Traveling with Ladakh’s Karnak Nomads (from the archives)

I’m digging deep into the archives for this one. These images were made on June 5, 2005 while I was traveling with the Karnak Nomads of Ladakh. Ladakh is situated in the Indian Himalaya and these photographs were made on the Changtang Plateau, which is an extension of the Tibetan Plateau that reaches into India. The Karnak nomads are technically semi-nomadic, as they travel to the same pastures in a seasonally migratory pattern.

At the end of this day I was both exhausted and happy. I had all my gear on my back and would get ahead of the caravan so that I could photograph, they would all pass me, I would run to the front and make some photographs again. I’ve included the rare self-portrait with this one. All of these photos were made with the old Nikon D100.

I’m currently in Ladakh doing some documentary work for the International Mountain Leadership Institute and am continuing this personal project. By the time this posts I’ll be back on the Changtang as I continue to document this disappearing culture. Many of the nomads now live in Choglamsar, on the outskirts of Leh, looking for a better life for their children. A few hardy families continue on.

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45 thoughts on “Traveling with Ladakh’s Karnak Nomads (from the archives)

  1. I am not usually a fan of older posts being reused, but this collection is simply stunning! It would be a shame if these photos didn’t get the spotlight once in a while! Best of luck with your work there.

    • Well, this was not an old post reused, I never do that. These were images that were buried on my hard drive that finally saw the light of day. At the time I made these images the internet in Leh was not what it is today (it’s still struggling). I wasn’t even on WordPress then. So when I say “from the archives” I simply mean from my personal hard drives that haven’t been published yet. Thanks brother.

  2. Amazing landscape. Love the way you have shown the higher mountain range with the nomads in the foreground. Puts the whole expedition into the right perspective.

    (and i disagree totally with ‘manyounighted’. Why wouldn’t you reuse older posts or photos from your archives once in a while 1. you can’t always post in the current time and it gives your readers some idea of where you are/were. 2. One always gets new readers who are interested in the subject and don’t have time to go through the archives. 3. Most importantly, for a lover of the Himalayan cultures such as myself who can’t afford or have the health to travel, it’s like trekking through the region with you).

    I enjoy your images immensely. Thanks for sharing your work and journey.

    • Hey Vicki, thanks for the kind words! Another reason I don’t always post immediately is that I didn’t want to create a tourist rush among these nomads. They had seen enough already, and publishing it then might have increased the desire for tourists to come. They didn’t want that. Now that things have changed, the publication won’t affect them in the same way.

      I appreciate your third point immensely, I don’t take for granted the gift I have in time and health to travel like this, and I cherish getting to share it with others!

  3. One of the nice things about blogging is seeing things you’ll never see in person (ok never say never but this one is pretty unlikely!) Beautiful story and captures Russ – and thanks for including yourself this time!!

    • Thanks Tina, from what I’ve learned these people are using trucks more and more to move pastures. It’s a way of life that is rapidly changing so it’s pretty unlikely anyone will see it exactly like that again. You’re welcome for the selfie. : )

  4. Awesome as always. You in india russ? No plans of coming to Mumbai ? I can promise you some great photo opportunities 🙂

  5. I remember placing notes in Orion’s belt for you during this seasons of life…you there, me in California. I would often wonder where you were – what part of the sky you were under – when those notes were pulled out. It’s beautiful and humbling to see it now, these years later. Godspeed my brother.

    • Nice to hear from you Mr. Watson. I do indeed remember pulling those notes out of Orion’s belt, one day we’ll know just what impact they had. It was indeed good to be back with these people again this past week…

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