It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I made a short movie showing the Autumn color in our local park, the Jindai Botanical Park and Gardens here in Tokyo. At the end of our November Question Time event for Patreon supporters last weekend, we talked about sharing our 2022 Top Ten images in the January Question Time, so I’ve been starting to reflect on the year a little mentally, recalling my May trip to Namibia, and feeling thankful that we finally seem to be returning to a semblance of normality as the pandemic gradually becomes more manageable and less of a threat for the majority of the population.
Unfortunately, as I went through my images of this year’s Autumn leaves in the park, I was somewhat saddened that many of the images were just repeats of previous years. The strange weather has made the leaves considerably less attractive than usual, and if it weren’t for a few other photos that I quite like, I probably would have given up on the idea of sharing any photos from this visit to the park altogether.
As it stands, I have nine images from the visit, and a couple of them that I am happy with, so let’s work through my shots anyway, starting with this image of the Crepe-myrtle trees in their Autumn dress and the sun shining through the canopy.
I like the sunburst or starburst effect of the sun shining through the trees. This effect is easily achieved with wide-angle lenses, even without stopping down the aperture very much, but I had stopped down to ƒ/14 for this shot anyway to get the leaves and foreground shadows sharp, although, in this image, that would have been achieved by an aperture of ƒ/8 or even ƒ/5.6.
The second image I shot of these trees, though, benefitted much more from the ƒ/14 aperture as I set my camera down on the ground to capture the grasses and leaves in beautiful detail. The closest leaves to the lens are going slightly out of focus, but everything is sharp from a few centimeters into the frame, so I’m happy with how this turned out.
I folded out the screen and had the digital level visible with the intention of ensuring that the horizon was straight, but as I put my camera down, a few people that I was hoping would walk out of the frame did just that, so I grabbed this shot before a few other people walked into the frame. The result is that I hadn’t leveled the horizon properly yet, but this was my best shot because of the lack of people. I could straighten the horizon in post, but I didn’t want to throw out any pixels, so I’m living with this for now, and I do like the shot, even wonky, so I’m not too concerned.
I did use an adjustment layer in Capture One Pro and brushed in a little bit of lightness in the shadows in the foreground leaves, just to open them up a little and provide a little more balance with the elements in the top of the frame. Another thing I did as I shot was to remove the twigs in the foreground, but again, I preferred this shot and think that the twigs add a little to the feeling of the image, so again, they stayed.
Here also is a shot of the yellow maple leaves, which are generally a lot prettier, but this year they have been eaten a little more than usual by bugs, and there are some red spots in the yellow, probably caused by some chillier than usual nights over the last few weeks. We even had a frost a few times, and that doesn’t usually happen in Tokyo in November.
For these leaves, I opened up the aperture as wide as it will go, which gives me ƒ/7.1 at 500mm with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens. This is because I wanted as shallow a depth of field as I could get for the leaves to keep the viewer’s attention on the foreground leaves and make the background leaves more like supporting actors. The background is very dark, as I aligned with a shadow area in this image, so the shallow depth of field didn’t have much effect on the distant background in this shot.
In the next image, though, I aligned the leaves with an illuminated area of the background to capture the out-of-focus leaves to provide a more colorful backdrop. I actually closed my aperture down to ƒ/8 for this shot to get just a slightly deeper depth of field, as I wanted the foreground leaves, which were all close to the same distance from the camera in this shot, to be in focus, while leaving the background as blurred as possible.
I like the textures in the background color, which were smooth over the red leaves, but some low grasses had an interesting effect on the bokeh in the bottom right corner, which I found somewhat appealing. Again though, the leaves themselves aren’t very attractive, and the bear twigs on the right are just about acceptable because they allow us to see that textured yellow bokeh.
Just one more leaves shot to go as we look at the red leaves a few meters away from the yellow leaves. These red leaves were backlit, so the light was shining through the leaves rather than shining on the leaves, and although these leaves were in slightly better condition, the shot is nothing special. I’ve only really kept it in the set because I kind of like the atmosphere, but I will probably not keep this in my finals if I review it again in a few week’s time, probably as I work on my 2022 Top Ten image selection.
After spending probably less than half the time I usually spend photographing the maple trees, we had a walk through the park, noticed that the cosmos flowers were already gone, leaving just soil now waiting for the winter to set in, and we made our way through to the corner of the park that has various types of Dahlia flowers at this time of year. They were mostly past their best, with a few blooms still worth shooting.
I noticed this honey bee in the center of a yellow Dahlia, so I hit the Exposure Lock button on the back of my Canon EOS R5, as I’ve customized the camera to remap that button to switch between One Shot and AI Servo focusing, and I used AI Servo to stay with the bee as both the bee and I moved around. This made it pretty easy to get the bee’s eye nice and sharp as it went about its business.
