Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #1 (Podcast 780)

Complete Namibia 2022 Tour Report #1 (Podcast 780)


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I have just got back from Namibia and from today for the next three or four weeks will report on what we got up to, illustrated with around 10 images for each episode. This was my first tour in two and a half years, so it felt amazing to be out in the field again, and this tour was made even more special by the five guests that accompanied me on our epic journey around Namibia. I’ve been lucky to travel with many wonderful groups over the years, rarely meeting people that simply don’t mesh, but it does happen, so it was a huge relief to find that this group really was a complete pleasure to spend 17 days with. We’ll hear from the group in the final episode, as we recorded a short message from each of them on our final evening, but for now, let’s jump in and start to walk through the tour.

I actually went to Namibia a day early this year, in case the additional procedures in place due to the pandemic caused any problems. Shortly before I left Japan though, the requirement to get a PCR test within 72 hours of entering Namibia was lifted, which certainly removed a level of stress that helped to get things kicked off more easily. Wearing a mask for the entire journey over was somewhat taxing, especially because the first of my two outbound flights were extended from 12 to 15 hours as we couldn’t fly over Russian airspace. I also confirmed my general dislike for Lufthansa planes. Economy class on these planes has too little leg-room, with my legs having to be pressed against the seat in front of me for the entire flight. I’m just pleased that the flight between Tokyo and Frankfurt was an ANA codeshare, as ANA has much better planes and generally better staff as well.

I did hear at the beginning of the tour that Qatar Airlines have just started a direct flight to Namibia as well, which I’m going to try to book next year to avoid Lufthansa. I really don’t understand why their planes have so little leg room. It’s not as if Germans are generally little people, so maybe there are just trying to force more people into Business Class, which would be a shame, as I generally go by economy class.

Anyway, on my second morning, I went back to the airport in Windhoek to welcome the remaining four of our five guests as they also flew in from Frankfurt. Lufthansa had lost one of the guest’s luggage, which added an extra level of difficulty to the start of the trip. Luckily the guest rolled with it pretty well, and the case did get forwarded to us as we traveled, albeit around five or six days into the tour.

As usual, I timed the first photography day with a new moon, and we got into the Quiver Tree Forest relatively early in the afternoon after our drive down from Windhoek, so we had plenty of time to decide which trees we’d use for our sunset shots. My main goal as I look for a nice group of trees is to find one main tree with a pleasing shape, and a number of smaller or more distant trees that are nicely isolated. I also ensure that the main tree is isolated, without anything else overlapping it anywhere. In this case, that meant I had to lower my tripod to just over one leg section, to prevent that bow hanging down on the left side of the main tree from overlapping with the distant quiver tree below it.

Quiver Tree Sunset
Quiver Tree Sunset

I was happy with the results though, and although I’m not much of a sunset person, I do like this warm glow after the sun has dropped below the horizon when it happens.We went back to our lodge for a lovely dinner shortly after the sunset glow had died down, and then we came back out a few hours later to capture the Milky Way, and the Galactic Core which was to be still low in the sky, allowing us to place the silhouette of some Quiver Trees in from of it, as you can see in this next image.

Quiver Trees and Milky Way
Quiver Trees and Milky Way

This was actually the first time I was going to really get to use my Canon RF 15-35mm ƒ/2.8 lens, as well as my Canon EOS R5 in the field, and I was completely blown away all over again by this gear. The RF 100-500mm lens was also really getting its first field use, and I was really happy with that too, as we’ll see later in these trip reports. I used the 500 rule for my shutter speed, so divided 500 by 15, my focal length, which gives 33 seconds, and I rounded it down to 30 seconds. This gives slightly elongated star discs but in my opinion a good balance. My ISO was 1600 and my aperture was set to ƒ/3.2, stopping down just a fraction to ensure that the quiver trees were also sharp. Note too that I generally zoom in to 10X magnification on the electronic finder and manually focus on the stars. Just cranking your lens out to infinity is not always going to give you sharp stars, so when possible, zooming in and manually focussing gives better results.

The following morning we visited the Giant’s Playground before breakfast, and this shot was a hair under a four-minute exposure as the light on the horizon started to pick up. I just went to ƒ/14 for this to ensure that the nearby and distant rocks were sharp. The ISO was 100 and I was using my RF 24-105mm lens for this shot. Note too that I generally like to go to the cloudy White Balance preset for dawn and dusk shots as it makes the colors much richer.

