Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #4 (Podcast 783)

Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #4 (Podcast 783)


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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.

The Irony of the Key
The Irony of the Key

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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.

Himba Child
Himba Child

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.

Himba Ladies Herding Goats
Himba Ladies Herding Goats

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.

Sun Rays through the Corral
Sun Rays through the Corral

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.

Ongava White Rhino Grazing
Ongava White Rhino Grazing

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.

Brief Attention of a Lion
Brief Attention of a Lion

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.

Pot-Bellied Ground Squirrel
Pot-Bellied Ground Squirrel

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.

Black Backed Jackal Eating a Snake
Black Backed Jackal Eating a Snake

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.

Black Rhino on way to Waterhole
Black Rhino on way to Waterhole

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.


Show Notes

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Music by Martin Bailey


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Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #5 (Podcast 625)

Complete Namibia Tour 2018 Travelogue #5 (Podcast 625)

This week we conclude our 2018 Complete Namibia Tour travelogue series, with our Wildlife Extravaganza in the Etosha National Park, literally completing the photography of the main photography genres that Namibia offers visitors.

When I put this epic trip together and called it the Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop, I was very conscious that I wanted to make Etosha a part of it, and I am so pleased that I made this decision. Without Etosha on the Itinerary, you generally leave Namibia with a feeling that you didn’t do her wildlife justice. The thing is, there is wildlife across most of Namibia, and we had some beautiful opportunities before getting to Etosha, but you never feel that you’ve really done Wildlife until you spend at least a few days in this beautiful national park.

As I mentioned last week, we actually start our Etosha experience in a lodge with a private reserve adjacent to the park. The animals actually come and go as they please to an extent because neither the owners of the reserve nor the Etosha wardens can keep the animals from breaking down segments of the fences. The great thing about the private reserve though is that the guides know the place and the animals like the back of their hands. I don’t want to play down the knowledge that our two main guides and drivers for the trip have. They know the entire country like the back of their hands, but when in a small reserve, its often a good idea to take the game drives that they offer, as they can be very productive. 

A Lion’s Fierce Yawn!

At the end of last week’s travelogue, I shared a photo of a lioness that I’d shot accidentally in 3D, and that was literally one of the first images that I shot as we started our first game drive with the lodge after lunch on our first day at Etosha. A few minutes later we came across a male lion lying in some beautiful long golden grass, as you can see in the first photo that I wanted to share for today (bel0w).

Fierce Yawn
Fierce Yawn

In my first few shots of this majestic young lion, he was just sitting in the grass. That’s great because it gives me a moment to check my exposure, but then as they often do, he rolled his head back and gave us a great big yawn! If you know lions you can probably tell it’s a yawn, but it also might look like an almighty roar. I love the detail in his mouth with those huge teeth and the rasps on his tongue. To focus I had been careful to not catch the blades of grass in front of the lion, as that would leave the main subject soft.

Back Button Focus

At some points, I think I manually tweaked the focus to ensure that he was sharp. Because I use the back button to focus after I’ve manually tweaked the focus, I can simply not press the back AF button again, and because I have also disabled auto-focus on the shutter button, the camera doesn’t try to focus again as I release the shutter. This is one of the most useful aspects of using back button focus. You can switch between manual and autofocus just by pressing or not pressing the AF button.

In fact, if you are in a continuous focus mode, AI Focus on a Canon camera, you also have access to continuous focus, by keeping your finger on the AF button, or One Shot focus, by pressing the AF button to focus then releasing it. It’s like having three focusing modes without changing anything on the camera. My other settings for this shot were ISO 1600, to get a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second at f/8, and I was using my Canon 100-400mm Mark II lens at 400 mm. 

Rich Dyson

We’ll briefly hear from the co-host that I invited to help me with this year’s tour in the recorded comments that I’ll play you later, but I wanted to quickly give a shout out to Rich Dyson before we move on. Rich lives in Edinburgh, Scottland, and I’d traveled with him before on my own tours. Rich impressed with his professionalism and knowledge of photography, so I asked him to help out on this trip. I want to mention this now for a couple of reasons, but I was reminded of Rich at this point because when I showed this photo to Rich, he said: “You know when you show people this someone will pull you up for the grasses over the lion’s face.”

My reply to this was not really repeatable here, but the sentiment behind it was that if you can only see the grasses in front of the lions face in a shot like this, then you really need to develop a better appreciation for the artistic side of photography over the technical. This wasn’t directed at Rich of course, but anyone that might say that. I’m thinking people at a camera club, who have to find something negative to say because they aren’t able to talk in a positive way, and I think there are way too many people like that out there.

Anyway, before that develops into a full-on rant, I wanted to add that Rich was really good at helping people in our group that was struggling with some of the more basic aspects of photography. I often tend to start at a higher level and need to see some glazed over eyes before I realize that I’m talking over someone’s head, but Rich does short courses starting from beginner level in Edinburgh and is really good at it. Of course, he can help advanced photographers too, so if you live in or can get to his neck of the woods, and want a bit of help with your photography, get in touch with Rich Dyson at richdysonphotography.com.

The Scowl

Literally, just moments after I shot the previous image, as the lion closed his mouth, I got this next image (below) which looks to me like a scowl now, again, not really like a big frightening yawn! There is still grass in front of his face. More now than before in fact, and yes, I notice it, but I think these two photographs go beyond that and guess what, this is the sort of environment that lions like to rest in.

The Scowl
The Scowl

I don’t usually post two images of the same subject, but I’ve been going back and forth between these two photos for the last few weeks, and I simply can’t decide which one I prefer, so I decided to share both of them. They are both cropped very slightly, maybe 7% of the width of the image, so at 50 megapixels, the detail is absolutely incredible. I’m looking forward to getting fully caught up on business so that I can have an afternoon printing some of these photos out and just pouring over them. Having said that, I also now export my images at full size to the Apple Photos application, and because I have the 4K Apple TV, I can view them on my 55-inch 4K television as well, and they are really powerful images to see at that size and with this amount of detail. My settings were, of course, the same as the previous photo. It was not even a full second later. The EXIF data shows them as being shot at exactly the same time.