I do enjoy photographing these Dahlia flowers and converting them to black and white in Capture One Pro, then used a few adjustment layers to black out the background. I did take a patch of black velvet to hold up behind the flowers to help reduce the processing time, but my wife had gone to the restroom, and the angle was such that it wouldn’t have been possible to hold the cloth behind this flower anyway, so I did all of the dark backgrounds in post.
I generally start with one adjustment layer and brush over the background with a tone curve that has the highlights intact, but the shadows dropped down as far as I can take them. Then I do at least one more adjustment layer with reduced exposure, and I’m careful not to paint over the flower’s petals around the edges.
The next Dahlia shot received similar processing, but this felt like a firework to me, so I left its stalk more visible so that it looked like the light from the firework as it climbed to the point where it exploded. I also play with the highlights and shadow sliders on the background layer to increase the contrast between the layers of petals.
The final image that I wanted to talk about is this rose photo, which I again gave the black background treatment, but I left the unopened bud visible, as it felt like a thespian waiting in the wings, probably until the main actor here withered, giving way to the supporting actor.
Apart from the slightly unattractive maple leaves this year, I guess I’m relatively pleased with this selection, although often at this time of year, the maple leaves in Autumn dress usually steal the show. With me not being able to run the 2022 Japan winter tours this year, though, I can see probably at least one of these making its way into my 2022 Top Ten selection that I’ll share towards the end of the year or the start of January before I set off for the first of the 2023 Japan Winter Tours.
Share Your Top Ten in January Patrons’ Question Time
As I said, we will review Top Tens from any Patreon supporters of Tier #3 or higher that want to join the January Question Time event, which I’ll schedule for when I’m home between trips. If you’d like to be involved in that, and share your work with the group, ensure that you select your own top ten images from 2022 and support the Podcast for at least $5 per month, even if it’s just for January, and you’ll receive an invite via the Patreon message system and via the private MBP Community Forum, that comes as one of the Patreon supporter benefits. I hope to see you there!
I recently spent four days in Northern Japan, starting with a family event, then a little photography in some of my favorite places to shoot. The day before we left, I took delivery of my new iPhone 14 Pro Max, which I’d ordered as soon as the new iPhone went on sale, and it’s taken until now to arrive. My previous iPhone was four years old at this point, so I was ready for an upgrade, and I am enjoying the slightly larger form factor and I’m enjoying the three cameras, and the Macro mode, which is new to me with this iPhone.
I had heard that the new iPhone had a 48-megapixel camera, and I thought I’d enabled it as I selected to shoot raw images which is required to get the 48-megapixel images, but I didn’t find out until I got home that only the main 1X camera is 48 megapixels, and you have to enable Raw in the settings and hit the Raw button in the camera to shoot raw images. You can change the camera settings so that it remembers to stay in Raw mode, but when shooting raw images, the camera automatically disables the Live Photo setting. I personally enjoy playing with Live Photos more than I value the ability to shoot raw images with the iPhone camera, so I’ll probably not be switching to raw very often. I definitely enjoyed having such a great additional photography tool with me during this trip, and I’ll share a few of my iPhone photos alongside my Canon EOS R5 photos as we work through this travelogue.
Ultimately, when I want to shoot a raw 48-megapixel image with my iPhone, I have the button displayed ready to switch, but despite looking forward to the higher resolution, not being able to get that resolution with pretty much all modes that I use the iPhone camera in is a bit of a downer.
We weren’t sure how much time we’d have left to go out shooting, as the family event and meeting some old friends was the highest priority for this trip, but we managed to get everything we needed to do done in the first two days, so on the third day, we drove around to the Five Color Lakes that I’ve talked about in the past. We got slightly better fall color this year, but still, it was probably around 5 days to a week early so the colors weren’t great.
Thankfully, the natural colors in some of the Five Color Lakes themselves were nice and found themselves in some of my shots, like this one of a patch of the Blue Pond, with a little bit of fall color creeping in on the trees to the right. I placed that grey-colored bare tree along the right side of the frame and was careful to find a nice spot as that green tree on the left faded into the darkness to end the left edge of the frame.
You can see the shooting information by clicking on the images, but the main settings for this were ƒ/16 at ISO 100 for 0.3 seconds. It was overcast when I shot this, but the longer-than-usual exposure helped me to still bring out the beautiful colors, especially the blues in the water, which are caused by minerals.
This next image is the same lake from around 90 degrees to the right of the previous shot and slightly more elevated. This was actually as we came back from our walk along the track through the lakes, but I don’t have anything to share from the other lakes using my Canon EOS R5, so I figured we’d keep these together.
