Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hey Buddy, Got A Camel?

Not that kind of Camel.

I'm talking about the furry hump-backed, "you-don't-bother-me-and-I-won't-spit-on-you" kind.

For this American in Abu Dhabi, camels are a great draw. Camels on a dune say to me, "you are in Arabia." Camels in a caravan on a dune say, "we've been doing it this way for thousands of years."

For me to be fascinated with camels here though, is like a guy in Kansas being fascinated with cows. The only difference is that in the U.S., we don't have annual beauty contests for cows.

And in America it would be uncommon for a pretty cow to go for $5M. That's right, million.

Anyway, my fascination has taken me to the desert a few times, and I have been rewarded each time I have made the trip.

Camels can sometimes be seen in the distance from the highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But then again, camels are everywhere in the United Arab Emirates. Draw a vector from Al Ain, to Dubai, to Abu Dhabi, and back. Right in middle is an area know for farms. My friend Ahmed's family raises camels here. I have spent several hours out in this region which has gorgeous dunes and pretty camels.  
On one particular hot summer day (somewhere around 130 degrees F), me and my Sony SLR were just a couple of dunes off the road and I spooked a group of camels resting under a shade tree. I tried to back away and let them rest, but they were already committed to getting far away from me. So with my long lens in hand, I decided to follow. After only a few yards, the apparent alpha male of the group stopped and turned to look at me, as if to say, "that's close enough." And objects in a telephoto lens really do look closer than they are. But before I turned back, I snapped this shot, one of my favorite images taken in my fourteen months in the UAE.

But camels are just found in the desert sand. Sometimes they are found on the road. And when you see a "Camel Crossing" sign like this, pay attention to it. In my experience, it was quite accurate!


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