A Whittling Struggle

At this point, talking out loud as I prepare to record this episode, I’m struggling to whittle down my final selection of images to talk about. I like to keep each episode to ten photos, and I currently still have 14 in my selection, and that was a struggle. I could have easily done more episodes on this wildlife section of the trip alone, but I think we should move on next week, so there are some difficult decisions to make. What I’m going to say for now is that I will also be updating my Namibia Portfolio, and will no doubt include some of the images that I have to cut from my selection here, so if you are interested in seeing the larger body of work, please check out my portfolio at https://mbp.ac/namibiaportfolio or by following the Portfolios link in the menu above.

Edge Case

So, still pained by the photo I’ve just deleted from my selection, let’s take a look at some shots from a visit to a waterhole in Etosha on our second day there. I’m always amazed at the variety of different species of animals that visit some of the waterholes in Etosha, but trying to show them all in a single photo often doesn’t work for me. Although I like to show animals in their environment, especially when the environment is a beautiful landscape, when that isn’t the case, or when there is too much noise, I prefer to get in close and show the subjects in more detail, with as few distractions as possible.

When there are hundreds of zebra at a waterhole though, it can be somewhat difficult to decide exactly where to place the edges of your frame, as was the case with this next image (below). Although I’ve cropped this image on the top and bottom making it a 16:9 aspect ratio, the side edges are exactly as I framed this in the camera, to kind of make a point.

Burchell's Zebra at Waterhole
Burchell’s Zebra at Waterhole

I’m relatively happy with the framing of this image, especially on the left side, but I will probably clone out the bit of a nose poking into the frame just below the young zebra’s head in the middle of the left edge. The right edge is more complicated, and although I considered cropping in to just after the nose of the head in the bottom right corner, because I slightly crop his eye, and there is another zebra just above him with only half a head, I actually found that the chaotic right edge looks better than the cleaner one that I created, with the temporary crop that I tried. I guess that comes from the feeling that there is a continuation of the herd. My settings for this were ISO 800 for a 1/800 of a second shutter speed at f/14, and a focal length of 400 mm.

Elephant Skinship

At the same waterhole, 30 minutes later, I shot this next image (below) of two elephants bonding by rubbing their trunks together. Again, I went in tight on the composition, to reduce the image to what I feel are its necessary elements. This means that I have some animals across the top of the frame that are cropped off, but I opened up my aperture to f/9 to stop them from being too in focus. They still bother me a little bit, but the main subjects hold my attention enough for the blurred animals at the top of the frame not to be too much of an issue. I kind of like the zebra in the center of the frame, although it does fight for attention a little.

Elephant Bonding
Elephant Bonding

I have gone back and forth on this and many of my images as to whether or not I convert them to black and white. I think I prefer the zebra shot earlier in black and white, but this morning I went back to color with this image, as I like the earthy warm tones. With landscape photography, I generally know when I shoot the image if I will convert it to black and white or not, but for me, it’s not so clear-cut when it comes to wildlife. I generally have to convert it and then live with the black and white image for a while before I can fully decide. My settings for this image were ISO 800 for a 1/2000 of a second at f/9 and a focal length of 400 mm. I went to 1/2000 of a second because the elephants were jumping around a fair bit and I didn’t want them to be blurred.

White Rhino

That afternoon, we went back out for a game drive with the guides from our lodge and were treated with some more amazing opportunities. They asked us what we’d like to see, so we requested White Rhinoceros, as we knew there were some in their reserve. Sure enough, after an hour or so driving around, we were presented with a group of seven White Rhinos! I got some shots of the entire group, but here is one of my favorites shots, showing one of the Rhino in great light, allowing us to see the amazing texture in its thick skin, and there is a second Rhino looking in from behind the first (below). 

White Rhinos
White Rhinos

Also, as the bushes and trees in the foreground added a nice oval frame to the image, I added a vignette in Capture One Pro, darkening down the edges by almost two stops, and that helps to draw our eyes to these magnificent creatures. It is of course really nice to get to photograph Rhinos that have not been dehorned in an attempt to prevent poaching. It turns out that a dehorned rhino still has half a horn that can be gouged out if you are an unscrupulous poacher, so that isn’t as effective as they’d hoped anyway. It was a real treat to see these animals though, in such numbers and with their young as well. My settings for this were ISO 1000 for a 1/1000 of a second at f/10, and only 148 mm, so you can tell how close we were to them.

Wide, Not White

Another thing to note is that these animals are called White Rhino based on a bit of a mistake, more than being related to their color. The White is a misunderstanding of the word “wide” which was used to describe the shape of their wide mouths. The White Rhino is a grazer, which eats grass and other low foliage from the ground. You can see how wide and square shaped their mouths are in the previous image. 

In the following image though (below) we see a Black Rhino from the following day in Etosha, and you can perhaps make out his much more triangular shaped pointed mouth. The black rhino is a browser rather than a grazer which means he uses his hooked lips to eat leaves, branches, and roots. As the naming is based on a misunderstanding, these two rhino are also now sometimes referred to as the square-lipped and hooked lipped rhinoceros. You maybe can’t tell from these two photos, but the White Rhino is also up to almost double the size of the Black Rhino.

Black Rhinoceros
Black Rhinoceros

I had no trouble deciding on whether to stay in color with these images. With the rhino being basically large living grey-cards, they really lend themselves to black and white photographs, especially when the surroundings aren’t adding much color-wise. I think the conversion really helps to see the texture in their skin too. I added just over a one-stop vignette to this image as well, for the same reason as the previous image. I’m actually thrilled that we were able to photograph the two types of rhinoceros in Etosha, both with their horns as well. I had shots of them from last year, but none with horns. Now, of course, I fully support any attempt to stop the poaching of animals in Africa, but these were very special photography opportunities, that I was very grateful for. My settings for this shot were ISO 800 for a 1/800 of a second shutter speed at f/11, and I had my 1.4X Extender fitted to my 100-400mm lens for a focal length of 560 mm.