Rock Baboon
Rock Baboon

Here’s another shot from the Giant’s Playground, in which you can see what almost looks like a comical Disney character silhouette on the right, and one of the few Quiver Trees that you can also find in the Playground. By this time the sun was almost on the horizon, so my shutter speed was now 1/6 of a second at ISO 100, still with an aperture of ƒ/14.

Disney Character Rock
Disney Character Rock

After breakfast, we drove over to the Atlantic coast to visit the deserted diamond mine at Kolmanskop. One of the houses that has lost its roof and the upstairs floorboards is great for this kind of high-contrast shadow shots, with the light shining through the slats in the ceiling. I’ve generally shot the other room on most of my visits, but there is now a well-formed sand dune in the second front room, which I really enjoyed as well.

I also had to visit what’s probably my second favorite room for this beautifully formed sand dune and lovely pale-blue walls. There seems to be more decay on the walls now though, giving this shot even more character than in previous years. I love that I’m able to watch these locations evolve over time.

As you can see in this next image, some of the building’s ceilings are now caving in, and some buildings are also close to collapsing. Some of the floors have also given way. The Mine Manager and the Accountant’s houses on the top of the hill at Kolmanskop have been cleaned out, almost restored to their former glory. We also heard that there is talk of renovating many more houses and restoring them to their former state, but this would be a grave mistake.

Roof Caving In

The appeal and beauty of Kolmanskop come almost entirely from the sand and the decaying building. If they are to do anything, it should be to prevent the buildings from becoming any more dangerous, while maintaining their current decayed state. If it becomes simply a museum of what the mine used to look like, they will destroy it completely. I don’t think I’d be the only one to stop visiting if that were to happen.

We spent the following morning in the mine at Elizabeth Bay, which is another diamond mine town, which actually still has an active mine area, so security is very strict when entering and exiting the area. Part of the charm of Elizabeth Bay comes from the fact that they used sea water to make the bricks for the houses, so many of the bricks have decayed away leaving just the mortar that used to hold the bricks together, as you can see in this image.

Decayed Bricks
Decayed Bricks

Elizabeth Bay has fallen more quickly into decay during the three years since my last visit. As you can see in this next image, many of the houses have now almost completely collapsed. In some ways, it’s getting more difficult to shoot, because so many of the houses are now just piles of rubble.

Fallen Roofs
Fallen Roofs

It’s also a rather harrowing place to shoot. I’ve shot what were essentially slave quarters many times over the years, with a line of tiny partitions on either side of a large room in which the workers slept. Now that the outer walls of some of the larger buildings have fallen away, as you see in this final image for today, we now see that there were some of these quarters that had a second row, making them even harder to look at, but I think it’s important to record this, and to this day, the current owners still say that the workers were not slaves, because they were paid. I’m sure that’s true, but they were also often chained, and not allowed to leave. That sounds a lot like a slave to me.

Double Decker Slave Quarters
Double Decker Slave Quarters

OK, so that’s our ten photos for this first episode. To make up for missing the last three weeks, I intend to release the following episodes in quick succession, so stay tuned if you like this sort of work. Also note that we do have some spaces still on next year’s tours, so check out our tour pages for details.


Show Notes

Check out our tours here: https://mbp.ac/tours

Canon EOS R5: https://mbp.ac/EOSR5

Canon RF 15-35mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/15-35

Canon RF 24-105mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/rf24-105

Canon RF 100-500mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/100-500

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

Complete Namibia Tour 2017 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 579)

Today we continue a travelogue series to walk you through my recent Complete Namibia Tour, as we visit Elizabeth Bay and move on to Sossusvlei and the mystical Deadvlei.

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It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Namibia, so I’m in that space now where the trip is gradually fading into memory, enabling me to be a little bit more ruthless in my edit, removing more images, but due to the variety of subjects we cover on this trip, and just the richness of this beautiful country, I’ve still got heaps of images in my final selection, so let’s talk first about the state of my edit, and then we’ll move on to look at today’s ten images.

My Final Edit

After working on my images on and off during last week, I initially managed to complete my second pass to whittle down the 1,028 images that were left after my first pass, to a more manageable 496. I was happy to at least get below 500 at this point but I continued working until I got my selection down to 419. I might be able to get this down a little further before I actually copy these images to my Finals folder, but it’s pretty much my last call on my 3-star selection.

