Camel Train, Nubra Valley, Himalayas

Camel Train, Nubra Valley, Himalayas, IndiaCamel Train, Nubra Valley, Himalayas, India

In a professional photographer’s career, there comes a once-in-a-lifetime image that defines that photographer’s work clearly from years of dedication and passion in pursuit of a specific style and genre.  Often, that image is a combination of luck in being in the right place at the right time. However, the eye, mind and spirit need to come together at just the right time to effectively capture the moment in such a way, that it connects with people.

‘Camel Train, Nubra Valley’ for me is such an image. It is the highest awarded image in my career and the one that has received the most feedback from viewers worldwide. People have said it reminds them of the romance of travel through the old Silk Road or they feel drawn to the amazing landscapes of the snow- capped Himalayas that exist in the highest mountain passes in the world. To some, this image encapsulates the need that lives in all of us to embrace travel and adventure through roads less travelled in a world that is filled with the ‘package holiday’.






Awards for this Print

At the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) 2015 awards held in Melbourne; ‘Camel Train, Nubra Valley’ achieved a Gold with Distinction and the Highest Scoring Print in the Travel Category. Nick was runner up to the Australian Travel Photographer of the Year.

The AIPP submitted Nick’s photo as part of Team Australia’s submission in the World Photographic Cup (WPC) held in Portugal in March 2016. WPC is like a photographic Olympics where the world’s Professional Photographers enter various categories. The ten best images in the World are chosen in each category and then one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze are awarded in each category on the awards night. The country with the highest tally of medals wins the World Photographic Cup and a different country each year hosts the cup.

Nick achieved a Silver medal for ‘Camel train, Nubra Valley’ in the Nature Category (Landscapes and Wildlife) and Australia came sixth in the medal tally from 28 countries. This means that the image was ranked second in the world in Nature for 2016. All the winning images at WPC are featured here

Camel Train was also featured in The National Geographic website and received over 1000 votes in two days from a worldwide audience.

The image was printed in 'The World' section of 'The Times' newspaper in London

It became a finalist in the the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year










Story Behind the Image

In September 2014, I journeyed on a personal project to the Ladakh area in Northern India in search of the monasteries in the high Himalayas. This was a follow up to a philosophy and photography tour in 2013 I made with a colleague of mine from my consulting days; Dr Ron Cacioppe; through Greece and India. 

My main objective for this trip was to capture the remote monasteries in the high Himalayan region in India. The trip lasted around a month and it would take me across the five highest mountain passes in the world, traversing some of the roughest roads on the planet. 

After many adventures, I crossed the Khardungla Pass from Leh towards the Nubra Valley which at 18,380 feet, is the highest motorable road in the world. It was certainly cold at those altitudes but the biggest annoyance was altitude sickness which, although I was fortunate in managing it; walking and moving around was sometimes quite a chore. My guide called it 'attitude' sickness.

In the late afternoon, we descended into the white dunes of the Nubra Valley NE of Ladakh towards Diskit, the capital of Nubra, about 150 km north of Leh. Nubra contains the stunning 1000 year old Diskit Monastery next to a giant Buddha built on the slopes of a high mountain.

We made our descent and rested on the valley floor and then I saw the camel trains in the distance heading towards the Diskit monastery. I asked my driver and guide to park the car and cross a stream and head as close as we could towards a peak where I knew the camels would have to cross, separating them from the snow tipped Himalayas in the background.

The sun was starting to set and I could see that the breaks in the clouds produced shafts of golden light moving in and out of the valley floor behind where the camels would cross. Although I intended to use a tripod for my telephoto lens and DSLR, it became obvious I would need to get close and get there in a hurry before camels and golden shafts of light both disappeared. It’s amazing what the adrenalin rush of a great potential photo could do and I ran as best I could with just the camera towards the camels with my guide and driver close behind, altitude sickness and all.

Breathless and feeling as though someone had ripped my lungs out in the high altitude, I started shooting quickly and trying to time the shots so I could get separation of the camels from each other (they were tied together in a line). I was also trying to get clear separation of the silhouettes of the camels behind a golden shaft of light behind them.

I fired several frames until I thought I captured my vision of the shot. I had no time to check the back of my camera to see if I got what I wanted and It was all over in a few minutes. We drove back in silence to some primitive accommodation and waited until they got the generator going so I could download the images. 

 I was quite exhausted after the long and arduous day’s drive so I didn’t see in detail whether I managed to get a decent frame from those I took and it was a couple of days before I could edit the images. 

It was one of the most amazing shooting experiences of my life and worth the effort to traverse one of the most beautiful but inhospitable terrains on the planet.