A Journey of Giraffes

The next photo (below) is another image that I have decided to overlook an imperfection for the greater good. As we headed for our lodge for the second two nights we’d spend in Etosha, we stopped to photograph this “journey” of giraffes. I love that collective noun for giraffes on the move. A Journey! How cool is that!? The imperfection might not be obvious in the web-sized image, but as with the Oryx image I spoke about in episode 623, the heat is causing the air to shimmer like a mirage, so the giraffes are actually all wobbly. We can, of course, see exactly what they are, and depending on how you look at it, the shimmer might even add to the story by showing us that the air is hot.

A Journey of Giraffes
A Journey of Giraffes

I toyed with the idea of cropping this down to a 16:9 or even 2:1 aspect ratio, but the foreground isn’t distracting, and I placed the giraffes at the top of the frame to emphasise the fact that they were in the distance, as well as minimize the boring pale blue sky, so I think I’m going to leave this in the original 3:2 ratio crop, at least for my base copy. I may crop it for specific uses later, but that goes for all of my work really. My settings for this image were ISO 800 at a 1/1000 of a second, at f/11, and a focal length of 400 mm.

Elephant at Waterhole

I’m really quite happy with the next image (below) as I’ve been hoping for a shot of an elephant looking straight back at me from the waterhole for a number of years. I’m particularly happy that the waterhole looks relatively natural because from a few paces to the right of the frame here the concrete edge of the waterhole starts to become visible and doesn’t look nice at all. I would have liked to have a bit more of the elephant’s reflection in the water, but this waterhole is very narrow, so if I pulled back any more, you start to see the bank on this side. Still, I like the way the elephant’s ears are spread out a little, but that he’s not really in a defensive pose. 

Elephant at Waterhole
Elephant at Waterhole

I decided to convert this to black and white because I think it adds to the mood, and as with the rhino shots, it helps us to see the texture and detail in the skin of the elephant. I also think the shadows look better in black and white, and with the lack of color, I think we depend on the contrast between the shadows and the highlights a little more. My settings were ISO 800 for a 1/800 of a second at f/11, and a focal length of 271 mm. I have cropped in on this slightly in post.

Cheetah Family

The following day we heard from a few people and also checked the sighting log at a nearby park office, and there had been multiple sightings of both a family of cheetah and leopards in the same area. After looking around for a while, we figured that the leopard sighting was probably someone somehow mistaking the cheetah for a leopard, but we did indeed find the cheetah. In fact, despite us driving along the area of the sighting for a while, on our second pass, our driver and guide found the mother sitting on the edge of the salt basin so far away that literally no-one in the car would have thought it was any more than a stick or small bush. Surely enough though, I shot a photo of it at 400mm and zoomed in to 100% on my camera, and confirmed it was indeed a cheetah. In my photo, it was probably around 20 pixels tall.

We waited for a while, but she was obviously not going to come close enough for us to photograph her for a while, so we decided to go and get lunch, and hoped that she’d come back to the shade of the closer trees as the midday sun got the better of her. We also knew that she had to be hiding her cubs somewhere, and that may well have also been the shadow of the trees that we could see. This turned into a bit of a test of the group’s patience, as after lunch she did come a little closer to the road, and we started to see her with the three cubs that had been sighted, but we weren’t really able to get any great shots for a number of hours. We voted, in our car, and a little bit of persuasion on my part led to my group staying, and the second vehicle went off to try and find something else to shoot.

Personally, I’m pleased we stayed, because there were a few beautiful shots for the making shortly before 4 pm, as the cheetah family became a little active, as you can see in this photo (below). We can see the mother looking out vigilantly for any possible predators that might threaten her cubs, but also here we can see all three of the cubs up and about, with one of them catching some nice light on his face as he leans against the low bow of the tree. There were very few moments when all three cubs were visible like this, along with the mother, so I’m really pleased to have been able to shoot this.

Cheetah with Cubs
Cheetah with Cubs

The other thing that I really like about this shot is that it’s also a relatively nice landscape image, with the golden foliage and camelthorn trees, and the plain in the distance just visible through the trees. At 400 mm there was also an element of luck, as this image is clear of the shimmer that we sometimes see from the heat, but a few of my other images of these cheetahs were a bit wobbly from the heat, so I was really relieved to see that this one was fine. My settings were ISO 1600 for a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second at f/8. I was set at a high shutter speed because the mother was also obviously hungry, and there were springbok in the area, so I wanted to be ready if she gave chase. 

One of the great things about photographing in Etosha is that people are very open with their sighting information. They will sometimes stop and ask us what we’ve seen, but quite often if someone has seen something cool, they’ll just stop as they drive past and let us know. After we’d got what I believe were the best shots to be made of the cheetah, with of course the risk of missing a chase for a Springbok, a car stopped and told us that there were some elephants at the waterhole 10 minutes down the road from where we were, so we decided to go and check that out.

Dust Bath

When we got there, the elephants were moving away from the waterhole, but one had stopped, and with one foot up on a rock or dirt mound, was picking up dust in his trunk and throwing it up onto his back, having a dust bath (below). With the sun behind the elephant, it was almost a silhouette shot until I opened up the shadows in post, but that also gave me some great backlight for the dust, highlighting against the side of the elephant, so I was happy with the camera angle.

Elephant Dust Bath
Elephant Dust Bath

We can also see a few springbok on the plain in the background, and that distant shimmer, a telling sign that we’re in Africa, even though it was towards the end of the day in the middle of the Namibian winter. It’s actually a really comfortable time to visit, as it gets hot, but not uncomfortably hot, and the mornings and evenings are actually quite cold, so we generally don’t have any problems sleeping etc. Anyway, my settings for this image were ISO 800 for a 1/1600 of a second exposure at f/11, and a focal length of 400 mm.