My Rating System

For me, 3-star images are ones that I am happy to let people see and will submit to my stock agency, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are my absolute favorites. For example, some are slight variations of the same subject. I might have two different head positions of an animal. Both have merit, but I don’t necessarily want to keep both of them in my favorites. Or I might have a vertical version of the same subject. This always works well with stock imagery.

So, at this point, I went through the 419 images and selected my 4-star images, of which there were 191. Four stars for me means that I like them enough to add them to my Apple Photos app so that I can actively show people them as I travel around. These will take preference over the three stars when I’m selecting images to illustrate articles etc.

At some point, I’ll go through my 4-star images and select a small number of my photos to add to my Namibia portfolio. These will become 5-star images, my portfolio-worthy rating. I reserve 2 stars as a way of marking my “originals” in as much as I sometimes have to take an image into Photoshop and do some work on it, and when I bring that back into Capture One Pro, I make the original raw file a 2-star, and make the Photoshop version a 3-star image or higher.

My 1-star rating means it was once selected for consideration during my editing process, but then got demoted out of the selection. This is just my way of keeping tabs on something that I once liked, but it lost the battle to stay in my “Finals” group. I also like to keep tabs on these images, because they are my first port of call if I have to go back to my original shoot folders looking for something else.

Elizabeth Bay

We ended the first part of this travelogue series at lunch time on day three, as we finished our second shoot at Kolmanskop. Like Kolmanskop, Elizabeth Bay is an abandoned diamond mine community, with a couple of differences. The first being that in 2005 the Namibian Government in partnership with De Beers expanded the original diamond mine and started mining again. Because of this, we go through very strict security when entering Elizabeth Bay.

The other difference is the way the buildings are corroding. I imagine that it’s because of the sea air, but in this first image for today (below) you can see from the brickwork at the end of the building that the bricks are corroding more quickly than the mortar holding them together, making for some very strange shapes, as we’ll explore.

Elizabeth Bay Labourers' Quarters

Elizabeth Bay Labourers’ Quarters

The partitions that you can see lining each side of this room are where the laborers slept. We heard one story that these laborers were slaves, but we were given an explanation of the old mine before we photographed it, and were told that the laborers were actually paid very well, so I’d like to believe that story instead. Either way, it couldn’t have been much fun sleeping in those partitions, but as a way to make a good living, if that’s what it was, I can imagine people were able to put up with it.

Again here, I’ve used the one-point perspective that I talked about in last week’s episode, as I really like the drama that this creates. I’ve allowed the light from the windows to overexpose a little, but I don’t mind that. My settings for this image were an aperture of f/14 at ISO 100 for a 0.8 sec exposure. I was using my Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 lens at 12mm, to get more of the room in, but also to emphasize the converging lines.

You can also see how the buildings are corroding in this external view of one of the buildings in Elizabeth Bay (below). As with many of the buildings, this one is partially collapsed, and if you look at the brickwork, in some areas the mortar is still there, but the bricks have corroded away.

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

Elizabeth Bay Abandoned Mine

As you can see, although the houses at Elizabeth Bay are mostly newer than Kolmanskop, the sea air really has taken its toll much more, and most of them are just not safe to go inside. Kolmanskop is getting that way, but it has a few more years in it yet I’d say. My settings for this image were f/14 with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second at ISO 100.

This next photo is of a building that’s bearing up a little better on the sheltered side, and this is also the room that you’ll see on the cover of Freeman Patterson’s Odysseys book. It’s hard to resist shooting this iconic image, even though they all look the same because you have to shoot through a window, giving the same angle essentially (below).

Tropical Wall

Tropical Wall

It was actually cloudy when we arrived at Elizabeth Bay, so I was hoping to photograph the houses without the strong light coming through the windows, but it cleared up pretty much while we were getting our talk about the place, so we’re stuck with bright windows again, and I’m not one for doing two exposures and blending them together. It’s just not me. The settings for this photo were f/14 for 0.3 sec at ISO 100.

This last photo from Elizabeth Bay (below) is of one of the larger buildings at the start of the town, and as you can see I placed the sun through one of the gaps in the corroded building, to form a starburst. I converted this to black and white in Capture One Pro. I just felt like these external photos suited black and white more, as the sandy color wasn’t really adding much to the feel of the image, and they are more about the graphical shapes of the buildings.