I like this one because of the more pronounced reflections on the trees in the blue water and because we can see some nice detail in the pond bed in the bottom left corner. I hand-held this shot because I had to get down low to shoot through some trees, and my wife was starting to get a little bit impatient as she was ready for lunch, so I didn’t spend the time necessary to lower my tripod legs. I did increase my ISO to 200 though so that I could get a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, which was going to be better for hand-holding my 105mm focal length.
After lunch, we swung by my favorite waterfall in Japan, which I also visited last October and many times before. In this next image, you see the Tatsusawa Fudodaki. This waterfall is incredibly soothing to visit and photograph, although the fall color managed to elude us again this year. There is a little yellow creeping in, but it’s not quite there.
Looping a Live Photo
Here is a video that I shared of a live photo, which I set to loop here on the website, so it looks like the water is continuously rippling. Note that to make this work you have to use the code that you’ll find when selecting the Embed option on Vimeo rather than just pasting a link to the video into WordPress. Also, to force the video to autoplay and loop include the options “autoplay=1&loop=1&background=0&autopause=0” in the embed code.
The first loop is very subtle and probably hard to miss, but here is a second live photo of the Kegon Falls from the following day, also shot with my iPhone 14 Pro Max, and shared to Vimeo, then set to loop. With more obvious movement, this looks much more effective as a loop.
For many years now, I’ve been a huge fan of what I call Moving Stills, which are scenes that I would generally shoot as a still photograph, but since we got video in our cameras, I started to switch to video and record 15 to 30 seconds of video so that the slight changes in the scene are recorded. Creating a loop with the Live Photo options is a great way to do this with the iPhone, which is generally a more casual way to shoot. I’ll be exploring this more as I get into my Japan winter tours which will be going ahead in January and February next year. Due to a little churn in the booking situation, we currently have one open space on all three tours next winter, so check out the tours page if that may interest you. I’ve also published the 2024 dates if you are planning a little further out.
Long Exposures from Live Photos
Another thing that I found recently, as I played with the iPhone 14 Live Photos, is that you can also select the Long Exposure option in addition to Loop and Live Photo, and this takes the information you have in your image and creates a long exposure, as you can see here, from the same image that I shared as a loop above.
For comparison, here is a similar long exposure shot with a 3-stop neutral density filter using my Canon EOS R5 camera. With almost four times the resolution, the EOS R5 image definitely provides more freedom to print large etc., but the quality of the image for everyday use and sharing with friends is really not a lot better than the iPhone image. Of course, I’m not saying that I can now do away with my Canon gear. There is still so much that I cannot do, but this really comes down to resolution, longer focal lengths, and faster frame rates at this point. With the computational photography that the iPhone uses, we can even get a nice shallow depth of field in Portrait mode, and the Macro capabilities of the iPhone are now incredible too.
Although not in Macro mode, here is a video that I shot of a frog sitting near to a mountain stream during my visit to the Five Color Lakes. This is a 20-second or so Slow Motion video, so the water is very nice in this, but also you can see that the frog was captured very well too, at probably around 15 to 20 centimeters.
OK, so back to the second photography day from my recent trip, as I wanted to share one last photo before we finish. I’ve been doing this for many years too, but one of the things that I love to do with long-drop waterfalls, is to pan vertically with a longish exposure, to capture the movement of the water as it tumbles through the air. Here is my favorite photograph of the Kegon Falls in Okunikko shot using this technique.
The shutter speed for this image was 1/10 of a second, and as with any panning technique, it’s a little hit-and-miss. You might get some shots that you don’t pan perfectly vertically with, and it takes a bit of practice before you can pan with the water. Luckily, the way the Canon EOS R5 electronic viewfinder works gives a stroboscopic view of the scene you are shooting as you release the shutter in a burst, so you can see that you are staying with the water when you get it right.
I also converted this to black and white and increased the contrast using a Luma Curve in Capture One Pro to remove the distracting brown rock from the sides of the image. I’ve often thought of creating a Japanese-style scroll or Kakejiku of this kind of photo, but the kits available to make them are a bit cheesy, so I’ve never put this plan into action, although I think they would look good in that format.
Anyway, we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. I had a lot of fun, both just getting out into the mountains with my wife and with my new iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’ve used the iPhone camera for video and slow motion, as well as for Timelapse photography over the years, but now having the three cameras following my upgrade, I am enjoying the additional creative options for still photography, as well as playing with the various Live Photo options, as I’ve shared today. I doubt very much that these will be the last iPhone photos that you see from my travels, and I hope that you find what I do interesting.
Following on from the previous post about creating a slideshow using Boinx Software’s FotoMagico, although I was taken out of action for two days following my fourth COVID vaccination, I spent several additional days creating the background music for my slideshow, as I mentioned in that previous post. Slideshow music can be difficult because you don’t want it to be too prominent, but at the same time, it needs to compliment the images and content, so it takes more thought than simply sitting down to make a track just for the sake of it.