Our Galactic Core

OK, so that’s our ten photos Etosha National Park wildlife photos, but I wanted to share one last bonus image that I shot on our last night in the park before heading back to Windhoek to fly home. One of the great things about being in the desert is when there is no moon, the Milky Way looks spectacular. Before I went to bed, I decided to shoot a few frames of the sky, and although I shot some wide angle images with my 11-24mm f/4 lens, with the lights of the lodges at the base of the frame, I actually much prefer this image, shot with my new Canon 85mm f/1.4 lens, to just singled out a small portion of the Milky Way (below).

Milky Way Galactic Core
Milky Way Galactic Core

The f/1.4 lens is actually so bright with its wide aperture, that you can see the stars through the viewfinder, which is nice, as I have only ever done astrophotography with f/2.8 and f/4 lenses in the past, and especially at f/4, you just can’t do that. I took a few shots as I refined my framing, to show this portion of the Milky Way, and having checked on the NASA website after getting home, it seems that I had actually framed up the center of our galaxy, the Galactic Core, where there is a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A-star, just slightly below and left of the center in this image.

The 500 Rule

Because I was able to see the points of the stars, I was able to focus manually until they were sharp, and I simply decreased my shutter speed over a few frames until I got to 5 seconds, which was the point where I could see that the stars were almost perfectly round, instead of being elongated by the rotation of the earth. Although I’ve heard of the 500 Rule I have to admit that I didn’t really know what it was, until I spoke about the photo the following day with a member of the group who is into astrophotography, and I learned that to get the shutter speed for an image of the stars without them becoming elongated, you simply divide 500 by your focal length. Some people use 600, but 500 divided by 85, my focal length, is 5.88 seconds, and because I’d actually seen a little bit more elongation of the stars at 6 seconds, I was happy that I’d used 5, and that the calculation gave me confirmation that I was pretty much spot on. 

Participants’ Comments

As I mentioned, the following day is really a drive back to Windhoek, where we spend one more night, before everyone flies home, so that really brings us to the end of this travelogue series. As usual, though, no trip would be complete without doing a roundtable with my digital recorder, to get a brief comment from each member of the group, which I have embedded into the audio and you can listen with the player at the top of this post.

As I mentioned at the start of this travelogue series, this really was a great group, and it’s lovely to hear their comments again now, just over four weeks after the tour finished. Of course, I’m fortunate that I have been able to travel with hundreds of really nice people over the eleven years that I’ve been running my tours now, but it’s not often that everyone gets along quite as well as this group did. It’s not just me, but really, everyone seemed to click beautifully, making it a pleasure to travel with these people.

Complete Namibia Tour 2019

If you might be interested in joining the 2019 tour from June 2 to 18, please check out the tour page at mbp.ac/namibia. It really is an amazing tour, so give it some thought and I look forward to getting a chance to travel with you in this beautiful land.

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2019

Show Notes

Check out the 2019 (or future) Namibia tour here: https://mbp.ac/namibia

Visit Rich Dyson’s website here: http://richdysonphotography.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 5 (Podcast 582)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 5 (Podcast 582)

This week conclude our Complete Namibia Tour Travelogue series with my final twelve wildlife images from the awesome Etosha National Park.

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We finished last week with a photo of a pride of weary looking lions. The male with a mane had a scared face and was really quite thin. There were three young male lions sitting on the ground near him, and the solitary lioness was sitting atop a small hill to the left of the scene from our perspective. 

Weary Lion Pride

It was the lioness that initiated a move, as she stood and walked down the hill, and crossed the road between our two safari vehicles. This first photo for today (below) is just before the road came into the frame from the right. As you can see, the three young male lions quickly stood and followed closely behind.

Lioness Leading the Way

Lioness Leading the Way

The lioness was the only one of the five lions that was not so thin that you could easily see all of her ribs. Our guide guessed that she was probably only hunting small animals, and was at this point only providing for herself. All four of the males didn’t look as though they even had the strength to hunt along side her, but as it’s often the lionesses that do most of the hunting, this pride seemed to be in a pretty dire situation.

I shot this at 400mm with my 100-400mm Mark II lens, and I had my aperture set to f/14 to get a bit of depth of field, but as you can see, at 400mm it’s still relatively shallow. My shutter speed was 1/500 of a second at ISO 640.

Our Safari Vehicles

The lioness led the pride to a waterhole, and the oldest male seemed to almost reluctantly follow. Here we see him walking across the road (below) with that safari vehicle to the right being my group’s second vehicle. I like this documentary photo, as it shows how we shoot, with the roof raised like that as well as through the open windows.

Lion in the Road

Lion in the Road

It also shows how close we were to these lions as they passed between the vehicles, and how scrawny this male had become.

As soon as this male had crossed the road, we drove around to the waterhole ahead of them and photographed them walking across the planes. Here (below) is a photograph of the lioness and the three young males drinking. You can see how thin the males are especially from the ribs and back leg of the left-most lion.

Lions Drinking at Waterhole

Lions Drinking at Waterhole

We also heard from our guide that it is not often you’ll see lions drinking at a waterhole. They generally get enough fluids from the blood of the large game that they eat. As he was also guessing that they were not getting any large game, this all works together to paint a rather glum picture for this pride. I had attached my 1.4X Extender to the 100-400mm lens now, and shot this at 560mm, at f/10, with a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second at ISO 400.

Lioness in Landscape

After a drink, the lioness jumped across the water between the larger water hole that you see in this photo (below) and where they’d had a drink, a little closer and to the left of the frame here, and she walked across and settled in the long grass.

Lioness at Waterhole

Lioness at Waterhole

I can’t help thinking that as she looked out across the plane she was somewhat concerned about the fate of her pride. She may also just be wishing that a lame zebra would walk up and sit down for her to easily kill, or wondering how much longer she has to wait for the rest of the pride to die so she can go off and start a new life. Either way, it was a somewhat sad experience to watch this pride.