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

Elizabeth Bay Building Corrosion

I shot this at f/14 again, with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed, at ISO 100. This was one of the first times I’ve done a starburst shot with the new Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS Mark II lens, and I’m very happy with how clean it is. Although I heard some people giving this new lens a bad rap, I’ve still had no problems with it at all, and continue to love the image quality and versatility.

Desert Sunbeams

The sun set as we headed back to our hotel for a second night in this area. As we started our drive towards Sossusvlei the next morning, shortly after passing Kolmanskop, I couldn’t resist stopping our vehicles for a walk up the hill at the side of the road for this scene (below).

Desert Sunbeams

Desert Sunbeams

The light was streaming through the clouds in sunbeams, catching the tops of the distant hills and sand dunes so beautifully we just had to stop. I’ve enhanced this a little in Capture One Pro, to add contrast to the dunes, and I’ve also run a graduated filter down the top third to darken the sky a little more and accentuate the sunbeams, but this is closer to how I recalled this magical scene.

My settings were f/11 at 1/320 of a second, at ISO 100. I moved away from my usual f/14 landscape aperture because I was hand-holding my 100-400mm at a focal length of 286mm, so I needed a slightly faster shutter speed.

Deadvlei

We stopped for a number of photos along the way to Sossusvlei, but we’ll jump to the following morning now, and look at my images from the first visit to Deadvlei for this tour. We arrived well before the sun started to illuminate the sand dune behind the dead camel thorn trees, and I spent quite a lot of time walking around trying to find a composition that I have not already photographed and found that it’s getting difficult to do so.

Here’s my main photo for this first shoot (below) and it’s growing on me a little, but I prefer some of my previous compositions. I was attracted to this because it felt as though these two trees were like hands reaching out from the dried up clay pan, almost in desperation.

Desperation

Desperation

If you haven’t seen this type of photo from Deadvlei before, there are a few minutes each morning when the sun starts to climb over a sand dune to my back while shooting this, and there comes a point when it is only illuminating the dune and does not yet light up the clay pan, so we can make these beautifully surreal, almost silhouette-like photographs. My settings for this were f/14 for 1/20 of a second at ISO 100.

The line of light moves quickly along the edge of the clay pan, but if you are quick, you can get a few different compositions in before the phenomenon ends, so I ran along and grabbed this second shot, that some of you may recognize (below).

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

Deadvlei Silhouettes 2017

I didn’t check against my original photo, but this is an almost complete replica of my first Deadvlei Silhouettes image from my first visit in 2013, which you can see in episode 373 if you are interested. The trees to the left are exactly the same as they were four years ago, but unfortunately, the tree to the right is missing a branch from its left side. These trees are between 600 and 700 years old and don’t decay because it’s so dry in this basin, so I imagine someone has fooled around grabbing hold of the third branch, and actually broken it off, which I find incredibly sad.

Checking Focus in Live View

At f/14, the orange dune in the background isn’t completely sharp in these images, but it wouldn’t get much sharper if I stopped down to f/22, but then, of course, we start to see diffraction creep in, which makes everything in the image softer, so I like to avoid that. To me, the important thing is that the two trees are sharp. The trees to the left here are just slightly behind the tree to the right, so I like to check my depth of field.

To check my focus and depth of field in situations like this, I initially focus on one of the trees, then go into Live View and zoom in to 5X, and hold down the Depth of Field Preview button near the bottom right side of the lens mount on my camera. I check both trees to see if they are in focus, and if one is not, with the Depth of Field Preview button still pressed, I manually adjust the focus until it just becomes in focus, and then go back and check the other tree, to see if it’s still sharp. If it isn’t, I adjust the focus back a little and then check the other tree again. The actual focus may be somewhere between the trees, but as long as they are both sharp, I’m happy.

Although it’s quite rare, there were some beautiful clouds while we were in Deadvlei on this first morning, so I capitalized on that with the following image (below). Here you can see the trees in normal light, and get a feel for what the clay basin actually looks like illuminated as well. Anthropomorphizing as I often do, I saw the main tree in this shot as a Sorcerer, perhaps casting his spells on the other trees.

