I had.
And then we arrived in Bombay.
(And before I go further with that, you’ll notice that sometimes we call it Bombay, and sometimes Mumbai. Sometimes Calcutta and sometimes Kolkata. And these slight name changes go even as far as Pondicherry now becoming Puducherry. Essentially the government is trying to eradicate the lingering traces of English occupation, by changing the names that the British gave these cities. But most of the locals use the old names, the train stations and airports still have the old designations, and it’s all just one big muddled-up confusing mess. So I think we’ll just refuse to take sides, and use whatever name feels right at the time. Forgive me if you get confused :)
Our first moments in the city were rather anti-climactic. We knew we would be arriving in Victoria Terminus, the busiest train station in Asia (over 2.5 million travelers pass through every day!). But when the train stopped, there were no people around, no big signs sayind “Bombay!” and just an empty train, and us completely befuddled. We were told that it was indeed Bombay, and that we needed to get off since it was the last stop. So off we get, and we wander around a seemingly deserted platform until we find the exit. And then we are quickly introduced to the impressive sights of Bombay! But I’ll save those pictures for my next post. This one will simply talk about what happened our first night in the city.
We were walking back to our hotel after picking up some water and other essential snacks when we came across a group of guys working around what looked like a giant Coke can. It was attached to a couple of ropes that led up to the roofs of the surrounding buildings. Naturally we were intrigued so we sat and watched as they hoisted the can up. But then things stopped, the can remained suspended above the street, and nothing else was going on. So we went to our room and were just working when we suddenly heard fireworks and drums and music. We have missed opportunities too frequently by wondering if we should get our cameras, so now we simply grab everything and boot it out the door. We thought it was going to be a barat, which is the procession of the groom to the wedding, and generally involves a huge crowd of dancing and drumming. But this was not a barat. We weren’t totally sure what was going on, but we followed this little parade of people and watched as they set off huge fireworks, and sang and whatnot. Things seems to be a bit of a let down, but we were having a ton of fun as the kids started to ask for us to take their photos. This one little boy would get so incredibly excited whenever we’d show him the photo of himself. Here’s a great catch Rob got of him clapping after seeing his picture.
And a neat shot of our hotel’s sign with the fireworks going on in the background.
And then the real madness began. This was a festival, and it involved the people smearing themselves in haldi (turmeric) powder, and walking down the streets as others stationed on the surrounding rooftops threw incredible amounts of flower petals down on them. It was absolutely insane.
The whole parade centered around this thing they were carrying, that they covered with an umbrella. Everything was so crazy it was hard to really see what was going on!
And there were tons of people who noticed us (the only two white people on the street, and with enormous cameras) and asked for their photos to be taken. This girl was so cute.
And here are some women showing off the plates of haldi
We took a bunch of videos, and this one I’ll share with you. It really shows how crazy all the flower petals were, I simply can’t believe how many there were! And at the end of the video you can see the big Coke can. They opened up the bottom to let a bunch of flower petals fall, but they got stuck after all that work!
So of course some intrepid guy got out a huge stick to poke the can, and success, the petals came out!!
All in all it was an Indian dream come true, and we were so glad we happened to stay just in the right hotel to see it all. We even got a bit of haldi on our foreheads as well!
Really, where else in the world could you see something like this just by stepping out your door? It was amazing, and really made up for all the difficulties we had been having up to this point! Like I said last time, India really is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and this was a fantastic up!
P.S. I've tried to figure out what the name of this festival is, but to no avail. One young boy said something like "Aufderbhad" but I couldn't make out precisely what he said! If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!