I’m not going to go into much detail, as this post is really at this point to point you to the video. Still, as the video starts, you’ll notice some simple Kalimba music, which is an African instrument that I have in one of my many plugins. I then spent some time finding chords that matched the subject matter, slightly sad sounding in places, mainly because of the feeling from the deserted diamond mines, and then I make it a little lighter with some flurries when necessary. We drop back to the Kalimba several times to break up the piano. After the initial Kolmanskop piano accompaniment, I switched to a hybrid traditional piano and electric piano played together. My wife thinks the flurries with the hybrid piano sound a little 70s or 80s, and she’s probably right because I was thinking Blade Runner as some of the notes and feeling of the music started to form.
Here is a screenshot of the final score in Ableton Live before I exported the music to embed into FotoMagico. If you click on the image, you’ll be able to see more detail if you are interested. Note that I designed the dark-teal theme for Ableton, as I don’t like the look of any of the actual themes provided with the software. The only additional thing to mention is that I also added some orchestral strings with brass and horns at various places, again, to add a little variation while changing the way I played some of the chords, hopefully making it a little less monotonous without having to compose and play each bar individually. This is to both save time and because too much variation can also get in the way of the slideshow if it starts to take the viewer’s attention.
I changed the timing a little, so although I’d say this would be around 18 minutes, the final video is 16 minutes and 30 seconds, which is still very long for a slideshow. This essentially represents most of my “keepers” from the trip, as the slideshow is designed to show you how much can be achieved during my 17-day Complete Namibia Tours. If you have time, do try to watch to the end, but I doubt with the number of images, it will be a video you’ll rewatch many times. Either way, though, if I can get my message across, that’s great. I hope you enjoy this. You can see this and over 100 other videos on my Vimeo Channel.
We pick up the trail in this fifth and final part of my Complete Namibia Tour report for 2022 as we made our way into the Etosha National Park on a day that we’d traverse the entire park from West to East, and shortly after entering the park we noticed this Spotted Hyaena having a morning stroll. It was difficult to catch him as he walked quickly through the park behind the trees, but I managed to grab a frame or two when he was in a good clearing. The sun was behind him, so the lighting not great, but the shadows slider in Capture One Pro helped me to bring out a lot of detail in the Hyaena, so I’m pretty happy with this.
A large part of what I teach on my workshops is the importance of keeping your eye on your exposure via the histogram, and this shot shows the importance of that better than most. I almost always expose to the right, which means that I am manually changing my exposure so that the brightest part of the image, represented by the right-most data on the histogram, always falls just before or even just touching the right shoulder of the histogram frame. For many reasons, this will generally give you the best image quality, but in this image, it was key to gaining a well exposed image while giving me enough information in the hyaena to bring out the shadow details.
If I had left it up to the camera, the scene would have been recorded in the middle of the histogram, and the hyaena would have been so dark that the details would not have been recoverable from the shadows. Even as I shot this at my adjusted exposure, the hyaena was almost completely black, in silhouette, but I trusted my process and got a shot I’m happy with.
Shortly after our encounter with the hyaena, we headed to a waterhole where we found some zebra taking a drink, and they had pretty nice reflections, resulting in this image. Zebra are always great subjects, but those dazzling stripes getting doubled up in the reflections make for a striking image, and the sun caught some of their eyes, giving me some lovely catchlights.
The following image is a little bitter-sweet for several reasons. At first, I was really happy to find a leopard out in the open. Until now, I’ve only seen leopards in Namibia obscured by thickets or foliage or for just a few seconds before they took cover again. This leopard was sitting under a tree with what we thought was probably a springbok he’d taken down. The first problem with this, though, was that it was the middle of the day, and he was very far away. That means that even though I could use a 2X extender on my RF 100-500mm lens for a focal length of 1000 millimeters, the shimmering of the air from the heat takes away most of the clarity in the subject. It looks OK-ish when you view the full-frame image, but when you zoom in on the leopard, the image quality just isn’t there.
The second problem you may just be able to make out is that this animal has the wire of a snare wrapped tightly around its upper jaw. You might be able to see that the skin on the snout is pinched downwards between the nose and the eye, and also, the upper lip is pulled up a centimeter or so. Although the leopard was trying to eat, I guess that the snare was so uncomfortable or painful that he was having trouble making a start on his meal. As soon as I returned to Tokyo a few days after this, I sent this photo with GPS coordinates and the name of the nearby waterhole to our travel partner for this tour, and they, in turn, passed this information on to one of the vets that work in the Etosha National Park, so that they could locate, anesthetize and then take the snare off of this beautiful animal. I haven’t heard anything back yet, but hopefully, it won’t take long before we can remove that snare and give this guy a normal life again.
I should add that I was not aware of the snare when I shot this image. I was trying to make the best of the situation, using the tree to augment the landscape and show the leopard in its environment. I only saw the snare later when I zoomed in to check the lack of detail in the leopard.