For this image, I had intentionally pulled back to include more of the environment, with the salt flats visible along the top of the frame, and that beautiful old tree to the left. There are some beautiful scenes in the Etosha National Park, but they really come alive when you can capture them with a majestic animal like this lioness in the frame as well.

Giraffes in Eden

After lunch, we visited an idyllic waterhole with lush grass on the banks and found some Giraffe and Zebra waiting for us, and some Springbok and Impala in the background. This scene looked almost biblical to me, with the animals seeming to take their turns to visit the water and drink, and the somewhat harsh, yet still beautiful light.

Giraffe and Zebra at Waterhole

Giraffe and Zebra at Waterhole

I used my 1.4X Extender again for this, for a 490mm focal length, at f/11 and a 1/500 of a second shutter speed at ISO 400. 

In this next image, we can see the trouble that the Giraffe go to just to get their heads down to the water to drink (below). I have a number of photos in which the Giraffe is actually drinking, but this to me shows the struggle a little bit better.

Giraffe Drinking

Giraffe Drinking

With it being daytime the Giraffes were much less nervous than the first one we’d seen drinking at night behind our lodge. I imagine the open space around them here also helps, as they can see any potential predators much better, and being in the group, they can rely on the others to raise the alert. I shot this at 450mm at f/14 for a 1/500 of a second shutter speed at ISO 640.

Lilac-Breasted Roller

We move on now to our last full day in Etosha, and a shot of this beautifully colored bird called a Lilac-breasted Roller. This guy was just sitting up in a tree, so we stopped for a quick photo. I used my Extender again here and cropped in on the image a little bit, but I still have a larger photo from my 5Ds R than I would if I’d used my old 7D Mark II with its crop factor.

Lilac-breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

Because I shoot from the front seat of our safari vehicle, I had to lean over in a pretty awkward position to see through the driver’s side window for this shot, and as luck would have it, the moment I pulled back to take a short breather, this guy flew away. It would have been nice to get him as he flew, and I believe one of the ladies in my vehicle got him, and that’s great for her, but for me, that’s the way it goes.

Black Rhino

We saw a number of Black Rhino during our time in Etosha but were able to photograph the one drinking and then flehming as you see here. Flehming, or the flehmen response is seen in a lot of mammals apparently, as they deeply inhale the air trying to detect pheromones and other scents.

Black Rhino Flehming

Black Rhino Flehming

I actually chose this shot to share with you not just because of the flehmen response, but because it’s one of the only shots that doesn’t really show off the fact that this Black Rhino has been dehorned. From a photography perspective, it’s not great that the Rangers are forced to cut off the Rhino’s horns, but it’s a lot better than seeing the Rhino killed by poachers for that same horn.

Be a Rhino Hero!

Apparently a there are three Rhino’s killed by poachers every day for their horns, so at this rate, they’ll be extinct within a decade. Earlier this year a guy named Matt Meyer cycled 2,000 miles from Washington to New Mexico pulling a life sized model of a Rhino, to help raise awareness and money that will be sent to three charities that are directly helping to save the Rhino.

The ride has now finished, but they are still collecting, so if you’d like to make a donation, you can head over to rhinoride.org and donate any amount via credit card, PayPal or wire transfer.

Autopilot Luck

Later in the day, we were driving along and saw a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk in a tree, but as we slowed down to stop and photograph it, the Goshawk took to the wing and pounced on something in the brush. Our driver drove along a little further than he’d intended, and in hindsight, I vaguely recall raising my camera and trying to capture something as we slowed down again to see what was happening.

I photographed the Goshawk feeding on what we found to be a skink that he’d caught, but as I was concentrating on trying to photograph him feeding, I didn’t chimp to see if I’d caught any action as we pulled up. By the time I’d got back to the lodge later, I’d totally forgotten that I’d even tried, so I was pretty amazed when this photograph (below) popped up on my screen as I went through my images.

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk Catching Skink

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk Catching Skink

For a moment I was totally confused, trying to figure out how this image got on my memory card. I wondered if someone had photographed it using my camera as a joke, but my camera was in my hand or on my knee the whole time. Then I started to recall the split second reaction to raise my camera as we saw the Goshawk swooping into action. I think I’d ruled out the chances of actually capturing anything because it all happened so quickly and the car was breaking quite heavily to bring us to a stop as I photographed this. 

Needless to say, I was pretty happy that my autopilot did a good enough job to get focus on the Goshawk as it jumped up into the air, then dropped the skink and some foliage that it had also grasped, before catching the skink again and eating it in front of us.

It’s a pity that the hawks face is in the shadow of its wing, and there is no catchlight in its eye, but I’ll live with that for this otherwise pretty cool action shot. Luckily I’d already got my camera set to 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/10, ISO 800, and my focal length for this image was 248mm.

Elephant Encounters

The last three images that we’ll look at today to conclude this series of images from this year’s Complete Namibia Tour are from two separate elephant encounters. This first image was from the morning, as an elephant came out of the brush to pose for us for a little while before moving on (below).

Elephant with Curled Trunk

Elephant with Curled Trunk

This is probably one of my favorite single elephant shots of the trip, as he almost displayed his trunk for us, with his ears flapping out wide as well. The light was a little harsh, but in a good direction, so I was pretty happy with this. My settings were f/11 for a 1/500 of a second at ISO 400, with a focal length of 188mm, so he was pretty close by.

Saving The Baby Elephant

For our last shoot in Etosha, we visited another waterhole about an hour from our Lodge, in the hope of seeing some more elephants. When we arrived there were no elephants, so my heart sunk for a moment, but as we stopped the vehicle and started to wonder what to do next, a huge heard of elephants came out of the bush to our right, walked across the front of our vehicle and made their way to the waterhole on our left.