The Sourcerer

The Sourcerer

I tried a circular polarizer filter on this as well, to see if it would help me to deepen the blue in the sky, but I didn’t like the results. The sky became too dark, and the foreground also became dark as I exposed for the white in the clouds, so I went back to no filter for this image, which I shot at f/14 for 1/60 of a second at ISO 100.

Dune #35

After our morning visit to Deadvlei, we went to another sand dune for a while, then went back to the hotel for lunch, and to grab a few hours of welcome rest. Then, later in the afternoon, we headed back out again to photograph Dune #35. The dunes in Sossusvlei aren’t actually numbered, but people identify them by the distance from the entrance to the national park. The one you can see in this photo (below) is 35km in.

Intimate Dune #35

Intimate Dune #35

This dune is quite a walk from the road, perhaps around 2km, so when we looked back towards our safari vehicles from the base of this dune, they were smaller than ants. This does enable us to get quite intimate though, especially with my 100-400mm lens, used at 400mm as I did here.

Dune #35

Dune #35

The sun was perhaps 20 minutes from going down at this point, so the acute angle of the sun had started to highlight one side of the ripples in the sand, and the shadow forming on the other side gives beautiful definition.

In this final photo for today, shot at 158mm from a little further back, you can see a larger section of the same dune, and if you look closely can perhaps make out a bit of sand blowing off the crest.

I was using a circular polarizer filter for these images, partly to darken the blue in the sky, and I also found that the bright side of the dune not only became more vibrant, but the dark side became darker, which works well for this image.

I actually darkened the shadows just a little bit more using the Luma Curve in Capture One Pro, to increase the overall contrast.

I shot both of these last two images at f/14, for a 1/40 of a second exposure at ISO 400. I increased my ISO rather than doing a slower shutter speed because the wind was blowing quite strongly in gusts across the plane, and I didn’t want to risk it moving the camera during the exposure.

Just below the base of this image, there are some trees, which I also included in some of my shots, some of which I really like as well, but in order to keep these episodes to my usual ten photos, we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. We’ll pick up the trail again next week starting from our second dawn shoot in Deadvlei, perhaps a shot or two of Dune #40, and then we drive up the Skeleton Coast to Walvis Bay and then on to Sesfontein, where we photographed the beautiful Himba people.

Complete Namibia Tour 2018

If you would like to join me in Namibia on my 2018 tour, please do check out the details and you can book from the tour page at https://mbp.ac/namibia. If you can’t wait until next year, you might also consider my Morocco tour from the end of October 2017 as well, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/morocco.

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

And my Morocco Tour details can be found here: https://mbp.ac/morocco

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 487)

Namibia Full Circle Tour 2015 Travelogue Part 2 (Podcast 487)

This is part two of a series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through my recent visit to Namibia, co-hosting an amazing photography tour with my friend Jeremy Woodhouse.

We pick up the trail on the morning of August 13, as we return to the abandoned diamond mine town of Kolmanskop. We visited this location on the afternoon of the previous day too, as we saw in episode 486, so these are the remaining images from the following day.

Kolmanskop – Abandoned Diamond Mine Village

I’ve ended up with 33 final selects from Kolmanskop, so we’re looking at about a third of them in these two episodes. As I mentioned last week, I used the new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4 L lens a lot at this location, and really enjoyed this centralized one-point perspective that Stanley Kubrick uses extensively in his movies to create tension and drama, as I’ve done in this photograph (below).

Kolmanskop Room

Kolmanskop Room

For this photo (above) I’d zoomed in a little to 13mm, and with an aperture of f/14 exposed this for 1 second at ISO 100. That should give you an idea of how much available light there is in these rooms. I’m not concerned about over exposing the scene through the window, although I do try leave the slats in the window visible when possible.

This enables me to get a relatively well lit room from that single light source, and there is still a bit of detail in the shadows as well. In fact, I have darkened down the shadows by reducing the Blacks slider in Lightroom a little and increasing the Clarity slider, which also darkens the shadows a little. This adds to the drama of the image in my opinion.

For this next photo (below) I switched to my 24-70mm at shot this at 59mm, as I wanted to show the crack in the wall through this doorway in a room full of sand. The buildings at Kolmanskop are all falling rapidly into a state of decay that will probably make them inaccessible quite soon over the next few years.