Many years ago I photographed a Secretary Bird at the Ueno Zoo here in Tokyo and was amazed at how beautiful it was, with its long eyelashes and pristine headdress. I was still working in my old day job and honestly didn’t, at the time, even dream that my efforts as a podcaster and blogger would lead me to become an international tour and workshop leader, so this next photo has a special place in my heart. We came across a Secretary Bird in the wild, strutting through the grasses in the Etosha National Park. At first, it was far away, and the clarity was low due to the mid-day heat haze. This time, our subject continued walking towards us, so I was able to get this beautifully clear shot at 500mm as the bird continued walking, looking for lizards and other small animals, even snakes, to prey upon.
These are magnificent birds, and I feel so humbled that the life I’ve been able to make for myself through the podcast has enabled me to build a working business model that enables me to travel to such wonderful places on what I truly believe are life-changing tours for the guests that are kind enough to travel with me. Not to mention life changing for me too.
A little later in the day, we were in for another treat as we spotted a white rhino heading towards a waterhole. I can’t recall seeing any white rhino wild in the park here, with our sighting usually restricted to the ones at the Ongava Lodge, so I’m hoping this indicates that the poachers are being kept out. The fact that these animals are no longer having their horns removed is also very encouraging and makes for much better photographs.
Again, I love the scene that this rhino is in with the beautiful tall yellow grass that simply could not grow for the few years before the pandemic struck due to the drought that lasted seven years, and ended finally with the rains that Namibia got in December and the start of this year. I used my 1.4X Extender on the 100-500mm lens for this shot, giving me a 700mm focal length. I haven’t called out the settings for all of my shots today, but generally, I am aiming to get a shutter speed of around 1/2000 of a second to freeze the motion should an animal be running around, and that requires an ISO of around 1600 at ƒ/11, or as in this case, ƒ/13 because I wanted slightly more depth of field to show the landscape in focus. Also, note that if you click on images on my website, you can see the shooting data in the light box surrounding the images if you are interested.
I was happy with this next photo of a Lilac-breasted Roller bird in flight, until I saw a shot from one of my guests with the wings spread and a beautiful angle showing the top of the bird. Now I’m not so impressed with my own shot, but it’s great to see my guests get incredible work, and it always helps me to stay on my toes as well.
Again, I’m so impressed with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens, including with Extenders fitted, as it handles really well, and the image quality is out of this world. Being able to get out to 700mm with the 1.4X Extender is amazing, and I’ve gotten used to the fact that you can’t zoom out completely when you have an Extender fitted.
We don’t always need very long focal lengths, though. This beautiful, proud African elephant is pretty much filling the frame at 300mm. If I’m not mistaken, this is the one that shortly after this did a dummy charge at our vehicle as it walked in front of us. He wasn’t comfortable with the distance. He was so close that I’d switched to my iPhone to get some video, which I’ll include in the slideshow that I’m going to put together to showcase the trip after posting this concluding episode of my trip report series.
Next, we have a Journey of Giraffes, also shot relatively wide at only 223mm. I cropped this down to a panorama to emphasize the width of the group. We can tell from the pattern in their fur that these are Angolan Giraffe, and I also heard that the darker colored giraffe are the older animals.
We also saw a lot of scuffles and fighting between the zebra near the waterholes. I’m guessing that this is because the rains have provided more food, and that probably has the female zebra thinking more about having young and that in turn is making the males more likely to fight to find their pecking order within their groups. I returned with lots of shots of the zebra fighting and kicking each other, but this is probably my favorite. However, it is a somewhat brutal attack on the middle zebra, as we can see from the white of his eye as he receives a particularly hard blow from both sides of his neck.
The fiftieth and final image of this five-part series is an attempt at a panning shot. We saw some giraffe that had been frightened by something and started running from the waterhole, so I selected a slow shutter speed of 1/80 of a second and tried to pan with the giraffe to make the background a little blurry. I succeeded to a degree, and feel that probably with this number of animals and the distance to them, this is probably about as much as I can expect to succeed at relatively easily. Next time I think I’ll try around a 1/50 or a 1/40 of a second, as I do for my panning bird shots. Even though the success rate will be lower, if I can pull it off, it will give very beautiful results.
OK, so that’s about it for the images. We traveled back to Windhoek the following day, and before we all flew home, the group was kind enough to record a few comments for us, which I’ll add into the audio at this point.
<< PLEASE LISTEN TO THE AUDIO TO FIND OUT WHAT PEOPLE SAID >>
They were a wonderful group. Such a pleasure to travel with, and listening to them all again there made me feel as though we were still in Namibia four weeks ago, and in many ways, I wish we were. Life goes on here in Tokyo, though. Having thought about this often over the past six months, I’ve taken up archery since returning. I have joined a local club and enjoying it immensely. I don’t know how it will play into my photography, other than the fact that it’s getting me out and is more physical exercise than I expected it to be, but that is great because I’ve already started to lose a few pounds, so hopefully, this is something that I’ll be able to continue.