It was a pretty amazing sight, and we got lots of great photos as they crossed. Although once the group was at the waterhole the light wasn’t great, coming from the back-left of the scene, I thought this next image was relatively interesting (below).

Baby Elephant Being Rescued from Waterhole

Baby Elephant Being Rescued from Waterhole

We heard a splash at first and then a lot of trumpeting as the elephants rallied around to help pull a baby elephant that had fallen into the waterhole back out. This image shows how the two cow elephants wrapped their trunks around the baby to help it out, and you can also see the concerned poses of the other two elephants to the left of them, and the dust that they kicked up in the rush to help.

With the high level of social interaction that you see in elephants, I almost felt that the commotion was at least to a degree a display of concern, showing the mother of the baby that the other elephants were ready and able to help. That’s probably my twisted mind at work as well, but it felt that way. My settings for this image were f/11 at 1/400 of a second, at ISO 800, with a focal length of 278mm.

Elephants’ Departure

We stayed with this group as they drank and wallowed in the mud for a while, and then, they all left, this time walking past what would have been the back of our vehicle if we’d stayed in the same place that we’d been as they arrived. We’d actually moved as they started to leave, to get a better line of sight and turn the vehicle around, allowing us to photograph shots like this (below).

Baby and Mother Elephant in Long Grass

Baby and Mother Elephant in Long Grass

The herd must have been between 30 and 40 elephants strong, and it was amazing to see so many babies too. The long golden grass provided a beautiful environment for this photo, which turned out to be the final photo that I selected, not only to share with you but from all of my Final selects from this trip.

The following morning we had a relatively short drive through the park to an exit that would start us on our drive back to Windhoek, for one last night before we all flew home. As the gate came into view, we jokingly asked our guide for a Leopard shot to finish with, and as if by magic, a Leopard actually walked across the road in front of us, and as we stopped, it walked into the brush. 

I got a few shots of its behind, and a few from the side but there was grass in front of its face. One man in the group got a relatively clear shot from the back of the vehicle, which was great, and a final treat as we left the park.

That night, at our final lodge, I took my digital recorder around the table and recorded a message from nine of the ten participants and my friend Heath Carney, a talented photographer from Australia who I’d asked to assist me on this tour. One of the participants wasn’t feeling great and had skipped dinner. We were all a little conscious of the fact that there were so many other people in the room, and the group was pretty tired from our 17 days on the road, so it wasn’t the best time to record, but here’s what they had to say…

[Listen with the audio player at the top of the post to see what the participants had to say about the tour.]

Complete Namibia Tour 2018

I had an absolutely amazing time on this trip, and as we’ve now filled the first vehicle for our 2018 Complete Namibia Tour, I’ll be heading back next year. At the time of recording, we still have four places left, so if you might like to join us, please do check out the details and you can book from the tour page at https://mbp.ac/namibia

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018

Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2018


Show Notes

Check out details of my 2018 Namibia Tour here: https://mbp.ac/namibia

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 375)

Namibia 2013 Travelogue Part 4 (Podcast 375)

Continuing our travelogue style account of my recent trip to Namibia, I’ve selected the next ten favorites to take a look at today, and I’ll include a little background and my thought process while shooting. We pick up the trail on the morning of May 17, at the Himba village, that we started to look at photos from last week.

To give you an idea of where the Himba village is, let’s start by taking another look at the map that I included in part one of this series.

Namibia Trip Map

Namibia Trip Map

We started our journey in Winhoek, where you can see the number 35 in the middle of Namibia, and worked our way southward over the first couple of days, and then as we traced our route through part two and three, we’ve gradually worked our way up the country.

The flamingos were where it says 148 about half way up the country on the coast, and then we continued north, with the shipwreck shot where it says 96, and that was also where we shot the seals, that we didn’t look at. Where you can see the number 20, was an old abandoned oil rig, which I got a couple of nice long exposure shots of, and then the 1625 and 861 was were we started to shoot lots of wildlife that we were looking at last week. Otgendunda, is the name of the Himba village that we visited, and this is the furthest north that we went, and you can see it here where it says 228 on this map.

We looked at one shot of some of the Himba children before we finished last week, and I want to look at a couple more shots today too, but I’d like to start today by giving you just a little bit of information on the incredible culture of these proud people.

Festus, our guide, gave us a talk on the Himba people over dinner the night before we visited, to prepare us. I had thought the Himba people were nomadic, but they are only semi-nomadic, sometimes spending time away from their homestead to find good grazing ground for their goats and cattle.

The homestead is surrounded by a fence made of tree branches and sticks, and inside is a circular corral. This corral we were told is where the ancestors remains are buried, but also where the livestock are kept. In the Himba belief system, the livestock are closely links to their ancestors in the corral. There is also a circle of stones about 10 meters from the front of the corral with an ancestral fire that is kept burning by the fire-keeper. We were told that under no circumstances should we walk between the fire and the corral entrance. When we asked what the punishment for doing this is, we were told, “just don’t walk across that line”.

Young Himba Man

Young Himba Man

The Himba women wear their hair in two plaits and the men wear one plait, as we can just about see in this first photo of a young Himba man. We had many of the subjects sit in the door of their huts, as the light was way too harsh outside for flattering or artistic photos. I shot this with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, with an aperture of f/3.5 for 1/60 of a second, at ISO 400. I used a wide aperture because I wanted the focus clearly on the face but the rest of the man’s body is slightly soft.

I also reduced the blacks slider in Lightroom to -40 for this shot, because I wanted to plug up the dark background a little more. Here we can only really see the center pillar of the hut, but without this modification, there is just a little more clutter inside that didn’t really help the shot.

That was after we’d had them move a few water containers etc. as well. They were incredibly accommodating, and even broke into a smile for us every so often. I found the best photos were when they weren’t smiling though. Although they have beautiful smiles, there initial pose is always with a very serious, almost sullen look, so most of the photos I chose were with this look.