Kolmanskop Doorway

Kolmanskop Doorway

I shot this with an exposure of 1/4 of a second at f/14, ISO 100. This image shows how the walls are being pushed out by the pressure of the sand that has built up, but there are now many buildings where the walls have given way, and fallen outwards.

Schlachterei (The Butchers)

Schlachterei (The Butchers)

There are also a number of rooms where the floor has fallen through under the weight of the sand. Needless to say, as photographers, we enter all of these buildings at our own risk.

Here (right) is another room that had very low ambient light, requiring an exposure of 6 seconds at f/14, ISO 100.

This shows some large boiling pots and the oven to heat them in the butchers for the mining town. I have a landscape orientation version of this scene as well, which I also like, but this vertical orientation shows how the roof is starting to fall away, giving more context to the oven, which doesn’t look that bad without the roof, although you probably wouldn’t want to boil a batch of sausages in there at this point in time.

I managed to totally miss this room on my first visit in 2013, although I’m not sure how, but I was happy to find it this time around. It’s easy to spend a full day just walking from building to building, capturing its mood and atmosphere as best as you can.

The mood changes with the time of day as the angle of light entering the rooms changes, so it’s nice to spend time in the village at both ends of the day, to capture the many different faces that it presents us with.

This next building is just along from the Butchers, and looks like some kind of workshop (below). Again, I’ve used the one-point perspective here, with all lines leading to a vanishing point in the very center of the frame. At 12mm, I was also able to include part of the decaying roof here too, which I feel adds to the overall atmosphere of the scene.

Kolmanskop Room

Kolmanskop Room

As is often the case, I was actually standing in the doorway here, blocking out some of the only natural light entering the room, but this also helps to reduce the contrast, so I don’t try to work around this. The result was an exposure of 0.8 seconds at f/14, ISO 100.

You’ve probably noticed that I shoot at f/14 a lot. This is to maximize depth-of-field without the affects of diffraction making everything soft, which starts to happen from around f/16, and becomes quite a problem at f/22, although this varies depending on the lens. Of course, at 12mm, I have a very deep depth of field from just a few feet in front of the lens, even with an aperture of say f/8, so I could go wider on the aperture, but with a good tripod to hold everything steady, the longer exposures aren’t a problem either, so I tend to stay stopped down at f/14 a lot.

The long time listeners among you will also notice that this shot is almost a replication of my photo of the same room from 2013, although this is a little bit wider. To be honest, to a certain degree I was reshooting images that I got with my 5D Mark III, with the 5Ds R. The amount of detail in the 50 megapixel 5Ds R images is incredible, so whenever possible I’m going to be reshooting old favorites, but of course at the same time, trying to stay open to the creativity of Martin 2015, and not limit myself to what I was capable of as Martin, version 2013.

This next image (below) was the second visit to this building on this trip, and I decided to include the hooks on the wall more prominently here, as they’d caught my eye on both visits. I don’t know why, but they really appeal to me. Perhaps it’s because they give us a firm hint that people really lived here until until the town was abandoned in 1954 when the diamond field was mostly depleted. This was shot at 1.3 seconds, again at f/14, ISO 100.

Kolmanskop Room with Wall Hooks

Kolmanskop Room with Wall Hooks

Another building that I don’t recall going inside on my 2013 visit, was the hospital. This was another eerie building, with room after room along the very long corridor. I decided to have some fun here, and asked Ardwin, who I was shooting with, to walk down the corridor, then go into one of the rooms until I counted down to three, then he came out and started to walk towards me down the corridor.

Eerie Figure in Hospital

Eerie Figure in Hospital

It took a few takes to get the affect I was after, but if you look closely in the above photograph, you can see an eerie shadow in the center of the corridor. We needed to have Ardwin stay in a side room until for the first second of the 3.2 second exposure, so that the light from the end of the corridor would start to be recorded in the image, as that is stronger than the shadow that his figure created as he walked for a further two seconds.

I was using a two second timer to start my exposure, so I just started counting down “three, two, one…” and started my timer just after I started to count, so the exposure started just before Ardwin came out of the room, for this fun, and somewhat eerie affect.

Kolmanskop Slat Patterns

Kolmanskop Slat Patterns

There is one building at Kolmanskop that I failed to shoot at its peak on my first visit, and that is the room that we can see in this image (below).