As I mentioned a few times during this series of trip reports, I will now set about the task of creating a slideshow to showcase the trip and what can be achieved on my tour. I hope to be able to share that with you in another week or so, alongside some tips on using the latest version of Boinx Software’s FotoMagico.
OK, so by the end of the previous episode I’d selected three sets of ten images from just over half of a total 320 images I selected from this year’s amazing Complete Namibia Tour. Today, with slightly under half of my selection left, I was going to try to select just ten more, but after a very picky look through my remaining images, I have 25 that I’d still like to talk about, so I’m going to whittle that down to twenty and do one more episode after this to finalize the series. It was such a productive trip, so this is a nice position to be in, and I hope you continue to enjoy joining me on my travels via the Podcast.
We pick up the trail as we made our first visit to the Himba village, where I found that the girl I’ve been photographing over the years was not there. She’d be 18 years old now, and I was looking forward to meeting her again, and was ultimately hoping to get a photo of her with her first baby at some point, but at least for this visit, it wasn’t to be. We did talk with the people that were there and will try to get her back for our next visit, but only if it isn’t too much trouble. The Himba haven’t been getting so many visits due to the pandemic, so there were a number of things that happened during our two visits, one at the start of this day, and one towards the end.
The first thing that I noticed was that the Himba did not seem to get tired of our presence. Usually, after we’ve been there for a few hours, they set up a shop, with most of the women and children in the village forming a circle, and sell bracelets, bowls, baskets, dolls, and other ornaments. Buying these things is one of a number of ways that we pay them back, but it’s also, in the past, been a sign to us that they are ready for us to leave. On this visit, they didn’t set the store up until I felt that the group and I were running out of things to do, so I asked them if they were going to set up their shop, through our guide of course. My understanding of the Himba language stretches to around five or six words, so I rely on our guide heavily for communication.
The other thing that happened was that we met the elder of the group for the first time when we went back in the evening. We don’t usually see many men, but the elder was sitting on a chair near the entrance to the outer corral and was surrounded by many young to middle-aged men. They asked to see my photos from previous visits, so we spent ten minutes or so looking through my photos of them. It was lovely to see their reactions as members of their group that had moved away appeared on my iPhone screen. I was also interested to find that they knew many of the people from the group that lives near the foot of a mountain near Puros, a few hours by car to the northeast from their village.
We were also thanked by the elder for taking so many provisions for them, and he asked our guide to make a note of what he’d brought along for them, and to spread the word that this is the amount of stuff they’d like when people visit. I was amazed to hear that some people turn up, take photos, and leave without giving them any provisions. An exchange like this has to be mutually beneficial, or it becomes tiresome for the people in the village. And for those that turn up and think that paying $10 for a doll will make up for spending one or two hours there, it’s really not. Let’s help people out a little more than that.
Anyway, to the photos… One of my first shots was this image of four Himba children in the back of a truck. This was only the back of the truck, just sitting in the dust, but it was a nice toy for the kids. I found it ironic that the boy in the center of the frame had a key around his neck, as though he was going to be letting himself in when he got home from school. The irony comes from the fact that none of their huts have doors, let alone a lock with a keyhole, so this was purely an accessory, which I thought was a nice touch.
By the way, if you are new to the Podcast and wondering how to see the images, note that they are embedded in the audio file, and applications like Overcast or the Apple Podcasts app will automatically display the images for you as the audio progresses. There is a page under the Posts menu with the title Viewing Podcast Images that has more information. Note too that you can simply type mbp.ac with a slash then the episode number to jump to the post for each episode, so you can see the gallery for this post at https://mbp.ac/783. If you support us on Patreon for just $3/month or more you can also see the full manuscript, and supporters for $10 per month also get a beautifully laid out eBook of each post, that can be downloaded for reading offline and it contains 4K resolution images.
We took a number of the Himba people inside one of their huts to photograph them and at one time had a mother and child inside, giving me the opportunity to get this next photograph of the child lit by the beautiful light from the hut door. Note that I actually use a few layers to darken down the background to almost completely black and feather in the shadow manually with the brush in Capture One Pro. To illustrate this, I’m including the finished image alongside the original image straight out of the camera and included the Capture One Pro interface so that you can also see some of the settings.