I was kind of surprised to see the Himba wearing plastic beads, but after our few hours of photography, when they broke out their craft market, we’d see that they use all sorts of modern material in their crafts, as well as traditional material. I guess for me this just reinforced how well these people are holding on to their rich culture.

They are surrounded by and exposed to western culture and materials all the time, but they choose to maintain their own values and way of life, which I applaud. On a very different scale, this is actually one of the things I like so much about Japan. They have taken on many western ideas and values, and yet you still see lots of tradition everywhere, on a daily basis, and this makes life a richer, fuller experience in my opinion.

Uapahongua - Young Himba Woman

Uapahongua – Young Himba Woman

This next photo of Uapahongua, a young Himba woman, was shot in the same doorway as the young man we just looked at. I think they were brother and sister, but I’m not sure. Another interesting factoid from Festus is that the Himba are not monogamous. The men will often marry up multiple wives. The guy that was helping with our visit and spoke really good English introduced us to his three wives.

What I though was even more interesting, is that, in Festus’ words, “affairs are tolerated”, so families can include brothers and sisters from multiple mothers, and although this usually centers around one father, because affairs are tolerated, there is no saying that he is actually the father of all the siblings.

We also heard were that most marriage partners are decided by the Uncle of the children. There are virtually no marriages where the couple choose each other. It’s always the uncle that decides.

Again, I shot this photo with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at f/5.6 at ISO 800, for a 1/60 of a second. I chose a deeper depth of field for this photo so that we can see better detail in all the decoration that the woman wear, honestly. Apparently the shell that the women wear means that they are eligible for or actually married.

The orange color on their skin is because they grind ochre stones and mix the powder with a type of butter fat, and smear that on their skin. This is both to protect the skin from the harsh sun, and for cosmetic reasons. From the decorations to the extensions in their hair, which as you can see here is also covered in ochre clay, the Himba women are very particular about how they look. After every photo Uapahongua here would ask to see the back of the camera, and then nod with approval if she liked what she saw.

We also heard that the Himba never bathe, which is pretty incredible when you consider the heat in which they live. The women actually sit in smoke huts, and smoke themselves as a way to keep clean. When we set off from their homestead, we actually two women with a child each about 10 kilometers down the road, to a place where they would travel in another direction to a hospital, as the children were sick. It was quite a surreal experience to be sitting in a safari vehicle with two Himba women and children on board, but I have to say, despite them not bathing, they actually smelled pretty good. The mixture of the butter fat and the smoky smell gave them an earthy aroma that was in no way displeasing.

We had lunch under a tree at the side of an almost dried up river on this day, and then spent the afternoon tracking lions that we would not find. The following morning, as we left the lodge and pulled onto the large gravel road running through the area, something large darted across the road in the car lights, and Festus our trusty guide, immediately recognized it as a cheetah. When Festus saw something like this he was incredibly gutsy with his off-roading. Within seconds we were being tossed around as we navigated the basalt boulders strewn evenly across all terrain in this area that had not been cleared as a road.

It was still dark, but the car lights provided enough light for us to be able to make out a mother cheetah and her three almost full grown cubs. I started with my ISO set at 25600, and was able to get a few shots. If that was all I got, I’d have missed the opportunity, because it was still way too dark, even with the ISO cranked up that high. The image was being recorded on the left side of the histogram, which meant it was grainy as hell. Even at 25600 though, as the light got up, the grain became much less of a problem, and the images would have been usable, again, if that is all that I got.

By the time I shot this image though, the light had increased to the point where I could drop my ISO down a stop to 12800, and I was now exposing to the right, so the amount of grain recorded was very manageable. Apart from adding +40 on the Clarity slider in Lightroom, this shot is straight out of the camera. We see one of the cubs sitting in front of a euphorbia bush, looking quite relaxed. This was shot with the 300mm f/2.8 lens with a 2X Extender fitted, giving me 600mm.

Relaxed Cheetah

Relaxed Cheetah

The aperture was set to f/6.3, so stopped down just a third from wide open, and the shutter speed was 1/125 of a second. We had raised the roof panel of the safari vehicle and were resting on the roof for stabilization. I had a bean bag with me, but no-one actually filled them. The vehicles were fine to just rest the lenses on our hands, and we weren’t doing enough wildlife work to make this tiring or uncomfortable.

This next shot was just a few minutes later. I called it “Stalking Cheetah” but that’s really just artistic license. The only thing this cheetah was stalking was it’s brother or sister. The sun was coming up, and I’d changed my settings to f/5.6 for 1/160 of a second, which is basically the same exposure value, but a little hazy cloud had covered the sun, so I increased the exposure of this by 0.1 in Lighroom. Because I was still over the right on the histogram though, this shot is still very acceptable on the grain front, and I like the pose, so I was happy to be able to include it in my selection.

Stalking Cheetah

Stalking Cheetah

We watched the cubs playing, and although I got more shots, these were probably my favorites. I will probably end up picking something else out later though, as I revisit my images in another six months or so, to see what I missed.

Mukaandora - Himba Girl

Mukaandora – Himba Girl

We were out tracking lions and elephants again, and the cheetahs were a lucky bonus. Once they’d headed off down the valley, we pulled back out onto the main road, and literally within a few more minutes, a leopard darted across the road in front of us, but this time he was too illusive. We saw where he went, but we weren’t able to find him again.

As we started heading back to the lodge for breakfast, we saw a small hut on a hill, with some Himba women sitting outside, so we decided to go and see if we could photograph them. Festus negotiated with them so that we could do so. Whether you agree with this or not, the thing to do apparently is to just pay them. The village we visited the previous day were paid a small amount, and given food provisions for their time. This group got fifty Namibian dollars, which is about $5 US. We photographed them all, for about 40 minutes, and after a while I set up this shot of a young girl named Mukaandora, looking out across her land.

