Deadvlei Silhouettes

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 373)

Today we continue a travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia, with my friend Jeremy Woodhouse and his group. Of my 145 final selects, I did get around to uploading a tighter 80 photo selection to my portfolios site (and I'll put a link into the show notes) if you...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
14 Comments
  • Tammy
    Posted at 09:32h, 04 June Reply

    Great Photo’s as usual Martin!

  • Franklin Israel
    Posted at 20:32h, 04 June Reply

    Awesome pictures as always. I am sure it was a great trip to Africa.

  • Andreas Friedl
    Posted at 03:11h, 06 June Reply

    Those are amazing images. I love the almost high key/low contrast effect on the single Springbok and I am drawn to the simplicity of the Deadvlei Silhouette image – beautiful composition.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:21h, 06 June Reply

      Thanks Andreas! I’m pleased you liked these. Thanks for taking a look!

  • t.linn
    Posted at 08:58h, 12 June Reply

    Love the Deadvlei Silhouettes image from morning no. 2. I also like your image of the camel thorn trees backlit with their shadows. You haven’t talked about that one yet. Slightly different color palette than I’m used to seeing from Deadvlei — if it Deadvlei. It would be interesting to see that scene from a slightly higher perspective. Guess you didn’t wedge a ladder into that giant North Face duffel bag. It looks almost big enough…

    I’m curious if you are using a polarizer for these Namibia images. (Not just the two I’ve referenced but in general.) If not, I’d be interested to know why.

    Your point about not searching out other photographs of a location ahead of time is an interesting one. I’d never considered the downside to doing so. I tend to do just that and I do find that I am occasionally captive to a particular compositional idea because of it; or preoccupied with seeking out a particular perspective rather than being completely open to what is in front of me. On the other hand, there are times when I’ve missed opportunities that were only minutes away because I didn’t do enough research. I’ll have to reconsider the pros and cons.

    As always, thanks for the great work you put into these podcasts.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:44h, 12 June Reply

      Hi Tim,

      I probably won’t talk about that backlit camel thorn tree. Do you mean this one?
      http://www.martinbaileyportfolios.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/MBP_Namibia_20130511_2357.jpg

      If so, that was Deadvlei, once the sun was high enough to hit the back dune. It’s just a 180 degree turn from most of the other trees I shot there. If it was another shot, please provide a URL so I can comment.

      I didn’t use a polarizer for any photos in Deadvlei, and only used it once for one of the dune with tree shots. I just don’t use them very much.

      You’re right of course, that not researching locations can be dangerous in that you could miss something that you just weren’t aware of. I generally live with that, and learn by it. My thinking is, I should have a good idea of what is in the area just from looking at photos over the years, but if I miss something big, I just kick myself for not finding it, and add it to the list of stuff to shoot on a return visit. I just like to test my own eyes and vision, and remove those paralyzing preconceptions.

      You’re welcome for the Podcasts. Thanks for listening/looking!

      Martin.

  • t.linn
    Posted at 10:12h, 12 June Reply

    Yes, that’s the one to which I was referring. Really nice shot.

    When you say that you just don’t use polarizers much, is it because you don’t really see a benefit or because of the hassle? I ask because the light you’re getting in Africa seems very bright and harsh outside of the golden and blue hours. I would think a polarizer would help to bring back a little bit of contrast and saturation — at least when the sun is at certain angles relative to your composition.

    To be clear, I’m not at all trying to be critical of your images. As I ride along virtually with you through this amazing country I find myself wondering how I would deal with the reality that most of the day is spent in less than ideal light and the first thought that occurred to me is reaching for a polarizer.

    FWIW, the second thought that occurred to me is going with a sepia tone in post processing — exactly as you did. I don’t think you need to apologize for doing so. I wasn’t aware of the photographer you referenced as you introduced your first sepia-toned image in part 3 but I’ve always considered this a good option when dealing with harsh light. It’s never occurred to me that it’s a style that belongs to one individual. Just my opinion, of course.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:31h, 12 June Reply

      No, I just don’t really see the benefit. I tried the polarizer a few times, for the reasons you say, but it really didn’t do much, and wasn’t worth the hassle. Sometimes it did help to bring out the red in the sand, and I used it then, but otherwise, left it in the bag.

      I actually don’t think the light was that harsh for most of the shots I’ve selected. Do you have your monitor brightness up high? Remember I process everything with my monitor calibrated, both for color and brightness. This sometimes makes other think they are high-key, when they really aren’t. There were some harsh shadows of course. The sun is very strong in Namibia, but if that’s what you’re seeing, that’s what it looks like. I just live with that. 🙂

      I rarely go to black and white or sepia to overcome harsh light either. For me, it’s usually when the color get’s in the way, or doesn’t add anything. Or when I know even when shooting the image that it will work better in black and white. If I think the light is just too harsh, I don’t take the photo.