If you listened to the episode I did before leaving for Namibia, you might recall that I was planning to take my 50mm ƒ/1.2 lens along with me for these portraits, but I actually ended up leaving it at home, because my bag had simply started to get too heavy, and I was fine with shooting at ƒ/4 with my 24-105mm lens. It’s also nice to be able to zoom in and out as well, especially with kids, because they run around all over the place, making it difficult to frame them well with a prime lens. You can see that I shot this wide open at ƒ/4, with a focal length of 88mm and a 1/160 second shutter speed, at ISO 4000.
Next up, meet Tjiringa, a young Himba girl who I think may turn into my new project if we can’t get Makihoro back in the next few years. Tjiringa is very animated and can grimace as freely as she can smile, so it’s fun to photograph her, and I like the results. I zoomed all the way into 105mm for this, as she was sitting further away than the child in the previous shot. Although I do like a shot that I have of her from the doorway, I really like the serious, almost stern look on her face in this image, so it became my preferred image to share. So that you can see just the previous image as well, I’ll put both of these in together below.
I did, of course, process the photo of this little girl the same as the photo of the small child, using multiple layers to gradually darken the background, and draw attention to the subject’s face. This also simply removes the background, which I often find somewhat distracting.
As I mentioned earlier, we came back to the Himba village later in the day, to photograph the Himba bringing their goats back into the inner corral, and here is a photograph of them doing just that. In fact, this was one of the times when they were taking the goats back out again, and would then drive them back in for me and my group to photograph them once more. I just found this view, with the four ladies in full traditional dress, to be so fascinating, that I couldn’t help grabbing a few extra frames.
Following that, I got this next image which was probably my favorite of the session, with the sunlight catching the goat-dung dust through the wooden sticks that form the inner corral, and the ladies with their few children walking behind the herd again. There was a very relaxed mood, even when we had them do this a third time to increase our photographic opportunities, and one of the ladies thanked us for coming twice and spending so much time with them. I’m completely humbled by that, and as I have mentioned before, I’m so happy that we are able to have such valuable cultural experiences and exchanges on this tour.
The day after we visited the Himba people, we drove through the morning to arrive at our camp just outside the Etosha National Park, where we’d have lunch, and spend the next two nights. After lunch, we did one of their game drives, which I know to have a pretty good chance of seeing the subject of this next image, the amazing White Rhino. The last time I was here the owners of the lodge had bought a truckload of grass to feed the elephants and rhinos with because the drought had pretty much stripped the park bare. This meant that all of the rhinos were concentrated in a small area with the elephants, and that provided some unique opportunities, but it was so nice to see these magnificent animals simply reaching down for a mouthful of that beautiful golden grass.
We also had a few encounters with their lions, but the line of sight was very poor through the trees, so we only got a few shots as this male lion lifted his head reluctantly for a few seconds, before flopping back down to go back to sleep. The top left corner of this shot was very noisy, with heavily textured grass, catching the sunlight through the trees, and the right top corner was just grey dust, so the entire background was a source of annoyance. Because of that, I used a similar technique to that which I use to darken down the background of the Himba, but this was more difficult as the hair is really difficult to fade into the manufactured shadows. I think I made a relatively good job of it, but feel I’d like to revisit this again when I get more time.
I was also very tempted to convert this to black and white, as I enjoy that aesthetic, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out these beautiful golden colors from the last minutes of the day, and it also looked too much like the work of my friend Christian Meermann. I’m fine with work looking similar to others, especially that kind of processing, as I’ve been doing similar processing on flowers and other subjects for many years, but in my mind, Christian owns the high contrast black and white lion space, so I decided to stay away for now.
The following day was spent inside the Etosha National Park. Not exactly big game, we spent a few minutes photographing these ground squirrels, which I thought were hilarious with their bot-bellies and that huge belly button. I have some hand-held video of these guys as well that I will include a few seconds in the slideshow I’m going to make soon, so stay tuned for that.
We also saw a black-backed jackal eating a snake, which I shot with my 1.4X Extender fitted to the 100-500mm lens, and still had to crop this to about half of the actual image size, but I’m pretty happy to have this. It’s a young jackal, so he did well to catch this snake. It took him a total of around 20 to 30 seconds to eat the snake, so I’d say he was happy for the meal.
Ten minutes later, we found a black rhino on his way to the waterhole. I know this is common knowledge, but if you’ve never heard how to tell the difference between a black and white rhino, here goes. If you look at the photo of the white rhino that I shared earlier, you’ll see that it has a very wide mouth for grazing, and the word White actually simply came from someone mishearing the work Wide, for the wide-mouthed rhino. The black rhino although markedly smaller, is about the same color, but it has a pointed mouth, using for browsing as opposed to grazing. He was apparently given the name black rhino simply to differentiate it from the wrongly name white rhino. True story.
And, as the sun went down on our second day at the Etosha National Park, we reached our ten images, so we’ll wrap it up there for this episode. We will finalize this series next week, but our final ten images, from our last two days in Etosha.