This is a room where the time of day that you shoot it is vitally important. I remember coming here at the end of the day on my first visit, an at that time, all you get in the light from the roof slats on the back wall.

At noon though, the light falls not only on the back wall, but also the right side wall and the floor. This, accompanied by the light coming directly through the roof slats, results in a very disorienting affect.

At first glance, it’s difficult to even figure out what you are looking at. My wife couldn’t figure this out for a while, even after I’d told her what it is.

Whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but I love creating images that throw the viewer into a state of confusion, just for a short while. Of course, I want the viewer to get what it is after a while, and hopefully enjoy the image.

I shot this last image at 11:50 am, and then we made our way down to the carp park, to regroup, as we were going to spend the afternoon at another abandoned mine town, at a place called Elizabeth Bay.

Elizabeth Bay – Abandoned Diamond Mine Village

The Elizabeth Bay mine town is actually very close to a real diamond mine that has been reopened, so we had to go through rigorous security checks as we were allowed in, and out of course. We were escorted to the town by a guide, and some of the group were actually frisked during the outbound security checks, to ensure that we weren’t trying to smuggle out any diamonds that we might have found. This was quite an experience in itself.

When we got up to the mine, about a thirty minute drive from Kolmanskop, we were treated with a different kind of external decay and erosion, that we’ll look at in the last photo for today, after the next two images.

This photo (below) is of a room in the town, that some of you may recognize from the cover of a Freeman Patterson book called Odysseys. I shot a photo pretty much from the same angle as Freeman Patterson’s image too, but chose to share this angle, as the other image feels a little bit plagiaristic.

Marry Me and You'll Sleep Under Palm Trees

Marry Me and You’ll Sleep Under Palm Trees

Our guide told us the story behind the painted palm trees in this room. Apparently the person who lived here was getting lonely, and told potential suitors in Europe that if they married him, they would get to sleep under palm trees in Africa. I’m not sure how well this went down, but apart from the palm trees, the scene painted on the wall is very much like the view of Elizabeth Bay that you can see in that direction from outside the building.

Right at the end of the town, is the large building that we can see here (below). I’m not sure what this building is, although there are a number of stoves or kiln-like structures, so maybe it’s a large kitchen building. I shot this at 1/6 of a second at f/14, ISO 100, with a focal length of 13mm, and yes, once again with the one-point perspective.

Elizabeth Bay Building

Elizabeth Bay Building

This was actually one of just two or three buildings where I shot multiple exposures, with a few frames exposed for the outside light, but having tried an HDR of this, and almost immediately throwing up, I decided to stick with this version. I don’t mind looking at nicely done HDR images from other photographers, but it really isn’t for me.

OK, so this (below) is the last image for today, and the one that I mentioned earlier, that shows us how this town is decaying differently to Kolmanskop. Here, the salty wind from the sea and sand blown around the town, is decaying the building at an alarming rate. The town was abandoned in 1998 from what I can learn online, and yet most of the buildings are already collapsed, many with just pillars of the cement that used to hold the bricks together, although the bricks themselves have completely eroded away.

Elizabeth Bay Mine Town Building

Elizabeth Bay Mine Town Building

This was of course a straight outdoor shot, with an exposure of 1/100 at f/14, ISO 100. I shot this at 11mm, to emphasize the pile of rubble in front of the building. Because the sun was only just out of the frame to the right, and the built-in lens hood on the 11-24mm lens is relatively shallow, I was holding my hand between the sun and the front element of the lens to stop a few balls of lens flare that I could see in the image in Live View, on the LCD of my camera.

OK, so that brings us to the end of this episode. We’ll pick up the trail again next week, as we arrive in the Sossusvlei area, to photograph those magnificent red dunes, and the incredible Deadvlei, with it’s dead camel-thorn trees silhouetted against the background dune in the morning light.

The 5DayDeal is Back!

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Also, if you arrive here between Sept 10 and 15, just click below to pick up your Complete Photography Bundle. If you arrive after September 15, sorry. This particular bundle will be gone forever. If you sign up for my newsletters though, I’ll be sure to let you know when the next one happens.

5DayDeal Complete $50,000 Photography Giveaway!

5DayDeal Complete $50,000 Photography Giveaway!


Show Notes

Music by the Staff of the Kulala Lodge in Sossusvlei – Thank you!


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