      I hope this doesn’t sound defensive. I don’t mind the comments at all, but I really just don’t see any images where the harshness of the light is distracting to the point where I’d need to do anything about it. Maybe it’s just me. 🙂

  • t.linn
    Posted at 13:35h, 12 June Reply

    I think you know I’m a huge Martin Bailey fan. The last thing I intended to do is offend you or provide some unsolicited critique of your images. So, having said that, let me see if I can make things worse…

    First, thanks to your review my monitors are all calibrated with i1Profiler using an i1Photo Pro 2. And I should add that I appreciated that particular post far more than my wife did. : )

    It isn’t that that your images look high key or that the light is distracting. It’s that the light is sometimes less than ideal for all the reasons you mention. To be clear, I’m critiquing the light, NOT your images. Take, for example, the image of the two Oryx along the road. I think that’s a great image. I find it interesting. It has a sense of humor about it. (I love the bent horn and how the Oryx on the right almost looks like it’s a fat creature on two legs!) And it gives a great sense of what it was like to be right there at that moment in time. On the other hand, I find — personal opinion only — that the light is less than ideal. I would describe it as harsh. The sun is almost directly overhead. The light is bluish and a little hazy. When it popped up in the podcast I thought to myself, “I wonder if Martin used a polarizer on this trip and if he found that it made any difference shooting in this type of light.” Of course, in this shot it wouldn’t have.

    As far as the sepia approach goes, I completely agree with your reasoning. I described it as one remedy for harsh light, but the reason I consider it as such is because it addresses the bluish haze that often develops as the angle of the sun increases. I find in my own images that toning an image allows me to capture images that I am happy with farther into the day.

    http://tlinn.com/images/travel/north_america/ca/death_valley/2008-12/death_valley_2008.htm?ssm=11

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 16:44h, 12 June Reply

      No, no, no Tim, you haven’t offended me at all. I appreciate the comments. I just didn’t want to sound overly defensive, that’s all.

      Now, I do need to reiterate though, that I’m talking about the brightness of your monitor, not just the calibration. Do you have the brightness turned down to probably around half, or less, as instructed by the calibration software? This is not always obvious, and rarely done, which leaves most people’s monitors way too bright, even if they’re calibrated.

      I’m with you on the Oryx shot. The light is certainly less than ideal there, but it is what it is. A polarizer wouldn’t have helped, as it was hazy and dusty, but really, that’s how the scene was, and how I want to remember it. The light is harsh at that time of day. Of course, it would have been great if they’d done that at dawn, but for that sort of shot, it doesn’t bother me that it was mid-day. In fact, I quite like it. It reminds me of how hot it can get during the day. We don’t have to try to correct everything, in my opinion.

      Great shots in your slideshow there. It was running automatically, so I’m not sure if it was to illustrate your point, but there were a few shots, like the one with the tree and shadow, where I can see it was hazy. The sepia doesn’t hide that, it’s just not blue. It’s a beautiful shot still, haze and all. That’s what happens at that time of day, and to me, I really don’t think we necessarily need to try to hide it.

      I guess I actually think there is too much stigma attached to “bad” light. I avoid it when I can, but when I can’t, I work with it, and live with it.

      Please don’t apologize for your comments Tim. I know your intensions are good. If I didn’t, I’d delete or ignore it. We’re talking because I respect your views. 🙂

  • t.linn
    Posted at 04:42h, 13 June Reply

    Good points all, Martin. At my editing station at work — I’m a video editor by trade — I set brightness to 80 cd/m2. But that workspace is pretty dark. At my home office I keep the room a little brighter so I use 100 cd/m2. How bright do you keep the monitors in your workspace? (I have your terrific ebook, Making the Print, but I don’t recall if you provided specific recommendations. An illustration showed a monitor set to 80 cd/m2.)

    As far as the slideshow goes, it was only the one shot I intended to reference. I can link to a specific shot in the middle of the slideshow but only the viewer can pause it there. : ) Thanks for your kind comments. It’s hard for me to look at older work but I will admit that I am very fond of the specific shot I linked to.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 21:07h, 13 June Reply

      I’m not sure what I set mine to without checking, but I’m instructed to set it quite low by the calibration software. My MacBook Pro is usually around 50% of the brightness scale, and my Eizo monitor in my office is around 25%.

      I think I saw the photo. They’re all very nice anyway.

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