After our second night in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia, we went back to Deadvlei, for a repeat of our first morning here. I generally try to get us at least two days in all important locations on my tours so that guests can learn from the first day, including any mistakes that might be made, and correct them, or maybe just improve on the results from the first day.
As with the shot I shared in the previous episode, my main shot from the second day here was again a repeat of one of my previous shots. I love just being here, and sharing this location with my guests, so although I don’t necessarily need any more Deadvlei shots, it is nice to shoot here. I also enjoy updating my own images with shots from the new gear that is released over the years. If you want to hear more about why this scene looks the way it does, listen to the previous episode, which was number 781.
Again, at the end of this day, we went back out and walked to a dune, which I wanted to stress was also not Dune 45. Dune 45 has become the typical tourist trap, which you can drive right up to, and it’s generally covered in people or at best, their scattered footprints, so it’s far from the best dune to visit now, although one couple at our lodge tried to tell a member of my group that we had not visited the best dune. Bless them.
I particularly like the way the orange fades into the black shadow after the crest of this dune, and the gradation in the face of the dune in the bottom right corner. My settings for this shot were ƒ/14 with ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/10 of a second, so you can tell that we were very near to the end of the day, as the sun started to drop behind the smaller dunes on the opposite side of the valley.
After walking back to our vehicle, we had some gin and tonics, and before we’d gotten far into them, the post-sunset warm light once again caught the dune, so many of us couldn’t resist getting our tripod and camera back out to capture this shot, from the road, which showed the tree at the foot of the dune from such a distance that the dune looks massive behind it, and the contrast between the dark and light side of the dune was probably the best I’ve seen.
The following morning we drove further North to Walvis Bay, where we spend our middle two nights of the tour. This is almost like a holiday within a holiday, as we drop the pace of shooting a little and enjoy the wonderful hotel there. There are lots of flamingoes in the bay just across the road though, and a lagoon with other waterbirds in nearby, which we make the most of. Here (above right) is probably my best Flamingo sunset shot from our first night. It’s really hard to capture them actually doing much other than sleeping, so this was the best I got on this attempt.
The following morning we went back out at sunrise, although the sun actually rises behind the houses that line the beachfront road, this gives us some nice warm light to illuminate the flamingoes as they start their day. Here we see one of them as it started to fly. I had to crank my ISO up to 3200 to get a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at ƒ/10, and a focal length of 700mm, so this was my 100-500mm lens with the 1.4X Extender at full extent.
After breakfast, we drove out to the nearby lagoons, where we found some great white pelicans. The group was often much larger than you see in this next image, but I prefer this as it’s a little less cluttered, and I really like the pattern of the chests of some of these birds.
As with some of the shots in the previous episode, I cropped this slightly, as the foreground required tight framing just under the birds, so the image was top-heavy, with the top not adding much to the image. This next image is an even shorter panorama aspect ratio, but this is actually two images stitched together in Capture One Pro, because this interesting group in good light were slightly wider than I could pull back to without removing my 1.4X Extender. Luckily the birds were very still as I got both frames so the stitch worked perfectly.
That evening, as the sun neared the horizon again, a couple on paddle-boards paddled their way along the coast a little distance from the flamingoes that we were trying to shoot against the sunset. I didn’t notice the paddle-boarders at first, but I did notice to my excitement that all of the flamingoes all of a sudden had their heads up, and although it’s not a perfect heart shape, I was able to get this shot against the sunset that I was relatively happy with.
To get this shot, so close to the water, I actually had the camera resting on its tripod foot sitting in the sand, and I was composing and focussing using the articulated LCD on the back of the camera. I wish the sun was a little higher and the heart shape could have been a little better formed, but this was the best I could get. I feel as though I’m close to getting something really special here now though, so hopefully next year.
The following morning we set off, once again heading North, this time up the Skeleton Coast, heading to Palmwag where we’d visit the Himba people, and hopefully continue to see wildlife as we drive around. Towards the start of our journey, we stopped at the Zeila Shipwreck, and I used a 10-stop and a 3-stop ND filter nested together for 13 stops of extended exposure, giving me a 51-second exposure, making the seat smooth over as you see in this image.
We did see some wildlife as we neared Palmwag, but the light was a little better the following morning, as we drove towards the Himba settlement, and I got this shot of an adult and small zebra on the plane at the side of the road. I like that they are obviously aware of us, but still, seem relaxed, and that the adult zebra has a really nice catchlight in its eye.
OK, so that’s our ten shots for part three of my Complete Namibia trip report. I hope you are enjoying tagging along. We will complete this series in part four, and I then plan on sharing a tutorial on how I’ll put together a slideshow of images just from this trip, along with some video clips that I shot mostly of the wildlife. I continue to be amazed by the Canon EOS R5, and how it gives me the ability to shoot video handheld, even with very long focal lengths.