I like this because it shows the decorative hair extensions, and the pelt that the the Himba women wear, almost like a skirt, but just at the back. Mukaandora did not have a shell on her chest, as she was too young to be eligible for marriage. They told us she was only 10 years old, but we reckon they’d lost count somewhere along the way.

An interesting experience here was that as we were leaving, one of the women started to complain about something. I asked Festus what the problem was, and he told me that she had not been part of the original negotiation, and wanted paying for having her photo taken. I hadn’t even taken her photo, but asked how much would be appropriate, and Festus told me $20 Namibian would be plenty, so I gave her a $20 note. This is like $2 US, so not a big deal for me, but the look on her face changed instantly. She snapped the note out between her two hands, clapped with it on her palm a few times, then started clapping at having received the money. I don’t think as tourists we should spoil the locals with large sums of money, and this is why we agreed at the start of the trip that all of these kind of negotiations would go through the guides, Festus and Jeremiah. They don’t want to spoil their people any more than we do, so I was happy with the amount, and if I can make someone that happy with $2, I’m happy too.

Later this day, we drove about 50k south, to our next lodge, on the rim of the Etendeka Plateau looking out across the Klip River Valley. In the afternoon we went out for a game drive around the basalt rock strewn plateau, but the main reason we were here was to track black rhino the following day.

After descending the steep road from the lodge down into the valley, we were immediately faced with three magnificent elephants. The foreground foliage actually made it difficult to get a nice shot, but here’s one that I quite like, of a large bull. This is the only elephant shot that I didn’t feel compelled to convert into sepia, because I quite like the sandy tones  here, and the greens don’t get in the way too much.

African Elephant

African Elephant

This was shot with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with the 2X Extender, wide open at f/5.6 for 1/500 of a second at ISO 400. While shooting this, there was actually another elephant much closer to our right, but the foliage was really spoiling the shot.

As we stopped for lunch in the shade of a large tree again, three boys sped past on their Damara Ferrari. This was the tour leader Jeremy Woodhouse’s term for the carts that we saw quite often here, that were made of old car axels, and pulled usually by donkeys. Damara was the name of the area that we were in. Earlier in the trip they’d been Kalahari Ferraris.

After lunch, we caught them up, and asked them to wait as we set up a little further down the road to photograph them from the front as they rode past. This is one of my resulting photographs. We also shot some of them speeding down a hill a little further along, but one of our local guides decided that it would be dangerous for them to do that alone, and jumped on the cart with them to help them steer, which kind of spoiled the shot. It was a better action shot, but I think I prefer this one, with the boy in the center smiling broadly as they head towards us.

Three Boys on Damara Ferrari

Three Boys on Their Damara Ferrari

For this I stopped down to f/8 to get a deeper depth of field, and selected a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second, at ISO 125. The boys aren’t quite in the depth of field here, as I focused on the donkeys, but they’re sharp enough to make this photo work I think. I’d prefer them to be a little soft than get too much of the background in focus, so I’m happy with the decision to go with f/8 for this shot.

We’d spend the entire day, literally around 10 hours of driving on the incredibly bumpy basalt tracks, and although it was enjoyable, we almost didn’t see any black rhino at all, but then, way past the time were were supposed to be back at the lodge, the guides from the lodge climbed a hill, and located two black rhino down-wind of us. The rhino apparently have terrible eyesight, but a very good sense of smell, and because we were down-wind, once they’d smelled us, they ran out of the valley where they were, further down into the valley, and we were able to get a few quick shots as they passed us on the other side of the valley wall.

Two Black Rhino

Two Black Rhino

I did opt for a sepia toned image here again, as the color was getting in the way, but this is more of a trophy shot that something I’m really happy with. Again shot with the 70-200 with the 2X Extender, at f/8 for 1/250 of a second at ISO 400. I actually wished I’d gone to ISO 800 for a faster shutter speed because these guys were moving pretty fast, but the movement was adequately frozen, so I got away with it. I also of course wished I’d taken my 300mm lens, but we’d been told to bring just one lens, as there wouldn’t be room for more, though that turned out not to be true. I could have placed a second lens on the seat next to me, so I was kicking myself for not just bringing it, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk as they say.

After the rhino, we started to head out of the reserve, but we were still a good way from camp. Almost an hour and a half later, still driving out of the reserve, we came across the same heard of elephants we’d seen on our way in, and they were still eating very close to where we’d seen them in the morning. I’d love to finish with this shot today, but to keep the images in chronological order, here’s one of my favorite shots of an elephant’s ass.

Elephant's Ass

Elephant’s Ass

The light was dropping, so I increased the ISO to 1600 for this, at f/5.6 for 1/200 of a second. I converted to this sepia tone in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, and added just a touch of additional structure on the elephant to accentuate the wrinkles in the skin, which I think is a wonderful feature of these magnificent animals. It might not be that obvious to shoot a butt shot like this, but I think they’re really effective, and I actually prefer this to this next shot, of an elephant from the side.

Elephant's Curly Trunk

Elephant’s Curly Trunk

I like this because of the shape of the trunk as the elephant fed, and I’d included a bit more of the environment here. I ended up not choosing an even wide shot that I took of these, with some sky in as well, as I’ve switch around again to prefer these more intimate images, but I do like to have the surrounding in like this. Here by the way, I’d increased the ISO again to 2000, still at f/5.6 for 1/200 of a second.

The day after this, we would have another long drive to a place called Okonjima, where we’d shoot cheetah and leopard for the last few days of the tour. this is where you can see the number 995 on the map, just above the capital of Windhoek, where it says 35, right there in the middle of Namibia. I’ve selected 10 more photos from those last few days though, so we’ll conclude this travelogue series with one last episode, number five, next week. Remember that if you would like to see all of the images that I selected from this trip, you can see them on my Portfolios page here https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/.


Show Notes

Martin’s 100 Impressions of Namibia: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/portfolio/namibia/

Music used with kind permission from the staff of the Kulala Desert Lodge.


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